A Report on the “Palestinian National Authority”


The humiliation, brutality and deprivation thrust upon the Palestinian masses for over half a century are well known and documented, however, the less known facts about the PA (Palestinian National Authority), are not. It is therefore the intention of this report to bring to light the oppression and injustice that the Palestinian people have suffered by the PA and the mounting discontent among the masses towards their so called leaders for leading them astray and into the arms of their exploiters through the so called peace process. 

The Oslo ‘peace process’ that began in 1993, was simply the re-packaging of the occupation, offering a token 18% of the lands seized in 1967 to the corrupt Vichy-like Authority of Arafat, whose mandate has essentially been to oppress his people. After 8 years of further ‘negotiations’ orchestrated by the US, more abuses, more settlements, more imprisonments, more suffering have been inflicted on the Palestinians. While the PLO plaintively repeats that the Palestinians long for the return of Oslo, according to an opinion poll taken in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Dec/00 to April/00, by the Center for Palestine Research & Studies (CPRS), 55% of the population either opposed or strongly opposed the Oslo agreement. Yet, Arafat still hopes that the US will rescue his crumbling regime by continuing to beg for  protection, Arab aid and international support for the fat cigar-chomping PLO bureaucrats bent on preserving their business deals, their VIP passes and continue to benefit from their people’s misery. 

Following the Sept/93 signing of the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Governing Arrangements” (DOP) by the PLO and Israel (which Arafat has named “the peace of the brave”), the US committed $500 million over a 5-year period (1994-98). USAID (The United States Agency for International Development) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation were charged with the administration of the funds. At the Oct/93 Conference to Support the Middle East Peace Process, lead donors (US, Japan, the EU and Norway) pledged $2.4 billion. For this period, a total of $2.5 billion were ‘donated’ with an additional $3 billion for 1999. 

This ‘assistance’, the imperialists’ catchword for domination, was and is delegated to three strategic areas:

1) Private sector growth. USAID supports the Palestinian Industrial and Free Zone Authority to promote, regulate, and maintain new industrial zones in the West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with World Bank and the IMF. In 1998, USAID technical assistance and infrastructure financing established a pilot border ‘free’ industrial zone in Gaza to provide greater access of the expropriation of Palestinian labour to foreign markets. The US, Japan, the EU, and Norway ‘assisted’ more than 270 Palestinian businesses to ‘increase productivity’. World Bank activities include comprehensive tracking of the development of all commercial legislation. USAID implements its activities through the US firms; Development Alternatives International, The Services Group, Metcalf & Eddy, The Barents Group, and Chemonics, US NGOs, a Palestinian NGO (Paltrade), and the Palestinian private sector. 

2) The US, as a member of the Trilateral Committee deals with the political and technical issues related to the adequate supply of water to both agricultural and industrial development. From 1994-98, approximately $315 million was disbursed for water projects. USAID, the primary donor, was joined by Germany, Norway, France, the UK, Japan,Italy and the World Bank. 

3) ‘Assistance’ to the PA for institutional stability because of the widespread gap in basic services. USAID’s focus is on the private sector for long-term ‘stability’ while access to basic public services are implemented by US private ‘voluntary’ organizations (PVOs). The ‘peace of the brave’ indeed. The above mentioned facts and figures derived from Usaid.org

In order for any lackeys to fulfill their raison d’etre, (rofagha in estelaah yani ELATEH VOJOODI be zabaane Faransavi) the means are a given. The Palestinian Police Force (PPF) established in May/94 includes the Palestinian Public Security Force; the Palestinian Civil Police; The Preventive Security Force (PSF); General Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat; The Palestinian Presidential Security Force; emergency services and rescue; and The Palestinian Coastal Police. Other quasi-military security organizations, such as military intelligence, also exercise law enforcement powers. Palestinian police are responsible for security and law enforcement for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. So far, the CIA trained PA security forces have committed gross human rights abuses against their fellow Palestinians subjecting detainees to torture and repeated beatings. Washington Report On Middle East Affairs (Dec/98)Yet, despite the seething reports on the abuses of every basic human right, the PA received $100 million of security equipment as part of a 5-year, $1 billion 1998 Wye aid package as was reported by PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, Nabil Shaath. The PA also allocated about 1/3 of its annual budget for the police and the security forces. Interview conducted by Jerusalem Post (Jan/00)

USAID’s support for the Jan/96 elections of the PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council) provided the basis for the award of service provision contracts to local NGOs by the PA. These programs were implemented by a US contractor and a US grantee. The World Bank provided $23.8 million for small-scale community infrastructure projects executed by the PA. The World Bank funded another $14.6 million to Palestinian NGOs for service delivery. This ensured privatized social services from the outset.Usaid.org Thus, in Jan/96, Palestinians chose their first elected government consisting of an 88-member Council and the Chairman of the Executive Authority. The PA also has a cabinet of 20 appointed ministers who oversee 23 ministries. PA Chairman Arafat continues to dominate the affairs of government and to make major decisions. Most senior government positions in the PA are held by members of, or loyal to, Arafat’s PLO Fatah faction. 

