The Palestinian Authority's duplicity -- which has become an integral part of the Palestinian Authority's strategy in dealing with both its people and Israel -- reached new heights last week when its leaders called for a "day of solidarity" with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
As Palestinians in the West Bank took to the streets to express their support for the prisoners, Palestinian Authority, security forces waged a campaign of detentions of dozens of Palestinians suspected of being affiliated with Hamas and other groups.
While it is good of course, that the Palestinian Authority is arresting Palestinians affiliated with Hamas, the problem is that the Authority is also using this as an excuse to crack down on other political opponents, as well as journalists. Lawyers, human rights activists and families of those detained by the Palestinian Authority say they do not know why the Palestinian leadership ordered the clampdown. The timing of the arrests also seems problematic, especially as it came on the eve of of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's new bid for statehood at the UN General Assembly.
Abbas is trying to show the US and the EU that he is serious about fighting Hamas in the West Bank, and therefore deserves a state and more funding. What the Americans do not know is that many of the detainees are quietly released within hours or days. The Palestinian Authority's conduct should raise alarm bells in Western capitals. If anything these latest occurrences show once again that the Palestinian Authority's credibility remains questionable.
According to Palestinian sources, more than 100 Palestinians, among them journalists, researchers and political activists were rounded up by Palestinian security forces in less than 48 hours. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, said that the detentions were aimed at preventing Hamas from "spreading chaos and anarchy" in the West Bank. Except that as Palestinian security forces were rounding up the Palestinians, representatives of the Palestinian Authority were delivering speeches in the center of Ramallah and other Palestinian cities denouncing Israel for its refusal to release Palestinian prisoners.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a top aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told supporters that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were denied many rights, and called for an international commission of inquiry to look into the conditions of the inmates. Abdel Rahim, however, forgot to tell his supporters that, as he was speaking, his security forces were also detaining 35 Palestinians who had just been released from Israeli prison.
Abdel Rahim also forgot to tell his supporters that a large number of Palestinians who are in Israeli prison were arrested thanks to security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In other words, information provided by the Palestinian Authority to Israel led to the arrest of many of the Palestinians for whose release Abdel Rahim is calling.
Moreover, the Palestinian Authority is well aware of the fact that Palestinians who are detained by Israel enjoy more rights than those incarcerated by the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
Human rights activists say that many of the Palestinians held in Palestinian Authority detention centers are denied most of their basic rights, including seeing a lawyer and family visitations. The Palestinian Authority also knows that were it not for Israel's continued crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank, Palestinian leaders in Ramallah would not be safe. If anything is preventing Hamas from seizing control over the West Bank, it is Israel's security measures against the Islamist movement and its terror cells in that area.
Many Palestinians are convinced that the Palestinian Authority called for a "day of solidarity" with prisoners in Israeli jails to divert attention from its own detention campaign. The Palestinian Authority has never missed an opportunity to incite Palestinians against Israel. Each time Palestinian Authority leaders seek to avoid problems at home, they call for demonstrations against Israel, using the issue of settlements or prisoners as an excuse. This is done in the context of a long-standing policy of blaming Israel for all the miseries of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority wants the Palestinians to divert all their energies and frustrations only toward Israel. Otherwise, the Palestinians might one day wake up and start demanding dangerous things from their leaders in Ramallah -- such things as such as reforms, accountability and democracy.