Ramallah, occupied West Bank – West Bank is on the brink of a serious rebellion against the Palestinian Authority (PA) as it desperately fights for political survival and is determined to hold on to power at all costs, warned one of the main Palestinian defenders of human rights.
For the past four days, Palestinians have taken to the streets of major Israeli-occupied West Bank cities protesting against the death of Nizar Banat, a political activist and a major critic of the PA, who was beaten by PA security agents – allegedly members of the Preventive Security Service – who stormed his home in the Hebron area, south of West Bank.
“We have reached the last chapter of the transition period with the PA and they know that the only way to maintain power is with bullets and clubs,” said Shawan Jabarin, director of the human rights organization Al-Haq in Ramallah. .
“The PA understands that it cannot win in democratic elections and the elite of the organization, which is afraid of losing its privileged lifestyle, believes that the only way to maintain control is through force, the fear and intimidation, “Jabarin told Al Jazeera. .
According to a preliminary autopsy, Banat suffered rib fractures, bruises all over his body and head injuries, with his family alleging that he was beaten with iron bars and clubs on his head during his initial detention.
But despite the AP’s brutal crackdown on West Bank protesters (including arrests, attacks on journalists and the confiscation of media equipment by security men in clothing and Fatah supporters), more are planned. manifestations.
Protests have also been held in international cities such as Boston, Beirut, London and Amman in support.
Jabarin said this time he thought the situation in the West Bank was different as people got more and more tired of the Palestinian leadership.
“The situation has been accumulating for several years, with each additional layer of suffering and humiliation being added to a pressure cooker where the Palestinians have had enough.
“They are sick of AP corruption, its inability to deal with Israeli settlers, while simultaneously its continued security coordination with Israelis has resulted in the imprisonment and torture of hundreds of Palestinian activists. The “peace process” has led nowhere and the democratic space has closed, “Jabarin said.
Al Jazeera asked Palestinian officials for comments but received no response.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh expressed his condolences to Banat’s family during a weekly cabinet meeting on Monday. A team of investigators “will do their job with all professionalism and transparency in order to clarify the truth and put things right within the framework of Palestinian law,” he said.
“Everyone involved in this matter will be referred to the competent judicial authorities, which grants them all their rights, and we ask the committee of inquiry to complete its report in the next two days,” Shtayyeh said.
“Not our lords and masters”
During one of the protests, Majdi, a middle-aged, married Palestinian who is apolitical and has never had problems with AP security services, told Al Jazeera that he did not want to give his full name because he did not want be arrested. at midnight from his home and taken to prison.
“Anyone who opposes the AP, especially those who are part of the opposition parties, will be arrested, tortured and possibly killed,” said Majdi, who runs a restaurant near Ramarah’s Manara or the downtown.
“But the protests are more than Nizar, the people have long been angry with the AP for its corruption and arrogance. The security forces forget that they are meant to serve the people, they are not our lords. and masters ”.
“He is no longer obedient”
Jabarin said, however, that the Palestinian fear factor had waned in recent months, with Palestinians asserting themselves and challenging Israel over incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Busy oriental.
“The new generation is tech savvy, they use fast communication methods and they no longer follow the cultural traditions of being obedient to authority,” he said.
Two other protesters, Muhammad Ali and Ahmed Mohammed, told Al Jazeera that they had come to the demonstration on Sunday to condemn the way Banat had been treated.
The men, colleagues at an aluminum construction company, agreed to give their name and take photos despite fears of pay and initial reservations.
“Why did they have to kill him?” Ali said. “If he had done something wrong, they could have taken him to jail and charged him and allowed him and a lawyer to challenge the charges.”
Rami Arrar, a Palestinian living in Norway who was on holiday in the Ramallah family for a holiday, was less critical of the AP and said that perhaps security agents made a genuine mistake during Banat’s arrest.
“I will not completely condemn the AP as I think they have done some good things for our society and maybe not all the facts are available,” he told Al Jazeera. “However, this situation has been mishandled and an investigation needs to be done.”
The PA is under internal and international pressure to conduct a credible investigation into Banat’s death. But Jabarin said the authority’s inquiry would not be credible or demand accountability from those behind Banat’s death.
“No Palestinian organization is prepared to participate in a money laundering where the PA is the accused, the judge and the jury,” Jabarin said.
“Al Haq together with the Independent Commission on Human Rights [ICHR] both have refused to participate in the investigation, as has the Bar Association, ”Jabarin said.
“Instead, we will carry out the Nizar procedure to establish all the facts and also support people in the future who are accused of political activities that oppose the PA and who are prosecuted.”
If the PA refuses to cooperate, the two organizations will address the relevant issue with the United Nations, the ECHR said.
Deterioration of human rights
Before he died, Binat warned his family that if he died in Palestinian custody, they should not rely on any further investigation by the AP.
Palestinian political activists are regularly arrested and tortured by the AP in the West Bank and by Hamas in Gaza, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Binat is not the first Palestinian to die at the hands of AP security services.
Among the previous deaths in PA custody is that of Majid al-Barghouti, the 42-year-old imam of a mosque in the village of Kobar, outside Ramallah. He was arrested by the PA General Intelligence Service (GIS) on February 14, 2008 and was pronounced dead a week later.
The body photos taken that day, seen by HRW, showed deep and extensive bruises on the legs, feet and back, consistent with the marks caused by blows.
In a recent report, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza said there had been a deterioration in the human rights situation under the PA since a state of emergency was declared in 2020 to combat the COVID-19 and the situation worsened with divisions within the PA’s executive, legislative and judicial institutions due to fighting between Hamas and Fatah.
HRW reported that Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh pledged in July 2019 to end arbitrary detentions, but that had not happened.
Since AP President Mahmoud Abbas canceled elections in May, following warnings that the loss of his party was imminent, dozens of opponents and political critics have been arrested by the country’s security services. ‘AP.
In addition to the growing anger on the Palestinian street, the PA is also facing pressure from the international community with the UN, Europeans and Americans saying they were surprised by Binat’s death.
Although Washington has long supported the PA security apparatus financially and with military training, the European Union recently issued a statement saying it only provided technical support to civilian police, while the financial support was intended to help small businesses and NGOs.
Jabarin concluded that unless the PA implemented urgent democratic reforms, it feared a bloody future on the horizon in the occupied territories.
Armed members of Binat’s family further warned that if the killers were not brought to justice, they would take matters into their own hands.