A young man from Balata in a Palestinian Authority-controlled area of Judea and Samaria told Human Rights Watch that officers in the P.A.’s notorious Jericho prison subjected him to electric shocks and once tied a cord around his penis. He also witnessed P.A. officers dislocate the shoulder of another detainee when they beat him with a chair while his hands were bound behind him.
Though the P.A. and Hamas torture and murder Palestinian political dissidents incessantly—and these crimes are well-documented—the American press and politicians do not appear to care.
While others’ perceived misdeeds, like the killings of journalists Jamal Khashoggi and Shireen Abu Akleh, spark months of media coverage and even presidential indignation, the murder of a prominent Palestinian blogger by Palestinian police last year barely drew a yawn.
Indeed, when it comes to corruption and anti-democratic behavior, the Palestinians seem Teflon-coated; nothing sticks. Media coverage is minimal, political costs are zero.
In fact, U.S. President Joe Biden just announced hundreds of millions of additional dollars to fund the brutal Palestinian dictatorship in the West Bank.
By contrast, in recent months, the president has lashed out numerous times at Saudi Arabia for its murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying he regards the Arab nation as a pariah state. The New York Times has written about Khashoggi’s killing more than a dozen times and continues to follow the story four years later.
Biden also publicly lamented and demanded a “transparent accounting” of the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed this year in a crossfire between Palestinian militants and Israeli security forces. The New York Times has covered Akleh’s death—implying but never proving that Israel was responsible—more than eight times so far in recent months.
Yet when Palestinian police dragged blogger and political activist Nizar Banat from his family’s home in June 2021 and brutally beat him to death, Biden issued no statement. Nor, apparently, did he mention the matter when visiting P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem last month. The New York Times gave the Banat murder a scant three articles.
Banat’s treatment was horrible, but not unique. Torture is long-standing, rampant and cruel in territories governed by brutal Palestinian regimes—the P.A. and Hamas—but Palestinian torture is simply not judged newsworthy by the mainstream media or of political note by most elected officials.
For example, just last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report detailing thousands of cases of torture by the P.A. and Hamas. Unsurprisingly, The New York Times neglected to cover the report. Indeed, it hasn’t reported on Palestinian torture at all since 2018.
The HRW report said that the P.A. and Hamas’ various security services “have used tactics that include taunting, threats of violence, use of solitary confinement, beatings, including lashing and whipping of the feet of detainees and forcing detainees into painful stress situations, including using cables or ropes to hoist up arms behind the back.”
HRW concludes that such torture practices, which are widespread and have continued for many years, “amount to government policy and may amount to a crime against humanity.”
The annual report of the Committee of Families of Political Detainees called 2021 “the black year of the P.A.’s suppression of freedoms,” citing 2,578 violations against Palestinians at the Jericho prison. The report said prisoners experienced “the worst psychological, verbal and physical torture inside the P.A. prisons.” Neither The New York Times nor any national media covered the report.
In 2021, the Independent Commission for Human Rights, an independent Palestinian organization, reported that it received 252 complaints of torture and ill treatment, and 279 complaints of arbitrary arrest against the P.A. It received 193 complaints of torture and ill treatment, and 97 of arbitrary arrest against Hamas. No coverage of this report appeared in the Times or any national media.
The human rights group Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center has filed complaints about such Palestinian torture and other human rights violations with the International Criminal Court (ICC), but the court declined to investigate. According to Shurat Hadin head Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the ICC and Western nations believe “hundreds of people murdered and tortured to death by the P.A. aren’t worth one Jamal Khashoggi.”
There are two main reasons for this conspiracy of silence on the part of the media and politicians regarding Palestinian torture and human rights abuses.
First, the West, especially its press and governments, are heavily invested in the myth that the Palestinians deserve and can manage political independence. For this reason, they simply ignore the brutal authoritarian nature of the P.A. and Hamas—their lack of elections, civil rights and rule of law. Highlighting the cruelty of these regimes would undermine the ideological belief that the Palestinians are, among the world’s many stateless peoples, especially worthy of their own nation.
Exposing Palestinian abuses would also give the lie to the assumption that the Palestinian people support their corrupt, treacherous governments.
Second, when it comes to the Middle East, the media are not interested in violations of human rights in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, or, of course, the Palestinian territories. Rather, they are interested only in opportunities to “catch” Israel committing supposed transgressions.
Thus, when Palestinian children are killed during Israel’s retaliation for an unprovoked Hamas missile attack, it’s front-page news. That fact that the Hamas missile was shot from a launcher placed next to the children’s school—a war crime—will be buried on page 31.
Thus, when Shireen Abu Akleh was killed, the assumption by many media and politicians with no proof whatsoever was that Israel was guilty of murder.
The disenfranchised Palestinian people deserve humane treatment and legal justice, and it’s time their corrupt leaders were held to account for their gruesome torture and murder of their citizens.
Moreover, slandering Israel and blaming the Jewish state for the Palestinians’ lack of civil liberties is a mistake. Instead, the dictatorial Palestinian leaders should be exposed for the tyrants they are, and Western nations should cease funding them until basic civil liberties and the rule of law are established.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship with the United States.