Europe sheds crocodile tears over PA brutality

The European Union trains police working for the Palestinian Authority (APA Images)

David Cronin

The Electronic Intifada  /  August 26, 2021

Solidarity means little unless it is sincere.

For a prime example of fake solidarity, we may examine how European diplomats based in the occupied West Bank promote their activities.

Every so often, they organize stunts where they are photographed consoling the oppressed. Too busy shedding crocodile tears, the diplomats “forget” that their own governments enable the oppression of Palestinians.

Europe’s envoys don’t appear to have gathered for a photo-op this week, yet they did issue a statement. It expresses “concern” about the recent arrests of political activists by the Palestinian Authority.

The statement omits an important detail: Europe gives major financial and political support to the PA.

Throughout the PA’s history, the European Union has been its largest donor. The EU’s direct budgetary assistance to the authority was worth approximately $187 million in 2020.

Paying attention ?

In this week’s statement, the European envoys say they “firmly expect” the PA to meet its commitments on human rights.

Who do these guys think they are kidding?

The purpose of the PA’s “security forces” is spelled out in a 1998 document known as the Wye River Memorandum.

Signed between Israel and Yasser Arafat, then the PA’s head, the “memorandum” requires that those forces adopt a “zero-tolerance” approach to “violence and terror.”

Such language clearly reflects the viewpoint of Israel, which treats all challenges to its occupation as terror, whether they come from armed fighters or ice cream makers.

The PA’s “security forces” were always intended to be a proxy for Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas has described “security cooperation” with Israel as “sacred.”

Donald Trump, speaking as US president in 2017, marveled at how Israeli and PA forces “work together beautifully.”

If the PA is contracted to act in the interests of a brutal occupation, anyone who has been paying attention would not expect the authority to uphold basic rights but to abuse them.

Another point omitted by the diplomats in this week’s statement is that the EU trains the PA’s police.

The training takes place as part of an operation known as EUPOL COPPS – the EU Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support.

Expensive saddle

EUPOL COPPS sometimes uses quirky stories to publicize its work. It has boasted, for instance, of how an officer who caught a gang stealing “expensive saddles” from a horse owner in Sweden, now advises the PA on “intelligence-led policing.”

Mahmoud Abbas has been sitting in an expensive saddle since he was elected the PA’s president in 2005.

Although his term expired in 2009, he has remained in office without any democratic mandate for more than 12 years.

Abbas behaves as a dictator. And EUPOL COPPS serves as a fig leaf for his dictatorship.

One of the EU’s tasks involves training a PA ministry on drafting legislation. In the absence of a functioning parliament, such legislation is introduced by decree.

This means that EUPOL COPPS is helping an inherently autocratic situation to persist.

Fadi Quran, a representative of the international campaign group Avaaz, was among the Palestinians arrested by the PA in recent days (and subsequently released).

One of the allegations reportedly made against Quran was that he had broken the PA’s Electronic Crimes Law.

That decree – strongly condemned by human rights defenders – has been used to persecute those who write comments critical of the PA on the internet as well as to censor the media.

Police state

Given that the PA is muzzling opponents, it is highly disturbing that EUPOL COPPS brags of helping the authority fight “online crime.”

There is no indication that the EU police operation has pushed for the repeal of the Electronic Crimes Law.

EUPOL COPPS has claimed it is “particularly happy” about commitments from the PA on aiming for higher human rights standards. Yet the EU’s operation remains silent when the PA’s police officers – the very people it trains – behave as thugs.

Diplomats working out of European consulates in the West Bank are a little less reticent than their colleagues in the policing operation. The diplomats expressed “serious concern” in June when the activist Nizar Banat died after being arrested by PA forces.

The diplomats were similarly exercised in November last year, when Banat was detained in the West Bank city of Jericho.

Their November statement did not mention that the EU counsels the PA on how to run its prisons in Jericho.

Material made available for public consumption would have us believe that the EU’s objective is to improve the conditions in which Palestinian prisoners are being held. Yet the material does not include any evidence that improvements are actually being made.

Until that evidence can be produced, questions must be asked about how Europe has helped Mahmoud Abbas turn part of the West Bank into a police state.

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada; his books include Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel and Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation