The Palestinian Authority’s attack on the student movement: Security coordination targets the resistance

Images: Abdul-Majeed Hassan (top), Below (l-r): Yahya Farah Qasem, Omar al-Kiswani

The Zionist occupation routinely attacks the Palestinian student movement. There are hundreds of Palestinian students locked behind occupation bars, including over 60 from Bir Zeit University alone. As noted in the #FreePalestinianStudents solidarity statement, supported by hundreds of international organizations, “The work of student organizing, from holding book fairs to organizing events and participating in student elections, is criminalized by the Israeli occupation. Still more students are detained for joining demonstrations or posting on their social media profiles.

Palestinian students have been seized by Israeli occupation forces and abducted for their participation in the student movement in their homes, at their workplaces and on their campuses…The charge sheets often refer to these standard activities of campus life, which are widely interpreted as a barometer for broader Palestinian political opinion.

The targeting of Palestinian students is an attack on Palestinian futures. It is a systematic attempt to undermine the capacity of young Palestinians to organize with one another for a liberated future for their people: One free of colonization, apartheid and occupation.”

For example, Bir Zeit University student Layan Kayed has been detained by Israeli occupation forces since 7 June 2023, denied access to her lawyer this entire time; on 26 June, she was ordered to eight more days in interrogation.

However, the detention and imprisonment of Palestinian students, and particularly Palestinian student organizers, is not limited to the occupation alone. The Palestinian Authority has launched a series of arrests targeting student activists, particularly students affiliated with the Islamic Bloc at Bir Zeit and An-Najah Universities, where their student blocs recently won decisive victories in the annual campus elections with a strong pro-resistance platform.

These arrests are not merely a case of the Palestinian Authority detaining political rivals, or supporters of Hamas rather than Fateh. These attacks are part and parcel of the Palestinian Authority’s “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation — a primary reason for the PA’s creation and existence under the Oslo accords and its corollaries. In two recent meetings, in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh, Palestinian Authority security representatives met with Israeli, U.S., Jordanian and Egyptian officials — and that security mandate has been followed by a series of arrests targeting the Palestinian youth and student movement throughout the West Bank.

Abdul-Majeed Hassan, the newly elected President of the Bir Zeit University Student Council, was seized from campus on 18 June in a violent attack. Fellow Student Council elected member, Yahya Farah Qasem, is also detained in Palestinian Authority jails, while Omar al-Kiswani, the former president of the Bir Zeit Student Council (who during his term in office was violently kidnapped by occupation forces from the center of campus in broad daylight) remains in PA prisons, despite his release being ordered by the judiciary. Hassan, Qasem and Kiswani were transferred on Monday, 26 June to the infamous Jericho detention center of the PA.

Abdulrahman Al-Jaraf

On 27 June, PA forces raided the home of Abdulrahman al-Jaraf, a medical student and a member of the Islamic Bloc at An-Najah University. He was not home during the raid and was therefore not arrested; in less than one hour later, Israeli occupation forces invaded Balata refugee camp, and raided the Al-Jaraf home, seizing Abdulrahman’s brother, Hamza.

An-Najah students seized by the PA

This came only hours after, on 26 June, the PA abducted five more Islamic Bloc students from An-Najah University, Ameed Hijazi, Amir Shalhoub, Nasreddin Shtayyeh, Mohammed al-Khayyat and Anas al-Shunnar. They were seized by PA forces as they welcomed the release of Mohammed Salameh, freed from occupation prisons after a year of administrative detention. Ayman Darwish, economics student at An-Najah, has also been detained for 10 days by the PA security. Fellow Palestinian student Rafiq Qubbaj, a student at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis is also detained for his work in the student movement since 24 June.

The Bir Zeit University campus was closed by the student movement from 23 June to 26 June in a unified rejection of the PA’s attacks, part and parcel of the ongoing attacks of the occupation, including an ongoing seven-day hunger strike of protest by multiple students. On Wednesday, 28 June, a group of students held Eid al-Adha prayers at the university campus as part of their ongoing sit-in to demand the release of PA detainees.

Of course, PA political prisoners are not restricted to student activists; the security services are used to attack the resistance overall. Musaab Shtayyeh, the Palestinian resistance struggler from Nablus, has been jailed by the Palestinian Authority for over 280 days. These attacks on Palestinian students also come alongside the two-year anniversary of the assassination of anti-corruption struggler, the martyr Nizar Banat by PA security forces — for which justice is still delayed and institutionally denied — and recall the many Palestinian strugglers and resistance fighters imprisoned by the PA over the decades of Oslo as part of “security coordination”; that is, serving as an agent of the occupation.

From Ahmad Sa’adat and his comrades (jailed for four years by the PA under British, Canadian and U.S. guard), to Basil al-Araj, to Nizar Banat, to Musaab Shtayyeh, Abdul-Majeed Hassan and his fellow students, PA imprisonment is used on behalf of the occupation to target the Palestinian resistance, in its form of armed struggle and in its broader popular cradle of support.

Detention by the PA is routinely part of a “revolving door” with occupation prisons, whereby recently released prisoners are called for PA interrogation and detained, and detainees released by the PA are seized days later by Zionist occupation forces.

The crimes of the Palestinian Authority are not simply independent “human rights violations.” They are carried out as part and parcel of the Oslo framework that created the PA as a subcontractor for the occupation; and the current Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh new security demands to attack the rising resistance in the West Bank and throughout Palestine from the river to the sea. These arrests are the responsibility of Israel, the United States, Canada, the European Union and all parties involved in creating, sustaining and propping up the “security coordination” framework, which benefits only the occupier and colonizer at the expense of the Palestinian people.

As we noted after the assassination of the martyr Nizar Banat: Now is the time to take action to confront the Palestinian Authority and all those responsible for imposing it upon the Palestinian people to the detriment of the Palestinian struggle for return and liberation. The PA and its funders and trainers must be held accountable for its ongoing betrayal of the Palestinian people and its collaboration with the occupation regime and Zionist colonialism. The Oslo project is backed by Zionism, imperialism and reactionary regimes – and it must and will fall on the road to the liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. 

Freedom for all Palestinian prisoners, in Zionist, PA, reactionary and imperialist regme prisons! Freedom for Palestine, from the river to the sea!