Arafat stated in Oct./93 that the PLO was committed to incorporating all international human rights standards fully into Palestinian legislation. These rights are equally affirmed in the Palestinian Basic Law, passed by the PLC in 1996 but not yet signed by Arafat. However, PA military and political oppression has resulted in thousands of political detainees held in Palestinian prisons without charge or trial, some for more than four years, according to a 1999 report by Amnesty International. And ever since the elections in Jan/96, The Palestinian Society for Human Rights and the Environment (LAW), the Birzeit Human Rights Action Project, the Jerusalem Centre for Legal Aid, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights (PICCR) as well as many PLC members have been vocal in their criticism of the PA for these abuses. The PA also fails to enforce Palestinian High Court (PHC) judgments and, on two occasions, removed judges from office without good cause. This resulted in public demonstrations in support of a hunger strike by political prisoners whose detention was linked to pressure from Israel and the US. Arafat promised to release them but, in fact, only about 40 were released. Amnesty International/99

This extrajudicial detention of “political prisoners” has existed since the establishment of the PA in May/94. Other serious abuses include the death penalty, unfair trials before military courts, and widespread torture and ill-treatment. Since 1994, out of a total of more than 2,000 individuals held under the PA’s jurisdiction; only 1 political detainee was brought to trial before a normal criminal court. Most detainees are arrested without warrant; not charged; not brought before a judge and  not brought to trial. The few who have been brought to trial have received grossly unfair trials before State Security Courts, often in the middle of the night, with military judges and given heavy prison sentences of up to 25 years. Amnesty International/99

There is also evidence that Palestinians are being detained for their non-violent opposition to the PA or to silence anyone critical of the PA, including journalists and human rights activists. One Palestinian official at the PA’s Ministry of Justice told an Amnesty International delegation in 1997 “that 80% of those we arrested had committed no offence either under Palestinian or under Israeli law”; they were arrested to “make up the numbers” and show Israel and the US that the PA was making a serious effort to act against “terrorism.” Human rights organizations do not have access to the detention centres and the Red Cross was only given access in 1996. Most “security prisoners” are subjected to torture without access to families or lawyers. Sometimes they continue to be held incommunicado for weeks, months or even years after their interrogation has ended; at least two detainees have “disappeared” after arrest. Meanwhile, labels of collaboration have often been used by the PA to stigmatize political opponents while denying them the means to answer the charge and defend themselves. Amnesty International/99  

The Attorney General’s office frequently requests an adjournment on the grounds that information requested by the court has not been obtained, however, PA security services fail to implement Palestinian High Court (PHC) orders for the immediate release of detainees. For example, in Aug/97, the PHC with Chief Justice Amin ‘Abd al-Salam presiding, ordered the release of ten Birzeit University students, on the grounds that they were being held unlawfully. Soon after the court decision, the PA fired Judge Amin ‘Abd al-Salam. In Jan/98, the PA dismissed Chief Justice Qusay ‘Abadlah, the head of the Palestinian judiciary because he criticized the PA’s Minister of Justice for interfering with the courts just two days earlier. Amnesty International/99

In Feb/96, Arafat told Amnesty International delegates that “No one is above the law.” However, not only do the President, Minister of Justice and heads of the security forces ignore the law in many of their actions, the detainees and their families have often been reluctant to use the law to challenge unlawful detention. Those who suffer prolonged illegal detention do not appoint lawyers feeling that they will lose money for nothing. Instead, families approach officials who wield political influence with the PA and request them to intervene informally in order to secure their release. All this has resulted in a public lack of confidence. As previously mentioned, after an agreement signed in Sept/96, the Islamic Crescent and the Red Cross conducts prison visits but can be denied access to a detainee for 14 days. When abuses occur, they frequently happen during this 2-week period. And occur they do with increasing frequency. Such abuse generally takes place after arrest and during interrogation. In 1995, the Gaza Civil Police commander issued to police officers in the West Bank and Gaza a directive forbidding torture during interrogation and directed the security forces to observe the rights of all detainees. However, the directive does not have the force of law since the PA does not prohibit the use of force or torture against detainees. PA security officials abuse prisoners by hooding, beating, tying in painful positions, sleep and food deprivation, threats, and burning detainees with cigarettes and hot instruments. International human rights monitoring groups have documented widespread arbitrary and abusive conduct by the PA. Amnesty International /99

