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PA security agency harasses non-conformist Journalist

January 18th, 2012

Khalid Amayreh

This is not the first time I'm subjected to harassment and abuse at the hands of Palestinian Authority (PA) security operatives. On several occasions, I had been abused, imprisoned and humiliated by these agencies. In one episode in 2009, I was made to sleep in a rancid cell after reporting that PA police were preventing and brutally suppressing demonstrations against Israel in protest against Israel 's 2008-09 genocidal blitzkrieg against the Gaza Strip.

I thought the Arab Spring would convince the PA security apparatus to abandon or at least alleviate their police-state tactics against dissent and show more respect for human rights and civil liberties. However, it seems that that the PA, as far as its treatment of its people, remains largely unchanged. Old habits die hard, after all.

Most of the PA security operatives remain deeply hateful of anything relating to Hamas. In fact, one could argue with little exaggeration that most of the security agencies have come to consider Hamas enemy number-1 while Israel is viewed as a distant second enemy.

This is due to the intensive indoctrination the security apparatus has been subjected to ever since the defeat and ousting of Fatah militia by Hamas in 2007.

A few years ago a, PA security commander told his Israeli "counterpart" at the Israeli "Civil Administration headquarters" at Beit El near Ramallah, that "we are not enemies, but allies, and our common enemy is Hamas."

The conversation was reported by an Israeli journalist who attended the meeting.

Last week, I received a summon to report to Rm.-1 at the Preventive Security Apparatus in downtown Hebron. When I arrived there at about 9:00 O'clock in the morning, I was told to wait in a cold room. I waited and waited and waited, without being called for "questioning or interrogation." Two hours later, I was told to hand over my cell phone and identity card, which I did.

Around one o'clock, an interrogator showed up and asked me to go with him. We sat down in another cold room where he chatted with me rather elaborately about such subjects as the Arab Spring, the Egyptian revolution, and the intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

I told him that I was optimistic about the Arab Spring which I argued was a definite strategic asset for the Palestinian cause.

The interrogator lashed out at Islamist parties in the Arab world, hinting that their arrival to power in a number of Arab countries was made possible thanks to American intervention.

The Muslim Brothers in Egypt received more than their share of the interrogator's vitriol, probably due to Hamas's close association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

He pointed out that the Muslim Brothers were virtually traitors since they were likely to uphold the Camp David treaty with Israel . I told him "let us give them a chance."

I was tempted to retort to him that his PLO, which had signed the Oslo accords, recognized Israel without receiving a reciprocal Israeli recognition of a putative Palestinian state and that the Egyptians couldn't become more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.

However, it was amply clear from the beginning that the logic of might, not the might of logic, was the language of the day.

Following the "chummy chat" about the Arab Spring and the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, I was given my I.D. and mobile phone, which I took as a hint that I could go home.

However, as I was driving home, I received a call from the Preventive Security, alerting me in a threatening tone that I would have to return immediately because the interrogation had not ended.

I returned there, only to be affronted with another PS operative who tried to ride roughshod over me, telling me insolently "when will you stop cursing and instigating against the Palestinian Authority."

I told him that I was a journalist and that I didn't indulge in libeling or defaming people.

I added that if he had any evidence against me, he could sue me in court.

He then said "You referred in one of your television interviews that Ismael Haniya (the Prime Minister of the Gaza-based Hamas government) was a legitimate prime minister and that this per se amounted to cursing, libeling and defaming the Palestinian Authority."

I told him that what he was saying was totally illogical and that in addition to that interrogating me was a clear violation of the law.

According to the Palestinian press law, "security agencies have no right to question, interrogate, detain or arrest a Palestinian journalist on matters related to his or her work."

He told me that what he was doing was completely compatible with the law and that he would continue to summon me every day until I was thoroughly humbled.

I told him I knew the law even before he was born. He got furious. About half an hour later, another operative showed up, with another summon for Saturday, 7 January.

On that designated date, I showed up at the PS headquarters. I was made to wait several hours, which I thought was a deliberate effort to show me who is the boss there.

I believe that the main goal behind the recurrent summons by the PA security agencies was to force me to exercise self-censorship.

I have written an open letter of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas telling him that it was time he held the security agencies responsible for upholding the rule of law.

I explained to him that we Palestinians must choose between the rule of the law and the rule of Baltagiya or Shabbiha (thugs).

I also spoke with the head of the Palestinian Press Association. He promised to end the problem in a few hours. But I am still waiting.

At the waiting room, I met two college students who told me they had been badly mistreated and beaten on charges of affiliation with the Islamic Student Bloc.

One of the two, whose last name is Awadi, the son of a refugee family that originally hailed from Ramleh in what is now Israel , told me that he was meted out a criminal treatment.

"In any other country, any interrogator implicated in the kind of beating that we were subjected to would be dismissed, prosecuted and punished. And we would be compensated for damages.

"But look, we are being persecuted everyday as Fatah and Hamas keep talking about Musalaha or national reconciliation."

The other student, who hails from the village of Kharas near Hebron and studies Computer Science at the Polytechnic institute, said he was summoned more than 12 times in less than a month and that he had to drop the current semester.

I asked the two students if they were accused of serious matters such as possessing illegal firearms, they replied in the negative, telling me that their only crime was their alleged affiliation with the Islamist Student Bloc.

They appealed to me to publicize their plight, saying that Hamas must under no circumstances reach reconciliation agreements with Fatah as long as political prisoners swell PA jails.

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by Khalid Amayreh, source: The Palestinian Information Center http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd87MDI46m9rUxJEpMO%2bi1s7OOiO3Pq7pEJQGuTXfhAsiXoHACZ894Nb2hBIQYsnbGOG7HEGwUQYeLvoiWxmT3bgq8Z2OQoctfmigdWNBTbOqYv6DHy%2fBrsU2UEKaHf1i0o%3d

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