Palestinian Arab journalist Bassam Tawil recently described a “fierce crackdown” on Palestinian reporters by the Palestinian Authority, including arbitrary arrests and beatings.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden, in his recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week, emphasized the importance of “upholding democratic values.” Then the president called for the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state next to Israel—a state that would be governed by the same regime that is arresting and beating Palestinian journalists for the crime of disagreeing with PA policies.
Tawil reports that on July 17, journalist Akil Awawdeh wrote something criticizing the spokesman for the PA security forces for claiming that the PA does not arrest anybody based on their political affiliations. Within hours, the PA security forces arrested him.
Later that month, journalist Sami Al-Sa’i was arrested by PA police for daring to disagree with the PA on social media. And it was not the first time. “Because of his repeated incarcerations, he has been unable to find work,” Tawil reports. “Recently, to support his family, he has been selling juice on the streets of Tulkarm.”
A video posted on social media in August showed PA security men beating a journalist named Nidal al-Natsheh. “His crime,” according to Tawil, was that “he tried to report about a protest by university students against human-rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority.”
Tawil is not alone in recording these outrages. According to Amnesty International’s latest annual report, “Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continued to heavily restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly. They also held scores of people in arbitrary detention and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment. Justice for serious human rights violations remained elusive.”
Human Rights Watch concurs: “The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza arbitrarily arrest dissidents and torture Palestinians in their custody.” HRW also points out that the PA’s laws “discriminate against women, including in relation to marriage, divorce, custody of children, and inheritance.” In addition, “[the PA] has no comprehensive domestic violence law.”
HRW also recently reported that “several social and cultural events in the West Bank were canceled following threats against organizers.” That statement on the HRW website links to a report by a Palestinian advocacy group that the PA police, instead of protecting the events and pursuing those who threatened them, instead canceled the events by “invoking the issue of ‘homosexual’ orientations.”
While the international community has ignored the PA police trampling on gay rights, it has also forgotten that it was the Israeli police who protected the recent Pride Parade in Jerusalem and arrested the handful of people who made threats against it.
And what about free and fair elections—the very essence of a democratic society? PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, 87, is now in the 18th year of his four-year term. The last election to its parliament was in 2006.
The idea that a Palestinian state would be democratic is a joke. The PA and Hamas, which has run the Gaza Strip since 2007, trample on civil rights daily. They arrest and torture dissidents, crush unions, relegate women to second-class status and refuse to hold democratic elections.
So, despite Biden’s lofty talk about democracy, the Palestinian state he is proposing to establish would be a brutal totalitarian state. The Middle East is already full of vicious dictatorships. Does the world really need another one?
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