|Israel Resource Review
||24th November, 1998
the Israel Resource
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US Consul Won't Help the Boims:
"We Can't Visit Foreign Jails . . ."
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
An underlying premise of the Wye accords that were signed by the US,
Israel, the Palestine Authority and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at the
White House on October 23 was that the CIA will play a definitive role to
make sure that terrorists are brought to justice.
Yet on the very day that the Wye accords were ratified by the Israeli
government, Joyce and Stanley Boim, American Israelis in Jerusalem, were
more surprised to learn that the Israeli government was asking for the PA
to arrest Amjad Hanawi, who had already been convicted in a PA court in
February, 1998, of murdering their teenage son, David, back in May, 1996.
Amjad had been arrested after the Boims carried out a campaign both in
Israel and the US to get him arrested.
Only after the Boims sued the Israeli government did the Israeli government
make the initial August 1997 request for Hanawi's arrest.
Only after President Clinton made a personal call to Arafat did the PA
finally arrest him in February, 1998.
After I learned from PA sources two months ago that the PA had released
indeed Hanawi, I asked for comment from the press section of the US
consulate. I got none.
After Israeli intelligence finally confirmed that Hanawi had been released,
the US consulate press office still would provide no comment. Neither would
an Israel-based representative of American intelligence.
The US consul had a different answer for the Boims. For the past two
months, the US consul simply told the Boims that the US assumed that Hanawi
was in jail. The consul would not tell the Boims as to whether a US
government official had been to the jail to ascertain that Hanawi was
indeed still in jail.
"We cannot visit foreign jails", the US consul told the Boims.
Then there are Esther and Yehudah Wachsman, whose son, Nachson, was
kidnapped and murdered in 1994, at the order of Muhammad Deif, a Hamas
official from Gaza. Esther is an American citizen, as was her late son,
Nachshon. Esther appealed to the US government to demand that the American
government intervene to demand that Arafat order the arrest of Deif.
When President Bill Clinton came to Israel, in March 1996, he met therefore
met Esther and Yehudah at the grave of Nachshon, which lies only a few feet
away from the tombstone of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It was on
that occasion that Clinton made a solemn promise to the Wachsmans that the
peace process would not continue unless and until Arafat orders the arrest
and hand-over of Muhammad Deif.
In July, 1996, Yehudah Wachsman met with Arafat's Gaza police chief,
together with a translator provided by the Palestine Authority. I was
witness to the meeting. Yehudah asked Arafat's police official if Deif
would be arrested. However, the Palestinian police official informed
him that Arafat had given orders not to apprehend Deif.
A week later, Esther Wachsman flew to Washington, where she met with
Clinton's national security advisor, Anthony Lake, when she informed Lake
of what Yehudah had been told.
Lake said that he would personally intervene with Arafat on this matter.
Arafat's response was to order the arrest and torture of the man who
translated the meeting between Arafat's Gaza police chief and Yehudah
Since that time, Esther Wachsman's letters to Clinton have gone unheeded.
At the Wye plantation plantation press center, I asked US government
spokesman James Rubin if the President of the United States would fulfill
the commitment that he gave to an American citizen, Esther Wachsman, to
demand from Arafat that he arrest Muhammad Deif and place him on trial for
the kidnapping and murder of an American citizen, Nachson Wachsman.
Rubin's answer was that "we cannot deal with issues like that".
At a time when the CIA is supposed to provide assurances that it will deal
with all matters of terror, the question remains: Even In the case of the
murder of two US citizens, has the way that the US intelligence community
has dealt with the murder cases of David Boim and Nachshon Wachsman
any indication as to how the US will continue to relate to Israel's
security concerns ?
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A Comprehensive Report on Civil Liberties
in the Palestine Authority
Deterioration of Human Rights
in the Palestine Authority
by David Ramati
In order to more correctly assess the impact of the Palestinian authority
on human rights it is necessary to go back only one year to July 1997.
During this period between Har Homa (the alleged reason for discontinuing
contact between the Israeli Government and the PA) and until the Wye
Agreement, a massive effort was taken by the PA to silence the liberal and
progressive elements within it's own society, instead of the Hamas and
other Terrorist groups.
On 2 July, the Palestinian Preventative Security Service (PSS) arrested Dr.
Fathi Ahmed Subuh, professor at the Department of Education at al Azhar
University in Gaza, for asking several critical questions on a final exam.
Dr. Subuh was tortured and interrogated. During the three days that he was
submitted to torture he was asked questions about his ties to Israeli and
International Peace Groups.
Dr. Subuh has never been charged with any crime.
That same week Doctor Sabuh was taken from his cell in the Police detention
center and rushed to Shifa Hospital in Gaza. He remained delirious with a
high fever for over 20 hours. Hebcom's human rights investigator, who
managed to visit Doctor Sabuh in the recovery ward, reported that the
doctor had lost over 10 kilograms of weight.
On 10th November, 1997, due to massive international pressure, Dr.
Sabuh's jailers offered him a deal; his freedom in return for his silence
about what had been done to him in detention. His reply was that he would
not give up his right to free speech, even in return for his freedom.
On 2nd November 1997 the lawyer of the Human Rights Action Project of Birzeit
University submitted a petition to the Palestinian High Court in Ramallah
on behalf of three Birzeit University students who had been detained by the
Palestinian Authority without charge to trial for seven consecutive weeks
at the Ramallah Central Prison.
The petition called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to declare the legal
basis of the detentions or to release the students immediately.
