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Police state in the making

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By Samah Jabr

(source: Ma’an News Agency)

Although United States-sponsored security coordination with the Palestinian Authority started in the nineties, the scale and nature of US intervention in Palestinian affairs intensified through the program headed by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton that was launched by the Bush administration in 2005.

When Hamas ousted Fateh from the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the atmosphere then became ripe to escalate the growth of this political mutation that transformed former “national heroes” into “terrorists”. While Hamas security forces in Gaza are considered illegal, governments in Europe and North America provide generous financial support to the PA and its security forces.

In an address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Dayton said (as if this were a compliment) that his program had created a “new kind of Palestinian man.” Three battalions of 500 men each have graduated from the program, and more are currently in training to engage in a series of offensives against members of the resistance groups in the West Bank.

Senior Israeli commanders were so impressed with the Palestinian troops,said Dayton, they asked him, “How many more of these new Palestinians can you generate, and how quickly?” Dayton promised to invest around 1.3billion dollars in the Palestinian security establishment; to graduate 4,700 personnel; provide training, equipment and basic capacity buildingfor another 15,000 troops; and restore the organizational structure of the PA’s security institutions.

The United States does not invest this money in the well-being of the Palestinian population–to build schools and hospitals that support the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, for example–but rather uses this money to bribe some Palestinians with power, money and privileges that reinforce internal Palestinian conflict and disunity. It is creating a “Palestinian Contra” to do the dirty work for Israel’s occupation and impose the American political agenda and political decision on an exhausted, terrified, impoverished and blackmailed Palestinian population.

In August, the General Intelligence and Preventive Security units rounded up more than 700 sympathizers with Palestinian resistance groupsfollowing a deadly attack on West Bank settlers.

One asks: who are the security forces serving? Where do they disappear to when Israeli occupation soldiers invade our towns and cities to abduct, injure and kill Palestinians? Do they intimidate anyone else other than the Palestinians? Do they attack any Israeli military bases or solely Hamas charitable institutions? Have they ever arrested or interrogated any Israeli settler attacking villagers in the West Bank? Are interrogation and arrest and torture only a special treat for Palestinians?

The West Bank is becoming a police state. Al Haq, the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and the Guardian newspaper are all credible references for evidence that a significant number of detainees are tortured with impunity during interrogation by General Intelligence and Preventive Security forces.

Dayton may now be gone, but his brutal security arrangements have damaged the credibility of the Palestinian Authority and stirred resentment against it. More importantly, these arrangements have confused and eroded the Palestinian social structure. While there was once a Palestinian consensus denouncing human rights abuses by Israeli authorities, it has been the most heartbreaking, demoralizing, and humiliating experience to witness Palestinians torture and abuse their fellow countrymen.

Security measures impede any possible progress toward a reconciliation agreement between the two dominant Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fateh.Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority cannot fulfill the holy grail of economic growth or Palestinian institution-building. The peace negotiations seem to be the last chance for the Palestinian Authority–and they don’t seem to be carrying much hope. I wonder how long the Palestinian Authority will survive when the American administration decides it is not a peace partner.

Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and a psychiatrist. This article first appeared on the website, and is republished here with permission.