In 1996, 2 of the  Palestinians who died in PA custody were tortured. During 1999, seven Palestinians died in PA custody, two also after being tortured. In Dec/99, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) reported that the PA had not sufficiently investigated deaths in custody. The PHRMG added that the PA has tried to cover up incidents by claiming that several deaths were the result of heart attacks or suicides. Even as early as 1997, according to Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights advocate, the people knew full well that Arafat is an autocrat who abuses human rights, condones corruption, and ignores parliamentary procedure Eid explained: “We are talking about the 7th case of a Palestinian prisoner already killed in the Palestinian interrogation wings, and there is no doubt that it’s a policy.” 

PA prison conditions are very poor. Facilities are overcrowded and dilapidated. Food and clothing for prisoners is inadequate and must be supplemented by donations from families and humanitarian groups. Palestinian inmates hold strikes and protests throughout the year in support of a number of causes and to protest prison conditions. Judges and staff are underpaid and overworked and suffer from lack of skills and training; court procedures and record-keeping are archaic and chaotic. The ability of the courts to enforce decisions is extremely weak, and there is administrative confusion in the appeals process. In fact, there is no right of appeal-but verdicts may be repealed by Arafat. The PA Ministry of Justice has no jurisdiction over the state security courts, which appear to be subordinate only to Arafat. And although the PA requires the Attorney General to issue warrants for entry and searches of private property, this is frequently ignored by the Palestinian security forces who forcibly enter premises and destroy property.

The charges of mismanagement and corruption also come from legislative councilors who say that while the people live in grinding poverty, international donor funds are used to subsidize opulent homes for Arafat’s ministers and entourage. They also say some ministers demand a cut of the action in return for granting lucrative government contracts. According to an auditor appointed to look into the charges, at least $326 million of public funds had been lost to corruption and mismanagement by the PA. Says Adel Samara, a West Bank university professor, “It is a special economy based on corruption and patronage.” “He has robbed the general government budget of US$200-million,” adds AbdelJawad Saleh, a former agriculture minister and the representative for Ramallah in the PLC. For years, PLC members have been trying to make Arafat publish accounts of his secret budget and four years ago, they drafted legislation to establish a constitution. The Basic Law, passed in 1998, would enable the PLC to scrutinize the budgets managed by Arafat, but so far he has avoided signing the bill into law. In 1999, Mr. Saleh, Mr. Samara and 18 other intellectuals formed the Group of 20 and circulated a petition branding Arafat’s Cabinet as a corrupt entity. Since, Samara has been barred from holding any university position and Saleh was beaten while being imprisoned in Jericho.”

In general, PA authorities do not permit criticism of Arafat, his policies or style of government by continuing to harass, detain, and abuse journalists. PA harassment has led many Palestinian commentators, reporters, and critics to practice self-censorship. PA officials impose restrictions on the press including closing some opposition newspapers. In May/99, PA security officials imprisoned award winning TV journalist Daoud Kuttab for over a week without being charged for broadcasting a Palestinian Council session that discussed PA corruption. After the government jammed his broadcasts, Kuttab distributed videotapes to other independent stations. The PA also has authority over all levels of education in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They arrested Gaza University professor Fathi Sobh after he asked students, as a final exam question, what they would do about PA corruption. Sobhreported that he was subjected to torture by sleep deprivation, being forced to stand for long periods, and being shackled. Amnesty International/99

The problems of rape, domestic violence, and “honor killings” are prominent in the Palestinian community, but public discussion is muted and government support systems nonexistent. The victims, all female, are  punished or blamed for the “shame” that has been brought upon them and their families. As well, the 130,000 disabled Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are segregated and isolated from Palestinian society; they are discriminated against in most spheres, including education, employment, transportation, and access to public buildings and facilities. In addition, PA law does not specifically prohibit forced labour, including by children. It is reported that a significant number of Palestinian children under the age of 12 years work in small manufacturing workshops, such as shoe and textile factories which do not meet minimum international health and safety standards. “Report on Human Rights Practices for 1999”A.I.

