Birzeit University student and writer Bara al Qadi was imprisoned and tortured in 2015 for criticizing the PA. (Youtube/Screenshot) (Youtube/Screenshot)
Bara al Qadi

A Jewish soldier who shouts at a Palestinian at a checkpoint is more newsworthy than, say, Palestinians tortured by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

By: Bassam Tawil, The Gatestone Institute

What happens when Palestinians make allegations of torture and assaults on their public freedoms? If the finger is being pointed at Israel, the international media falls over itself to bring the story to the broadest possible audience.

The story would not even end there. Human rights organizations and United Nations agencies would blast Israel for “abusing” Palestinian human rights and the Security Council would hold an emergency session to condemn Israel.

The response, however, when Palestinians fall victim to the practices of their own governments — the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Judea and Samaria region and Hamas in the Gaza Strip — is a completely different one. That is when silence descends upon the international media community hides behind a blue wall of silence

How can one account for this sinkhole in communications? Simple: When the story is not about alleged atrocities committed by Israel, from the point of view of the Western media outlets it is presumably not a tale worthy of being told.

For most Western reporters, the only wrongdoing they see is that which takes place by Israelis. For them, a Jewish soldier who shouts at a Palestinian at a checkpoint is more worthy of a story than, say, Palestinian detainees who are tortured by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

Those who are familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the way the international media operates in the Middle East are not surprised by this one-sided, unprofessional and biased coverage.

Middle East correspondents regularly turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Some journalists are possibly afraid that if they report a story that may reflect negatively on the Palestinians, they will be accused of being “on the payroll of the Jewish lobby” or, even worse, of being “Zionist agents serving the Israeli propaganda machine.”

Or perhaps they fear that they will be denied still further access to the Palestinian propaganda machine.

It is also important to note that most of the foreign correspondents rely on Palestinian assistants or “fixers” who often dictate to them the tone that their reporting on the Palestinians must take.

Local Palestinian “fixers” do not want foreign correspondents to report about the rampant abuses taking place on the Palestinian side. These “fixers” see themselves as loyal soldiers serving their people and their cause. They consider themselves to be mouthpieces for Palestinian leaders and institutions and would be horrified avoid at the idea of hanging dirty laundry out in the open.

Why is this Relevant Now?

There is always a need to remind readers how the foreign media “misses” many significant stories related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The real story now is no longer about what the foreign correspondents are reporting. Rather, it is about what they are not reporting.

Take, for example, the latest report published by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), whose duties and responsibilities are “to follow-up and ensure that different Palestinian laws, by-laws and regulations, and the work of various departments, agencies and institutions of the Palestinians meet the requirements for safeguarding human rights.”

In its report — which so far appears to have been of less than no interest to both the foreign media and international human rights groups — the ICHR states that it has received complaints of torture and mistreatment from 46 Palestinians detained by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas during the month of February 2018 alone.

More than half of the complaints, 27 in number, come from Palestinians who were arrested by the Palestinian Authority, while 19 come from Palestinians living under Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Had such a report of torture been published by the Israeli left-wing group B’Tselem, it would have won the attention of the international community. Why? Because the group appears fixated only on Israeli violations, while rigorously ignoring what is happening in Palestinian-controlled detention centers in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

Western-funded and Trained Palestinian Authority Forces

The report notes that during February, the ICHR also received complaints from 31 Palestinians about arbitrary and unlawful detentions, both at the hands of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Again, most of the arrests took place in areas controlled by the Western-funded and trained Palestinian Authority security forces. Some of the detainees were taken into custody on the basis of an arrest warrant signed by a senior Palestinian official, usually the governor of a city.

The report also found that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were continuing to harass Palestinian journalists and political activists because of their views and their postings on social media. One journalist, who was not identified by name, was arrested in the Gaza Strip for posting remarks critical of Hamas. Another was arrested by Hamas for reporting about human rights violations committed by the terrorist group.

In Judea and Samaria, in February, Palestinian Authority security forces arrested two Palestinian university students from Hebron for their activities on campus, according to the report. During the same month, the ICHR also received complaints from Palestinians that their homes had been raided by Palestinian Authority security officers, who illegally seized computers, mobile phones, cash and other personal belongings.

The report also details other forms of human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, such as travel bans and failure to implement court orders.

A Mockery of the Judicial System

On several occasions, for instance, the Palestinian Authority security forces chose to ignore court verdicts ordering the release of detainees. This mockery of the judicial system is common under both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

The ICHR report is not confidential. On the contrary, it has been released for public consumption and is available for review on the organization’s website. Everyone has access to it.

One would assume that Middle East correspondents might be interested in such reports — no, far from it.

In the eyes of foreign correspondents, this ICHR report is “problematic” because it deals with a topic that is not in line with their agenda, which considers Israel solely responsible for all human rights violations in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Some foreign correspondents may argue, in their defense, that they cannot report such stories because to do so they would need to go to Judea and Samaria or the Gaza Strip, and this could endanger their lives. In other words, the correspondents admit that the Palestinians implicitly threaten them into avoiding such stories.

One can only wonder about the professionalism of journalists who consciously and consistently fail to report abuse on the part of the Palestinians.

One also wonders how they think they are doing a service to the Palestinians by turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Are the journalists familiar with term “free pass”?

The Palestinians are, first and foremost, victims of their dictatorial and abusive leaders. Sadly, they are done no service by a biased and unprofessional media that acts as sort of collective “yes-men” to widespread human rights violations under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Both Palestinian dictatorships, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, therefore have nothing to worry about; they can go about their business of torturing and illegally detaining their own people. No one is watching.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.