The former PLO "ambassador" to Australia, Ali Kazak, believes that an Arab journalist who writes about financial corruption and theft in the Palestinian Authority is a "traitor" who should be murdered the same way as collaborators were killed by the French Resistance.

Kazak told the newspaper, The Australian: "Khaled Abu Toameh is a traitor. Traitors were also murdered by the French Resistance, in Europe; this happens everywhere."

Asked why he calls the journalist a traitor, the former PLO representative, who lives in Australia, explained: "Palestinians are the victims. He shouldn't write about them, he should write about the crimes of the Israelis."

Kazak's threat does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the methods used by Arab dictatorships to silence anyone who dares to demand reforms and transparency.

The threat reminds journalists like me how lucky we are that we live in Israel and not under the jurisdiction of the PLO or Hamas.

We are also fortunate that Kazak and his radical supporters are sitting far away in Australia and not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they would be lining up journalists and critics against the wall and shooting them like the "traitors who were murdered by the French Resistance."

The PLO, like most of the Arab dictatorships, has a long history of targeting journalists who refuse to "toe the line." This clampdown is one of the main reasons why the Palestinian media is still far from being independent and free.

One of the first things the PLO did when it entered the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1994 was to wage a campaign of intimidation and terror against Palestinian reporters and editors.

Another photographer had his two arms broken by members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, apparently after he had been heard bad-mouthing senior officials associated with Arafat.

A photographer who took a picture of a donkey strolling along the beach of Gaza City was arrested and beaten by Palestinian security agents on charges of "defaming the Palestinian cause" by distributing a picture of the animal instead of documenting the "suffering" of his people.

A newspaper editor who failed to publish a story about Yasser Arafat on the front page of his newspaper found himself thrown into a Jericho prison for a week.

The offices of a newspaper in east Jerusalem were torched after the editor published an editorial denouncing financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

The director-general of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation was gunned down in Gaza City, and it's widely believed that Arafat had ordered the assassination.

Earlier this year, the Palestinian Authority leadership instructed all Palestinian journalists and editors to refrain from publishing allegations of rampant corruption made by Fahmi Shabaneh, the former head of the anti-corruption department in the Palestinian security forces.

The absence of a free and independent media in the Palestinian territories has driven many Palestinians to seek work in the Western media, including Israeli newspapers and radio and TV stations.

But Kazak thinks that it is not enough that these journalists have been forced out of their own media. Now he wants to see them being murdered for working for writing about one of the most significant problem facing the Palestinians: financial corruption and bad government.

Kazak needs to be reminded that the party he claims to represent lost the January 2006 parliamentary election largely due to its failure to combat corruption.

The real traitors are those who established another corrupt dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and stole billions of dollars of international aid that was supposed to improve the living conditions of their people.

The real traitors are those who built a casino for the Palestinians instead of building them a hospital and a school.

The real traitors are those who are trying to silence journalists and reformists who want to see a better life for their people.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

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