When Palestinians arrest or brutally torture other Palestinians, it does not appear to be "news that's fit to print." By ignoring the horrific human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority, the international community and media expose their hypocrisy in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are also doing an incalculable disservice to the Palestinian people, many of whom have been victimized by their own leaders. (Image source: iStock)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on August 27 that he is concerned about the condition of Palestinians who are being held in Israeli prisons. He described the prisoners, many of whom have been convicted of carrying out or involvement in attacks against Israel and Israeli citizens, as "freedom fighters" and announced that the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people will continue to support them "until they gain their freedom."
On the same day that Abbas made his remark
s, a committee representing the families of Palestinian prisoners held in Palestinian Authority (PA) prisons called for holding a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Palestinians' de facto capital.
The families have been holding similar protests for the past few weeks to demand the release of their sons from Abbas's Palestinian prisons. The families have also accused Abbas's security forces of torturing the prisoners, who were arrested because of their affiliation with Palestinian groups that are opposed to the PA's policies or who are critical of Palestinian leaders.
The Palestinians refer to these arrests as "political detentions" because the detainees are taken into custody by Abbas's security forces only because of their political affiliation and views, and not for committing any security- or criminal-related offense.
Abbas was obviously not thinking about these prisoners when he expressed concern over the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. He seems uncomfortable discussing the fact that his security forces are arresting and torturing Palestinians.
Instead, Abbas would like the world to focus only on the prisoners held by Israel and ignore the protests against the "political detentions" that take place every week not far from his office and residence in Ramallah.
Hours before Abbas's remarks about the prisoners in Israel, the mother of Ahmad Hreash, a Palestinian man arrested by the Palestinian security forces more than 80 days ago, was rushed to hospital. She has been on hunger strike for 10 days to demand the release of her son from the Palestinians' notorious Jericho Prison. The prison is infamously referred to by Palestinians as the "Jericho Slaughterhouse" because of brutal torture Palestinians say they have undergone while being held there by Abbas's security forces.
"Since the day Ahmad was imprisoned [by the Palestinian security forces], I haven't slept for more than five hours at a time," said the mother, Mukaram Qurt. "My mind races all night and I keep praying. I'm always exhausted."
Her son complained in a Palestinian court that he had been tortured, including with shabeh (strappado) and beatings with sticks and rubber ropes, according to reports in some Palestinian media outlets.
"There is no humanity in their treatment," the mother told Al-Jazeera TV network. "What they [Palestinian Authority] are doing is a stain of shame on the history of Palestine. They keep extending his detention without us, or even the lawyer, knowing what the charges are."
Hreash is among scores of Palestinians who are being held in Abbas's "Jericho Slaughterhouse." Among the detainees is Qassam Hamayel, a student from Birzeit University in the West Bank, who has been in the prison for the past two months. Hamayel is suspected of belonging to a student list that is affiliated with Abbas's rivals in Hamas, the Islamist movement controlling the Gaza Strip.
According to the committee representing the families of the detainees in Abbas's prisons, the Palestinian security forces arrested, just in July, 73 Palestinians because of their political affiliations and views. Another 16 Palestinians were summoned for interrogation by the Palestinian security forces for the same reason, while 19 detainees complained that they had been subjected to physical abuse.
On July 26, officers belonging to the Palestinian General Intelligence Service arrested Mohammed Al-Rimawi, a senior official at the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, for unknown reasons. Shortly after his arrest, Al-Rimawi went on hunger strike in a Palestinian prison.
Palestinian Lawyers for Justice, a human rights group, said that it has documented 117 cases of "political detentions" by the Palestinian security forces since the beginning of June 2022.
The detainees include six Palestinians who had previously served time in Israeli prison for anti-Israeli activities and are currently being held in the "Jericho Slaughterhouse." The group noted that the Palestinian security forces were continuing to imprison Palestinians because of their political affiliation of for criticizing and opposing the Palestinian Authority.
Recently, the Palestinian security forces arrested Palestinian journalist Mujahed Tabanjah, a resident of the West Bank city of Nablus.
After his release four days later, Tabanjah said that he had been tortured by his Palestinian interrogators. "The interrogation was very harsh," he recounted.
"They hit me with their legs and hands. They beat me with rubber hoses. They put me in a tiny cell with no mattresses or pillows. I had to use my shoe as a pillow while sleeping on the floor."
Alarmed by the ongoing crackdown on political opponents and other Palestinians, several Palestinian activists launched an online campaign titled "Political Detention is a Crime," in protest of the arrests and torture in Palestinian prisons.
The campaign, however, has failed to attract the attention of most Western media outlets because it is directed against the Palestinian Authority, and not Israel.
When Palestinians arrest or brutally torture other Palestinians, it does not appear to be "news that's fit to print." Palestinians who go on hunger strikes in Palestinian prisons are often ignored by the media, while those who protest against Israel receive wide coverage.
In late September, Abbas is scheduled to deliver yet another "important speech" before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. As per his longstanding pattern, Abbas is expected to devote large portions of his speech to the delegitimization of Israel. Perhaps he will even repeat his recent libel that Israel has committed "50 Holocausts" against the Palestinians.
His words will undoubtedly be received with applause from many UN members and representatives. They will again heap praise on him for engaging in anti-Israel rhetoric. Yet, somehow, the question of "political arrests" and torture by his security forces in the West Bank is unlikely to be broached.
By ignoring the horrific human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority, the international community and media expose their hypocrisy in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are also doing an incalculable disservice to the Palestinian people, many of whom have been victimized by their own leaders.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.