Basic standards of law guarantee to each prisoner the right to be informed
of the reason for arrest, the right to be brought before a person
authorized to exercise judicial power within three or four days of arrest,
and the right to meet regularly and without supervision with his or her
The students were:
Ayman Muhammad Abu Zeid, from the town of Bitunya, a second year science
student at Birzeit University. Ayman was arrested from his home on 10th
September 1997 and is being held in the General Security section of the
Ramallah Central Prison. He has not been informed of the reason for his
arrest, nor the length of his detention.
Jamal Sa'dat Jarboua'h, from the town of Bitunya, a graduate student of
Arabic language and is currently working on his teaching certificate at
Birzeit University. Jamal was arrested from his home on 8th September 1997
and is being held in the General Security section of the Ramallah Central
Prison. He has not been informed of the reason for his arrest, nor the
length of his detention. Jamal's health during his detention is a serious
concern, as he suffers from severe allergies which result in debilitating
headaches and ear infections which require regular injections and
prescription medicine. Although Jamal has been taken to the hospital three
times while in detention, his health continues to deteriorate.
Musa Muhammad Al-Khaldi, from the town of Bitunya, is a masters student in
Education at Birzeit University. Musa was arrested on 8th September 1997
after complying with a request to present himself to the PNA headquarters
in Ramallah. He is being held in the General Security section of the
Ramallah Central Prison and has not been informed of the reason for his
arrest or the length of his detention. Musa recently received a
scholarship to continue his studies in Germany, which is now at risk if he
is not able to complete his masters thesis.
On 11th December 1997, Mahmoud Musleh was arrested without charge or arrest
warrant along with 76 other suspected Islamic activists. LAW took his case
as a test case against illegal arrest for the other 76 detainees. LAW
filed a suit against his detention without charge at the Palestinian High
Court. An order for his release was issued by the High Court on 30th
However, 11 days later, the PNA executive still refuses to set him free.
Musleh had been detained since 4th September 1997.
The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRM), headed by Mr. Bassam
Eid, is probably the most respected Palestinian Human Rights group in the
Middle East today. Its' unflinching dedication to human rights has many
times brought this group into conflict with members of the Palestinian
Authority who use questionable methods during the detention and
interrogation of suspects.
Members of this monitoring group, including Mr. Eid himself, have been
detained without warrant as a result of their activities.
Hebcom remembers Mr. Eid as a field worker for B'Tselem, the Israeli Human
Rights Monitoring Group, who fought tirelessly for both Palestinian and
Jewish Administrative detainees during the last several years. Mr. Eid
left B'Tselem in order to form the PHRM, a Palestinian group that strives
to make positive changes in the PNA by working within the Authorties' borders.
PHRM held a press conference last Wednesday, 17 December, in which charges
were leveled against the PNA for neglecting to report any deaths which
occurred in their detention facilities in Gaza during the last three years.
According to PHRM, there were 18 deaths in the Gaza detention centers since
July 1994, when Gaza came under the jurisdiction of the PNA. Although the
PNA had agreed to investigate these allegations, to date no report has been
In Nablus, a city completely under PA control, Mr. Muhammad Jumayal was
tortured to death sometime during July 1996. PHRM notes that although
murder charges were made against three low ranking security guards, the
identity of the superior officers who ordered the interrogation remains
Bassam Eid called on President Arafat to launch a "clean up" of the PA
security forces, prison system, and prosecuting attorney's offices.
During January 1998, Hebcom received preliminary notification of a
Palestinian American citizen who is being held in administrative detention
by the PA Police and Security apparatus in Ramalla detention center.
Mr. Abu Hakim was reportedly arrested about six months before on suspicion
of attempting to handle land and property transactions between Jews and
Palestinians, an offense for which many members of the PA are proposing the
Abu Hakim is the father of two, and holds U.S. Citizenship. Although the
Jerusalem American Consulate has been informed of the matter, according to
the best information available, Mr. Hakim is still incarcerated.
He has not been charged and no trial date has been set. Mr. Hakim's full
name is : Abdel Mugnik Abu Hakim.
He was the former Muktar or Beit Batillo, Ramalla,
His wife and children are American Citizens living in the USA.
He has family in Ramalla.
On 13th April 1998, the Palestinian police refused yesterday, to allow the
Palestine Center for Human Rights' (PCHR) lawyer to visit his client, Dr.
Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, who had been detained in Gaza since 9th April, 1998.
Dr. Abdel Aziz Ali al-Rantissi, 51 years old, from Khan Younis, is a
medical doctor, a lecturer at the Islamic University in Gaza, and one of
the most prominent Islamic figures in Palestine. He was released from
Israeli jails in 1997 after more than four years of detention. Prior to
that detention, he was one of more than 400 Palestinians deported to
Southern Lebanon by Israel in December 1992. Dr. Ibrahim al-Maqadma, 46
years old, from el-Bureij, is a medical doctor at al-Nassr hospital in Gaza
and a prominent figure in the Islamic movement in Palestine. The
detentions of Dr. al-Rantissi and Dr. al-Maqadma come as part of a campaign
of arrests carried out by Palestinian security forces against tens of
citizens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
These arrests specifically targeted prominent Islamic figures, among them
Abdullah al-Shammi who was released yesterday, April 12, after five days of
detention. This arrest campaign coincides with other measures taken by
Palestinian security forces following the March 29 assassination in
Ramallah of Muhyideen al-Sharif, a leading member of Kata'ib al-Qassam (the
military arm of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas).
Palestinian security officials announced that their investigation revealed
that al-Sharif was assassinated by other members of Kata'ib al-Qassam as
part of an internal power struggle.
