After Palestinian Authority (PA) forces tortured to death a popular critic of its behaviour, Palestinians in the West Bank have began to protest in mass calling for its dismantlement. Now, despite some having argued that the Palestinian Authority has outrun its usefulness, others are arguing that the only reason it ever existed was to serve Israel.
Last Thursday Palestinian Authority Security Forces ripped well known Palestinian dissident, Nizar Banat, from his bed and beat him mercilessly in front of his family, before torturing him to death. In reaction to this act, dubbed as an assassination, Palestinians quickly took to the streets of major cities in the West Bank to protest the killing and chanted “the people want the downfall of the regime”, along with calls for Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, to resign.
The reaction of the well trained and armed Palestinian Authority forces, was to attack men women and journalists with sticks, rocks, bullets and tear gas. Plane-clothed officers were even sent into the crowds in order to beat and arrest demonstrators, a tactic often used by Israel’s “Arabist” forces who pretend to be civilians in order to launch surprise attacks.
Prominent Palestinians and Historians, such as Joseph Massad, have now even stated that “the PA’s days are numbered”, due to the Authority’s complete lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the people it rules over.
The PA is nothing more than an arm of Israel’s occupation
Supporters of the Palestinian Authority, many of them on the payroll of the organisation, have argued that the ongoing dispute is an internal Palestinian issue and that the biggest focus should be on Israel not Party politics. However, this issue is not one of Party politics, the PA is a key component of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority was born out of the Oslo Accords, signed between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) headed by Yasser Arafat. Oslo II signed in 1995 divided up the West Bank into areas A, B and C. In areas A and B, where most of the Palestinian population reside, the Palestinian Authority was designated control, the remaining 61% of the West Bank (area C) is where Israel was given full control. This meant that for the majority of the Palestinian people, who were previously policed by the Israeli occupation army, that task was handed over to the newly introduced PA forces who would do the job for them.
By 1999, Israel’s occupation forces were supposed to have withdrawn fully from the territories they occupied, as of the Oslo agreements, but they never did. Instead of throwing out the Oslo Accords and declaring them dead, the Palestinian Authority still continued to cling to them and manage ‘Security Coordination’ with the Israeli occupation forces.
Security Coordination between the PA and Israel, sees to it that information about Palestinians is passed on to Israel and that resistance attacks are foiled against Israeli forces by the PA. The PA implants its paid agents in every single Palestinian village, city or area, meaning that whatever happens under the areas of their control, they have intelligence on it and will pass that on to the Israelis who can then use it against Palestinians.
Most of the Palestinian resistance operations (armed attacks against Israeli military targets) foiled in the West Bank, are done so by the PA. Most of those captured or identified as having perpetrated an attack on Israeli occupation forces, are done so with the help of the Palestinian Authority.
Despite the current Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who operates as PA President, giving constant lip service to the idea of Palestinian Democracy and a democratic State, he himself rules a dictatorship. This year Abbas declared that the first legislative and Presidential elections in 15 years were to be held, but cancelled them without a fight and used Israel’s refusal to allow a vote in East Jerusalem as the excuse. At the time, Fatah splintered into over 10 opposing groups and it looked very likely that Hamas were going to win in a landslide, prompting many to speculate that Mahmoud Abbas cancelled the elections out of a fear of losing.
Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office expired in 2009, making him an unelected President with no democratic legitimacy. His PA security forces launched a failed US, Israeli backed military coup against Hamas, after the Hamas ‘Change and Reform’ list had beaten Fatah in a landslide at the January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Elections. The coup attempt, along with US-Western sanctions on Hamas and an Israeli besiegement of the Gaza Strip, led to the complete Hamas takeover of the Strip. This was what happened the last time Mahmoud Abbas received an election result he did not like and it was fully backed by the US and Israeli governments.
Why The Israeli Occupation Needs The PA
When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, its forces had to deal with the entirety of the Palestinian population. At the earlier stages of Israel’s occupation, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) were closely interlinked with the Israeli economy and the resistance was not out of hand, or anything the Israeli military could not deal with.
