Palestinian prisoners are synonymous with resistance, not PA collaboration

Palestinian women demonstrators chant slogans during a rally by the ICRC headquarters in Gaza City, in support of Palestinian prisoners (Mohammed Abed - AFP)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  February 1, 2022

According to his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian prisoners are important for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. As reports circulate in Israeli media about Abbas’s request for the colonial-occupation state to release 25 Palestinian prisoners from its jails, the PA’s official news agency Wafa deemed it pertinent to clarify how central the prisoners’ struggle is to Abbas. Never mind the role that the PA plays in funneling prisoners to Israel through its “sacred” security collaboration with the apartheid state.

The “secret request” which Abbas made to Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz during his recent meeting, which attracted some scathing criticism, “is an ongoing demand by the president and the demand of releasing the prisoners continues ‘around the clock’,” declared Abu Rudeineh.

Of course, the PA is unlikely to alienate itself completely from the issue of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. It has been known to highlight their plight whenever it serves to bolster its own standing; it’s all very convenient. The Palestinian anti-colonial struggle would be missing an important narrative without inclusion of the political prisoners, so while the PA locks up Palestinians deemed to be a threat to its grip on power, or instructs its security services to torture or even kill them on occasions — as happened last year with the murder of Nizar Banat — Abbas knows that disregarding the plight of Palestinian prisoners completely would be a major contribution to the PA’s downfall.

However, while the Palestinian people may be thinking in terms of resistance, freedom and liberation, the PA is most probably not on the same wavelength. Abbas’s meetings with Gantz took place at a time when the PA is struggling to protect its illegitimate standing among Palestinians who, since the extrajudicial killing of activist Banat, have called for Abbas to step down and for democratic elections to be held.

According to Israeli media reports, Abbas requested the release of prisoners as a gesture of goodwill. “Abbas said such a move on the part of Israel would prove to his constituents that diplomacy could achieve better results than the violence carried out by Hamas,” said YNet.

Abbas’s concept of violence does not include the little-mentioned political violence in which the PA engages as a matter of routine. If the prisoners are released as requested, the Palestinians are unlikely to forget the PA’s crimes which mirror those of the Israelis. Nor will the people forget that the plight of Palestinian prisoners is once again being exploited by Abbas to gain a political advantage over Hamas. If elections were to be held, would the people vote for Abbas on the basis of one successful negotiation with Israel based upon exploitative foundations, or would they vote for alternatives, not necessarily Hamas, based upon wanting to bring an end to Abbas’s illegitimate and oppressive rule? That’s the question.

Palestinians continue to be locked up for their anti-colonial resistance, not for their groveling to Israeli colonialism. The prisoners are synonymous with resistance, not PA collaboration. If Abbas’s request is supported by Israel, the Palestinian people are unlikely to view the PA in a benevolent light, as they count themselves among the victims of his violent security services. If the PA leader had even a shred of dignity left, he would honour the struggle of the Palestinian political prisoners as part of the decades-long anti-colonial resistance waged by the people of occupied Palestine for their land and liberation. Instead, he uses them as pawns to gain a hypothetical and possibly non-existent political advantage over Hamas.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America