Palestinian Authority Arrests Human Rights Activist – Must Be Israel’s Fault!
Amnesty International, not a friend of Israel by any means, reported clearly and simply on the arrest of Issa Amro of Hebron. Then along come other news websites that embellish the story, most in a way that makes it seem like Israel is to blame for the Palestinian Authority (PA) having taken him into custody.
After explaining what happened, Amnesty International takes the PA to task for clamping down on free speech:
Issa Amro, a Hebron-based coordinator for Youth Against Settlements and a former field researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, was detained at around midday local time today by Palestinian Preventive Security Forces, after he posted comments on his Facebook page criticizing the arrest of a local radio journalist [Ayman Qawasmeh] yesterday by the same Palestinian security forces.
“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” said Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International recently highlighted a chilling escalation in attacks on media and freedom of expression by both the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza, detaining a string of journalists and shutting down opposition websites.
How odd then, that other “reporters” felt the need to involve Israel in this story. I guess they had to add something of their own rather than just regurgitate original press releases, the latter of which is all too frequent in today’s so-called journalism. And what better to add than that Israel is at the bottom of this. Here is how they did it:
After the ominous one-liner by +972 Magazine‘s Omer-Man,
Amro has not been heard from since.
he tied the arrest in with Israel’s indictment against Amro:
The Palestinian security forces are not the only ones targeting Amro for his defiant politics and activism. Amro is also currently on trial in an Israeli military court, where almost all of the 18 charges are related to his political activity and nonviolent action. Under Israeli military law, there is no legal avenue for Palestinians to protest or demonstrate politically. . . . In a video interview with +972 Magazine late last year, Amro spoke about the charges against him and why he thinks Israel wants to suppress his and others’ nonviolent resistance to the occupation, particularly in Hebron.
The claim that Amro engages in “nonviolent” resistance is contradicted by the actual indictment (in Hebrew only – no longer available online), cited by BBC Watch, that lists assault as one of the charges in multiple incidents.
The Guardian put out one of the few pieces of relatively balanced reporting on the arrest of Issa Amro. They described the context that includes a growing number of arrests of journalists who publish criticism of leaders in Gaza and the PA, and surprised responses to the arrest on the part of unnamed PA officials. When they mention Amro’s upcoming trial in Israel, it is more background information and there is no attempt to take the pressure off the PA leadership. Israeli website Arutz Sheva also provided a balanced and context based report on the arrest, adding that Amro has since begun a hunger strike. Even anti-Zionist Mondoweiss wrote up a balanced report, giving background to the arrest of radio station director Ayman Quwasmeh, the event that triggered the Facebook post that got Amro arrested by the PA. While Mondoweiss blamed Israel for closing the radio station, it was not presented in the particularly vile manner generally directed at what they call the “occupation” forces.
The Times of Israel clearly comes down on the PA leadership for repressing free speech, but also implicates Israel in suppression of criticism as well:
Amro has said Israel is trying to silence him and Amnesty has called for the “baseless” charges to be dropped. His trial is to resume in October.
Al-Atrash [Amro’s lawyer] said that Israel is trying to halt what he called Amro’s “relentless struggle against settlement activities in Hebron.”
I trust the court to determine whether or not the charges against Amro are baseless. After all, that is what courts are supposed to do. The day we hand over legal decision making to news websites is the day we have no more legal decision making at all. In addition, in their own article covering the arrest of Amro, Amnesty International said nothing about the charges he faces in Israel; TOI added that bit all on their own and I leave it to readers to think about why they would do that. Judean Rose suggests why.
The Jerusalem Post also accuses Israel of baseless accusations against Amro. In fact, writer Adam Rasgon ends his article with the request on the part of US lawmakers to follow Amro’s trial, apparently the trial in Israel. I wonder why he does not suggest that perhaps Americans might be advised to demand Amro’s release from PA custody or that THAT trial, should be another one to be followed.
Electronic Intifada, not to be outdone by anyone else, implicates Israel quite directly in Amro’s arrest by the PA:
. . . Western aid is typically conditioned on the PA’s role as a key enforcer of Israel’s occupation, under the banner of “security coordination” with the Israeli army and intelligence services.
This “coordination” includes collaboration with Israeli agencies that torture Palestinians.
Human rights groups have documented dozens of cases of Palestinians detained and interrogated by the PA’s Preventive Security prior to their arrest by Israel.
“Instead of arresting activists who demand reform, [says Amro] the Palestinian Authority must fight and arrest those responsible for corruption and coordination with the Israeli military, which is destroying Palestinian society.”
The BBC mostly quotes the Amnesty International report, but could not help themselves from shooting barbs at Israel:
In Hebron, where Mr Amro is based, several hundred Jewish settlers live in heavily-guarded enclaves surrounded by some 200,000 Palestinians. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
I cannot figure out the relevance of Israeli residents in Hebron to Amro’s arrest by the PA. I suppose they figure that the line stating that Israel disputes the illegality of the “settlements” would qualify as balanced reporting.
Most sinister, in my opinion, is the piece in Forward, a website that purports to concern itself with matters of import to American Jews. Peter Beinart implicates Israel in the very title of his article: “Israel and the Palestinian Authority Finally Agree – About Jailing Peace Activist Issa Amro”. He exploits Amro’s arrest in order to further his own agenda, stated clearly at the beginning of the article:
The assumption is that the Palestinian Authority is an independent country with control over its own elections. But the Palestinian Authority is not a country. It is Israel’s subcontractor in the West Bank. When Palestinians elect people the Israeli government deems a security risk, Israel arrests them. So, as PA President, Abbas’ authoritarianism is a joint Israeli-Palestinian project. He won’t hold elections because he might lose power. And Israel won’t let him hold elections because he might lose power to someone less willing to help Israel maintain order.
When it comes to subjugating Palestinians, Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is alive and well.
Hey Beinart, scapegoat much? I find it “interesting” (to put it mildly) that when the PA does something that even Amnesty International finds fault with, Beinart finds a way to put the blame squarely on Israel’s head.
Finally, Qawasmeh, whose arrest triggered Amro’s Facebook post and subsequent detention, found an elegant way to get himself released from jail. Quoting an interview posted in Mada, a Palestinian NGO focused on media freedoms, Maan News reported what Qawasmeh told investigators regarding his video calling on PA leaders to resign:
“They asked me about the reason for posting this video, I replied that it was published in an angry moment after the radio equipment was destroyed and confiscated by the (Israeli) occupation forces,” Mada relayed.
“They actually understood my reasons,” Qawasmeh said.
Now I am waiting for Amro to come up with a good excuse along these lines as well. Come on, Amro — you can do it!