Palestinian Official Acknowledges Torture
Palestinian security forces abused some prisoners' human rights, a colonel in those forces acknowledged last week.
Col. Jabril Rajoub, head of the Preventive Security forces of the West Bank city of Jericho, acknowledged those abuses in a meeting with human rights organizations last Wednesday. He was in Washington for the signing of the most recent Israel-Palestinian pact.
Rajoub assured these organizations that human rights violations will be controlled in the West Bank.
He said all previous abusers will be charged and tried.
His organization is the section of the entire Palestinian National Security forces responsible for the protection of human rights in the Palestinian autonomous region of the West Bank.
"I understand their (human rights organizations) concerns about the violations of human rights. I offer them the opportunity to investigate, check and monitor our process of interrogation," Rajoub said.
The Death of an American
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, questioned Rajoub about a recent suspicious death: On September 29 a Palestinian American from Dallas, Azzam Mohammed Rahim Mosleh, died in captivity.
"(Mosleh's) body was delivered to his family in the West Bank with marks all over his body, and it appeared that he been tortured," Zogby said.
He said Palestinian security officials reported that Mosleh died of heat exhaustion, but did not issue a medical report.
Rajoub said that Mosleh had committed many crimes including two murders. "(But) this does not justify at all his death while under interrogation."
"None of my Preventive Security forces were involved in the interrogation of this guy (Mosleh)", Rajoub said.
Saiid Hamad, deputy director of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington said Mosleh was interrogated by the Palestinian National Security forces, the umbrella organization in control of the Preventive Security forces and several other Palestinian security institutions.
PLO Chairman Yaser Arafat assigned a commission to investigate this death, Hamad said.
Palestine's Human Rights Monitors
Rajoub said the Preventive Security forces are trained in public enforcement, public relations, criminal procedures and human rights issues.
Under the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement between Israel and the PLO, the Palestinians took authority of the city of Jericho in the West Bank. Rajoub was appointed by Arafat as the head of the Preventive Security forces.
"Since I took over the Preventive forces in Jericho last year no Palestinian attacks on Israel were initiated from this city," said Rajoub.
Rajoub's authority will be growing as a result of the latest Palestinian-Israeli pact.
Zogby said that the agreement signed in Washington back on September 28, 1995, would extend Palestinian rule to many other major cities in the West Bank. Zogby added that Rajoub's authority will spread to most of the other cities in the West Bank soon after Israeli withdrawal from these cities.
Amnesty International Critque
According to Amnesty International, human rights abuses continue in the Palestinian controlled areas.
A May 1995 Amnesty International report said serious human right violations committed in the occupied territories have not been given a high priority by the Palestinian authorities.
"Palestinian Security forces have killed at least 16 Palestinians since May 1994," said the report and the results of the investigations into the deaths were not made public. The report also said that 13 of the 16 Palestinians were killed during demonstrations against the Palestinian authority.
Pernille Holtedahl, coordinator for Israel and the occupied territories for Amnesty International said at least three Palestinian died in Palestinian custody.
Rajoub: The Veteran Revolutionary
Rajoub is a veteran of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation. He said he spent a total of 17 years in Israeli prisons experiencing torture and hunger strikes.
"I am a revolutionary," Rajoub said, adding that he was an active fighter who participated in attacks against the Israeli occupation.
Jordan: Al-Majd on 'Arafat-Abu-Marzuq Meeting, US Initiative
Yasir 'Arafat has asserted that US envoy Dennis Ross, who arrived in the Middle East yesterday, is carrying an important draft US initiative to end the deadlocked Palestinian- Israeli negotiations. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will soon submit the initiative after sounding out Arab and Israeli stands.
Following a private meeting with Hamas [Islamic Resistance Movement] leader Musa Abu-Marzuq after midnight on Tuesday, 'Arafat said he mobilized the world against Israel. He added that in the aftermath of the suicide operation in Jerusalem, Washington realized that a Palestinian-Israeli deadlock bodes severe dangers and damage.
'Arafat complained to Abu-Marzuq about the shortage of supply items in all occupied Palestinian territories. He pointed out that Israel for the first time closed Palestinian border crossings with Jordan and Egypt and restricted the movement of Palestinians, including his own movements as Netanyahu refused to let him use his plane and he was forced to take two planes, an Egyptian plane that carried him to Cairo and a Jordanian one that brought him to Amman.
Although 'Arafat was cautious during his one-hour meeting with Abu-Marzuq at the Guest Palace, he briefed Abu-Marzuq on his efforts with the US Administration to release him when he was detained at a New York jail.
