A side show to the middle east international news attention this week that was focused on Saddam Hussein was provided at the meeting of the Palestinian Legislative Council at the private office compound of Yassir Arafat in Ramallah, a gathering that was acclaimed by the world’s press as an exercise that exemplified Palestinian democracy.
So far, so good, unless you want to know the details of what really transpired this week in Ramallah.
Yet over the past two weeks, the Palestinian Authority security services have rounded up more than 200 dissidents, accusing them of cooperation with Israeli authorities.
In the words of Khaled Abu Tumah, writing in the Jerusalem Post on August 24, 2002, reported that all 200 jailed dissidents could expect to be executed very shortly. Many of them have complained of torture and may face execution. Among the suspects are former Fatah and Hamas members who have been leveling accusations against alleged widespread corruption in the Palestinian Authority.
Two of the suspects,are expected to go on trial before a “state security court” in Gaza next month. One of them is Haidar Ghanem, 39, a resident of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Rafah refugee camp, who worked as a field researcher for a human rights organization.
A second dissident, Akram Zatmeh, 23, was arrested and accused of assisting Israel in the assassination of top Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh, on Gaza July 22.
Ghanem and Zatmeh will face the death penalty.
As the PLC convened,two other Palestinian dissidents in custody were summarily executed, and former Russian Jewish Prisoner of Zion Ida Nudel held a meeting with Papal ambassador to Israel, the Papal Annuncio, Msgr. Pietro Sambi to intervene on behalf of the dissidents against the Palestinian Authority.
As Nudel said to the Vatican ambassador, “we who were dissidents in a totalitarian regime know that only when the moral voices of the world make their voices heard will the lives of the dissidents be spared”.
However, Akram Zatmeh’s lawyer’s appeal to international human rights organizations to intervene on behalf of her condemned client fell on deaf ears.
Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel have expressed no interest in the fate of 200 Palestinian dissidents. When I asked a high level delegation of European Union diplomats who visited the Palestinian Authority this week if they would intervene on behalf of 200 dissidents condemned to die by the PA, EU commissioner Anna Diammatopoulou would only answer with the platitude that “we know that there is a problem of human rights in the Palestinian Authority”.
It would seem that the spin masters of the Palestinian Authority have hypnotized the world’s media, diplomatic community and international human rights organizations into believing that 200 dissidents who were condemned to die are no more than “collaborators”, a term that connotes those European nationals who worked with the Nazis during World War II and who of course deserve to die.
As the PLC sessions continued in Ramallah, 200 PA dissidents sat in death row of the Palestinian Authority, and nobody seemed to care.