Hamas and its leaders rejected the results of the investigation by the;
Palestinian Authority and announced that they would carry out their own
investigation to unveil the facts surrounding the assassination of
al-Sharif. It seems that Dr. al-Rantissi had been arrested in connection
with his statements rejecting the Palestinian Authority's account of the
Among the other measures carried out in the wake of al-Sharif's
assassination, Palestinian police closed the Gaza office of Reuters News
Agency on 9th April, 1998.
This illegal closure took place after the Jerusalem office of Reuters
distributed a videotape in which Adel Awadallah, another leading member of
Kata'ib al-Qassam, rejected accusations by the Palestinian Authority that
he assassinated his colleague, al-Sharif. The Palestinian police also
forced the senior correspondent of Reuters, Taher Shrateh, and four
colleagues, to sign a pledge that they will not deal with the news agency
for three months.
The United States Department of State has documented P.A. human rights
violations in their report which was released by the Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights and Labor. In this report they state that the PA does not
have a uniform law on administrative detention, and security officials do
not always adhere to the existing laws in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Laws applicable in Gaza, which are not observed in the West Bank, stipulate
that detainees held without charge be released within 48 hours. These laws
allow the Attorney General to extend the detention period to a maximum of
90 days during investigations.
Human rights organizations and the PA Ministry of Justice assert that PA
security officials do not always adhere to this regulation. Prevailing law
in the West Bank allows a suspect to be detained for 24 hours before being
charged. The Attorney General can extend the detention period.
PA authorities generally permit prisoners to receive visits from family
members, attorneys, and human rights monitors, except for prisoners held
for alleged security offenses. PA security officials are not always aware
that lawyers have a right to see their clients. In principle detainees may
notify their families of their arrest, but this is not always permitted.
PA security services have overlapping or unclear mandates that often
complicate the protection of human rights. Under existing law in the West
Bank, only the PA's civil police force is authorized to make arrests. In
practice, all security forces are known to detain people at various times.
The operating procedures and regulations for conduct of PA security
personnel in the various services are not well developed and have not yet
been made fully available to the public.
There are many detention facilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
administered by the overlapping PA security services, a situation that
complicates the ability of families, lawyers, and even the Ministry of
Justice to track detainees' whereabouts. Security services including
Preventive Security, General Intelligence, military intelligence, and the
coast guard have their own interrogation and detention facilities.
In general these services do not, or only sporadically, inform families of
a relative's arrest. Most PA security officers remain ignorant of proper
arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures, as well as basic human
rights standards. Human rights groups continue to provide basic human
rights training to PA security services. During 1997, human rights groups
provided training to representatives of all the PA security services,
including the PA military intelligence service. In 1997 more than 60 PA
security officials participated in human rights courses, bringing the total
number of security officials who have graduated from human rights courses
to almost 700, according to human rights groups.
PA security forces continued to arrest arbitrarily and detain journalists,
professors, political activists, and human rights advocates, who criticized
the PA, including journalist Daoud Kuttab and university professor Fathi
PA security services in Gaza and the West Bank arrested dozens of
Palestinians in the wake of the three 1997 suicide bombing attacks, a more
targeted campaign than in past years. The majority of arrests were
conducted without warrants; most of those arrested in these campaigns
remain in detention without being charged.
Human rights organizations estimate that the PA has held approximately 120
people for more than a year without charge, and the total number of
Palestinians in PA jails reached 725 by November.
The PA inherited a court system based on structures and legal codes
predating the 1967 Israeli occupation. The Gaza legal code derives from
British Mandate law, Egyptian law, and PA directives and laws. Pre-1967
Jordanian law applies in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank. Bodies of
law in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have been substantially modified by
Israeli military orders.
According to the DOP and the Interim Agreement, Israeli military decrees
issued during the occupation theoretically remain valid in both areas and
are subject to review pursuant to specific procedure. The PA states that
it is undertaking efforts to unify the Gaza and West Bank legal codes, but
in 3 years little progress has been made.
The court system in general is recovering from years of neglect; many of
the problems predate PA jurisdiction. Judges and staff are underpaid and
overworked and suffer from lack of skills and training; court procedures
and record-keeping are archaic and chaotic; and the delivery of justice is
often slow and uneven. The ability of the courts to enforce decisions is
extremely weak, and there is administrative confusion in the appeals process.
The PA Ministry of Justice appoints all civil judges for 10-year terms.
The Attorney General, an appointed official, reports to the Minister of
Justice and supervises judicial operations in both the Gaza Strip and West
In 1995 the PA established state security courts in Gaza and the West Bank
to try cases involving security issues. Three military judges preside over
each court. A senior police official heads the state Security court in
Jericho and three judges preside over it. There is no right of appeal, but
verdicts may be either ratified or repealed by the PA Chairman, Yasir
Arafat. The PA Ministry of Justice has no jurisdiction over the state
security courts, which appear to be subordinate only to the Chairman of the
In 1997, PA security courts sentenced 14 defendants: 3 received death
sentences, bringing the total number of Palestinians sentenced to death to
The PA usually ignores the legal limits on the length of pre-arraignment
detention of detainees suspected of security offenses.
Defendants are often brought to court without knowledge of the charges
against them or sufficient time to prepare a defense.
Defendants are typically represented by court-appointed lawyers. Court
sessions often take place on short notice in the middle of the night and
without lawyers present; all violations of defendants' right to due
process. In some instances, security courts try cases, issue verdicts, and
impose sentences in a single session lasting several hours.
Palestinian Attorney General Fayez Abu Rahme acknowledged that at least 100
political prisoners are being held by the PA.
PA authorities arrested approximately 200 people on suspicion of
involvement in terrorist activity.
PA security forces subjected some of the detainees to torture and repeated
Although the PA claims to respect its citizens' right to express themselves
freely, the PA limited freedom of speech and the press. The PA continued
to harass, detain, and abuse journalists.
