Palestinians deserve better than PA brutality

Palestinians take part in a protest demanding the lifting of Palestinian Authority sanctions on the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on 10 June. The PA used riot police and party thugs to violently suppress a similar protest on 13 June.

Eyad Jadallah APA images

Human rights workers seldom agree with Donald Trump and his entourage.

Yet this week I found myself echoing a view expressed by Jason Greenblatt, a Middle East envoy for the US president. For very different reasons to the ones he cited, I arrived at the same conclusion as Greenblatt: the Palestinian people deserve better than the Palestinian Authority.

This was evident as I observed the PA’s handling of a protest on Wednesday evening.

The protest was organized by ordinary Palestinians who object to how the PA has imposed sanctions on Gaza. It was banned by the PA on the spurious pretext of avoiding disruptions to the Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrations.

Yet the protest went ahead – without official approval – in Ramallah, a city in the occupied West Bank. Its organizers refused to be bullied into canceling a display of solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza.

During the early stages of the protest, riot police working for the PA attacked its participants. They beat protesters, taking a number of them into custody. I saw one riot police officer – his face covered by a balaclava – rolling a stun grenade towards the crowd.

After about an hour, groups of thugs and secret police dispersed among the crowd took over the task of suppressing the protest.

The thugs in question wore hats, identifying themselves as supporters of Fatah, the party dominating the PA. Some of these hats depicted a kuffiyeh, the Palestinian checkered scarf. The irony involved here was sordid: the kuffiyeh is supposed to be a symbol of liberation.

Secret police

The secret police in the crowd were easy to spot, if you looked for them. They were men with large muscles, who watched over everyone else. They could be found in groups of four.

The secret police could be seen pointing out individuals to the thugs with the Fatah hats. If individuals who had been pointed out resisted arrest by these thugs, they were dragged away and beaten. None of the thugs looked older than 25.

The thugs grabbed many protesters and placed them in headlocks. Other protesters were punched and slapped in the head. One man had his shirt completely ripped off him by the thugs before they handed him over to the riot police.

Numerous protesters were rounded up and placed in vans, which were waiting near al-Manara Square in the city center. In one case, a protester was placed in an ambulance.

I later learned that protesters who had been rounded up were driven to police stations and to the headquarters of the PA’s “preventive security” division.

While I was standing next to some protesters on Wednesday, I suddenly felt my arms being restrained. One of the secret police had forced my hands behind my back. He did not use extreme force to do so. But he was certainly asserting his control.

The man told me to come with him. He pushed me down a lane. “Don’t be scared,” he whispered. “We respect people.”

I would have laughed – if I was not worried about having my head bashed in, which the man could have done on a whim.

The secret police officer brought me near the vans full of protesters who had been arrested. He handed me over to another man, who was carrying a walkie-talkie. That man asked me – in fluent English – what I was doing at the protest. Where was I from? Was I a journalist?

I replied in Arabic that I was not a journalist.

The man took my phone and went through the photos and messages saved on it. When he handed the phone back to me, he asked me for my ID card. I told him I did not have it with me.

The man then instructed the secret police officer who had grabbed me to take me away. I was ordered to go home. As I did so, I was followed through the streets by three other secret police officers.

Police working for the Palestinian Authority are funded and trained by the European Union and the United States. A key purpose of this training is to ensure that the PA works in the interests of Israel.

The way they handled this week’s protests illustrated how the PA’s police can be similarly brutal to Israel’s forces of occupation. Palestinians surely deserve better than that.

The author is a human rights worker in Palestine. They requested anonymity as they had been instructed by their organization to remain silent on how the PA handled Wednesday’s protests.

Tags

Comments

picture

I have visited Palestine on several occasions since 1994 as an activist.
As a regular Palestinian supporter I have had to undergo the usual treatment accorded to supporters at the hands of the Israeli security personnel at the entry airport (isolation for hours, humiliation, robing...), then at checkpoints, after at the crossings (unforgettable at Erez) and the same at the exit airport.
Back in my own country and in the U.S. I have been insulted, threatened, despised and challenged by Zionists (amongst others a former ambassador in Madrid) and supporters of Zionism. They have also meddle to impede my professional career.
I am more than proud of this all and I would more than happy if this helped in some way to advance the Palestinian cause.
Reading this article on a new chapter of the disgraceful series of never ending interventions of the Palestinian Authority against Palestinian people, I feel both a deep sorrow for the direct victims (those brutalized and imprisoned and their families) and a growing sense of despair about the success of the Palestinian cause.
I recall the memories of my first trip to Palestine (West Bank and Gaza). The atmosphere was light-hearted, clear, promising (I admit this was just an illusion even during the first days of the landing of Arafat in the Territories, but still).
Very few years later I was back and I saw what I never thought I was going to witness: Palestinian policemen in top down jeeps at full speed dangerously cornering demonstrators in Al Manara square with the sirens at maximum volume. A shiver run through my body (I knew first hand Franco's repression), but I refused to indulge in bad omens.
Afterwards, I had to change my mind as events like this and imprisonment, torture, unlawful killings... in a word the PA collaboration with the occupier, increased.
My feeling now: Palestinians can defeat Israel, but cannot defeat both Israel and the P.A. That is why Israel feasts the days of repression and internecine war.

picture

As always, professor Velloso is honest in his criticism. And as always, he expresses his thoughts in a very direct and clear way. Thank you professor.

Add new comment