Wrong Cause

Palestinians have ignored the fates of journalists arrested, beaten, censored and arrested by their own political leadership.

February 24, 2013 23:39
3 minute read.
Palestinians hold a flag in the West Bank

Palestinians hold a flag in the West Bank 370. (photo credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)


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Many injustices plague Palestinian society, few of which can be blamed on the Jewish state, even by the farthest stretches of the imaginations of Israel’s enemies. These are self-inflicted injustices.

In the Gaza Strip, an Islamic quasi-state ruled by the totalitarian regime of Hamas has in the past few weeks arrested or summoned for interrogation at least 16 journalists as part of a campaign aimed at intimidating the local media, as reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh.

These journalists’ only crime is daring to criticize Hamas’s leadership.

And the situation for journalists in the West Bank, which is ruled by the “moderate” Palestinian Authority, is not much better. Just last week, a PA court sentenced 26- year-old Anas Said Awwad to one year in prison for “insulting” President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook.

Awwad was found guilty of depicting Abbas as a member of the Real Madrid soccer team.

In both Gaza and the West Bank the Palestinian political leadership has suffered from a fundamental lack of legitimacy for the past four years. Besides municipal votes, the last democratic election in Gaza and the West Bank took place in 2006. Palestinians were supposed to hold elections again in 2009. But after Hamas’s victory in the last election, Palestinian leadership was split.

With Western support, the Fatah-led PLO managed to maintain control over the West Bank. In Gaza, Hamas launched a violent and successful putsch in which Fatah members were shot down in the streets or thrown off buildings. Warnings by Israel that if Hamas were allowed to participate, Palestinians’ first truly democratic election (Hamas boycotted the 1996 vote) would be their last were not heeded by then-US president George Bush.

Yet, neither the jailing and intimidation of journalists (and other human rights abuses), nor the lack of democratic representation in their political leadership, has mobilized Palestinians in a significant way. At best, rallies are occasionally organized under the vague banner of “Palestinian unity.”

Instead, Palestinians – and Arab citizens of Israel – are rallying under a different banner: the rights of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails. Palestinians and Israel’s Arabs, threatening a third intifada, have been demonstrating against the “injustice” of Israel’s rearrest of terrorists who are among the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in October 2011 under the Egypt-brokered deal between Hamas and Israel for the return of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.

Samer Tariq Ahmad Essawi, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is one of the rearrested terrorists. Essawi was captured in April 2002 and later sentenced to 30 years for possessing weapons and for helping to form terrorist cells in the Jerusalem area. He was one of many terrorists arrested during Defensive Shield, the military operation carried out under thenprime minister Ariel Sharon that essentially ended the second intifada and restored security to Israelis who had been regular victims of suicide bombings and shootings.

Another rearrested prisoner is Ayman Sharawna, who was arrested for helping carry out a terrorist attack in Beersheba. On the morning of May 11, 2002, two Palestinian terrorists placed an improvised bomb near a group of civilians in the Old City of Beersheba and fled. A technical fault prevented the bomb from exploding fully.

Eighteen civilians were wounded. Sharawna was sentenced to 38 years imprisonment.

Both men were released in the Schalit deal and both men subsequently violated the conditions of their release.

Sharawna returned to terrorist activities with Hamas, according to the IDF, and was arrested in January 2012.

Essawi, who was freed on condition he remain inside Jerusalem, left the city to visit the nearby PA town of a- Ram and was arrested in July 2012. Both men must now finish out their original sentences.

Inexplicably, Palestinians – and Israel’s Arab citizens – have chosen to champion the causes of these hunger-striking terrorists and others while ignoring the fates of journalists arrested, beaten, censored and arrested by their own political leadership, which for four years now has been ruling without democratic legitimacy. Under the circumstances, what prospects for peace can US President Barack Obama hope for when he visits the region next month?

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