The Palestinian human rights abuses and the crackdown on political activists and journalists are ignored not only by the UN, but also by the Biden administration. Pictured: Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces deploy in front of demonstrators in Ramallah on July 3, 2021, during a protest denouncing the PA for the death of activist Nizar Banat while in the custody of PA security forces. (Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)
At the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the United Nations Security Council was again called to hold a session to discuss Israeli "violations" and "aggressions" against the Palestinians. The PA also demanded that the Security Council discuss the professed ongoing Israeli "siege" of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Such Security Council sessions have become routine and almost always end up with statements denouncing Israel after hearing complaints from PA officials about Israel's alleged "violations" and "aggressions."
Yet the Security Council meeting, which was held last week, did not hear a word about human rights violations and aggressions committed by the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Security Council did not hear about more than 75 Palestinian social media users, political activists and journalists who were arrested by the PA security forces in the West Bank just in the past few weeks.
The arrests came in response to widespread protests over the death of anti-corruption activist Nizar Banat, who was reportedly beaten to death by Palestinian security officers who raided his home in the city of Hebron.
The Security Council did not hear the testimonies of many of those who were arrested by the PA security forces or details of the various forms of torture to which they were subjected during their incarceration. Women were dragged by their hair, subjected to sexual harassment and beaten with batons by PA security officers. Some of the women and journalists complained that the officers who beat them also stole their mobile phones and cameras to prevent them from documenting protests against the death of Banat.
Banat, the anti-corruption activist and vocal critic of the PA leadership, was allegedly bludgeoned to death on June 24 by more than 20 Palestinian security officers.
More than a month has passed since the brutal killing of the man, but the Security Council has not found the time to address this grave incident. Why has the Security Council not held an emergency session until now to condemn the Palestinian leadership? Because Banat was killed by PA security officers, not Israeli soldiers.
On the eve of the Security Council meeting, the PA stepped up its crackdown on public freedoms, including that of the media, evidently as part of an attempt to silence its critics and prevent the world from learning about the repressive measures of the Palestinian security forces against their own people.
Palestinian security officers were sent to close down the offices of J-Media, a private Palestinian news agency in Ramallah owned by journalist Ala al-Rimawi. The official reason given for the closure was that the agency had failed to obtain a proper license from the Palestinian Ministry of Information. Rimawi, however, was arrested a few weeks ago by the PA security forces on suspicion of participating in protests over the killing of Banat and "insulting" senior Palestinian officials.
Also, on the eve of the Security Council meeting, PA President Mahmoud Abbas fired the director of the Palestinian National Library, Ehab Bessaiso, for posting comments on social media in which he criticized the killing of Banat.
Bessaiso, a former PA Minister of Culture, had written on his Facebook page about the slaying of the activist:
"Nothing justifies committing a crime. Killing a person is a crime, no matter how vague, ambiguous and emotional the picture seems. Difference of opinion is a space for interaction, discussion, freedom, anger, reflection, development and correction. Difference of opinion is not an epidemic, an emergency occasion, or a justification for bloodshed and incitement."
The closure of the news agency and the dismissal of the Palestinian National Library director are obviously not of any interest to the Security Council or international human rights organizations.
Palestinian journalists living under the PA in the West Bank continue to complain that they are regularly targeted and intimidated by the Palestinian security forces. This charge, however, is obviously not considered by the Security Council or the UN General Assembly as a human rights violation or an aggression. Why? The perpetrators are Palestinians, not Israelis.
The Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) said it received information from PA public servants who spoke about threats and intimidation for expressing their views in public.
"Several public institutions have issued verbal instructions, according to which a number of personnel were threatened with dismissal from civil service," AMAN said. "These irregularities affect any civil servant who comments on social media networks or participates in peaceful assemblies, denouncing the death of political and social activist Nizar Banat."
The group said it sent a letter to PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh underscoring the importance of depoliticizing the civil service and making it neutral. "The right of every Palestinian to freedom of opinion and expression should be respected," it wrote in the letter. "AMAN and civil society organisations are monitoring developments affecting public freedoms across Palestine, particularly following the assassination of political and social activist Nizar Banat."
Needless to say, the warning by AMAN and other Palestinian human rights groups did not make it to the Security Council or the pages of Western mainstream newspapers.
The Security Council and the rest of the international community will continue to ignore not only what the PA is doing to its people in the West Bank, but also human rights violations committed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian victims and human rights groups can continue to shout as much as they wish, but their voices and grievances will never reach the halls or corridors of the UN in New York.
The Security Council has undoubtedly not heard of the case of Emad Al-Tawil, a 27-year-old Palestinian who died on June 25 after being beaten by Hamas security officers. Tawil was a resident of Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) has called on Hamas to investigate the circumstances of his death.
According to ICHR, on July 25, at approximately 4:00 pm, a Hamas police force estimated at about 40 members went to the house of Hosni Al-Tawil in Nuseirat Camp.
"About 15 members entered the house and began to search it completely, and the search continued for about an hour," according to testimonies obtained by ICHR. "During the search, members of the Al-Tawil family came and tried to enter, but the police prevented them, and they assaulted Emad Abdul Aziz Al-Tawil by pushing him, beating him, and punching him with fists and sticks all over the body."
About 30 minutes after the force left, Al-Tawil began to complain of pain in his chest and difficulty breathing. After he vomited, members of his family brought him to a nearby clinic, where he was pronounced dead.
"ICHR considers that the behavior of the policemen and the violation related to beating citizens in an unjustified manner, requires serious review to ensure the implementation and respect of the law, and the issuance of the necessary decisions for police personnel to respect human rights," the group said.
The Security Council and international human rights organizations and journalists most likely did not hear about the case of Hassan Abu Zayed, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, who was shot dead by Hamas "border guards" on July 23. Abu Zayed was in a car with two of his friends when the Hamas militiamen opened fire at them on the pretext that they did not stop at a checkpoint.
ICHR has called for a comprehensive criminal investigation into the case. The group has also demanded that Hamas allow human rights activists to visit the deceased man's friends, who have been detained by Hamas and who are the main witnesses in the incident.
Similarly, the Security Council was never called to hold an emergency session to discuss the case of Shadi Nofal, 41, who died in Hamas detention on July 5.
According to the ICHR's documentation, Nofal's health deteriorated and he was transferred to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where he received a cardiac resuscitation before being admitted to the intensive care unit. Two days later, he was discharged and remained under observation. He was returned to prison and on the morning of July 5 was readmitted to the intensive care unit at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Palestinian human rights abuses and the crackdown on political activists and journalists are ignored not only by the UN, but also by the Biden administration.
Instead of pressuring Palestinian leaders to cease imprisoning, torturing and killing their people, the Biden administration is, absurdly, searching for ways to strengthen the PA leadership.
Apparently, in the eyes of the Biden administration, strengthening PA leaders means allowing Palestinian security officers to beat political activists to death, drag women by their hair on the streets of Ramallah, and imprison and intimidate journalists. The Security Council members, meanwhile, take their unjustified obsession with Israel to new heights as Palestinians are taken to prison or the graveyard at the hands of the PA and Hamas.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.