Nadia Harhash, a prominent Palestinian journalist, was not surprised by the pre-dawn torching of her car. All fingers point to one culprit: the Palestinian Authority. Harhash has good reason to suspect the PA and its leaders. The articles she has published over the past few years have earned her the wrath of many senior Palestinian officials. PA leaders have always resorted to various methods to silence and intimidate their critics. (Illustrative image by iStock)
The leadership of the Western-funded Palestinian Authority (PA) has again proved that it does not -- and will not -- tolerate any form of criticism, particularly when it comes from its own people. In the past few days, at least three Palestinian journalists have fallen victim to the PA's long-time policy of terrorizing and silencing dissenting voices.
PA leaders have always resorted to various methods to silence and intimidate their critics. These methods include, among other things, arrests, recurring summons' for interrogation, dismissal from work, and physical and psychological abuse.
The PA leadership has drawn deeper from its well of malevolent creativity to muzzle Palestinians from expressing critique: they are now also torching private cars.
This is an old technique of Palestinian activists to silence voices that dare to speak out against corruption, embezzlement of public funds and abuse of power.
The victims of car-torching are considered "lucky": fire is directed at their property and not their bodies -- it is better to have your car set on fire for your views than to get shot or stabbed for them. Torching cars has a twofold goal: to inflict financial damage and to send a deterrent message to both the victim and the surrounding environment.
The latest victim of the car-torching technique is a prominent Palestinian journalist, author and feminist Nadia Harhash, a resident of Jerusalem and a long-time critic of corruption in the PA leadership. She does not criticize the Palestinian leadership because she is "on the payroll of the Zionist lobby," but out of concern for the welfare of her people.
On July 1, Harhash woke up early to the noises of neighbors and firefighters outside her home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Bet Hanina. When she looked out of the window, Harhash saw that her car had been completely gutted by fire.
It is hard to say that Harhash was surprised by the pre-dawn torching of her car. It is also hard to say that she does not have a clue why she had been targeted and who was behind the arsonists who went to great pains to set her car on fire.
For Harhash, all fingers point to one culprit: the Palestinian Authority, whose political and security officials and headquarters are located in Ramallah, a few kilometers from her home.
Harhash and other Palestinian journalists have good reason to suspect the PA and its leaders.
The articles she has published over the past few years have earned her the wrath of many senior Palestinian officials. Harhash is unique in her public handling of issues long considered taboo in Palestinian society, including financial and administrative corruption, women's rights and gender equality.
In a recent article, Harhash appeared to have crossed a red line: she wrote about the explosive issue of nepotism among the top echelon of the PA leadership in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians. The article was written in the aftermath of a public outcry over the appointment of relatives of influential Palestinian officials to senior jobs in the PA's public service.
According to Palestinian sources, at least three cases of nepotism were discovered in the past few weeks. The reported cases involve the son of Jamal Muheissen, member of the ruling Fatah Central Council faction, the nephew of Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA General Authority for Civil Affairs, and the sister of former PA Minister of Health Jawad Awwad.
Commenting on the latest scandal involving the relatives of senior Palestinian officials, Harhash pointed out that while the PA was complaining about the lack of money and that it will not be able to pay full salaries to its employees, "the son of a senior official is appointed to a high position."
Palestinian officials, she wrote, "are engaged in a game of chairs and jobs."
"Their sons, daughters, nephews, and brothers, sisters, and cousins are scattered everywhere. We see corruption everywhere. Is the Palestinian Authority headed towards self-destruction? Or is it just destroying the [Palestinian] people so that its own sons and relatives can rise to power?"
The nepotism scandal has sparked a wave of condemnations among Palestinians, many of whom took to social media platforms to express disgust -- yet again -- with the abuse of power and corruption among the PA leadership, particularly at a time when Palestinians are facing economic hardship due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) called on PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh "to formulate and adopt a clear and decisive policy to suspend appointments and promotions" of family members of senior Palestinian officials.
AMAN stressed "the need to approve, make publicly available and quickly disseminate a policy on the suspension of appointments and promotions" in the Palestinian public sector.
Instead of heeding the call of AMAN and many Palestinians to end nepotism and ensure accountability and transparency, the PA has chosen to remain silent. The Palestinian leaders are actually sending a message to their people that they consider the PA a private fiefdom belonging to them and their family members. The other message these leaders are sending: "You can hold all the university degrees and have all the experience in the world, but if you're not a relative or son or daughter of a senior official, you're not going to get a good job with us."
Reacting to the torching of her car, a defiant Harhash vowed to continue with her work. Describing the incident as a terrorist attack, Harhash wrote:
"I think about terrorism, which has become a homeland for us. There are those who terrorize and those who are terrorized. Truth is strength. The power of oppression and intimidation, no matter how long it continues, is invalid. Yes, corruption is rampant and the arms of oppression are long and outstretched. But if silence was a solution, I would be the first to remain silent."
Harhash is fortunate that the unidentified arsonists who came to set her car on fire did not harm her or any members of her family. In addition, she is lucky because she lives in Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty. If Harhash were living in Ramallah or any other city under the control of the PA, she could have been arrested or physically harmed.
In the past few days, two of her Palestinian colleagues living in PA-controlled areas, Sami al-Sa'i and Tarek Abu Zeid, were arrested by Palestinian security forces. Like Harhash, the two journalists are known for their critical views of the PA leadership.
Thanks to the criminal negligence of the international community and the so-called human rights organizations, the PA leadership can simply continue to pursue its policy of deadly intimidation against Palestinian journalists. These groups are much too busy drafting condemnations of Israel to have time left over to expose the true Palestinian menace: the Palestinian Authority.
Bassam Tawil is based in the Middle East.