PA harassment has lead many Palestinian commentators, reporters, and
critics to practice self-censorship.
Fathi Ahmed Subuh, a prominent university professor, and Daoud Kuttab, a
well-known journalist who criticized the PA, were both imprisoned without
charge during the year and Sobah was tortured. PA prison conditions are
very poor. PA security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain persons.
Prolonged detention and lack of due process are problems. The courts are
inefficient, lack staff and resources, and do not ensure fair and
expeditious trials. PA security forces infringed on the right to privacy,
and there were reports that the PA placed some limits on the freedom of
Discrimination against women and the disabled is a problem.
During 1997, two Palestinians died in PA custody, after being tortured.
In 1996 two Palestinians who died in PA custody also were tortured. In
the most egregious case, Yusif Baba, who was being held without charge in
Nablus, died on January 31 after being tortured by PA Military Intelligence
officials. Baba's autopsy showed contusions from repeated blows to the
head, rope burns around his head and feet, cigarette burns on the right
shoulder, and burns caused by an electrical instrument on many parts of his
body. The PA admitted that Baba had been tortured to death, but never
charged any of the security officials involved with a crime.
On June 30, 28-year-old Nasser Abed Radwan from the Gaza Strip was killed
in detention while being held without charge by PA Presidential Security
(Force 17). Force 17 authorities told Radwan's family that he banged his
head on the wall, but a PA autopsy concluded that Radwan had been tortured
to death. A PA military court sentenced three of the Force 17 bodyguards
involved to death and three others to prison terms ranging from 6 months to
The wife of Hakim Qamhawi, who died in PA custody in June, told the press
that his body showed signs of torture
In April five undercover members of the Palestinian Intelligence Service
shot and killed a Palestinian woman outside of Ramallah when the vehicle
she was riding in failed to heed the agents' signal to stop. In a
subsequent trial, a PA court convicted the five security officials involved
of causing a death through negligence.
The intelligence official who fired the shot that killed the women was
sentenced to 5 years in prison, the commander of the unit was sentenced to
a 1-year prison term for failing to maintain discipline among his unit, the
three other men in the unit were sentenced to 2 months each for failing to
prevent a crime.
On May 5, PA Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein announced that the death
penalty would be imposed on anyone convicted of ceding "one inch" to Israel.
Later that month, two Arab land dealers were killed. Farih Bashiti, a real
estate dealer from Jerusalem who was accused of selling land to Jews, was
found dead in Ramallah. Two persons were arrested in the case.
In another incident, Harbi Abu Sara was shot and killed in Ramallah 8 days
after Bashiti's body was found. PA officials deny any involvement in the
killings. The PA has arrested and continues to hold several suspected land
dealers for violating the Jordanian law (in force in the West Bank), which
prohibits the sale of land to foreigners. (Jews)
On November 20, an unidentified gunman shot two Jewish religious students
in Jerusalem, killing one, and seriously wounding the other. The Israeli
investigation into the case is ongoing, but no suspects have been arrested
at year's end.
A security court sentenced the principal killers of two Israeli settlers,
Etta Tsur and her 12-year-old son Ephraim, (killed on 11th December, 1996) to
25 years' imprisonment and an accomplice to 15 years' imprisonment.
The court convicted Palestinian Preventive Security officer Moussa Mustafa
of abducting a suspected Arab informer for Israel from Jerusalem, torturing
him, and holding him for 5 months.
PA security officials abuse prisoners by hooding, beating, tying in painful
positions, sleep and food deprivation, threats, and burning detainees with
cigarettes and hot instruments. International human rights monitoring
groups have documented widespread arbitrary and abusive conduct by the PA.
Gaza University professor Fathi Ahmed Subuh reported that he was subjected
to torture by sleep deprivation, being forced to stand for long periods,
and being shackled.
During the year, seven Palestinians died in PA custody, two after being
In 1996 two of the four Palestinians who died in PA custody also were
tortured. In December the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group
(PHRMG) reported that the PA has not sufficiently investigated deaths in
custody. The PHRMG added that the PA has tried to cover up incidents by
claiming that several deaths were the result of heart attacks or suicides.
In mid-June Hakam Qamhawi died while in PA General Intelligence custody in
Jericho. PA officials said that Qamhawi committed suicide and died on the
way to the hospital, but his wife told the press that his body showed signs
of torture. A PA forensic expert stated that Qamhawi died of a heart
attack. No official autopsy was conducted.
In January Fayez Qamsieh died while in the custody of PA Military
Intelligence in Bethlehem. The PA claimed that Qamsieh, who had a history
of heart trouble, died of a heart attack. Doctors observing the autopsy on
behalf of Qamsieh's relatives agreed that he died of a heart attack, but
bruises on his body suggest that mistreatment may have triggered his death.
There were complaints that Qamsieh had not received prompt medical
attention. The PA said that it would investigate this charge, but has
never published the results of its investigation.
Sami Abed Rabbo, held in Saraya prison in Gaza without charge, died on July
4, also under the custody of PA General Intelligence. Family members were
told he died of a heart attack. Despite demands from human rights groups
for an official autopsy, there has been no official response. The PHRMG
stated that his death does not appear to be the result of torture or denial
of medical treatment, his lengthy illegal detention may have contributed to
his illness (liver disease and mental illness).
On October 14, Ibrahim Al-Sheikh died of a heart attack while serving a
prison sentence in Nablus for involvement in a murder.
On November 9, Nafea Mardawi died in a Nablus prison also of an apparent
heart attack. He was serving a sentence for selling land illegally to
Israelis. Human rights groups concur that both men had preexisting medical
conditions that support the PA's assertion that they died of heart attacks.
