By Vacy Vlazna
In popular idiom, doppelgänger hails from the German, meaning “look-alike” in behaviour or physical appearance.
The frontline of Palestinian non-violent resistance in the West Bank of the State of Palestine, is not in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PLO and the Palestinian National Council (PNC), but in the many villages, like Bill’in, Nil’ilin, Nabi Saleh, Kufr Kaddum, Al Maasara, Hizma, Al Walaja, Bab Al Shams, Burin, Budrus, that the PA supposedly is meant to represent and protect.
Village heroes and heroines courageously and willingly battle, in the name of justice and freedom, toxic fumes from high velocity Israeli teargas projectiles, Israeli live ammunition, Israeli rubber-coated steel bullets, Israeli tenacious skunk water, Israeli stun grenades, arrests, torture in Israeli detention, all of which tragically ends for many in death or maiming.
Given every week Palestinian villagers put their lives directly on the front line, face to face with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and extremist militia colonists, what is causing the inertia of progress towards full Palestinian sovereignty?
Excluding the obvious superior Israeli might buttressed by the clout of US, EU, UK, Canada, Australia and a spineless UN, close by, there is a corrupted internal counterforce to Palestinian national aspirations on planet Ramallah.
Circled by 4 impoverished refugee camps, Ramallah, replete with mansions, luxury apartments, a new government compound and foreign diplomatic missions, seems to be groomed to replace East Jerusalem as a future capital. Former PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Hatem Abdel Khader stated, “I have to be honest with you and tell you that we have lost the battle for Jerusalem… One of the reasons is because the Palestinian government doesn’t really care about Jerusalem.”
In Ramallah, members of the PA, PNC and PLO enjoy 5 star hotels, gourmet restaurants, nightclubs…and, as demonstrated in the documentaries, Five Broken Cameras and Budrus, from time to time, compelled solely by a camera opportunity, pop by village demonstrations for a few safe minutes.
The PA counterforce to Palestinian political rights, was the Machiavellian conception of Israel and was birthed in the 1993 Oslo Accords by the Palestinian midwife, Arafat who had treacherously accepted Resolutions 242 and 338,
“When the PLO accepted Resolution 242 after fighting against it since it was issued in 1967, in reality, it abandoned everything to do with the Palestinian cause.” – Anis Fawzi Qasim
and who had been meticulously warned, well in advance, by renowned international lawyer, Francis Boyle and Palestinian head of delegation, Dr. Haider Abdul Shaffi, of the inextricable sabotage of Palestinian independence embedded in the Accords that blatantly omitted the key issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem.
Even blind Freddy’s dog would have understood the Bantustan implications of the partitioning of the West Bank and Gaza into Areas A, B, and C that would drive a 21 year stake into the heart of Palestinian unity – Israel’s nemesis.
Oslo was proof that Israel had learned the lessons of the mass grassroots unity of the First Intifada, thus the establishment of the PA,and its then 50,000 strong security forces (PASF) armed, trained, and funded by the US, Israel, guaranteed a compliant partner, a proxy police force, tasked to undermine Palestinian unity and police Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. A sure win-win for Israel.
Since Oslo, Palestinians were doomed to face, not only Israeli violence, but PA security forces attacking them in the name of protecting Israel and its occupation, and doomed to suffer PA live ammunition, PA rubber-coated steel bullets, arbitrary arrests, torture in PA detention, and a tragic end for some in senseless death, such as Amjad Falah Odeh, 38 or maiming as with Ibrahim Abdul-Razaq Shkukani, 22 at Askar refugee camp in 2013.
Like Israel, the PA presents a hasbara face to the world that normalizes its own state violence and the impunity thereof. The 2013 report to the AHLC donors by the PA, is a self-congratulatory jolly paean to a fictitious rule of law;
“The efforts of the 13th Government [PA] have resulted in a significant improvement in public order, promoting the rule of law, safeguarding rights and freedoms, safety, and high-quality police and security services. Administrative and financial transparency and accountability have been considerably improved, and closer relations now exist between the security sector and civil society.”
Yet, the Amnesty International, Palestinian Authority Annual Report, 2013 intones a dirge of human rights abuses;
“In the West Bank, PA security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained hundreds of people, including members of Fatah; most were denied due legal process. Hundreds of Hamas supporters were detained, mostly for up to two days, when President Abbas visited the UN in September… Both the PA and Hamas arbitrarily restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and their security forces used excessive force against demonstrators.”
