Mondoweiss / July 19, 2023
The protest was the latest in a number of anti-PA demonstrations by Palestinians in Jenin in recent weeks, marking yet another fissure in the deepening rift between armed groups in Jenin and the PA, the latter of which is vying to reassert its control over the city amid increasing public disapproval.
Palestinians took to the streets of the Jenin Refugee Camp on Monday night, July 17th, to protest the Palestinian Authority’s recent “arrest campaign” of Palestinian fighters.
Participants, some of whom were armed activists from the Jenin Brigade, held signs condemning “political arrest” and chanted against the Palestinian Authority and its “cooperation with the Israeli occupation.”
The demonstration came in response to a public call made on Monday by the Islamic Jihad party and its armed wing affiliate, the Jenin Brigade. The Brigade’s call for protests was made just hours after PA security forces reportedly arrested five Palestinian fighters affiliated with PIJ in Jenin. According to PIJ spokesperson Daoud Shehab, PA forces have arrested 10 PIJ members since the Israeli army’s deadly raid on the Jenin Refugee Camp earlier this month.
“Following the Battle of Jenin, which was fought by the Jenin Brigade… the PA security services rewarded the fighters with kidnapping and torture on charges of resistance” the call to action read.
Dozens of armed youth, along with residents of the camp and the mothers of Palestinian martyrs killed by Israeli forces in the camp, carried signs reading, “political arrests are a national crime and service to the occupation.”
“We’re not asking the PA to stand with us, we just want them to stay away from us,” one demonstrator yelled emphatically.
While Monday’s protests in Jenin ended peacefully, several other anti-PA demonstrations were reported across the West Bank. In the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, heavy clashes with PA security forces took place in the area of Dheisheh Refugee Camp.
Even in locations where no protests took place, heavy PA security forces were deployed, including the center of Ramallah, Nablus, and Tulkarem in an attempt to prevent gatherings.
The protests marked yet another fissure in the deepening rift between Palestinian armed groups in Jenin and the PA, the latter of which is vying to reassert its control over the city. As evidenced on Monday, the rift between Palestinian youth and the PA is growing beyond Jenin. Despite widespread public support for Palestinian armed resistance groups, PA officials are not budging.
In reference to two Palestinian fighters detained by the Palestinian Authority since the 4th of July, Murad Malaysha and Mohammad Barahma, the PA governor of Jenin Akram Rjoub, decided not to disclose the reasons for the arrest during an interview on local radio, saying “Why should we release them? We may have reasons we don’t want to disclose.”
According to local NGO Lawyers for Justice, both Malaysha and Barahma were detained by the PA because of one charge only, which is the “possession of a weapon without a license”.
While the PA constantly denies targeting its own civilian population with political arrests, claiming it simply “applies local laws and maintains stability and security,” large segments of the Palestinian population accuse it of purposefully dismantling armed groups, such as the Lions’ Den of Nablus, in coordination with the Israeli army.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, signed by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which resulted in the Palestinian Authority’s partial administration of some Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in return for recognizing the state of Israel in 78% of Mandatory Palestine.
While radical Palestinian activists have criticized for decades the PLO and the PA for abandoning the discourse of colonialism and replacing it with the focus on the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza only, which they consider a severe breach of the PLO Charter, others have criticized the PA’s corruption, not renewing the PA legitimacy through elections, and the suppression of Palestinian resistance. These issues have contributed to ongoing instability in the internal Palestinian political landscape to this day.
Ahmad al-Bazz is a Palestine-based independent journalist and documentary filmmaker focusing on Palestinian-Israeli affairs