Two more Palestinians were killed this morning. But
the two men, Majdi Mikkawi and Alam Bani Odeh, both in their
twenties, were not shot dead by Israeli occupation forces. They were
executed, blindfolded and tied to a stake by Palestinian Authority
firing squads armed with Kalashnikovs.
These scenes so reminiscent of a World War II B
movie occurred after the men were accused of collaboration with the
Israeli occupation forces.
Odeh was said to have provided information which led
to the assassination by Israel of his cousin, Ibrahim Bani Odeh, a
member of Hamas. Mikkawi is accused of providing information which
led to the killing of Fatah activist Jamal Abdel Razzak.
"I was hoping to have the honor to shoot him [Mikkawi],"
one of Abdel Razzak's cousins said as he waited for the Gaza firing
squad to carry out a tribal revenge on his behalf in a dusty police
courtyard. In Nablus, Alam Odeh's three year old daughter was seen
clinging to her father's hand as his wife and mother cried nearby,
while the firing squad readied itself in a public square with
hundreds of onlookers.
There is no doubt that if the two men were guilty of
collaboration, as accused, they would deserve the severest
punishment, and the widest condemnation.
The problem is that in the manner so typical of the
Palestinian Authority, and Arafat's "revolutionary
justice" of previous decades, the men did not receive anything
resembling a fair trial. On the contrary, they received speedy
trials which took a matter of hours in the nefarious "State
Security Court." They had no right to appoint their own defence
lawyers, no time to prepare a defence or call witnesses and no right
The "State Security Court", was highly
praised by U.S. Vice President Al Gore when he became the highest
ranking American official to visit the occupied territories in 1994,
but has been universally condemned by Palestinian and international
human rights organizations as a travesty. Its name epitomizes the
deadly fantasy world of the Oslo regime: where is the 'state'? Whose
'security' does it protect'? And what kind of 'court' holds secret
trials at midnight and executes its victims at dawn?
The death penalty is a particularly barbaric
punishment, abolished in every civilized nation, and increasingly
discredited in the avidly pro-death United States, as almost every
week there are new revelations of how the most advanced and
expensive legal system has been unable to stop this penalty being
used against the innocent and mentally diabled (especially if those
people are poor and non-white).
But these are minor details. Arafat quickly affixed
his signature to the death warrants sealing the fate of the two
accused men almost before you could say 'ready, aim, fire' -- the
same signature Arafat has so firmly refused to place on the laws
passed by the Palestinian Legislative Council which would have
provided some protections for human rights and legal procedure.
There can be no clearer indication that Arafat believes that he
alone is the law -- while he lives no other law or authority is
Under the Oslo regime, Arafat has only signed off on
three previous executions, in 1994, which were carried out with such
indecent haste, following show trials by the "State Security
Court" that they drew universal condemnation from human rights
monitors. The absence of executions since that time was an
encouraging sign that Arafat was ready to mitigate the worst of his
human rights abuses in response to criticism. This morning's events
shatter that illusion.
Accusations, trials, legal procedures and
punishments are one issue, the other is the nature of the charges.
Collaboration is the most serious crime it is possible to commit
under military occupation. Accused collaborators have often been
dealt with harshly, for example in Nazi-occupied Europe. But I
cannot suppress the question in this case: who are the Palestinian
Authority, who have institutionalized collaboration with the
occupation, and whose senior members have enriched themselves from
collaboration to accuse or judge anyone?
In the past few days Palestinian Authority officials
agreed to resume security "cooperation" with the
occupation forces in a "process" brokered by none other
than the American CIA. Can there be a more nefarious form of
collaboration? Is this not a form of collaboration potentially far
more lethal than anything of which the two executed individuals were
What about Palestinian Authority
"ministers" who have enriched themselves through war
profiteering from shadowy trade monopolies with the Israelis? Are
they not engaged in collaboration? When the Palestinian Authority
arrests activists, and tortures them, in several dozen cases to
death, to protect Israel's "security," is this not
collaboration? What about "joint operations" between
Palestinian Authority police and Israeli occupation forces which
have resulted in arrests and sometimes killings of Palestinian
Perhaps I am asking the wrong questions. The
executions in Gaza and Nablus did not have the mark of a search for
justice, but were political in the worst sense of the word. Arafat,
his popularity temporarily shored up by the sacrifices of others,
perhaps wants to cast himself as the leader of the intifada rather
than the bedraggled follower he is, and sacrificed these two men to
the critics who believe he has not been tough enough. Usually,
whenever Arafat takes these sorts of measures, they are followed by
the most breathtaking and shocking concessions and climbdowns.
The latest report is that Arafat and former Israeli
prime minister Shimon Peres are to meet on Saturday evening to try
once more to reach a "framework agreement." Perhaps it is
there that we will find out the price of Arafat's
As a Palestinian, I am proud that our demands for
justice, the rights of refugees and self-determination are based on
international law, and on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Our criticisms of Israel's human rights violations cite the same
standards, the Geneva Conventions and the reports of human rights
organizations. So it is as a Palestinian that I cannot have any
identification with an "Authority" that adopts these
standards as slogans when it wants to score points against the
Israelis, but so quickly discards them when it is expected to apply
them in its own conduct.