Although a law permitting workers to establish and join unions without government authorization exists since an agreement signed in Sept/95, no new unions were established in all of 1996-97. 86,000 workers are members of the PGFTU, the largest union bloc which represents 30% of all Palestinian workers. There are no laws, however, that protect the rights of striking workers from an employer’s retribution even when the employer is none other than the PA. In Mar/97, members of the teachers union, who went on strike over low wages, were imprisoned for 40 days in Nablus and Ramallah. Furthermore, blatant antiunion discrimination is practiced where the industrial zone is being developed in the Gaza Strip. There is currently no minimum wage and there is no legal protection that allows workers to remove themselves from unhealthy or unsafe workplace without risking loss of employment. Washington Post Dec/98

According to the United Nations Special Coordinator (UNSCO), one big electricity project in Gaza for the new ‘free’ industrial zone accounted for most of project investment, otherwise, project investment decreased in 1999. Only about 19% of the West Bank and Gaza population actually is employed with many of those, underemployed and where the average annual income has dropped to little over $1,000. Now, let us take a quick look at the Palestinian economic situation back in 1993. After the display of PLO support for Saddam Hussein during the Gulf war, the Gulf countries stopped sending the PLO the $30 million a month it had previously sent dropping to $7 million a month by the time of the Oslo agreement. As a result, the PLO instituted an austerity program. According to DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine)  leader Nayef Hawatmeh, who opposed the agreement, Arafat transferred $800 million to cover the expenses of self-rule while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the US, Japan and Europe to pledge funds at the Oct/93 meeting in Washington to rebuild the economy. Thousands of people were unemployed or had not been paid in months due to the cutbacks of recent years. People were borrowing money to lead even a hand-to-mouth existence. WRMEA (Washington Report On Middle Eastern Affairs) Nov-Dec/93

Yet, despite the utter deprivation in 1993when Palestinians were asked about their economic situation and standard of living since the implementation of autonomy, only 9% said it had improved while 53% said it had worsened. The resounding 71% who believe the PA to be a corrupt institution, (The Center for Palestine Research & Studies Dec/00– Apr/00have seen day in and day out, the police chiefs cruising the streets in the latest SUVs, while Arafat rides behind the tinted windows of his armour-plated black Mercedes. In Gaza, the villas of the elite, each with its walled compound and private garage, cluster near the beach and Arafat’s home. Barely 2 km. away are the refugee camps of Shati and Jabalaya whose inhabitants are housed in concrete shacks with tin roofs and no sewage facilities. Indeed, while the Palestinian working class suffers from more than 60% unemployment, the fountainhead of PA wealth, Arafat, directly controls cement imports and oil and gas distribution, as well as a Palestinian investment company. Bidding on public tenders is invariably awarded according by Arafat where the only real qualification for these contracts is the recipient’s personal links to the PA leader. This feeds into the structure of Palestinian society, which remains highly tribal, with the interests of the family group being paramount. Washington-based Middle East Executive Report Aug/Sept/00

The area today, divided into about 63 non-contiguous cantons, punctuated by 140 Jewish settlements with their own road network banned to Arabs, is a checkerboard of quasi-feudal fiefdoms. In Nablus, the Al Masris are the chief landowners and have many foregone contracts, including construction and real estate. Many family members have also held the job of mayor. The family has benefited mightily, with numerous key contracts, including projects for Palestinian Telecommunications Co. and the business ‘park’ development in Jenin and Gaza. Hebron is the fiefdom of Jibril Rajoub, PA security chief who according to the New York Times was “a favorite of the CIA” RW Apr/02, while his counterpart in northern Gaza is Mohammed Dahlan. Both men have been rewarded with plush villas, top-of the-line SUVs and cash handouts. “[Mr. Arafat] would say, ‘Here is $10,000 — go have a vacation in Europe,’ or he would give it to people who have allegiance to [him],” Mr. Saleh, former agriculture minister and the representative for Ramallah in the PLC, says; “I don’t believe a leader can mobilize a people against Israeli occupation while his men are corrupt. It is impossible.” Meanwhile the Palestinian masses have been reduced to poverty where 50% survive on less than $2 a day. New Left Review #11, Sept-Oct/01

Arafat’s supporters say the oppression caused by the Israeli occupation is the reason for the delay in Palestinian elections, however, most know the delay is just another form of corruption, allowing the privileged, bound to Arafat by ties of money and complicity, to hang on to power longer. “Ever since the PA took power in 1994, the region’s economy has deteriorated. Despite the inflows of aid, per capita income has dropped from $1,700 to $1,300. The rest are as corrupt as he is,” Saleh says. “They get money from him. And they are hushed up and keep quiet about all these problems.” Samara fears that if corruption persists, such local commanders as Rajoub and Dahlan will take over the Palestinian leadership. He even speculates they will be put on Israel’s payroll, in return for representing Israeli interests. National Post Jan/02

