Power at all Costs

06/27/2021   Read time: 5 min

Following the murder of an opposition figure, the Palestinian Authority is cracking down on protests with massive violence. By Chris Whitman.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is an autocratic regime that has been in power in the occupied Palestinian territories for the better part of 30 years. The past 15 years have been especially painful for Palestinians vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority as the latter has become more repressive as they have lost power to Hamas in the 2006 Legislative Council elections and have continually lost any public support through collaboration with Israel and widespread corruption which enriches those who are part of the system. Additionally, as Fatah and PA head Mahmoud Abbas ages and his health deteriorates, there has been no succession plan and he has canceled elections as he enters his 16th year in power.

All of this is a backdrop to the current situation in the West Bank. Only a month after the most recent escalation, where Abbas and the Palestinian Authority were active in suppressing West Bank solidarity with Gaza due to the political bickering between Abbas and Hamas, the PA has gone on the offensive against its own citizens. On Thursday, at 3:30am, Palestinian Security Forces (PSF) invaded the family house of Nizar Banat’s cousin in the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron. Banat, a well-known but hardly radical Palestinian dissident, had been in hiding there since his own home had been shot in the village of Dura, not far from Hebron, by unidentified assailants. In addition to being a vocal dissident against Abbas, Banat was the head of a political party who was running in the recently canceled elections. At least 20 PSF personnel obtained Israeli permission to enter the H2 area of Hebron, entered Banat’s cousin’s home and ruthlessly beat him with batons and a metal club all over his body. He was dragged kicking and screaming to a PSF jeep and was brought to H1 (the Palestinian administered part of Hebron) to a Palestinian Authority hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

Nizar’s family, in the face of further violence, spread the news of his death, and people organized a protest in Ramallah Thursday against what they perceived to be the wanton murder of a political dissident. A second protest was organized that night to march to the Presidential Headquarters to call on Mahmoud Abbas to step down and be held accountable. The protestors were met with aggressive violence from Palestinian “Security” Forces on their way, people were clubbed and had tear gas and stun bombs shot at them. This went on throughout the downtown area of Ramallah as protestors set dumpsters on fire and threw stones at PSF. There were a handful of arrests, but most protestors who were caught were simply beaten and left to bleed in the street. The head of public relations for internal security posted afterwards on Twitter:

“Don’t test the patience of a movement [Fatah] that is backed with mountains of martyrs and prisoners, beware of Fatah’s anger. This message needs to be heard by everyone who seeks to threaten our homeland security. Anyone and everyone who tries to affect the movement and the government’s institutions will get what is coming to them, and for those who still try, they better pray.”

An additional protest was called for on Saturday evening against the Palestinian Authority. As they proceeded to the Presidential Headquarters chanting “the people want the overthrow of the regime,” and “Abbas must go,” approximately 30 meters before the wall of PSF forces was a group of 75-100 aggressive looking men who confronted them, chanting pro-Abbas slogans. Quickly, these men (who were undercover military intelligence personnel) began physically attacking Palestinian protestors with clubs, stones, fists, etc. They beat people in the street but were quickly outmatched by the swell of what looked like thousands of protestors. Subsequently, the formal Palestinian forces supported the Fatah henchmen by firing tear gas and stun bombs at the protestors.

As the PSF started charging at the protestors, many more scores of Fatah bullies started roaming the nearby streets, looking for journalists and protestors. They attacked civilians at random, confiscating any visible cell phones. Anyone who refused were beaten then and there in the street. People scurried into nearby stores to flee the violence and ambulances were actively blocked from reaching the injured. I personally witnessed at least 15 people beaten up by undercover forces. After all this, according to Palestinian medical staff and videos posted on social media, these gangs proceeded to enter hospitals looking for injured protestors and arrest them.

This was not a random act by individuals. This was a well-coordinated and premeditated attack on peaceful protestors by the Palestinian Authority’s paramilitary establishment. An establishment that for 15 years has been funded and trained by the European Union (especially Germany) and the United States, to the tune of many billions of dollars over the years. Their directive is to protect the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and Mahmoud Abbas at all costs, while simultaneously protecting Israeli interests and security. In fact, the PA spends upwards of 33% of its budget on “security”.

This wanton violence has been barely reported by Western or Israeli media, and in the few occasions the issue at all has been mentioned, it has been as “clashes” between protestors and PSF. The maneuver by Mahmoud Abbas, to flex the power of gangs and the Palestinian forces, will likely buy him some reprieve from criticism and social unrest as people are not only disenfranchised internally and externally, they are now more than conscious about the repressive nature of their own government and the lengths it’s willing to go to stay in power.

Donate Now!