The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday accused former intelligence official Fahmi Shabaneh of “collaboration” with Israel and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Shabaneh, who was in charge of the anti-corruption unit in the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, was forced to quit his job after revealing dozens of cases of financial, administrative and sexual corruption among PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s inner circle.
In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, Shabaneh, 49, who lives in Jerusalem, accused Abbas of failing to act against senior PA and Fatah officials allegedly involved in the theft of public funds and in sex scandals.
Shabaneh showed the Post video footage of Rafik Husseini, the director of Abbas’s bureau, lying naked in the bedroom of a Christian woman from Jerusalem who had sought work with the PA.
Shabaneh also presented the Post with hundreds of documents he had collected during his work implicating many of Abbas’s close aides in embezzlement, land theft and fraud.
Shabaneh’s revelations to the Post were the first of their kind by a senior Palestinian official who was in charge of investigating corruption in the PA.
Shabaneh said that he decided to talk to the Post after Palestinian, Arab and foreign media organizations refused to interview him out of fear of being “punished” by the PA.
“We don’t have a free media in the Arab world,” Shabaneh explained on Wednesday. “Al-Jazeera and other Arab media outlets told me that they are afraid to publish anything that angers the Palestinian Authority.”
Shabaneh said that even some foreign journalists based in the country had refused to publish his statements, citing various pretexts, including fear of retribution by the PA.
“Some of the foreign journalists don’t want to hear negative things about Fatah and Abbas,” he said. “That’s why they didn’t want to cooperate with me and why I decided to go to the Post.”
Shabaneh’s unprecedented allegations drew furious reactions from Abbas’s office and some Fatah leaders in the West Bank.
Abbas is reported to have threatened to resign in protest against what he says is a smear campaign against him and Fatah in the Israeli media. The Hamas-affiliated Al-Resalah newspaper quoted a senior source in Abbas’s office as saying that the PA president appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to instruct the Israeli media to stop embarrassing the PA by publishing reports about corruption among senior officials in Ramallah.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aide to Abbas, claimed that the Post and Channel 10, which on Wednesday night broadcast a documentary on the scandal, were operating “in coordination with the right-wing government in Israel to undermine President Abbas and the Palestinian government.”
Abdel Rahim claimed that the coverage of the corruption scandals in the Israeli media came in response to Abbas’s refusal to resume peace talks with Israel unconditionally. He also said that the publication of Shabaneh’s allegations was aimed at distracting attention from the UN fact-finding mission into Operation Cast Lead.
The Abbas aide said that Shabaneh was dismissed from his job after the PA discovered that he was a “collaborator” with Israel. However, he admitted that Abbas had entrusted Shabaneh with collecting information about Arab residents of Jerusalem who had allegedly sold their property to Jews.
In an attempt to silence Shabaneh, the PA on Wednesday issued the arrest warrant against him, for “spreading lies and fabrications” about the PA leadership, selling lands to Jews, attempted murder and “harming Palestine’s prestige and national sentiments.”
The warrant was signed by PA Prosecutor-General Ahmed Mughni, who also accused Shabaneh of attempted “blackmail.”
The arrest warrant is only effective in PA-controlled territories and does not apply to Jerusalem, where Shabaneh, who holds an Israeli ID card, lives with his wife and five children.