However, concerns linger that the prisoners were not provided the most
prompt or thorough preventive medical care.
At around 12:00 p.m. on 28th April 1998, a student from Al-Azhar University was
playing with his gun in a cafeteria near the university when suddenly a
bullet was fired, resulting in the injury of Kamilia
Al-Mughayar, a student who was walking on the opposite side of the street.
Al-Mughayar was shot in the right side of her body and immediately
transferred to Al-Shifa Hospital, where she received treatment. In
addition to being a student in the Law School at al-Azhar, the perpetrator
works with the Palestinian General Intelligence. He is currently being
detained by the Palestinian police.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights expressed its deep concern about
this bloody incident as well as the general lack of caution in the
handling of weapons and lack of concern for the safety of civilians.
Despite declarations by the Palestinian police that they have initiated
a campaign to collect weapons from civilians and that they promote the
protection of civilian lives, weapons remain widespread in Gaza.
Several times this dangerous situation has raised the concern and drawn the
attention of the PCHR. Now it has reached the point that university
students carry weapons, endangering the lives of other students and
violating respect for the campus and its surroundings.
Journalists Under Attack by Palestinian
On 5 May, two armed agents of the Palestinian General Intelligence
raided the Jerusalem Media Office and arrested its owner, photographer and
reporter Abbas al Moumani. He was taken to the detention center in
Ramallah. It is not known why he was arrested.
Eyewitnesses reported that the two officials had arrived to the office
at 8:00 in the morning, and on the arrival of Mr. Moumani, asked him to go
for a five-minute talk. Mr. Moumani has been detained since that time, and
has not been allowed visits from his family and has been denied legal
Mr. Moumani works for Reuters news agency, and was interrogated
previously in relation to a video of LAW's client Imad Awadalla, the
man accused of killing the Hamas military leader Muhiyyadin Sharif.
The Palestinian General Intelligence has raided this office on more
than one occasion, examining telephone records and questioning staff.
This incident, along with the closure of the Reuters office in Gaza in
April and other attempts to control the reporting of this assassination,
seriously undermines the independence of the media and curtails the freedom
of expression. The fact that Mr. Moumani has been denied family visits and
legal representation is a cause for alarm. LAW called on the General
Intelligence to release Mr. Moumani immediately, and to desist from
interfering in his work.
The PA's Treatment of Christians
In several editions this year, the Middle East Digest has highlighted the
plight of Christian Arabs living under Yasser Arafat's Palestinian
Authority. In mid-October, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office released the
findings of its investigation into claims that PA police were
systematically harassing and persecuting Christians.
The Takeover of Bethlehem
On taking control over Bethlehem in December 1995, the Palestinian
Authority changed the rules for Christians. The Church of the Nativity and
other sites of central importance to Christianity came under Palestinian
Authority control, giving Yasser Arafat leverage over the heads of the
Since then, the local Christian leadership has toed the line of the
The Latin patriarch, Greek archbishop, Anglican bishop and Lutheran bishop
are all Palestinian Arabs. They have become effective propaganda
mouthpieces throughout the Christian world.
An example of Arafat's attitude toward the Christians was his decision to
unilaterally turn the Greek Orthodox monastery near the Church of the
Nativity in Bethlehem into his domicile during his periodic visits to the
city. This was done without prior consent of the church.
Treatment of Christians by the PA
On the social and religious level, the Christians remaining in Palestinian
Authority-controlled areas are subjected to relentless persecution.
Christian cemeteries have been destroyed, monasteries have had their
telephone lines cut, and there have been break-ins at convents. Nuns are
afraid to report such incidents.
In August 1997, Palestinian policemen in Beit Sahour [near Bethlehem]
opened fire on a crowd of Christian Arabs, wounding six.
The Palestinian Authority is attempting to cover up the incident and has
warned against publicizing the story.
The local commander of the Palestinian police instructed journalists not to
report on the incident.
Palestinian security forces have targeted and intimidated Christian leaders
and Palestinian converts to Christianity.
Recent incidents of persecution include the following:
In late June 1997, a Palestinian convert to Christianity in the northern
West Bank was arrested by agents of the Palestinian Authority's Preventive
He had been regularly attending church and prayer meetings and was
distributing Bibles. The Palestinian Authority ordered his arrest. He is
still being held in a Palestinian prison and has been subjected to physical
torture and interrogations.
The pastor of a church in Ram'Allah was recently warned by Palestinian
Authority security agents that they were monitoring his evangelistic
activities in the area and wanted him to come in for questioning for
A Palestinian convert to Christianity living in a village near Nablus was
recently arrested by Palestinian police. A Muslim preacher was brought in
by the police, and he attempted to convince the convert to return to Islam.
When the convert refused, he was brought before a Palestinian court and
sentenced to prison for insulting the religious leader. He is now sharing a
prison cell with more than 30 people, most serving life sentences for murder.
A Palestinian convert to Christianity in Ram'Allah was recently visited by
Palestinian policemen at his home and warned that if he continued to preach
Christianity, he would be arrested and charged with being an Israeli spy.
As a result of unceasing persecution, the Christians are forced to behave
like any oppressed minority which aims to survive. Christians in
PA-controlled areas have taken to praying in secret. The wisdom of survival
compels them to assess the "balance of fear", according to which they have
nothing to fear from Israel but face an existential threat from the
Palestinian Authority and their Muslim neighbors.
