The “Palestinian Authority” and political arrests: Prison subcontractor of the occupation

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has, since its inception, represented a project created as part of the Oslo process, for the purpose of subjugating the Palestinian resistance, replacing the Palestinian revolutionary struggle with a pseudo-state entity, and serving the interests of the security of the Zionist occupation. Sponsored by the United States in security interests and the European Union in social programs, the existence of the Authority further serves to remove responsibility for the Palestinian people under occupation from the occupying power itself. The PA’s practice of “security coordination” means that it is currently detaining over 50 Palestinians for supporting their resistance movement and liberation from Zionist occupation, with two of those detainees on hunger strike for 10 days.

In the aftermath of the battle of Jenin, when the Palestinian people and their resistance made clear that the resistance forces are strong and growing throughout the West Bank and not only in Gaza — and particularly in the northern West Bank of occupied Palestine — the role of the Palestinian Authority has been increasingly and publicly exposed, as it has been unable to uproot the resistance from its popular cradle, despite the ongoing demands and entreaties of the Israeli occupation regime and the United States. The PA’s attempts to suppress the resistance and to fulfill its commitments to “security coordination” with the occupation have taken the form of arrests and imprisonment targeting resistance strugglers, political leaders, student activists and others, especially those from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement.

Jenin and after: Pursuing the resistance

Two of these detainees, Murad Malaysheh, 34, and Mohammed Brahma, 37, leaders of the Al-Quds Brigades, are currently on a hunger strike in Jericho prison for the past 10 days to demand their release. Both were seized as they attempted to travel to Jenin to support the resistance; the PA originally claimed it was detaining Malaysheh to “protect” him yet has since launched an arrest campaign targeting dozens of Islamic Jihad members. While Malaysheh and Brahma were ordered released by a PA court on 19 July, they remain imprisoned; this practice of ignoring court decisions has been routinely implemented against Palestinian resistance detainees. In a letter on 7 August, Malaysheh and Brahma declared that they had suspended their last strike because they had been promised efforts to secure their release, but have relaunched their strike after the claimed efforts led nowhere.

The Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine also noted that among its members imprisoned by the PA include:

  • Arqam Ahmarou, 57
  • Fadi al-Bari, 38
  • Eid Mohammed Hamamra, 28
  • Mohammed Salim Alawneh, 41
  • Mohammed Fayes Malaysheh, 42
  • Mo’men Adnan Fashafsha, 20
  • Imad Mohammed Khaliliya, 25
  • Khaled Ahmad Malaysheh
  • Yazan Munjed Maslamani, 24
  • Ahmad Abdel-Latif Nawasra, 41
  • Yousef Ikhlil, 24

They are among over 52 Palestinian prisoners of the resistance and the liberation movement detained by the PA, frequently former prisoner held in the Israeli occupation jails. Musaab Shtayyeh, the Palestinian resistance struggler from Nablus, has been jailed by the PA for 324 days.

Security coordination targets the “Jenin phenomenon”

Maher al-Akhras, former long-term hunger striker who won his freedom from occupation prisons, said that these attacks represent a plan by the PA security forces — administered and directed by the United States — to end the “Jenin phenomenon,” including setting up a high-ranking security operations team that intends to dismantle the Jenin Brigade, with similar plans used to target the Lions’ Den (Areen al-Osood) in Nablus. “The leadership of the Authority provided the security forces with dozens of personnel, along with armored military vehicles. They are charged with preventing any manifestations of celebration of the resistance in Jenin, and besieging and cordoning off any march of the resistance fighters in the camp.” He ascribed this plan to the Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh meetings, which, under U.S. auspices, brought together the Jordanian and Egyptian intelligence with the PA and Zionist representatives, noting that it took on a new priority after the power of the resistance in Jenin camp in the July battle.

This was reflected in the actions of PA security forces on Saturday, 5 August, after PA forces attacked a march in Jenin camp in support of an armed resistance operation in Tel Aviv. Live bullets were fired during the attack on the march, and journalist Mohammed Abed was injured. This followed a crisis at Hebron University, after PA security force members, who also study at the university, assaulted and confiscated the phones of women students participating in a vigil against political arrests by the PA, launching a series of protests and sit-ins. While the university’s staff union and concerned organizations negotiated an agreement between students to end political attacks and arrests, the university administration expelled Ahmad al-Sharif, the spokesperson of the Islamic Bloc, with the Bloc noting that this action “equates the aggressor and the victim,” rejecting “the policy of punishing everyone at the expense of justice and law.”

Student movements have been particularly targeted for PA repression and arrest, with students at Birzeit University, An-Najah University and several other universities detained by PA forces as well as Israeli occupation forces. At both of these universities, election results indicated clear support for the political and social forces associated with the resistance.