Abu-Marzuq thanked 'Arafat for not submitting to Netanyahu's pressure to arrest Hamas leaders. 'Arafat said his principles prevented him from committing such acts, pointing out that he had intervened personally to release Hamas leader 'Abd-al-'Aziz al- Rantisi when summoned by the Palestinian security department after the Jerusalem martyrdom operation. Al-Majd has learned that Jordan, Israel, and the United States paused before this meeting and the message 'Arafat wanted to send to these parties through his important and surprise meeting with Abu- Marzuq which also coincided with another important meeting 'Arafat held with Iraqi Ambassador to Jordan Nuri al-Wayyis.
A senior Palestinian source told al-Majd he believes that through his meeting with Abu-Marzuq, 'Arafat wanted to make Netanyahu understand he still has lots of options he can use, particularly the military action option Hamas still upholds.
The Palestinian official refused to comment on what messages 'Arafat wanted sent to Jordan through this meeting. However, he clarified that 'Arafat's message to Clinton and his administration is evidently clear; it stated that Israel's security cannot be attained through Netanyahu's suppressive and intransigent measures but rather through reconciliation with the Palestinians, who can coordinate their programs so that Palestinian extremists will be able to serve and not destroy the goals of moderates.
On 'Arafat's meeting with the Iraqi ambassador, the Palestinian official said 'Arafat gave him a message for President Saddam Husayn thanking him for his speech on the anniversary of the Iraqi July revolution. In his speech, Saddam had called on Arabs to support the Palestinian Authority and 'Arafat's positions although he disagrees with him and rejects the Oslo accord.
The official added that points of agreement between Saddam and 'Arafat are growing and that the two sides call for regaining Arab solidarity and convening an Arab summit in the nearest possible time.
Excerpts from an interview with Nayif Hawatimah,
['Isa] Have you taken notice of the reports prepared by the Central Control Commission regarding the spread of huge corruption within the lobbies of the Palestinian Authority? If your answer is in the affirmative, how would you comment on this?
[Hawatimah] We have in our possession a report prepared by the Central Control Commission, which came in 600 pages; a report prepared by the Ministerial Committee headed by al-Tayyib 'Abd-al- Rahim, which came in 129 pages; and a report prepared by the Legislative Council's Financial Committee, which came in 60 pages. All these reports show that the octopus of corruption is spreading in all areas of the Palestinian Authority and its security and intelligence arms. Furthermore, these reports recommended the resignation of the entire Palestinian cabinet. They acknowledged that $326 million; that is, 43 percent of the 1996 budget, was embezzled; that 35 percent of this budget was spent on security agencies; and that 12.5 percent of the budget went to 'Arafat's office. Some 9.5 percent of the budget; that is, $73 million was left to the entire population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, who total 2.5 million people. With regard to the Palestinian diaspora, they got nothing of this budget.
Before these reports saw the light of day, we urged 'Arafat to heed the appeals of the people and realities in this regard. This was contained in a letter I sent him through 'Abbas Zaki [member of the Fatah Central Committee and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council] in reply to an oral message 'Arafat sent me in April through Zaki. In our appeals in this regard, we clearly underlined the need to deal blows to Mafia gangs and corruption within the lobbies of the Authority's organs.
Now, these reports, all of which were prepared by the Authority itself, recommend the dismissal and trial of five ministers, rebuking two others, and questioning another. They also demand an investigation of why monopolies, chief among which are the Petroleum Corporation, the al-Bahr Company, the Tobacco Company, the Cement Corporation, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, and the Cereals Corporation were placed under the control of brother 'Arafat's office. Likewise, the revenues of 12 basic commodities do not find their way to the Authority's treasury, are not subject to auditing, and are not deemed part of the general budget; not to mention the second budget [the second treasury], whose assets are deposited in four Israeli banks. These assets are in excess of $500 million. These assets, which are fetching 16-23 percent interest, are used for speculation on a par with the shekel.
This is a far cry of the hunger suffered by our people in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. This also shows how the Palestinian Authority is neglecting the Palestinian diaspora, who unleashed the revolution and the PLO. This is a joint far cry appealing for an end to corruption, and for the dismantlement of these institutions, so that there may be room for the launch of new institutions that would be highly efficient, trustworthy, and accountable. Consequently, we demand public trials attended by human rights organizations and representatives of donor nations to curb the spread of corruption that has spared nothing.
['Isa] But some of the ministers whose names were mentioned in the reports said that the charges against them are politically motivated and that they are aimed at dismissing them.
[Hawatimah] I firmly believe that these ministers want to turn their backs on all these reports that implicated them in corruption scandals. I would like to tell you in all honesty that the reports, copies of which are in our possession, are clear. Moreover, several officials affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, including Hanan 'Ashrawi, 'Abd-al-Jawad Salih, and others, commended the accuracy of the reports. However, they affirmed that these reports did not address the activities of the monopolies working under the direct supervision of brother 'Arafat's office. Given all of the above, all files must be opened and referred to court. First of all, all the ministers whose names are mentioned in the reports must be relieved of their posts and sent to court, as happens in all world states. They must undergo transparent trials in the presence of international observers.