They act accordingly: they seek to "find favor" through unending praise and
adulation for the Muslim ruler together with public denunciations of the
Emigration of Christians from PA territory
In the last census conducted by the British mandatory authorities in 1947,
there were 28,000 Christians in Jerusalem. The census conducted by Israel
in 1967 [after the Six-Day War ended a 19-year Jordanian occupation of the
eastern part of the city, uniting Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty]
showed just 11,000 Christians remaining in the city.
This means that some 17,000 Christians (or 61 per cent) left during the
days of King Hussein's rule over Jerusalem. Their place was filled by
Muslim Arabs from Hebron.
During the British mandate period, Bethlehem had a Christian majority of 80
per cent. Today, under Palestinian rule, it has a Muslim majority of 80 per
Few Christians remain in the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank.
Those who can emigrate, do so, and there will soon be virtually no
Christians in the PA-controlled areas. The PA is trying to conceal the fact
of massive Christian emigration from areas under its control.
Christians Under Threat
"'Palestine' is an Islamic state", top Arafat advisor tells pastors concerned
about Christian persecution under PA.
In recent issues, the Digest has reported on the Palestinian Authority's
oppression of Arab Christians in the self-rule areas.
Despite noteworthy efforts to end this official campaign of persecution,
the PA is unrelenting, particularly in its targeting of Christian converts
from Islamic backgrounds.
Arab Christian Mohammed Bak'r is entering his sixth month in a PA prison
for openly proclaiming his faith. Numerous inquiries have been made to PA
officials concerning his case, but no trial date has been set or evidence
produced against him.
The Foreign Minister of Norway, Knut Vollebaek, reportedly raised the
issue of Bak'r directly with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in a private
meeting, but to no avail. Afterwards, Arafat abruptly ended their joint
press conference when a Norwegian journalist asked him a question about
Threats against another Muslim convert to Christianity proved all too real
in November as a radical Islamist drove into his village near Nablus and,
according to several eyewitness accounts, intentionally swerved onto the
sidewalk to hit his eight-year-old daughter.
Although she suffered a fractured hip and a severe head injury, she has had
a miraculously quick recovery. Her father first learned of her fate through
an anonymous caller claiming that the "down payment" for his conversion had
been made--with more "payments" to follow. Although numerous villagers
confirmed the driver's identity to Palestinian police, they have refused to
These and other cases were highlighted in a special broadcast on a Dutch
Christian television station in early December, which included a live
interview with PA Minister for Education Hanan Ashrawi, a Greek Orthodox
Christian. After denying such reports as Israeli propaganda early in the
show, Ashrawi had to retract after viewing footage of disguised Christians
from Bethlehem and Nablus tell of the persecution they have suffered since
they came under PA rule.
The show's host, Joppe Meijers, told the Digest he also had located
eyewitnesses to the PA's shooting of six Christian Arabs near Bethlehem in
August, but none were willing to discuss the incident on his program, even
A leading PA advisor to Arafat and member of the Palestinian Legislative
Council recently told area pastors their evangelical activities among
Muslims were considered subversive and a threat to the PA. He is familiar
with the Bak'r case and maintained that the PA is an Islamic state which
has adopted Islamic sha'ria law, making democratic considerations secondary.
"Our religion comes first," he insisted, adding that the PA doubts any
donor nation would cut off funds based on religious grounds.
In an opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post concerning the unexplained deaths
of at least 18 prisoners in PA custody, Palestinian human rights activist
Bassam Eid lamented that "the PA is not serious about solving its human
rights problem" and often uses "blackmail" against aggrieved families (Dec 17).
Charles Kopp, who has pastored in Israel for several decades, expressed the
sentiments of many local Christian organizations when he said he was
saddened to see the PA's lack of respect for democracy, human rights and
religious liberties. Even veteran ministers who went through the intifada
are wondering how long they can continue their outreach in PA areas under
the current oppressive conditions. And one source suggested we may have
uncovered only the tip of the iceberg, as rumors abound of slain and
missing Christian Arabs in and near Nablus in recent months.
Respected British paper reports on converts' plight : "Yasser Arafat's
Palestinian Authority is waging a campaign of intimidation and harassment
to push Muslims who have converted to Christianity to renounce their new
faith," the London Sunday Telegraph reported on December 21.
According to reporter Aliza Marcus, a number of Arab converts told her they
had been threatened, beaten, and some jailed by PA officials.
One recounted how Palestinian police had warned him he had "better become a
Muslim again". When he refused, he said, he was accused of spying for
Israel and eventually had to flee for his life. Another, who became a
Christian six years ago, alleged he had been detained twice this year, had
his shop burnt down and Islamic slogans painted on his car.
Since taking control of areas in Judea, Samaria and Gaza under the Oslo
Accords, said the Sunday Telegraph, the Arafat authority had been accused
of "torturing detainees, jailing people for years without charge and
holding midnight trials in which defendants are sentenced in a matter of
hours". The situation had been described as "deplorable" by the New
York-based Human Rights Watch.
The newspaper incorrectly stated that the PA "does not have any laws making
it illegal to convert". In fact, as reported in the Digest (Oct 1997), PA
Justice Minister Fayez Abu Rahmeh confirmed to the Jerusalem Report (Sept
4) that, based on a law from the British Mandate period, missionising aimed
at Muslims "will be considered a crime".
Around 106 converts are living largely secretive lives among the 1,5
million Muslim Palestinians in Judea-Samaria, Marcus estimated.
"Palestinians suggest that converts are being harassed because Islam
demands death for ex-Muslims who do not renounce their new faith. Converts
may also face problems because generally they are members of evangelical
churches which opposed an independent Palestinian state.
