It's is an old story. Arafat was a corrupt, Messianic boss trolling through the carnage of Israeli terror, though he did manage to keep up the resistance to the militaristic Israeli forces over decades. [Above is Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the opening ceremony of the Presidential Guards College in the West Bank city of Jericho, March 2009.]
Ben White reports in The Electronic Intifada:
Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.
Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.
The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma'an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a ‘mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.’ As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a ‘hoax,’ and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures ‘in the harshest possible words,’ according to Ma'an.
This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA's security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated.
Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted: ‘It was evident that they didn't want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case.’
The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they ‘have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA.’ ...
Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA's law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel's strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the 'good job' Palestinian forces were doing.
One of the reasons for Israel's complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official 'peace process,' and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces' custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.