by Khaled Abu Toameh
It would be a good idea if the international community and media stopped turning a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority [PA].
Abbas wants the world to support the creation of a dictatorship where people are arrested and intimidated for expressing their views in public. He is also asking the world to support a Palestinian state where Hamas is torturing Palestinians.
While the PA is accusing Hamas of human rights violations, its security forces in the West Bank continue to crack down on freedom of expression. In recent weeks, Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank have arrested more than 25 university students on charges of criticizing Palestinian leaders in Ramallah.
"You can still see the bruises on their bodies. They were subjected to harsh torture." — Hisham Sakallah, Palestinian writer, on Hamas interrogators beating Fatah officials with plastic hoses.
As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pursues his efforts to convince the international community to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, his Palestinian Authority [PA] and Hamas continue to show disregard and contempt for human rights.
Both the PA and Hamas know that they can continue to violate the human rights of their people because the international community simply does not care about Palestinians who are being targeted by their own governments.
The international community cares about human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip only when Israel could be held responsible.
The same applies to most foreign journalists covering the Israeli-Arab conflict in general, and Palestinian affairs in particular. They too prefer to look the other way when Palestinians complain of human rights violations by the PA and Hamas.
These journalists often avoid asking representatives of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority about their mistreatment of their people. The journalists are either too afraid to anger Palestinian leaders or they simply do not think that such stories are worth reporting, as they lack an anti-Israel angle.
Palestinian Authority riot police clash with protesting women in Hebron, October 2014.
There is no shortage of stories about the ways the PA and Hamas are targeting Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But these stories hardly make their way to media outlets in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. The journalists based in Jerusalem and Ramallah, like the American and EU government officials, close their ears and eyes when they are brought to their attention.
The same foreign journalists who turned a blind eye to Hamas's war crimes against Palestinians, especially during the last war with Israel (Operation Protective Edge), are now ignoring what the Islamist movement is doing to Fatah leaders.
Last week, Hamas authorities arrested several Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip and stripped them to their underwear, forcing them to stand in the cold for several hours.
According to Palestinian writer Hisham Sakallah, Hamas interrogators also severely beat the Fatah officials with plastic hoses.
Sakallah said that the Fatah officials included Nahru al-Haddad, Ziad Matar, Eyad Hils, Raed Ayyad, Hamdan al-Umsi, Nayef Khwaiter, Sa'di Hils, Mohamed al-Waheidi, Eyad Ramadan, Lutfi Mahani and Radwan al-Shantaf.
Some of the Fatah officials, according to the writer, had previously spent many years in Israeli prison for security-related offences.
"You can still see the bruises on their bodies," Sakallah said. "They were subjected to harsh torture."
Sakallah said that the Hamas interrogators further humiliated the Fatah officials by calling them with women's names. This is a routine practice in Palestinian Authority and Hamas jails that is designed to "insult" male detainees.
"It's shameful to call them with women's names," the writer said. "The Fatah leaders are real men who spent many years in Israeli prisons. Indeed, this is very humiliating. All those who were arrested are respected figures."
The Fatah leaders were arrested for trying to organize celebrations in the Gaza Strip marking the 50th anniversary of their group's first terror attack against Israel. Hamas has banned such celebrations in the past, out of fear that Fatah would use them as a "show of strength" in the Gaza Strip.
Osama al-Qawassmeh, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, said that the Hamas interrogators also urinated and poured cold water on the detainees "to rid them of their nasty smell."
Qawassmeh said that the Hamas practices were "unimaginable and worse than those committed by the fascists against humanity." He said that in addition to the torture, Hamas interrogators also cursed (former Fatah and PLO leader) Yasser Arafat.
The Fatah spokesman added: "The Hamas gangs are not Palestinians and they have no connection to our history, values and national and Islamic morals. Even the devils are unable to do such things."
However, Qawassmeh did not say whether Fatah would file any war crimes charges against Hamas with the International Criminal Court or any international human rights organization.
In fact, it is hard to see how Fatah could file charges against Hamas when their representatives are part of a "national consensus" government with Hamas.
If Fatah believes that the "Hamas gangs" are not Palestinian, why then did their leaders sign a unity agreement with the Islamist movement several months ago?
Yet while the Palestinian Authority is accusing Hamas of human rights violations, its own security forces in the West Bank are continuing to crack down on freedom of expression.
During the past two weeks, the PA has summoned for interrogation more than 20 Palestinians over their postings on Facebook.
Most of those summoned for interrogation are university students suspected of posting comments in favor of Hamas or criticizing the PA on their Facebook accounts.
In recent weeks, Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have arrested more than 25 university students on charges of criticizing Palestinian leaders in Ramallah or voicing support for Hamas and other groups. Some of the detainees are reported to have gone on hunger strike to protest against their incarceration.
Earlier this week, Palestinian security officers in the West Bank beat Palestinian journalist Muaz al-Amleh after he posted critical remarks against a Fatah official on social media.
Again, these are not the type of human rights violations that the international media and human rights organizations care about.
Had the unfortunate journalist been attacked by Israeli soldiers, his story would have won the attention of his Western colleagues and probably the UN Security Council.
The increased human rights violations by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority come at a time when PA President Mahmoud Abbas says he is determined to pursue his effort to file war crimes charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court. It also comes at a time when Abbas says he will go back to the Security Council to seek support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Abbas wants the world to support the creation of a dictatorship where people are arrested and intimidated for expressing their views in public. He is also asking the world to support a Palestinian state where Hamas is torturing Palestinians and stripping them down to their underwear. If Abbas cannot do anything to protect his own loyalists in the Gaza Strip, how exactly does he intend to persuade the world that he is capable of leading his people toward independence and freedom?
Meanwhile, it would be a good idea if Abbas rushed to file war crimes against Hamas, before Hamas makes similar accusations against him. It would also be a good idea if the international community and media stopped turning a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Khaled Abu Toameh
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.