Evangelical Christians read the Bible literally and say that God gave this
stretch of land to the Jews: "It appears that Palestinian officials are
both accusing converts of disloyalty and using laws--such as accusing
converts of stealing or selling land to Jews--as a way to put a legal face
on the harassment," Marcus wrote. "One convert, a 34-year-old father of
six, has been in prison four times this year because police say they
suspect him of stealing. He has never been charged. Another has been held
for five months, allegedly for selling land to Jews. But his seven children
and wife live in two cramped rooms in a poverty-stricken village in the
West Bank. His relatives say he never had any land."
Christian Embassy Assails PA Torture of Arab Christians
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem ("Embassy") today expressed
urgent concern over the Palestinian Authority's brutal torture and
persecution of Palestinian Arab Christians, and urged government and church
leaders worldwide to condemn and sanction the PA for such behavior.
Embassy officials stated: "We understand that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian
police have been holding on false charges Muhammed Bak'r since June 30 in
deplorable conditions, first at the Qalqilya interrogation center and now
at the Nablus prison. Bak'r has been repeatedly tortured, including
beatings on his back and being hung from the ceiling by his hands, in an
attempt to force a totally unwarranted confession from him of either
"collaboration" with Israel or selling land to Jews.
Bak'r, who comes from the village of Kiri (which is still within Israel's
security jurisdiction under the Oslo agreements), is an ex-Muslim who
converted to Christianity six years ago. The consensus among those in his
village is that Bak'r is actually being tortured for proclaiming his faith,
and that he is a victim of Arafat and the PA's religious campaign against
"Bak'r is the latest victim in the PA's officially-sanctioned campaign to
persecute ex-Muslims who have converted to the Christian faith in hopes of
deterring other such conversions. According to Islamic law, converting to
another religion is a crime punishable by death. The PA has been utilizing
brutal and repressive means to impose such cruel, antiquated pronouncements
upon all of the Palestinian Arab population, even those not within its
"Other ex-Muslim converts to Christianity have been routinely subjected to
detentions, beatings, interrogations and threats, including Shak'r Saleh,
who was held and tortured in a Jericho prison by Palestinian Security
Services two years ago, before being released after the intervention of
former US President Jimmy Carter, and others, on his behalf.
"We demand the immediate release of Muhammad Bak'r and guarantees of safety
for him and his family. Further, we urge government and church leaders
worldwide to condemn Arafat and his Palestinian Authority for this
deplorable campaign of abuse against religious freedom and human rights. To
avoid their own complicity with the PA's actions, the Western donor nations
should sanction the PA by withholding funding, and conduct an immediate
investigation into this and other violations of human rights in the PA.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are sending out this urgent communique on behalf of our brother Muhammad
Bak'r who is an ex-Moslem who accepted Jesus as Lord approximately six
years ago. He was arrested by the Palestinian Secret Police on Monday, June
His detention is illegal as his village, Kiri, is under Israeli
jurisdiction. Since his conversion, Muhammed has been faithfully giving out
Bibles and boldly declaring the Gospel. He has befriended many brothers
and sisters from around the world who come to Israel to visit, and has
shared with them how God has saved him, and given him love for all mankind.
He faithfully attends church, Bible study and prayer meetings.
According to Islam, converting to another religion is a crime punishable by
death. Because of this, he has been accused by the Palestinian Authority on
trumped up charges of being a spy for Israel and selling land to Jews.
(This has been declared a crime punishable by death by the Palestinian
Minister of Justice) The charges are totally false, as he lives with his
wife and 9 children in 2 small rooms. He lives from hand to mouth as a
construction laborer. We've heard from reliable sources that he is being
tortured, and starved.
The Palestinians have a new saying now, which goes something like this,
"If you want to know what hell is like, visit a Palestinian prison when
prisoners are being tortured. Only God can help you once you're in there".
We are asking primarily for prayer for Muhammed for his immediate release
(as per Acts 12:5).
During the days immediately preceding the Wye agreement, an almost total
silence fell on the few human rights activists still maintaining some sort
of presence in the PA.
The silence regarding the issues of human rights does not mean that the
abuses have stopped on the contrary, it only means that the Palestinian
Authority Police State has finally succeeded in muzzling it's opposition.
Most of the "wanted criminals" which are to be jailed under the agreement
are equally dangerous to the PA as to the Israelis. The few PLO loyalists
on the lists will not spend any significant time behind bars. The
revolving door policy is still in force for these men. The PA believes it
can barter information on Iraq and other terrorist states to the CIA in
return for a "closed eye" policy regarding the incarceration and release of
their loyal soldiers.
Summary executions are still taking place on the streets. Last month
Hebcom received a report of an execution in Bethlehem in which a PA
policeman shot and killed a man during an argument. There were no arrests
and his family is to frightened to go public.
The Christians in Bethlehem are afraid to place crosses on their houses,
which they had wished to display in honor of the second millenium. They
have had their houses stoned, and their children beaten as another "first
installment" for not showing proper respect for the Prophet and his Koran.
Their tormentors continue to work unmolested by the PA police.
This silence is the silence of fear mixed with apathy. The Palestinian
human rights activists have received no aid from the U.S. and Israel. The
world community has abandoned them, and as they approach the creation of
their "state", many view this change with outright fear. The Palestinians
continue to be the major looser in the Middle East.
The Palestinians are creating their own inferno and on their borders is
emblazoned the warning: "abandon all hope ye whom enter here."
Return to Contents
Inside the PA Media: 19th November, 1998
An announcement of the Shabiba Movement of the Fatah, which calls for the
voting for its list of students in the elections of the Open University of
Jerusalem in Gaza. In the announcement appears the logo of the movement,
including the map of entire Israel represented as "Palestine" and above it
appears a rifle.