The facts of who is on whose payroll is ultimately traced to the bourgeoisie which is ultimately indifferent to national or religious differences unless they serve in the accumulation of capital. In Washington, a protest against the World Bank was joined by an anti-war march, as well as one against Israel. In the end, 65,000 merged in “the largest Palestinian solidarity demonstration in US history.” Nonetheless, the week before in Cyprus, the same World Bank donated $1.2 billion for the embattled PA. This is in addition to the $4.7billion the World Bank has already provided to the Palestinians since 1993. The US committed $300 million to the latest package. “There are no conditions in our approach to the Palestinian situation other than practicality,” said World Bank President, James Wolfensohn, a Jew. The World Bank’s financial support is a ringing endorsement of Arafat’s policy and a prescription for more of the same; a policy of maintaining a police state where no dissent is allowed, imprisonment exists with torture and without trial and where the economic deprivation of the masses is a necessary byproduct. “Palestinians, Israelis Are Pawns In A Greater Game” by Henry Makow, Ph.D Mar/02

The attempt to preserve the imperialists’ Palestinian client regime can be observed through a Washington-based Middle East executive report published in Aug/Sept/00.  In order to subdue growing frustration and resentment of the PA, firstly, The General Revenue Administration would now manage all the PA’s revenues, except investment income, and put it into a single treasury account.  Up until 2000, tax and customs revenues that Israel collected on goods headed for the West Bank and Gaza were deposited into a Tel Aviv Bank Leumi account under the control of the PCSC (Palestinian Commercial Services Company) accountable only to Arafat. The PCSC also owns 100% of the only cement company in the West Bank and Gaza whose profits last year accounted for 25% of the PCSC’s total profits. According to an audit done in Feb/00 by the international accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, the account had holdings worth $345 million and showed profits that year of $77 million. Secondly, until Sept/00, these funds were never included in the PA budget, nor was there any legislative oversight; all this would change as well. Tax collection was up 25%, bank credit to the private sector was up 25%. The PA also had large funds placed in secret investments which would be audited by an international accounting firm appointed to oversee the privatization of much of the PA’s investment properties. 

However, the material lives of the Palestinian masses did not change except to go from intolerably bad to even worse. According to the CPRS opinion poll taken from Dec/00 to April/00 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, when asked which Palestinian political or religious faction they trusted, 28% of the Palestinians answered that they trusted none, 10% gave no answer while the PLO received 0.4%. Fatah received 32%; *a striking contrast to the 50 out of 88 seats they had won in the 1996 elections. The only other organizations to receive above 1% were Islamic Jihad with 3% and the PFLP with 1.7%. When asked which personality was the most trustworthy, Arafat received 26% whereas in 1996, **he had won 87% of the vote. However, a resounding 32% did not trust anyone and another 8% would give no answer. *, ** Associated Press May/02 In the latest poll taken by the CPRS in May/02, 82% of the Palestinians surveyed, thought the PA to be a corrupt institution. Dr. Shakaki (CPRS) CBC Radio May/02

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath stated that the pressure against the PA’s corrupt governance led to the new elections to be held in 6 months as well as the immediate resignation of the cabinet. Associated Press May/02 Not even months of house arrest could fool the people: Kadera Heja, a Jenin resident proclaimed that Arafat’s refusal to visit Jenin was “an insult to those who died in combat during the Israeli assault.” Knight Ridder News Service May/02  In Gaza, most Palestinians consider the fighters acting on their behalf, had been sold out by Arafat.  27 year old Hosam Hillez exclaimed that “after weeks and weeks of the siege, Arafat has basically given in to all the Israeli demands, so what was the point of dragging the whole thing out for so long?” TIME May/02

The imperialists have no intention of allowing a truly independent Palestinian state. Under the US brokered agreement, the Palestinian areas would remain broken up into small, separate and isolated pieces of land, surrounded by the lackey regimes of Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Its economy would continue its dependency on imperialist ‘aid’ and its key natural resource, water, crucial to agriculture, industry and daily life would continue to ultimately serve the capitalist system. And until a revolutionary organization is formed to represent the people’s interest, the Palestinians will continue to encounter the diverse tactics of diversion and betrayal upon their blood-soaked path to emancipation. 

Long live the Palestinian people’s just struggle for self-determination!

Winter 2003

N.B. For further and updated reading on this issue, refer to “Class, Economy, and the Second Intifada” by Adam Hanieh (Palestinian researcher and human rights worker living in Ramallah, Palestine) Monthly Review Volume 54, #5, Oct/02

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