['Isa] With regard to 'Arafat, is it possible that he is unaware of this huge corruption?
[Hawatimah] We within the revolution and the PLO, as well as Palestinian laymen, cannot assume that the ruler is good and that it is his entourage that is corrupt. I will address this issue in a book that will see the light of day soon. The ruler is well aware of many things being done by his entourage. Nonetheless, he is not necessarily aware of all the minute details. He knows a lot about what is going on around him. The self-rule authority is coming face-to-face with a huge report. There is huge corruption, and brother Abu-'Ammar is aware of many things in this regard.
Preparing for War
A state of emergency has been instated in the West Bank cities. The Palestinian security services have called a state of alert. Committees for the hour of need have been set up in each city in the West Bank.
Popular committees have been set up in the neighborhoods and the villages in the style of the Intifada. Hundreds of youths have been incorporated into physical fitness courses and rudimentary weapons usage training. There are many waiting in line for new courses to be opened.
First aid and civil defense courses have already been run in schools and clubs. Military training is being conducted in summer camps for youths aged 14 to 16. The Legislative Council raised the idea of a national military service law proposal. A unified headquarters has been set up in East Jerusalem which proliferated flyers and called for a strike and a struggle against Israel like during the Intifada.
"Israel has declared war against us", Arafat repeatedly says. His ministers and commanders keep repeating that same line and the atmosphere of impending war, of preparation for an attack, has spread throughout the Palestinian street.
Marwan Barghouti, secretary general of Fatah in the West Bank: "There exists a fear that Israel will reconquer the West Bank cities. Unlike the situation in 1967, the responsibility for the territory is now completely ours, the Palestinians, and we have to prepare ourselves. We cannot fight against you, but we have the power to defend ourselves. If 1,000 Israeli soldiers enter Ramallah, the same number will not come out".
The Palestinian media grant predominance to the items of the emergency situation and the state of alert. The broadcasters and propagandists regularly use idioms that are reminiscent of a different era: "The Zionist enemy, the Israeli aggressiveness, war, Israel's terror policy, we will push back their tanks with stones and guns and our bodies ..."
The atmosphere of the Intifada has returned to the city streets: masked men, flyers, painted slogans, demonstrations, marches of youths in uniforms holding stones, bottles and weapons made out of plastic or wood, more flags and more street demonstrations. The demonstration in Ramallah on Monday that spilled over into the Arak checkpoint and was blocked by Palestinian policemen, is definitely a red light. One can also observe little trade in the streets and a move towards hoarding food. The Palestinian street has become a lot more extremist than Arafat. The street leadership -- principally the Fatah have taken up their former positions.
Getting Ready to Take on Iran?
The Israelis are very worried about Iran. And the Israelis are the major force in the U.S. pushing Washington to confront Iran. As was the case with Iraq just a few years ago, partly it is a matter of what "excuse" to use and how to mold public opinion to support military action.
Yesterday, an Israeli-connected news agency reported on a Jordanian newspaper story that for the first time linked the recent Jerusalem market bombing to Iran. That report follows below. One important caveat: as for "disinformation" mentioned in the story, the greatest likelihood is that the Israelis are the ones involved in disinformation as they continue to contemplate attacking Iran themselves while attempting to push Washington into a confrontation with Tehran.
The Israeli goal, shared by many in the U.S., is very simple: to destroy Iran's military power and set back its nuclear and missile programs by a decade -- as was the case with Israel's attack against the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.
So just what are the Israelis so worried about?
They are worried that so far the Iranians have not been infiltrated and co-opted -- as has been successfully done with most of the Arab "client-regimes", most especially the Jordanians, the Saudis, and the Egyptians.
They are worried that the Iranians remain a source of inspiration, as well as funds and arms, for other nationalist and Islamic oriented forces in the region.
They are worried that the Iranians continue to supply weapons to the Hizballah and others to counter the U.S. and Israeli military dominance in the region.
They are worried about the talk of, and small steps toward, a joint Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi alliance against Israel; especially troubling should there be revolution in any of the major countries Israel now relies on -- Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan.
And at the top of the list they are worried that within the next few years Iran will develop nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them.
It should be remembered that last year the well-respected Janes Military Review outlined that among the four most likely scenarios for a new Middle East war is a surprise Israeli strike (coordinated with the U.S. of course) against the Iran.
It should be noted, in closing, that there are some analysts who suggest neither the Israelis nor the Americans are really ready for a major confrontation with Iran; and in fact that there is hope to avoid it fearing its possible repercussions throughout the Muslim world. Even so, these analysts suggest, Washington and Tel Aviv hold open the possibility of such a confrontation as a way of "deterring" the Iranians from helping those in the region who are attaching the American presence in the Gulf and the on-going Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.
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