Earlier this week, the body of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khudair was found in occupied Jerusalem. The murder of this Palestinian boy, who was kidnapped, tortured and then set aflame while still alive, came after a three-week Israeli rampage in the West Bank, in which the Israeli army arrested more than 500 Palestinians, ransacked more than 2,000 Palestinian homes and killed 10 Palestinians, including children, purportedly as Israel attempted to locate three missing Israeli colonists. The Israelis, abducted in an area of the occupied West Bank entirely controlled by Israel, were later found dead.
Without offering any evidence, Israeli officials accused members of Hamas of being behind the killings. For its part, Hamas has denied any such involvement. In spite of this denial, and without indictments, charges or trials, Israel blew up the home of one of the listed suspects and called for the dismantling of the Palestinian national unity government, formed following a seven-year Hamas-Fatah split.
Though it has barely been a month since the national unity government was sworn in, Israeli calls for its dismantling began even before the government list was formed.
This is no different. Conveniently ignored by Israel is the fact that its own ruling coalition consists of political parties that openly call for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, parties that support colonisation with high-ranking members who are colonists, including the foreign minister. This government has openly called for the killing of Palestinians and yet continues to call Hamas’ support of the Palestinian government as a threat to peace.
Undoubtedly, others will similarly call for the new government’s dissolution based on these new, unsubstantiated allegations by Israel. Disguising its calls as a refusal to cooperate with Hamas, Israel has long cited, and indeed thrived off, the lack of Palestinian unity. Pitting Palestinians against Palestinians has allowed Israel to deflect attention from its 47-year denial of Palestinian freedom, its military occupation and its ongoing colonisation of Palestine and these have been used by its spin-masters to reframe illegal and brutal Israeli military actions as justifiable responses to violence.
Sadly, a weak and compliant Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has aided Israel in this reframing. For more than 20 years, in the name of the “peace process”, Palestinians were required to, and dutifully complied with, fulfil Israeli demands for “security cooperation”, in which, Palestinians carry out (often brutal) crackdowns and arrests against Palestinians engaged in resistance or dissent against Israel’s occupation. The rationale was that security for Israel would encourage Israel to end its military rule. In reality, this security cooperation has merely transformed the Palestinian liberation movement into a well-placed force to provide security to its oppressor. And, rather than encouraging an end to Israel’s military rule, security cooperation provided Israel the calm it wanted and allowed it to build and expand more Jewish-only colonies — without fear of resistance.
Israel’s recent attacks against Palestinians highlight the nature of this “security cooperation”. As the Israeli army attacked and arrested Palestinians and ransacked their homes and property, Palestinian security forces sat idly by, unable to protect Palestinians from the invasion. Similarly, as Israeli warplanes dropped bombs over the Gaza Strip and Israeli colonists rampaged through Palestinian towns and villages, Palestinian security forces were barred, under the guise of “security cooperation”, from acting. And with Abu Khudair murdered in an area entirely controlled by Israel, one must ask a simple question: Who is protecting stateless, army-less and defenceless Palestinians?
Although under international law, Israel is required to protect Palestinians, the reality has been otherwise. According to the United Nations, violence perpetrated by Israeli colonists are perpetrated “with impunity” with the Israeli authorities failing to open investigations into most crimes against Palestinians and with only 9 per cent of the investigations resulting in an indictment. However, the colonists are not alone in their impunity. Human rights organisations also report that 94 per cent of criminal investigations launched by the Israeli army against soldiers suspected of criminal activity against Palestinians and their property are closed without any indictments. In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing. Take, for example, the death of 21-year old Lubna Al Hanash in 2013 — killed by the Israeli army while she was taking an afternoon stroll. In the midst of Israel’s recent attack on the West Bank, the file against the soldier who killed Lubna was quietly closed, with no one held guilty.
With this stark reality, the time has come for the PNA to end the farce of “security cooperation” and the imprisonment of Palestinians for the sake of a non-existent peace process. Rather, time has come for the PNA to demand, in a united voice, that Palestinians be protected from Israel, its army and its colonists. Now is not the time for any Palestinian leader to capitulate to Israeli demands, but to work united to finally put Palestinians, and particularly Palestinian security, first.