Jericho's Stasi

I would like to suggest that Gen. Dayton also train agents how to behave properly among their own people.

Palestinian police 248 88 (photo credit: )
Palestinian police 248 88
(photo credit: )
Between 1950 and 1989 in East Germany, the Stasi persecuted individuals, journalists and intellectuals who were suspected of operating against the regime. The majority of the methods focused on eavesdropping, spying, operating agents (with one agent for every 66 people), stalking and torture. The Stasi also spied on school children, high-school students and ordinary civilians to learn about their relations with West Germany. I can assume that the Stasi didn't receive training from the same Dayton that trains the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. However, it is very possible that Lt.-Gen. Keith W. Dayton, the US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is interested in the Stasi's methods, its success in gathering information and recruiting citizens. The PLO had been a good friend to the Stasi. I dare to assume the PLO even operated concurrent training sessions in East Germany, and accordingly later introduced and employed these methods in Arab countries where it was based. I'D LIKE to divulge some of the methods the agents of the Palestinian security forces use in Jericho, where I live. For instance, many taxi drivers have become agents. When in Jericho, there is no need to give the driver the address of the person you want to visit; the name is enough. While dropping off someone at a certain address, the driver contacts his operator and report driving person A or B to C's location. Vegetable merchants and farmers have also become agents to protect their own personal interests (working on lots without permission, continuing to drive a taxi without a license, etc.). These people are forced to pay the "cheap" price of becoming an agent to secure their narrow personal interests. A decade ago, on my first visit to Egypt, the citizens of Cairo warned me about the shoe polishers in the street, who are also in the employ of the Egyptian Security Agency. I believe that is the only thing Jericho lacks today: shoe polishers. There are several high-ranking officers who have between four and six bodyguards each. Those bodyguards act aggressively and violently, as if they constituted the government itself. Embarrassingly, in my eyes, the rule of law doesn't apply to them, but vice versa. Once, I ran into an interrogator while driving and didn't notice I had been asked to pull over. He requested that I follow him to the station. My interrogator claimed to have known me for several years, after seeing me in a show on Israeli television in 1995, where I presented a harsh criticism of the Palestinian Authority. I asked him how old he had been then, and he answered 11. His vindictive behavior gave me the feeling that he has been pursuing me ever since. I decided to infuriate him even further: when he asked if I was proud to be a Palestinian, I answered "No." THE MAIN problem with such agents, all of whom have adopted the name Abu al-Abed, is that they're the lowest form of humanity. They intimidate the common people through curses and beatings. Not satisfied with that, they spread rumors about everything they hear or see. Jericho lives with this reality daily. Each morning you hear about the girls who ran away from their West Bank homes to Jericho, traditionally considered a city of refuge, only to have the Security Agency look for them - or about girls who stayed in X's house and now the Security Agency has found them. Agents and bodyguards will often mention that they haven't receive their salaries, subtly suggesting the need for a quick bribe. When Israel removed the checkpoint at the southern entrance to Jericho, the Palestinian Security Agency started to work harder and began to despise the local people even more. It claims that Israel has given them too much work by removing the checkpoint. I, as a Palestinian, in consideration of the Palestinian Security Agency's need to take some tasks off its shoulders, request that Israelis put back the checkpoint. But of course that is left to the judgment of Ehud Barak and not me. After saying good-bye to one friend I met in the streets of Jericho, another would arrive and warn me that the first was under "a question mark," meaning he was apparently a security agent. Events of this sort bring me back to the 1970s, several years after the beginning of the occupation, when people in the streets of Palestine feared each other. I would like to suggest that Gen. Dayton not just train agents in the use of weapons, beating and torture (eight prisoners have been tortured to death in Palestinian prisons so far this year: five in Gaza, three in the West Bank), but also train them how to behave among their own people. However, I don't believe that ranks high on Dayton's list of priorities. Whenever someone is beaten or tortured, the justification given is that the person either "opposed the peace process" or "belonged to Hamas." At the end of the day, people return to their routines and shut their eyes to the reality around them. The writer is the founder and director or the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group based in east Jerusalem.