The Latest Proof That Israelis Must Stand With the Palestinians

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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A demonstration in Ramallah last week after the killing of dissident Nizar Banat in the custody of the Palestinian security forces.
A demonstration in Ramallah last week after the killing of dissident Nizar Banat in the custody of the Palestinian security forces.Credit: Abbas Momani / AFP
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

A week and a half ago, a person known for his criticism of the deep corruption in the government where he lived – a regime that hasn’t held a democratic election for a very long time and operates like an autocracy – was arrested and died after being beaten in detention. This person was on a party slate in an election to be held after a break of many years, but it was canceled on a weak excuse wrapped in hollow patriotism.

This didn’t happen in Russia, Belarus, Turkey or Gaza. It happened here, under the rule of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who still, when we’re talking about the desire to end the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, is supposedly the moderate person, indeed the only person the Israeli left has for a solution.

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That’s how Nizar Banat died. “He accused them of corruption, as well as abandoning and profiteering off of Palestinian national interests in return for personal benefit and wealth,” Haaretz’s Jack Khoury wrote on June 24.

If we want to think honestly about the Palestinian issue, the Palestinians themselves must admit outright that the Palestinian Authority and Abbas are a tyranny in every respect: long rule by one man and corrupt, terrifyingly unscrupulous cronies who enrich themselves and crush the people. The Palestinian nationalism of the PA – like the conditions under its rule in general – has long been a rusty tool for extracting power, money and control. The case of Nizar Banat is just another example of what anyone must understand who looks a bit at the PA, its conduct, its attitude toward the people and their rights and freedoms.

And it would have been fitting to write this column back in the spring when the election to the Palestinian parliament was postponed once again, as if for fear of a Hamas victory but actually – or so it appears to the lay observer – for fear of an emergence of voices in Fatah (e.g. Marwan Barghouti) that would threaten the leadership.

Actually, for many years it would have been fitting to write this column, and precisely from a leftist perspective, from a perspective of liberty, a struggle for independence, an aspiration toward rule by the people and serving the people. Anyone who believes in true rule by the people, in human solidarity and not barren ideas, in human rights, must now join the Palestinian people’s protest against the PA.

Haaretz should have devoted an editorial to Banat’s murder. Arab-Jewish party Hadash, if it were honest with itself and brave enough, should have held a solidarity march. The Israeli cultural world should have raised an outcry.

And again, this outcry, this uprising, must come from those who seek a solution to the Palestinian issue, who believe in human rights, who acknowledge the injustice of the occupation and the high price Israeli society is paying for it. It must come from those who say morning and night in a frighteningly fixated and patronizing way that “we must strengthen Abbas.”

For this must be understood: Those who continue to pretend that Mahmoud Abbas is a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, drawing his strength from the people and not from the machine, probably don’t have a moral mandate to criticize the occupation, of which the main beneficiaries – far more than the Israelis – are the PA cronies who with the help of this occupation are preserving their power and wealth.

And yes, it’s clear that this is a complicated and sensitive issue, and it’s clear that there are considerations of strategy, tactics, security and a lot more – the tragedy of the occupation is that it absorbs all words into it. Still, there is one basic principle throughout history: Those who shut their eyes to tyranny, regardless of their alleged justifications and rationalizations, will one day find the tyranny in their own living room.

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