Dear Mr. President
I write to you as a Palestinian whose integrity as a patriot has never been reliably put in doubt, as a man for whom the cause has been the most animating force in his life and as a graduate cum laude of the School of Hard Knocks, Burj el-Barajni refugee campus, Beirut.
I feel compelled to write to you, Sir, because last week the organisation you lead, the Palestinian National Authority, and by definition you yourself as the chief executive of that organisation, crossed a red line that left Palestinians everywhere, both in the homeland and in the diaspora, shaken. It is a line that no Palestinian could find it his or her heart to forgive and forget. So egregious was it and so alien to the core values of our national struggle for freedom.
The red line in question, Sir, relates to the tragic case of Nizar Banat, a name that by now must ring a bell or two with you. It is a case, at any rate, that was widely reported by the international media.
Brother Nizar, of course, was the well-known but salt-of-the-earth, average Joe activist and opposition candidate for parliament in the West Bank who happened to disagree with your organisation’s style of leadership and who frequently called for officials, implicated in corruption and other acts of malfeasance, to be held accountable.
Mr. President, members of your security forces responded to brother Nizar’s exercise of his right to free speech in a manner one associates with the practices of a police state. According to his lawyer, as well as to members of his family and sundry news outlets, around 3:00 a:m on Thursday, Nidal was asleep when your security forces stormed his uncle’s house in Hebron, where he had temporarily been residing, entered his bedroom and beat him, reportedly with a metal bar. He was bleeding heavily as they carted him away.
An autopsy report, released by forensic examiner Dr. Samir Abu Zarzur, concluded that the victim had been beaten all over his body, including his head, chest and neck, and died within an hour after his arrest.
Never before in our modern history have Palestinians ever imagined that the terminus of their costly, century-old struggle for national freedom would be the dystopian world you rule over today in our occupied homeland, a world defined — as brother Nizar’s case would attest — by the relentless code of the bully and the scurrilous tactic of a despotic polity
Sir, what your security forces did was unpardonable: they beat a man to death because of the political views he held. Not only does such an act subvert the norms of civilised governance but it constitutes one of the most brutal attacks on human dignity.
Beyond the grief was the outrage — outrage made evident in the spontaneous demonstrations in the streets of towns and cities across the West Bank, including those demonstrations outside your own headquarters in Ramallah. As I write this on Monday, these demonstrations continued their fifth consecutive day. Video images showed protesters, holding Palestinian flags, being met with force by your security forces and men “in plain clothes” who wielded clubs, metal rods and tear gas to disperse the crowds.
The images were chilling.
Mr. President, think of the irony, the irony of it all, that seems to be passing unnoticed by you. You see, Sir, when officials in your administration torture people they disagree with, they are effectively paying tribute — a sinister tribute to be exact but tribute nevertheless — to the power of ideas in human affairs. Thus, in death, brother Nizar was actually ennobled by the spite of his enemies. That is the one seminal point those officials, who ordered “the midnight knock on the door” in Hebron last week, failed to grasp. The Palestinian street, however, did not.
Mr. President, we do not need a pledge from you — we are not, I assure you, panhandlers or mendicants with begging bowls opportuning for a handout — that this is the last time it’ll happen. No, this is the last straw.
It is time you all lifted anchor and sailed away. You do not speak for us or from us.
We daily sup our fill of grief fighting those who occupy our homeland and we do not need an added dose to that grief fighting those who occupy our home. So, in the name of human decency, let us be. Will you?
— Fawaz Turki is a journalist, academic and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile