The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) seeks to defend press freedom and freedom of expression. It has recently called for a commission of inquiry into the case of Palestinian journalist Sami Al-Sa’ee who works for Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed and reportedly gave testimony to MADA regarding his torture at the hands of the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence services.
If the PA is torturing Palestinians, why is this not a major scandal and condemned by the various political factions and the Western governments which bankroll it? Has it become too much of a common occurrence to be of any concern?
According to MADA, Al-Sa’ee was arrested on 2 February by the intelligence services for allegedly “inciting sectarian strife” on Facebook; he was released on bail six days later. However, the decision to release him was revoked and the journalist was transferred to Jericho detention center until 22 February. MADA has claimed that Al-Sa’ee was tortured by members of the Palestinian intelligence services during his period of detention in Jericho; their aim, it is alleged, was to force him to confess to “recruiting for Hamas”.
Citing reports in Al-Jazeera Arabic, Global Voices described Al-Sa’ee’s torture at the hands of PA intelligence officers as brutal; he was deprived of sleep, beaten, subjected to low temperatures inside his prison cell, and injected with an unknown substance four times a day.
In 2016, Al-Sa’ee also happens to have been charged with “incitement” by Israel and sentenced to nine months in prison.
Rather than an isolated incident, this case sheds light upon the wider picture, wherein Palestinian journalists are being targeted by Israel and, it seems the PA. Reports more commonly disseminated in the media deal with the Israeli use of administrative detention orders against journalists as the means to obliterate their freedom of expression. However, the PA has not been averse to emulating Israeli violations, thus contributing to a situation whereby human rights violations and deprivation of freedom of expression now appear to be the norm.
The nature of security collaboration with Israel, as well as the PA’s preoccupation with maintaining its rule to the detriment of the Palestinian population, has resulted in severe violations either through direct action or passive acquiescence. Israel’s use of administrative detention, which has prompted some Palestinian journalists to resort to hunger strikes in protest at being held with neither charge nor trial, has gained a lot of media attention. PA collaboration regarding the obliteration of press freedom needs to be given the same prominence and analysed within the whole concept of systematic torture inflicted by Palestinians upon their fellow Palestinians.
By allowing scrutiny of the PA’s general disposition towards the torture of Palestinian journalists, its public facade will also be exposed with regard to the attitude exhibited towards the entire spectrum of political prisoners. It is worth remembering that, while collective efforts to highlight the plight of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike were disseminated widely on social media, the PA actually preferred their cases to be pushed into oblivion. Moreover, just as the cases of Palestinian hunger strikers should never be lauded as individual efforts in isolation, this recent revelation should also be seen as part of an oppressive system that supports the fragmentation of Palestinian voices through torture of a kind which is normally associated with Israel.
It has become easy to disregard the PA as a helpless pawn in the wider colonization context; both the international community and the PA itself have encouraged such a depiction, if only to evoke a transient sensationalism whenever the latter embarks upon grandiose statements retracted within a brief time-frame. However, such a view is mistaken; the PA has proven itself to be a dangerous entity with an unwavering intent to stifle Palestinian voices if they dare to be in direct opposition to Israel’s colonial endeavors.
– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor (MEMO) where this article was originally published.