Palestinian Authority crackdown on opposition continues

Some 30 activists who want to see heads roll for the death of Nizar Banat were arrested over the weekend.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Palestinian Authority (PA) arrested around 30 Palestinians over the weekend in its continuing crackdown against its critics.

The immediate cause was reportedly the activists’ plan to demonstrate in Ramallah’s Manara Square Saturday for justice to be done in the case of the June death of anti-corruption activist Nizar Binat, who was allegedly beaten to death by PA police.

Although 14 officers have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the homicide, none have been brought to trial yet.

Security authorities closed off the site and arrested protestors as they arrived. In all, the PA police said that 24 people were detained for gathering illegally, as they allegedly had no permit for their demonstration. The Palestinian human rights group Lawyers for Justice said that those arrested were also accused of “stirring up sectarian strife,” which is code for those who oppose the PA in general.

Many of the detainees come from groups that despise the Fatah-based PA for being too pro-Israeli, such as Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Several have “street credit” for having sat long periods in Israeli jails for their terrorist activities. Their factions called for their immediate release.

After a court hearing Sunday, 15 of the protestors were let go. According to the Quds News Network, among those freed were three who had been beaten by security forces while incarcerated, one of them a woman. Another, Maher al-Akhras, had to get medical care in a hospital after his mistreatment.

Several of the detainees immediately began a hunger strike, said the report, and several refused to answer questions because they said their arrest had been illegal.

According to the report, in a hastily called press conference, the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights and other human rights organizations argued that the whole incident was political in nature. There have been a few hundred arrests and summonses for interrogations over recent months of those expressing opposition to the PA in general or calling for the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas.

The level of disapproval leaped up several notches after Binat’s death, with his funeral attracting thousands of mourners, followed by dozens of mass demonstrations throughout the PA, some of which turned violent.

The arrests, and the prevention of peaceful demonstrations, fly in the face of international law, the organizations said. One speaker said that the Palestinian police had accused the detainees of “serving foreign agendas,” which is “a shameful charge that is heard [only] in suppressive regimes.”

Political activists told The Jerusalem Post that the PA’s tactics wouldn’t work.

“The crackdown by the Palestinian Authority is backfiring,” said Ghassan Awad of Ramallah. “The repressive measures are seen as part of an attempt to intimidate the public and silence critics. But this is making Hamas and the opposition even stronger.”