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Buoyed By Washington’s Support, the Palestinian Authority Shows Its Fangs

The Biden Administration seems to believe that the best way to oppose the terror group Hamas is to support its arch-rival, the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas may be a despot, a President-For-Life now entering the sixteenth year of his four-year term; he may have his goons threaten and intimidate his critics, but at least he isn’t launching rockets into Israel. For some in Washington, that’s reason enough to support him. Reform-minded Palestinians, including the journalists who dare to report on the vast corruption in the PA, and as a result fear for their lives, do not agree. Their take on Abbas, and on the American support he is now receiving, is here.

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The death of Nizar Banat, who was allegedly beaten to death by Palestinian security officers last Thursday, has left several Palestinian political activists worried for their life.

Some activists who are critical of the Palestinian Authority said on Saturday they have received threats because of their views.

The activists blamed the US, European Union and other international parties for turning a blind eye to human rights violations and corruption by the PA, including the crackdown on dozens of critics and political opponents in the West Bank in the past few weeks.

The crackdown began because there had been a sudden upsurge of criticism of the PA for two reasons. The first was the cancellation of elections by Abbas; he had raised high hopes, when he first announced the elections, that there might be a peaceful transition, through the ballot box, to a new, less corrupt, government; when Abbas cancelled the elections, he dashed those hopes, and instead created a firestorm of anguished protest; it seemed the West Bank Palestinians were doomed to put up with Abbas’ despotism for a while longer.

The second reason for fury with the PA was its singular failure to support Hamas, even verbally, in its 11-day war with Israel. The PA was perceived as missing in action. Hamas was seen as “still standing” despite the powerful onslaught of the IDF; Palestinians interpreted this as a kind of victory. Hamas’ prestige rose, while that of the PA sank. All this was grist for the social media’s mill, and the PA’s response was to threaten or round up or even, as we now know, to murder its critics.

“It’s interesting and disturbing that the Palestinian Authority’s unprecedented crackdown began immediately after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Ramallah last month,” said Palestinian writer and political analyst Nadia Harhash.

“Blinken was quoted as saying that the new US administration wants to empower the Palestinian Authority,” she said. “If empowerment means arresting and killing political activists, then the US is definitely complicit in the crimes of the Palestinian security forces.”

Certainly Abbas took Blinken’s visit as all the support he needed to enforce an unusually severe crackdown, which ended with the killing of one of his most prominent critics, Nizar Banat. Blinken seems not to have understood that by visiting Abbas in Ramallah and being quoted as wanting to “empower the PA,” whenever Abbas unleashed his goons to threaten or beat up his critics, the U.S. would be seen as complicit in the PA’s ruthlessness. Blinken ought to have known enough of Abbas’ history of violently suppressing dissent to be wary of appearing too supportive. Instead of talking about “empowering” the PA, he ought to have said nothing, and maintained his distance.

Last year, unidentified arsonists set fire to Harhash’s car in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Bet Hanina. She said that the torching of her car was connected to her recurring criticism of the PA government’s performance, especially their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Harhash told The Jerusalem Post that she had been in close contact with Banat since August 2020, when he was forced to go into hiding because of threats by the PA security forces.

“It’s obvious that the US administration gave the Palestinian Authority a green light to tighten its control over the Palestinian population,” she said. “In this case, control means what we just witnessed with Nizar Banat. It can go as far as killing people, and not just arresting them.”

Is Harhash correct? Did the US administration give the PA a “green light” to control its population with severe means, up to and including murder, as in the case of Nizar Banat? No, it certainly did not understand just how ruthless Abbas was prepared to be. Harhash is attributing murderous malice to Washington; instead of its real problem, which is a blend of ignorance and miscomprehension. Blinken did not understand that the PA is not the only alternative to Hamas; there are a small but growing number of Palestinians who want to be ruled neither by the terrorists of Hamas nor by the corrupt and venal gang, headed by their godfather Mahmoud Abbas, that runs the PA. The Americans should be supporting this alternative of Palestinians who wish to promote democracy, long for an end to corruption, and wish for some sort of modus vivendi with Israel. The journalist Khaled Abu Toameh exemplifies the best of this group. So does the political analyst Nadia Harhash.

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