Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Palestinian Authority: Running Israel’s Guantanamo

An Israeli soldier leads a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinain man after he was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on 17 September 2012. (Photo: AFP – Abbas Momani)

By Linah Alsaafin

Al Akhbar

Scores of political detainees held in Israeli jails are released only to then be arrested by the Palestinian Authority, who is living up to its reputation of being Israel’s hired police force.

Thirty-year-old Alaa Sadeq from Qalqiliya spent nine and a half years in Israeli prisons before being released on 5 June 2012. Sadeq was charged with belonging to the political faction Hamas, as well as being active in the resistance against the Israeli occupation. Following his release, Sadeq began adapting to life outside of prison. His sister Mirvat tells of how he was busy getting his house ready for marriage. Sadeq got married on September 14. Four days later, he was hauled off and taken to the Qalqiliya detention facility.

Srour was among the 60 Palestinians arrested by the Palestinian Authority preventative security forces throughout the occupied West Bank on September 18th, in the PA’s biggest arrest rampage yet. The following day the PA arrested dozens more in Salfit, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem, and Qalqiliya, bringing the total number of political detainees to 114.

The arrested included a large number of Hamas supporters, nonaffiliated youth activists, university students, journalists, writers, and up to 35 ex-prisoners (in addition to some of their family members) who were freed in last year’s prisoners’ exchange deal which saw the release of 1027 Palestinian prisoners and one captured Israeli soldier.

The PA arrested Adel Shawarweh from Bethlehem, who spent 13 years in Israeli prisons before his release through last year’s exchange deal. Legal researcher and former prisoner Fuad Khaffash of the Ahrar Center for Prisoners is also among the high profile names to be re-arrested by the PA. Most of the ex-prisoners had participated in the last mass 28 day hunger strike which began on April 17 and ended on May 14, with some losing up to 25 kilograms of their bodyweight in the process.

Political arrests by the PA of Palestinians in the West Bank are not a new phenomenon. In a study conducted by the prisoners’ rights group Addameer in 2009/2010, chapter two states that “Since the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the PA security forces have arrested hundreds of Palestinians, not just from the rival faction of Hamas but many other members and cadres of the factions who oppose the approach of a political settlement.”

The same study defines political arrests as “the arbitrary arrest of anyone based on their political affiliation…the arrest or seizure of the freedom of any person against the backdrop of his partisan political affiliation or belief, or opinion, or opposition to or criticism of the existing political system or because of his sympathy with those who oppose this system.”

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