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Occupation magazine - Commentary
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How the PA helps Israel occupy
Ramallah`s political establishment is now more interested in retaining western support than resolving national division
Since the Palestinian Authority`s initial diplomatic disaster over the Goldstone report, it has switched into reverse gear, issuing a barrage of condemnation of Israeli occupation and rhetorical flourishes for Palestinian justice. However, suspected links between PA security forces and the assassination of Hamas`s Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, together with strengthening cooperation between PA security and the Israeli military in the West Bank, reflect a far different reality for Palestinians living under occupation.
Israeli invasions of PA territory have increased since the summer, hitting Ramallah regularly for the past few months to arrest popular struggle leaders and international solidarity activists, and raiding the offices of grassroots anti-occupation movements. While usually it is impossible to go more than two blocks in the West Bank Palestinian political centre without seeing armed PA forces, when the Israelis come into town, they are ordered back to their barracks and are nowhere to be seen. I witnessed this countless times while living in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, Israeli military assassination missions against resistance in Nablus resumed on 26 December, with three men linked to the Fatah movement being killed in cold blood while PA security forces connived with the Israeli military and were nowhere to be seen. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri was quoted by Maan news agency speculating that there was PA involvement in the assassination and warning that `resistance should be encouraged, not plotted against`.
The Fatah leadership running the PA has been unwilling to make the concessions necessary for national unity, while simultaneously the PA security forces (western and Jordanian trained) continue arresting and torturing those tied to resistance, primarily Hamas-connected. These days the political establishment in Ramallah has expressed a far greater interest in retaining western support than resolving national division and leading a unified resistance to the occupation.
Indeed, it seems that the western countries backing Israel and calling on Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table are also those turning a blind eye to the illegal arrests and torture. According to Wisam Ahmed, advocacy officer at Al-Haq – West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – both PA and American officials have been notified about the widespread use of illegal political detention and torture by PA security, yet it has continued.
`Some of the third parties` interests are different from what we feel are the interests of insuring Palestinian unity,` Ahmed said on 21 December. `Their main interest is to ensure that there is no change to the status quo.`
It is a status quo that accommodates shifts in public face, provided there is no real shift in relationship and co-ordination on the ground. Regardless of whether official talks are happening or not, the PA operates in constant dialogue and co-ordination with Israeli occupation.
Last month, when I spoke to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) prisoners` affairs representative Khalida Jarrar, she condemned the PA for continued political arrests of Palestinians and the maintenance of security co-ordination with Israel.
`The assassinations are a clear example of why [the PFLP] have a policy calling for the PA to end security coordination,` she said in reference to the killings in Nablus last December.
Jarrar highlighted that both the security co-ordination and political arrests are part of PA compliance with the Quartet road map. `As Palestinians we have an opportunity to review our negotiations with Israel and our security co-ordination should stop. We should have a political overhaul of the process and this means a demand for the implementation of international resolutions and a relaunching of popular resistance,` she stressed, illustrating the PFLP alternative to the current PA practice.
While Jarrar and her Marxist party have tapped into the common feelings on the West Bank street, the basis of power rests in the hands of the western countries keeping Abbas financially and militarily afloat. At the same time, Israel recognises the advantage of a policing partner in the West Bank that fuels internal Palestinian division, tolerating the rhetorical flourishes volleyed over the wall.
Regardless of what Palestinians call for, provided that the rhetoric and guns remain enough to appease or silence the West Bank, both the PA and Israel have an interest in maintaining a form of status quo and playing their parts in managing the occupation.
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