PA security forces attacked Palestinian protesters marching in Ramallah on Wednesday night, 13 June, as they demanded an end to the PA’s sanctions imposed on Gaza. The Ramallah Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas has imposed a series of sanctions on Palestinians in Gaza, including cuts to PA public employees’ salaries, delays of medical transfers, restrictions on remittances and refusal to pay electricity bills. These sanctions have worked in tandem with the siege on Gaza imposed by Israel with the cooperation and complicity of Arab regimes, including Egypt, as well as the United States and the European Union.
Palestinians launched their campaign to end the sanctions and stand together with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza with a march of over 1500 in Ramallah on 10 June, particularly after over 130 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Israeli occupation forces as they participated in the Great Return March.
The Great Return March is an ongoing popular demonstration demanding Palestinian refugees’ right to return, denied them for over 70 years, and an end to the siege on Gaza. These popular protests have been met with extreme violence and brutality by Israeli forces, who have killed children, paramedics and journalists as they covered the peaceful demonstrations. Amid these struggles in Gaza and the devastating Israeli siege, PA sanctions have operated to intensify poverty, unemployment and lack of basic services such as electricity.
In response to Palestinians’ expressions of support and unity with their sisters and brothers in Gaza, PA security forces unleashed tear gas and sound grenades on demonstrators in Ramallah’s city center on Wednesday evening. The Wednesday protest followed one on Sunday night in Manara Square and several during the day Tuesday in Abu Dis and Ramallah. Protesters also gathered in Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem and Nablus’ Martyrs Square.
Earlier, PA president Abbas’ adviser for local affairs had ordered the prohibition of protests before or during the Eid holiday, under the pretext that demonstrations would interfere with Eid shopping. On the contrary, however, while the demonstrations mobilized crowds in the street, only the actions of the PA security in filling the air with tear gas and flash bangs made the area unsafe for people.
Prior to the demonstration, which drew hundreds to protest under the slogan “Lift the Sanctions!” organizers and journalists reported PA security forces deploying throughout the Ramallah city center as well as setting up checkpoints to block people traveling from elsewhere to join the demonstration. As the march grew, participants reported and widely shared on social media through livestreams and tweets that undercover PA security forces were attacking people inside the demonstration and that PA security were using electric batons against demonstrators and confiscating their mobile phones.
Journalists were also attacked, prevented from filming and their cameras confiscated by PA forces. Among those detained reportedly were American and Turkish journalists. Following the attack, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate denounced the attack and said it would boycott news reports from the security services and government until those responsible were held accountable.
There were over 40 people detained by PA security, including the president of the Bir Zeit student council. In addition, Palestinian lawyer Mohammed Karajeh said that the police confiscated the identity cards of 10 people taken for hospital treatment, requring them to come to the police to receive their identity cards back. Palestinian activist Rana Nazzal reported on Twitter that PA security continue to set up checkpoints and pursue demonstrators.
Palestinian Authority checkpoint in the neighborhood this morning and armed national guard soldiers all around the Tashree’ee roundabout.
— Rana Nazzal رنا (@zaytouni_rana) June 14, 2018
It should be noted that PA security forces are trained and supported by the United States as well as Canada and the European Union. In addition, PA security forces are trained by all of these countries because they are institutionally engaged in “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation. PA President Abbas has even boasted of the utility of PA security coordination with Israel in attacking the Palestinian resistance.
Various Palestinian organizations denounced the attacks, including the Independent Commission on Human Rights, which called for full accountability for those responsible for suppressing the demonstration and infiltrating in civilian clothes. In addition, the ICHR emphasized the original goal of the demonstration – ending the sanctions on Gaza and paying the public workers denied their salaries. The Palestinian Bar Association also condemned the attack on the protesters and called for the lifting of sanctions on Gaza.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said that “all those involved in the decision to carry out and incite attacks on the demonstrators must be held accountable,” emphasizing the need to continue the popular movement to reject the sanctions on Gaza.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its support and solidarity with the rising movement against the sanctions on Gaza and reiterates its call to end Palestinian Authority security coordination with the Israeli occupation. The attack on the demonstration in Ramallah only shows once more the violence of security coordination by the Palestinian Authority against the Palestinian people, as those tear gas canisters and batons are never turned on the Israeli settlers who come to confiscate land and burn trees nor on the Israeli soldiers who nightly invade to seize, imprison or kill Palestinian children, youth and adults.
