Reports of members of the Palestinian Authority targetting and sexually harrassing Palestinian women protestors further undermines the credibility and legitimacy of the government.
The Palestinian National Authority (PA) made a formal request to the Israeli Occupation for a supply of sound and gas canisters for crowd dispersal, raising questions about how the PA operates — particularly regarding its shady methods of suppressing ongoing protests.
Apparently, the PA and their thugs can stoop even lower than requesting the help of their ‘enemy’ to harm their own. In addition to the violent physical abuse of peaceful unarmed crowds by the armed forces, members of the PA, dressed in plainclothes, have been quite literally snatching phones away from protestors to extort people in attendance, sexually harassing women and reporting back to their corrupted institution.
The peaceful protests began last week after the PA killing of activist and writer, Nizar Banat while in PA custody, and videos emerged showing absolute brutality against him. The West Bank came together in outrage.
Though his death didn't come as a shock, not even to Banat himself, who cited their bloodlust in some of his final messages, expecting that they were coming to crack down on him and his work.
Abbas’ government did not stop at Banat’s murder, which they now absurdly cite as a “neurological shock, which resulted in acute heart and pulmonary failure.” They follow through with their intimidation on those taking to the streets to protest this injustice and call on this puppet government to take responsibility. They continue to violently suppress any collective action using particularly underhanded methods.
In a 2011 Al Jazeera report on the PA armed forces, “Those Palestinians trained by the Jordanians (under Dayton’s leadership) have been used to suppress dissent to the policies of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas.”
It would seem that retired Gen. Dayton’s efforts were not for naught.
However, this time, the PA forces are not fighting solely on that front.
Bizarre methods are being employed to target women unlucky enough to have their phones snatched from them during these protests. After these ‘state-sanctioned’ robberies, many of which have been caught on video, the thugs proceed with their intimidation tactics by using the content on the phones. By leaking pictures and videos of women on both fake profiles as well as the profiles of the women themselves, they hope to intimidate and diminish plurality in the crowds.
The accounts popping up attempting to shame women have been leaving messages with photos attached, “This is the one of the most prominent ones who attacked the security forces with cheap words yesterday, and you study at Birzeit.”
The identity of the woman in the photos hasn’t been confirmed as someone at the protest, so there is an assumption that they selected random photos of people to stir up fear.
There have been cases where party members will post actual photos from the phone along with much more explicit images — clearly plucked pictures from the internet and doctored to hide their faces. These are posted on multiple accounts on Facebook and Instagram and are quickly reported and eventually taken down.
Another shame tactic is to pair images picked from some women’s public Instagram accounts with them at the protest, highlighting their identities. There has even been an incident where one of these fake accounts has attempted to ‘out’ another protest participant as a homosexual by posting an image of him bare-chested at a Pride parade. He replied by sharing the post and responding that he has a tattoo on his chest.
There has been a focus on shaming people, namely women, through slights at their tattoos, drinking, swimming and taking selfies.
One woman, aged 29, in Ramallah explains how after one of her friends had gotten seriously injured at the hands of the PA, they decided to leave the centre of the protest. As they were walking to a secluded area, ahead of her friends, she was cornered by someone from the PA in plainclothes, who aggressively said, “Give me your phone, give me your phone!” Holding sticks and poles, they threatened her until her male friend intervened and they began attacking her friend until they convinced them they were only passing by that route.
Another woman, aged 22, tells me how they called her a number of profanities and that women near her were spat on, and others physically assaulted and rammed into buildings.
This disturbing strategy was also reportedly used by members of the Sulta in Lebanon, where a protest for Nizar Banat took place in tandem with the one in the West Bank.
Outside the Palestinian Embassy in Beirut, party members snatched phones and cameras, often deleting images from the protest and tossing the devices. There have been some reports of women’s phones being grabbed and used for extortion and threats.
It is clear that the PA is using hostility in new forms to attempt to silence the anger of a justly enraged people. Governments in most countries tend to crack down — more often than not — in disproportionately violent ways. However, sexual extortion is not usually in their playbook.
That the PA so openly stoops to betray and actively harm — in some cases possibly murder — anyone in the population should put it in a compromising enough position that Western nations abiding by, albeit only slightly higher standards of human rights, would consider halting relations with such a truly shameless government.
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