The PASF is an assemblage of mainly the National and Preventive Security Forces, civil (Mukhabarat) and military (Istikhbarat) intelligence, police, and the elite Presidential Guard. Not to mention the former death squads in Gaza set up in 1994 by Fatah thug, Mohammad Dahlan who was later promoted to a Ministership (resembling Israel’s promotion of IOF killers). Since 2007 Fatah-only recruits to the Presidential Guard and NSF are vetted by the US, Shin Bet and Jordanian and PA intelligence and are trained in Jericho and Jordan respectively. The PASF commander-in-chief is the President; previously Arafat, now the unelected Mahmoud Abbas heading the illegitimate exclusively Fatah government.
Suffocating Palestinian citizens in a ‘culture of fear ‘ by stifling dissent and dreams of freedom, the PASF total 65,000 (including inactive paid personnel in Gaza) with approximately 1 per 50 civilians in the West Bank over an area of 5640 km2 whereas over 7.6 million km2, in Australia it is 1 per 187 civilians.
Outwardly, the PA appears to have large support, however a 2012 poll revealed 71% of Palestinians are afraid to criticize their government because of intimidation, fear of arrest and losing their jobs in the PA nepotistic employment system. The International Crisis Group (ICG) reported, “A secular Ramallah resident said, “few respect the Palestinian security forces, but we do fear them” and “The security forces contribute directly to the fragmentation of the Palestinian social fabric and undermine democracy … They generally behave like they’re beyond the law. In the last three years, we have regressed as a society. This isn’t progress”.
Even in PA controlled areas, the PASF is restricted to operating between 6am and midnight, leaving the Israeli military free to terrorize Palestinians with its night raids on homes. It takes operational orders from the Israeli Military coordinator in the governorates. On the morning of 27th February, 2014, 200 Israeli troops mounted a raid in Birzeit shelling the home of Muataz Washaha, 24, and killed him. It was reported that the normally visible PASF had conveniently vanished suggesting the PASF knew beforehand of the operation against Muataz and were ordered to keep out of the way. Furthermore the PASF would most likely have provided Israeli intelligence with information about Muataz. A security force that protects its people would have warned Muataz so, it begs the question if they didn’t warn Muataz to save his life, are they accessories to his murder?
So, it makes good sense for Palestinians to fear the PASF for its violations of local Palestinian law and international law, and fear its far more sinister collusion and full coordination with Israeli intelligence agencies and military,
“From Israel’s standpoint, coordination has reached virtually unprecedented levels as a result of the fight against common enemy, namely Hamas. With certain exceptions […], the General Intelligence Service (Shin Bet) provides its Palestinian counterparts with lists of wanted militants, whom Palestinians subsequently arrest. IDF and Israeli intelligence officials take the view that, in this regard, ‘coordination has never been as extensive’, with ‘coordination better in all respects’ (ICG)
A sample study in the damning report, ‘Detention Policy’ produced by the Arab Organization for Human Rights in UK (AOHR) in 2012 revealed, “In response to the question, “Have you been detained before by the occupation?” 98 per cent answered yes; 59.7 per cent of the sample clarified that Israeli courts charged them based on information provided by PA security agencies, while 99.7 per cent believed that their detention was carried out in coordination with the occupation authorities.”
Hana Shalabi the 43 day hunger-striking heroine from Jenin who was forcefully exiled to Gaza for protesting Israeli illegal administrative detention was, according to an article by Lina Alsaafin, betrayed by the PA, “In the case of Shalabi, an interview in al-Akhbar English conducted by this author with her family revealed that Hana’s security file was built by the PA and handed to the Israeli army, which told her family, who demanded to know the reason for her arrest, to refer to the PA for answers. This follows a pattern of coordination between PA security forces and the Israeli army.”
When Palestinians in the West Bank demonstrated against the horrific war crimes perpetrated against their Gazan brothers and sisters in the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead, PA coordination with Israel plunged to the nadir of treachery as Nathan Thrall’s piece, Our Man in Palestine, elucidates,
“The most damage to the reputation of the Palestinian security forces occurred during the Israeli war in Gaza, which began in December 2008. In plainclothes and uniform, PA officers in the West Bank surrounded mosques, kept young men from approaching Israeli checkpoints, arrested protesters chanting Hamas slogans, and dispersed demonstrators with batons, pepper spray, and tear gas. The trust between Israeli and Palestinian forces was so great, Dayton said, that “a good portion of the Israeli army went off to Gaza.” …
Barak Ben-Zur, a former head of counterterrorism in Israeli military intelligence and later special assistant to the director of the Shin Bet, told me that “in Israeli Arab cities there were more protests against the war than in the West Bank,” thanks to the “total quiet kept by the Palestinian security services.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman later said, “Mahmoud Abbas himself called and asked us, pressured us to continue the military campaign and overthrow Hamas.”
The evidence mounts that in PA-speak, ‘rule of law’ means severe restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of the press, assembly and association through arbitrary arrests and detention, intimidation of journalists and the use of excessive force. The AOHR UK report states,
“It’s worth noting that detentions and summons executed by the PA security agencies surpassed those by the Israelis.”