The PA sanctions on Gaza cannot be detached from security coordination, as they operate hand in hand with the Israeli siege that has been systematically targeting Palestinian existence in Gaza for over 11 years. In addition, the PA sanctions come hand in hand with the role of the United States, Canada, the European Union and Arab reactionary regimes in the area in bolstering the siege on Gaza rather than supporting people struggling for basic rights and freedom.
We urge all supporters of Palestine and the Palestinian prisoners to join in this movement in their own international context as part of the campaign to support the Great Return March and break the siege on Gaza.
Organize and join protests at PA missions and embassies in your area. One protest is scheduled for London on 17 June, and more are being organized in global cities to demand an end to the sanctions on Gaza. Send your protests and actions to email@example.com or contact us on Facebook.
One of the most notorious cases of PA security coordination is that of Basil al-Araj, the Palestinian youth organizer assassinated by the Israeli occupation forces on 6 March 2017 in el-Bireh. Al-Araj and his comrades were previously arrested by the PA and held for a lengthy period without charge, going on hunger strike to demand their release. During this time, PA officials bragged about capturing them as a reflection of their value to the security of the Israeli occupation, highlighting them and providing information to the Israeli occupation about their alleged actions and plans.
Following their release, al-Araj was assassinated while his comrades were imprisoned without charge or trial under Israeli administrative detention. The PA attempted to continue pursuing judicial cases against them for some months thereafter until public protest forced the cases to end. Demonstrators who called for an end to security coordination with the Israeli occupation after al-Araj’s assassination were also violently suppressed by PA forces. Al-Araj’s father and other family members have participated in the ongoing demonstrations to lift the sanctions.
Another infamous instance of PA security coordination with the Israeli occupation – as well as the role of the United States and the United Kingdom – was the imprisonment of Ahmad Sa’adat and his comrades. Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and four of his comrades – Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, Majdi Rimawi, Hamdi Qur’an and Basil al-Asmar – were seized by PA security forces in 2001 and 2002. These arrests came after the PFLP’s military wing assassinated notoriously right-wing, racist Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, known for his advocacy of the “transfer” – ie, the complete ethnic cleansing – of all Palestinians from occupied Palestine. (Since his death, he has also become notorious for his history of sexual assault and corruption.) This action came in response to the Israeli assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa – then the PFLP’s general secretary – with a US-made helicopter-fired missile in his Ramallah office in August 2001.
The arrests of Sa’adat and his comrades were carried out at the behest of Israel and its international allies and, in the so-called Jericho deal, they were transferred to the PA’s Jericho prison and held there under U.S. and British guard. During the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, these PA political prisoners became a point of shame in the elections. In March 2006, only days before the swearing-in of the newly elected PA officials, Israeli occupation forces attacked the Jericho prison and seized Sa’adat and his comrades after U.S. and British guards cleared their path. Today, all five – and Fuad Shobaki – are serving lengthy sentences in Israeli jails, taken directly from a PA prison.
Today, the sanctions on Gaza operate as part of one system with the Israeli siege and the international imperialist powers and reactionary Arab regimes that enable, support and strengthen it. They are a form of political pressure on the PA’s rival parties, but more than that, they function as a cohesive part of one system with the Israeli occupation – another instance of security coordination at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza rely on the salaries of these public workers whose income has been cut, especially when over 50 percent of the population already lives in poverty and unemployment has skyrocketed. The demand to end the PA sanctions on Gaza is part and parcel of the campaign to end the siege on Gaza and hold all those responsible for the deadly siege accountable. Lift the sanctions now!