In 1987, the first Palestinian Intifada erupted, a mass overwhelmingly non-violent uprising against the occupation throughout the OPT. As well as presenting a huge Public Relations and diplomatic debacle for Israel, the Intifada also cost the Israeli economy a great deal and forced Israel to muster the full force of its military in order to try and stabilise the situation. The Intifada drove Israel crazy and presented a real fear that it would become open to foreign attacks, with even its reservists having to be pulled in to simply deal with the day to day situation in the OPT.
For Israel, the Oslo Accords granted them their get out of jail free card. Israel was seen as making strides towards peace with the Palestinians and had also set up a system under which, instead of their own forces having to deal with the majority of the Palestinian population, instead Palestinians would do it for them.
Just as Israel had used the ‘South Lebanon Army’, as its primary ally during its occupation of South Lebanon and its conflict with Hezbollah between 1985 and 2000, Israel today uses the Palestinian Authority. Except, the PA has much more control than the South Lebanon Army ever did over the population it controls.
The Primary financiers of the Palestinian Authority, are both the United States and European Union, both of which support Israel and have done nothing but encourage it, whilst giving lip service to an invisible two-State solution. The Palestinian Authority security apparatus is also trained by the likes of the US, UK and Jordanian militaries, making them efficient in violent suppression of Palestinians and torture tactics.
Most of Israel’s intelligence in the West Bank on Palestinian activity against the occupation, currently comes from the PA. Freedom of speech for Palestinians in the West Bank is also near to non-existent, there is so much fear of saying anything that may get you in trouble with the PA preventative security forces, that most people will only discuss the issue in tightly knit circles. Many feel unsafe in their own homes criticising the Palestinian Authority, if they feel like the wrong person may hear them. Many people claim that Hamas is a great limiter of free speech in Gaza, yet people are much more free to speak their minds in Gaza, about Hamas, than they are in the West Bank, about the PA.
The so-called ‘Security Cooperation’ between the Israeli occupation forces and the PA, does not serve the security of Palestinians, therefore is akin to collaboration with the occupying force against acts of armed rebellion. The PA also never works to protect Palestinians from Israelis, it never opens fire on Israeli forces which enter area A or B and has even been known to attack Palestinians demonstrating against Israel, as was documented last month during the 11-day war between Gaza and Israel.
If the Palestinian Authority is overthrown in the West Bank, Israel will be in an even worse position than it had faced there in 1987. If the second Intifada of 2000-2005, was a taste of the violence which could come Israel’s way from the West Bank, without a Palestinian Authority there at all, the situation then could eventually look like child’s play if the situation evolves in an unfavourable way to the occupier.
Israel, without the PA, will have to deal with millions of Palestinians and a power vacuum from which the most popular armed resistance could potentially take control of the territory. The Israelis would also suffer from a great lack of intelligence and attacks would be more frequent on their forces. Their illegal settlers would also be insecure, meaning that an even greater deployment of troops would be needed to protect their security interests. Without the PA, there could be real resistance against the occupation inside the West Bank, which Israel knows and fears, this is also why it opposed working with the PA at all if Hamas was to have won the cancelled elections this year.
The reality is, that Palestinians in the West Bank do not support the PA and the only ones who trust its legitimacy are Fatah loyalists and the PA’s paid agents. Nobody sees Mahmoud Abbas as their President, especially the younger generations who are tired of dealing with an occupation spearheaded by a man claiming to represent a cause for liberation, but which instead serves to beat, torture, arrest and kill the people of Palestine. All this, whilst they deal with an upsurge of Israeli settlement expansion, settler extremist attacks, home demolitions, arrest campaigns, ethnic cleansing, mass murder of Palestinian civilians, attacks on Holy Sites and the list goes on. In truth, the biggest obstacle to fighting the occupation of the West Bank, is the Palestinian Authority itself, because the PA is indeed part of that occupation.