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
An announcement of the Jenin Region Fatah. The announcement calls on the
public to come and participate in the festival marking the 10th anniversary
of the declaration of independence under the auspices of Yasser Arafat,
president of the state of Palestine. In the announcement appears the logo
of the movement, including the map of entire Israel represented as
"Palestine", and in the background are two hands holding guns. Above it is
written: 'Return, Jerusalem, the independence [they] are your keys to a
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
An announcement signed by the Palestinian Police Commandant, General Razi
Jibali, which gives detail on the order for the collection of unlicensed
arms in the Palestinian Authority areas.
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
Jibali: The Collection of Unlicensed Weapons will Commence on the
6th of Next Month and will Include all the State Forces.
General Razi Jibali announced yesterday the determination of the
Palestinian security staff and forces to carry out the wide campaign in all
counties of the homeland in order to collect all illegal and unlicensed
weapons, starting from the 6th of next month, this in order to implement
Law no. 2 which pertains to weapons, published by the Legislative Council.
From another viewpoint, Minister of Communications and Post, Imad
Al-Faluji, emphasized that the National Authority sees positively the
requests coming from the Hamas leaders to give licenses for weapons, while
pointing out that the police granted weapons to Sheikh Ahmad Yassin's
escorts in order to protect him.
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
An Arab, wearing a Khafiyeh, standing and smiling and showing only 3 teeth.
Next to him stands Uncle Sam smiling a satanic smile. His teeth appear as
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
[The Department of] Education of Kalkiliya Organized a Party to
Mark the Israa and the Mieraj. [Muhammad ascent to heaven]
The Governer of Kalkiliya spoke about the importance of the declaration of
[Palestinian] independence and the confirmation of the dream and the right
of the Palestinian people, realized by the establishment of a Palestinian
state with its capital Jerusalem, while mentioning the Martyrs, recounting
their merits and committing to them to continue the struggle in order to
realize all the goals of the Palestinian people.
In Gaza, the Women's Activities Committee of the Directorate for Public
Activity Guidance held a religious speech to mark the Israa and the Mieraj
and to mark the anniversary of the independence. The speaker was Colonel
Saliman Abu Hemda, Vice Assistance to the Mufti and for Religious Guidance
in the Gaza Strip at a women's convention at the Headquarters of the Public
Activity in Gaza. He stressed the role of Alaksa Mosque and of the blessed
city of Jerusalem in the heavenly ascent of the messenger, and it's
importance and the certainty of its return to the Muslims.
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
Letter from the Directorate for Political and National Guidance
The racial policy adopted by the Netanyahu government continues,
especially on the level of refraining from carrying out signed agreements,
and the delay and procrastination and time gaining, in order to swallow
many Palestinian lands and to requisition them and to establish on them
Ten years have passed, during which our people and leaders have experienced
the most terrible wars, while fighting on all fronts to take their rights
from the oppressive occupation. The war of weapons is one of the most
terrible wars that our people have experienced during our huge Palestinian
revolution against the arrogant enemy who adopts delay and procrastination
and the reversing of the facts. Despite all this, our people still adheres
to its rights, and stands firm against the unjust and extreme stubbornness
of the government of occupation under the leadership of Netanyahu.
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
"Israel" wants full security at a rate of 100%, but in return for a 10th
of that amount of land area.
The Samaritan Community: We did not request to stay under Israeli
The Samaritan Community in Nablus denied the Israeli claims regarding their
request to remain under Israeli rule and not to transfer to Palestinian
rule some part of the in which the community lives.
It should be noted that the Samaritan community, who believes in the
original Jewish Bible, resists the Israeli attempts to join her together
with the Zionist project in Palestine. The Samaritans, who comprise the
smallest religious community in the world, say that the real Judaism
opposes the Israeli Zionism. Likewise, they consider themselves original
Palestine residents since the ancient eras.
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 19/11/98]
Palestinian Television Broadcast Report - Nov. 19, 1998
1. Announcement from Razi Jibali, Chief of Palestinian Police, on the new
law prohibiting illegal weapons - a prohibition on holding, importing,
manufacturing and of the forging of serial marks on weapons.
[After the Israeli gov't announced it would not withdraw the 2% if the PA
did not issue an order prohibiting incitement the following statement was
2. Daily TV News
The Palestinian Authority published a presidential order prohibiting all
types of incitement to violence and racial discrimination or the committing
of unlawful actions. The order, whose number is 3, prohibited addressing
any insult to the various religions or the use of violence and incitement
against them, which may hurt relations with foreign or sister countries. In
addition, the presidential order prohibited the establishment of illegal
associations that will incite to criminal acts and loss of life and public
incitement to illegal forceful change or incitement to civil war or the
breaching of agreements which the PLO signed with foreign or sister
countries. The presidential order determined the punishing of any man who
commits anything of the prohibited acts, which are defined in the order, in
accordance with the punishments determined in the order.
3. [Newscaster]: Regarding the worsening situation of the Israeli
settlements on the occupied Palestinian lands, [Muhamad] Dahlan clarified
that the Palestinian side will oppose the settlement cancer because it
contradicts the items and the spirit of the agreements signed between the
Palestinian and Israeli sides.
The occupying Israeli authorities, in clear opposition to the Wye
Plantation Memos, took steps to requisition 10% of the West Bank lands for
the establishment of new settlements and the expansion of existing ones.
The Israeli radio pointed out that the purpose of these steps is a change
of circumstance before the final redeployment Dr. Ahmad Tibi, Advisor to
the president Arafat said that the approval of the new conquering steps are
considered the biggest act of plunder this century, while warning that the
Palestinians will not stand aside quietly against this theft, and will
defend their land.
Return to Contents
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