Of further concern, is the PA’s boasting to the UN of its rule of law infrastructural reinforcement of the ‘rule of law’,
“To scale up security-related infrastructure, the Government has finalized construction of the correction and rehabilitation centre in Jericho and allocated land for the construction of an additional three centres in Dura, Jenin, and Qalqiliya. An Nawei’ma, Jericho, Palestinian National Security Training Complex in An Nawei’ma, Jericho, was completed”
yet it regularly refuses the International Red Cross access to its detention centers about which human rights NGO’s consistently report political prisoners are held without charge or in defiance of Palestinian High Court release orders, suffer torture, threats, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment, are beaten, blindfolded, shackled, held in solitary confinement, lack adequate medical and hygiene care, denied access to lawyers and family visits.
Recourse to these methods that follow, to the letter, the Israeli model is not by chance. PASF personnel are trained and supervised by Israel, the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) team and the CIA. Hundreds of millions of US dollars have poured into equipment, infrastructure and capacity building in the strategies and methods of oppressing Palestinian civilians particularly those with affiliation to Hamas. Nathan Thrall writes,
“that the head of the Palestinian National Security Forces told the Israelis, “We have a common enemy,” and the chief of Palestinian military intelligence said, “We are taking care of every Hamas institution in accordance with your instructions”
By targeting Hamas, the PA, power hungry and fattened on US dollars, has been and is, at its paymaster’s bidding, the willing instrument to aid the Zionist strategy of divide and rule – the kiss of death to Palestinian unity,
…The Peruvian diplomat Alvaro de Soto, former UN envoy to the Quartet, wrote in a confidential “End of Mission Report” that the violence between Hamas and Fatah could have been avoided had the US not strongly opposed Palestinian reconciliation. “The US,” he wrote, “clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fateh and Hamas.” (Nathan Thrall)
The PA not only targets Hamas officials and fighters, it apes the collective punishment imposed on Gazans by Israel. In November 2013, the Palestinian Human Rights Center (PCHR) called on the PA to urgently provide medication for leukaemia patients who were ‘in grave danger of complications and death’ because they had been ‘without medicine since Dec.2011’ which can only be obtained through the Ministry of Health Ramallah.
Hamas, too, has to take responsibility for its contribution to the malignancy of political disunity. Amnesty International makes it clear that “Arbitrary arrests and detentions by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip continued, particularly of their respective political opponents. In both areas, security forces tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees with impunity…. Both the PA and Hamas arbitrarily restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and their security forces used excessive force against demonstrators.”
To understand the mark of Cain stamped on the PA, read George Orwell’s satiric analysis of revolutionary corruption, ‘Animal Farm’. The farm animals, led by the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, and inspired by the commandment “All Animals are Equal” overthrow the farmer.. A new oppressive ‘All animals re equal but some are more equal than others’ regime emerges under Napoleon who exiles Smowball and the pigs now strut about on hind legs, carry whips, police the farm with bloodthirsty attack dogs and make alliances with neighboring farmers. The animals can no longer distinguish between the pigs and the humans.
In effect, Israel has a phalange of 65,000 (plus PA bureaucrats, officials and diplomats) Palestinian collaborators who have Palestinian blood on their hands – and it costs Israel nothing to annihilate Palestinian resistance and rights thanks to Western donors. Meanwhile the settlements relentlessly devour precious Palestinian land and the PA is indirectly constructing the expansion brick by brick.
Ultimately, The Question arises; what if there had been no Oslo Accords and no PA that has cheated Palestinians of 20 years of potential freedom and collaborated in the sham of peace talks and in the martyrdom of thousands of sacred lives?
It is conceivable that a sovereign Palestine may have existed for the last 15 years and baby Ahmad Abu Nahl would, at this moment, be undergoing treatment for his enlarged heart in a first class Gaza hospital, toddlers Hala Abu Shbeikha and Omar Jihad Mashharawi would still be delighting their parents, Itemad Ismail Abu Mo’ammar’s children would still see their mother’s smile, Shadi Mohammad Shahin would never have been tortured to death in PA police custody, Ziad Awad Salayma would have enjoyed this 17th birthday party, Mustafa Tamimi would have harvested his family’s olives last November, and grandfather, Saher Milat would tomorrow be puffing on an aromatic argilla with his friends.
“In the case of the State of Palestine, the law has at best been sidelined and, at worst, it has been transgressed in the most egregious manner.The human rights of the Palestinian people have been systematically violated. The humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people as protected persons continue to be trampled. The rights under the Charter are perpetually denied, particularly the right to self-determination.” The Palestinian Statement to, UNSC, 19-2-2014, speaking about Israel (?)
– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.