In one of the lesser-reported stories from the Middle East, Palestinians are out in the streets ostensibly to protest the Palestinian Authority’s plan to meet with Israeli Minister Shaul Mofaz. However, Palestinian complaints are primarily focused on the PA’s increasingly authoritarian crackdown on internal Palestinian dissent, specifically on the internet and by journalists. Even the website Electronic Intifada (not typically a source of criticism of the PA) reported that police brutality began before the demonstration started.
Across the Arab world, corrupt security services and police have amassed power, money, and influence; the Palestinian Security Forces (PSF) under the dictatorship of Mahmoud Abbas is no different (Abbas has unilaterally extended his term in office since 2009.) A few months ago, an Arab poll listed the top concern of young Palestinians as PA corruption, rather like the original complaints of revolutionalry Arabs in Tunisia and Egypt. Palestinian bloggers and journalists have been reflecting unhappiness among the people for some time, and PA authorities have predictably responded with force.
The more surprising development: EUPOL COPPS — the EU mission that has been training Palestinian police since 2006 — pronounced itself “concerned” by reports of what it called “excessive force.” Per the EUPOL spokesman:
In its bilateral dialogue and cooperation with the Palestinian Authority the EU continually stresses the necessity to uphold international human rights standards and respect fundamental freedoms, in particular the right to peaceful protest and demonstration and freedom of expression and the media.
It is late in the process to wonder what the PSF thinks of Western human rights standards and fundamental freedoms, and definitely too late to ask whether it plans to use Western weapons and training against the targets the West had in mind. The U.S. pours more than $113 million per year into the PSF and has lent it the services of three different American generals, so it is worth reviewing the ramifications of transferring militarily useful skills to people for whom the existence of Israel remains unacceptable and for whom terrorism is a career path.
Under the Oslo Accords, nearly two decades ago the Palestinian Authority was supposed to “dismantle the terrorist infrastructure” so Israelis would have fewer security concerns as they ceded additional land and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. offered to train a “police force” to do it. No one, it seems, saw the irony of training Palestinians to kill other Palestinians on behalf of security for Israelis living on land the Palestinians claimed for themselves.