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PA arrests political activist for criticizing security coordination


Palestinian political activist Nizar Banat was arrested on Friday by the Palestinian Authority security forces shortly after he criticized the PA’s decision to restore relations with Israel, including security coordination. Palestinian journalist Aseel Sulieman, meanwhile, denied on Saturday that she had been suspended from her work at a private radio station after strongly criticizing the PA over its decision to restore ties with Israel. She also denied that she and her family had received threats from the PA security forces or that she had been summoned for interrogation. Sulieman, who hosts a radio show, accused the PA of “trampling on the blood of our martyrs and prisoners.” She also accused the PA leadership of “prostration” before Israel.The radio station removed the video from its website, a move that triggered rumors that Sulieman has been suspended or fired.The decision to renew ties between the Palestinians and Israel was announced last week by Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the General Authority for Civil Affairs.The announcement came after al-Sheikh received a letter from Major-General Kamil Abu Rokun, the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in which he wrote that “the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreements continue to form the applicable legal framework governing the conduct of the parties on financial and other matters.”In a move that drew sharp criticism and sarcastic comments from several Palestinians, al-Sheikh described the decision to restore relations with Israel as a “victory” for the Palestinians.

In May, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced an end to all agreements and understandings signed with Israel and the US. “The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones,” Abbas declared at an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to discuss Israel’s intention to apply its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.Banat, a critic of the PA leadership from the town of Dura, near Hebron, posted a video on Facebook in which he said that security coordination is a form of collaboration with Israel. “The only way to halt this cooperation is by dismantling the [Palestinian] security services,” Banat argued. Addressing al-Sheikh, he added: “You are liars; you never suspended the security coordination.”The Palestinian human rights group Lawyers For Justice condemned the arrest of Banat and called for his immediate release. “The arrest is a continuation of the unacceptable and arbitrary policy of politically motivated arrests,” the group said in a statement.A number of Palestinian factions also denounced the arrest of Banat and called on the PA to stop its “persecution” of political opponents. The factions also condemned the PA’s decision to restore relations with Israel.Rami Alawi, a senior Fatah activist from Ramallah, announced his resignation from the faction in protest of the decision to renew relations between the PA and Israel. He also condemned the PA’s decision to return to the Palestinian ambassadors to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.The PA recalled the ambassadors for consultations after the two Gulf states signed peace agreements with Israel in the past few months. Last week, PA officials confirmed that the ambassadors returned to Manama and Abu Dhabi after the consultations ended.The PA had accused Bahrain and the UAE of betraying the Palestinians by signing the peace accords with Israel.“The Palestinian leadership has betrayed sacrifices of our people and the suffering of our prisoners,” Alawi explained in his resignation letter. He also called on Fatah cadres to revolt and take a firm and bold stance “in the face of these childish and destructive decisions that offend our cause and deepen divisions among our people.”Hatem Abdel Qader, a senior Fatah official from east Jerusalem, criticized the PA’s decision to restore ties with Israel and said it “raised many questions,” especially in wake of ongoing efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas rift and achieve Palestinian national unity.The decision came as Fatah and Hamas leaders were meeting in Cairo to discuss ways of ending their dispute and holding long overdue elections for the PA presidency and parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council.“Since when was Israel committed to the agreements with us?” Abdel Qader asked. “Why was the letter [to al-Sheikh] sent by an Israeli army officer and not by the Israeli government?”The Fatah official accused Abbas of preferring relations with Israel to achieving Palestinian unity. “Apparently, President Abbas is the only one who makes decisions on behalf of the PLO institutions, which have lost the ability to take any decision,” he told the New Arab news website.

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