In addition to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many Palestinians live in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Roughly 98% of Palestinians in the disputed territories are ruled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Palestinian human-rights advocates, NGOs, international bodies, the media and campus activists focus on Israeli policies. The principal abusers of Palestinians, however, are their fellow Palestinians and other Arabs.
For example, Bassam Tawil noted in just the last week, the media widely reported on the death of a senior member of the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization who essentially committed suicide by starving himself to death in an Israeli prison but paid no attention to two men who recently died in Hamas custody. “No one cares about the two men who died in Hamas custody, apparently because Israel is not associated with their deaths,” Tawil observed. “Had Al-Sufi and Al-Louh died in an Israeli prison, they would have made headlines in The New York Times, the BBC and CNN.”
The U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Israel was quoted in the press, but did you hear anything about what it said about Palestinian behavior in the disputed territories?
Here’s a summary of what it found in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza that had nothing to do with Israel:
Credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings by Palestinian Authority officials and Hamas personnel; torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments by Palestinian Authority officials and Hamas personnel; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners and detainees; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, unjustified detentions and prosecutions of journalists, and censorship; serious restrictions on Internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation, including no national elections since 2006; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes, violence and threats of violence motivated by antisemitism; crimes involving violence and threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex persons; and reports of the worst forms of child labor. In Gaza, the designated terrorist organization Hamas “utilized its military wing to crack down on internal dissent” and “there were reports that members of Hamas security forces committed numerous abuses.”
Similarly, Amnesty International’s reports on Israel receive banner headlines in the press and are parroted unquestioningly. Because it is obsessed with Israel, many people may not realize it also has information on the non-existent state of “Palestine.” It is also skewed to focus on Israel. Still, it mentions that “Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip committed apparent war crimes during three days of military confrontations with Israel in August, using unguided rockets in populated civilian areas.” It also states that errant rockets killed seven Palestinians, including four children. The report acknowledges that “attacks by armed Palestinian individuals killed 18 people in cities and towns across Israel.”
In addition, authorities “restrict freedom of expression, association, and assembly, at times using excessive force to disperse peaceful gatherings,” and “a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests” by Hamas “effectively deterred dissent, often leading to self-censorship.” Hundreds of Palestinians were arbitrarily detained, and “torture and other ill-treatment remained rife in detention and interrogation centers.”
Twenty-nine women “were killed by their family members in apparent cases of domestic violence,” and “authorities failed to prevent and investigate homophobic and transphobic threats and attacks.” Authorities also “failed to investigate unlawful killings and attacks, including against Israeli civilians.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also regularly pillories Israel and devotes scant attention to the abuses by Palestinians. It did report that “Hamas authorities executed five Palestinians, including two men accused of ‘collaboration’ with Israel, following trials marred by due process violations.” HRW noted that no one has been held accountable for the 2021 murder by P.A. security forces of Abbas critic Nizar Banat. It also mentions discrimination against women and the P.A.’s failure to “prevent abuse and protect survivors.”
That’s about it from the two best-known human-rights organizations. Not a word about terrorism.
Neither Amnesty nor HRW mentioned the treatment of Palestinians in their profiles of Lebanon and Syria.
The State Department report on Lebanon does mention that “nonstate armed groups, including Hizballah and Palestinian militias, operated with relative impunity, using intimidation, harassment and occasionally violence against perceived critics and opponents.” Palestinian refugees cannot obtain Lebanese citizenship, are prohibited from purchasing or inheriting property, and are barred from working in 39 skilled professions, including medicine, law and engineering. It does not elaborate on how Palestinians are treated as second-class residents, such as being denied free treatment at hospitals and barred from most public schools. Al Jazeera headlined a story on the situation: “Palestinians in Lebanon: ‘It’s like living in a prison.’ ”
State’s report on Syria said that “regime and opposition forces reportedly besieged, shelled and otherwise made inaccessible some Palestinian refugee camps, neighborhoods and sites, which resulted in severe malnutrition, lack of access to medical care and humanitarian assistance, and civilian deaths.” It said that “the Action Group of Palestinians of Syria reported that regime forces tortured 638 Palestinians, including children.” It does not mention the hundreds of Palestinians detained by Assad’s security forces, tortured in regime prisons or killed while incarcerated.
Yes, it is possible to be pro-Israel and want to see an end to human-rights abuses against Palestinians. It is more common, however, that people concerned with these abuses are anti-Israel and not interested in any abuse they cannot blame, accurately or not, on Israel.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”