On Thursday, 24 June, 2021, some two dozen officers of the Palestinian Authority [PA] broke into the home of Nizar Banat, a candidate of the cancelled parliamentary elections, an advocate of free speech, and an outspoken critic of the PA’s corruption and security coordination with the Israeli occupation.
According to members of Banat’s family, the PA security officers stripped Banat off his clothes, dragged him away while they were screaming at him and beat him on the head with batons and pieces of metal. Few hours later, he was announced dead in custody.
In response to the assassination of Banat thousands of Palestinians have been rallying in the streets since Thursday.
These protests have been yet another expression of the new phase of our struggle that has seen its awakening during the recent protests that spread across all of historic Palestine and were sparked by the attacks of our people in Jerusalem. These new protests are based on popular unity and the rejection of all forms of oppression. Together we stand on the streets, determined to shape our future, gain self-determination, demand democracy and rights, and achieve freedom, justice and equality.
The peaceful protesters are calling for holding the murderers of Banat accountable, the overthrow of the PA, and the cancellation of the Oslo Accords, including the security coordination with the Israeli occupation.
The peaceful protests have been met with batons and tear gas fired by dozens of the PA security forces dressed in riot gear. Tens of others have been beaten and arrested by the PA undercover security forces wearing civilian clothing. Journalists and teams of human rights organizations that monitor human rights violations have been assaulted and their phones confiscated by PA officers.
Worse than this, after yesterday’s protest in Ramallah, armed PA officers stormed the Palestine Medical Complex and arrested some of the injured protesters who were getting treatment there.
The brutal murder of Banat, who was arrested by the PA eight times and survived a number of assassinations attempts before, is part of ongoing authoritarian policies of the PA and result of its ‘security doctrine’. Over the years, Palestinian and international human rights organizations have documented and denounced repression of protests and dissent, including repression of freedom of speech online, as well as excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment.
In addition to the oppression inflicted upon us by Israel’s three-tiered system of oppression: Settler colonialism, apartheid and military occupation, which is entrenched through the PA security coordination with the Israeli military, the PA authoritarianism and policing practiced against the Palestinian people represent additional layers of subjugation, oppression and apparatuses of violence.
Following the murder of Banat, international actors released statements of condemnation. Yet, we assert that the international community is complicit in solidifying the undemocratic and suppressive system of the PA.
The PA structural authoritarianism and policing of Palestinians are an outcome of the post-2007 state building project, that hinged to a large extent on the so-called “security reform”. The Office of the US Security Coordinator Lt-General Keith Dayton oversaw a large amount of the building of the post-2007 security forces, including training, arms transfer and other funding. Another key supporter of this effort is the European Union’s Europol COPPS.
By 2013, donors had succeeded in shaping the PA’s budget so that $1 billion (26% of the budget) were allocated to the ‘security sector’, more than what was spent for the education, health and agriculture sectors together.
Western powers have been entrenching the PA authoritarianism and the so-called security reform within a colonial occupation context as they see in the PA a key player in the phony peace process with Israel. In fact, the consolidation of the PA authoritarian and security regime has only resulted in better collaboration with the Israeli occupation while Palestinian national aspirations, on top of which the right to self-determination continue to be denied and violated.
Stop the Wall Campaign strongly condemns the brutal killing of Banat and the violent suppression of peaceful protesters by the PA security forces; we also join the multitude of protesters and call for:
- The immediate release of people arrested in the recent protests and other political prisoners in the PA prisons.
- The end of the oppressive authoritarian system of the PA headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
- The end of the infamous Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.
- Forming a united Palestinian leadership to be responsible for:
- The reactivation of the Palestine Liberation Organization as a representative of the Palestinian people.
- Conducting free and fair elections.
- Redefining the role that should be played by the government institutions, including the security institutions that have been in place since the establishment of the PA.
On the international community we call:
- Governments around the world, especially those that have been complicit in supporting the PA authoritarianism to pressure the PA to respect Palestinian and International Law by stopping the suppression of the freedom of speech and assembly; including the release of political prisoners.
- International human rights organizations and the UN Human Rights Council to pressure governments to act and stop the PA human rights violations of the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank.
- Western powers, mainly the EU and the US, to immediately stop their cooperation, training, weapons transfer and funding for the PA security forces and instead redirect support to Palestinian farmers and workers most affected by Israeli policies of dispossession.
On international human rights and solidarity groups:
- To continue to stand with and listen to the people resisting oppression.
- To never forget the root cause – Israel’s decades old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid and international complicity with it.
- To keep demanding an end to all forms of complicity with oppression of the Palestinian people, foremost through the strengthening of the global movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).