Bolstering security coordination at the expense of the Palestinian prisoners

Hussein al-Sheikh, a PA official with an extensive and lengthy history of normalization and collaboration with the occupation regime (profiled in “Foreign Policy” for his extreme unpopularity among Palestinians yet sponsorship by the United States and the Israeli regime), has reportedly been charged with dealing with the Zionist regime to discuss “strengthening the Authority” and its “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation. On Monday, 7 August, the occupation cabinet voted to provide additional (Palestinian) funds, confiscated illegally by the occupation, and facilitation to the PA in order to strengthen the Authority and its role as a security force for the occupier.

The arrests and attacks have continued, particularly on former prisoners; Amjad al-Sayeh, the brother of Bassam al-Sayeh, the prisoner who died behind bars as a result of Israeli medical negligence and whose body is one of the martyrs held captive today, was ordered detained an additional eight days by the PA on Sunday, 6 August. Amjad is himself a former prisoner and an engineer. On the same day, PA security forces detained Muhiydeen Sharawna, the son of released prisoner Ayman Sharawna, now deported to Gaza; while on Monday, they detained former prisoners Yasser Bilal Yamin and Mahmoud Asida after raiding their homes in Nablus.

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.

Cairo meeting fails to resolve PA crisis after principled boycott

This escalating situation, mirroring the escalation in Palestinian resistance, has also led to an increasing political crisis in which the broad support for the Palestinian resistance forces renders the Ramallah PA increasingly irrelevant, especially amid a Zionist onslaught of invasions, assassinations, land confiscation, settler attacks and assaults on Palestinian civilians and their land. On 29 July, the PA’s president, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), called for a meeting of Palestinian faction general secretaries in Cairo, ostensibly to strengthen Palestinian national unity or achieve reconciliation, while ordering yet more arrests, assaults, detentions and attacks on the resistance in Palestinian streets, hand in hand with the Israeli occupation.

The Islamic Jihad Movement announced its boycott of the Cairo meeting, demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in PA jails and noting that unity could not be achieved while the PA continues to arrest and pursue the cadres of the resistance.

This position was adopted by several other Palestinian factions, including the PFLP-General Command and al-Saiqa. Given the leading role of the movement in the prisoners’ movemnt and the resistance, its boycott of the meeting was a significant blow to the PA’s efforts to impose its security framework over the Palestinian political forces.

At the same time, the Masar Badil, the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement, also highlighted the fundamental contradictions in the Cairo meeting, noting that it seeks to resolve the crisis of the PA rather than to support real national unity, which is developed in the field by the resistance on a daily basis.

Real national unity cannot include those who imprison the resistance

Khaled Barakat, co-founder of the Masar and a Palestinian writer, said in an interview with Palestine Today TV, “The real question is, ‘why should we go to the Cairo meeting?’ at all, and not the other way around. The position of the brothers in the Islamic Jihad Movement and any Palestinian faction that later aligns with this position, is justified by logic and national principles to boycott the Cairo meeting. It is clear to see the interests of the Authority and the profit that some regimes reap from these meetings, but where is the interest of the Palestinian people in them?”

Noting the principle of the primary and secondary contradiction for liberation movements and the primacy of confronting the colonizer, he said, “For the Palestinian cause, there is a central enemy for all of us, the Zionist entity, and our collective effort must be united in confronting it. Likewise, liberation movements include political and intellectual currents, multiple parties and visions, and different schools and approaches, and this is very natural. However, this does not apply to the relationship with the security Authority in the West Bank, as it is not part of the Palestinian liberation movement, especially when it targets the Palestinian people and their resistance with arrests, harassment and torture. This principle can apply, for example, to the relationship of the Islamic Jihad Movement with the brothers in Hamas, who can have pluralism in their vision, actions, and tactics, and dialogue, even if it is harsh, can resolve any crisis that may arise.”

Rather than participating in the PA’s meetings, Barakat said that real national unity is built through the resistance and the engagement of the people with the resistance, further urging broader regional unity and action. “What is required now is to strengthen and develop the relationship between the poles of the resistance camp in the region on the basis of the unity of the fronts, especially with Hezbollah, which constitutes the solid nucleus of the resistance in the region,” he concluded.

The road to liberation: the defeat of Oslo

As we noted in a previous report on the PA’s assault on the Palestinian resistance:

We recall the assassination of anti-corruption struggler, the martyr Nizar Banat by PA security forces — for which justice is still delayed and institutionally denied — and 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, 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…

The crimes of the Palestinian Authority are not simply independent “human rights violations” or “political detention” targeting rival forces. 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. 

Freedom for all Palestinian prisoners, in PA, Zionist, reactionary regime and imperialist jails — and freedom for all of Palestine, from the river to the sea!