Saturday, December 25, 2010

US, EU Support Violations of Human Rights as Palestinian Authority Escalates Repression, Brutality

by Khaled Abu Toameh

On a number of occasions over the past two years, Palestinians who protested in public against the policies of the Palestinian Authority have been assaulted and beaten by US-trained Palestinian policemen. Palestinian journalists and human rights activists who tried to document these assaults have also been beaten.

Abbas and Fayyad have not hesitated to use violence against their critics. Many of those who spent time in Palestinian prisons and detention centers in the West Bank say they were subjected there to various methods of torture.

One can understand why a radical movement like Hamas would want to crack down on freedoms in the Gaza Strip, but what one cannot understand is why the Palestinian Authority, which relies heavily on US and EU taxpayer money for its survival, is allowed to get away with human rights violations.

In the West Bank, the Western-funded government of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has been waging a campaign aimed at silencing the opposition and intimidating journalists. The Palestinian Authority claims that the crackdown is necessary to thwart any attempt by Hamas to extend its control to the West Bank.

As a result of this campaign, hundreds -- some says thousands -- of Palestinians are being held without trial in Palestinian Authority prisons in the West Bank. Among the detainees are university students and lecturers, journalists and political activists suspected of being affiliated with Hamas and other Palestinian opposition groups.

Even Palestinian government employees are now complaining about the iron-fist policy of Abbas and Fayyad. In recent weeks, several employees said they received warnings from the Palestinian security services and senior Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah not to meet with "Jewish correspondents" or any other foreign journalist suspected of being "pro-Israel."

Only a quarter of the Palestinians living in the West Bank believe they can criticize the Palestinian Authority.

In the Gaza Street, the situation is even worse – less than a fifth of the Palestinians living there believe it is possible to criticize Hamas.

These feelings were revealed in a recent public opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank.

The results show that a majority of Palestinians do not trust the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, especially when it comes to freedom of expression and human rights.

The war between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which reached its peak in 2007, when the Islamist movement managed to seize full control over the Gaza Strip, has been accompanied by a sharp increase in human rights violations by both parties.

The Palestinian government in the West Bank also controls the three major newspapers, Al-Quds, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda and Al-Ayyam. In that world, there is no room for any newspaper that does not serve as a mouthpiece for Abbas and Fayyad.

Consequently, Palestinians have to rely on media organizations in Israel, the Arab world and the West to learn, for example, about the severe power struggle between Abbas and former Fatah security commander Mohammed Dahlan, who has been accused of working to topple the Palestinian Authority.

Under Hamas, the situation is not any better. In the Gaza Strip, it is hard to find a Palestinian journalist or human rights activist who will agree to criticize Hamas in public. Hamas policemen and militias have also been employing an iron-fist policy to keep Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from speaking out.

Hamas prisons are full of detainees whose only crime is that they are --or were -- members of Fatah.

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Khaled Abu Toameh

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