by Asa Winstanley
Despite what you may have heard, the Palestinian Authority is not a “Palestinian government”. Indeed, “Palestinian Authority” is a misnomer, as the entity has no genuine authority, and does not act in the interests of most Palestinians.
Above all else, it is certainly not a democratic body. There have been no Palestinian Authority elections for almost 14 years now, internal ballots aside.
The last time the PA’s sham parliament held genuinely democratic elections was in 2006. From the perspective of US imperialism and its allies, though, the wrong party won. Palestine’s Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, won on an anti-corruption and social welfare ticket, with an electoral list of candidates called Change and Reform. Palestinian voters opted for Hamas as a change from the corruption viewed as rife in the ruling Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas.
The failure of the PA President’s “peace process” strategy of capitulation to Israel via negotiations, was also a factor in his party’s surprise defeat. However, instead of reflecting on the message that voters sent out loud and clear, and preparing for life in opposition, Fatah refused to accept the results of the “free and fair” elections and transfer power to Hamas, the newly elected government. The Fatah leadership was encouraged in this dangerous response by the Americans, the Europeans, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The result was the brutal 2007 Palestinian civil war.
Armed forces in Gaza run by the then powerful Fatah figure Mohammed Dahlan prepared to stage a coup against Hamas and its fighters. Hamas discovered the plot and drove Dahlan and his men out of Gaza. A coup was then launched by Abbas in the West Bank against the elected Hamas PA government.
Despite years of interminable on-off “national unity government” negotiations between Hamas and Fatah, there have been no parliamentary or presidential elections ever since. The “Palestinian Authority”, therefore, has no democratic mandate. Nor, in fact, does Abbas himself; his term of office should have ended in 2009.
More fundamentally, the PA does not have the mandate of the entire Palestinian people, the majority of whom live in exile and as refugees. Their rights are not protected by the PA. Under the bankrupt Oslo Accord process which began in the early 1990s, their legitimate right of return has been neither honoured nor protected.
Furthermore, even in its own limited sphere of influence and the fragment of the Palestinian people that it purports to represent within the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip — which together form just 22 per cent of historical Palestine — the PA acts to enforce Israel’s will. The authority’s most active and well-funded sector is security, with around 70,000 officers operating through half a dozen security agencies.
PA security personnel are trained by the US and Europe, and exist solely to control the Palestinian people. Their only mission is to prevent resistance to Israel (whether armed or peaceful), to protect Israel and to protect the PA’s leaders. Their orders are to stand down if armed Israeli security personnel arrive at the scene of any incident.
In 2014, Abbas described the PA’s security coordination with Israel as “sacred”. Over the years, though, he has threatened repeatedly to end this collaboration with Israel, usually when the PA’s funding is being threatened. Despite this, he has remained true to his 2014 speech, and security coordination between the PA and Israel remains steadfast.
The PA, by any reasonable measure, is thus a puppet; a quisling entity doing the bidding of the Israeli occupation. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that it is blocking free speech and acting in an oppressive, authoritarian manner. In this, the PA complements Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, which has always been dictatorial.
In its latest authoritarian move, the PA has banned a large number of Palestinian and other Arabic websites and social media. At the request of the PA’s attorney general, on 17 October the Ramallah magistrate’s court ordered 59 news websites and social media pages to be blocked.
The court order claimed that the sites violated the Electronic Crimes Law, which the PA passed in 2017. Human rights groups have called the law a “tool to silence legitimate free expression and criticism of the authorities.”
The list of banned sites includes Arab48, Wattan TV, Shehab News Agency, Quds News Network, Gaza Now and Metras. It’s notable that none of the blocked sites are Israeli.
“The Palestinian Authority is burying its head in the sand by trying to prevent freedom of expression and returning national media to the darkness that the Israeli occupation sought to return it to and couldn’t,” said Hamas spokesperson Husam Badran. “The new ban can only mean that the Palestinian Authority and the occupation are fighting on the same side against Palestinian national expression and its exposure of the occupation’s violations, and of corruption and crime.”
The PA markets itself as a useful tool for the Israeli occupation; it can do things that Israel can’t. Increasingly, though, Israelis see the PA as irrelevant. Why should they employ a subcontractor for occupation when they can run it themselves directly? This is the conundrum that the PA finds itself in, hence its periodic empty threats to shut down security collaboration.
Nevertheless, for now at least, we can expect to see the PA continuing to do Israel’s dirty work. After all, that’s exactly why it was created in the first place.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East. He writes for The Electronic Intifada where he is an associate editor and also a weekly column for the Middle East Monitor.
(The views contained in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.)
~ Days of Palestine
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