Over the past couple of weeks we have witnessed three very troubling stories, all exclusively within Palestinian society and all indicate a problematic phenomenon within the context of human rights. The good news is that pro-Palestinian groups have something to do about it.
The first is the story of A, a Palestinian from the Hebron area. Three years ago, Palestinian terrorists shot at an Israeli family driving home just a little south from Hebron. Mickey Mark, the driver and father of 10 children, was killed; the car overturned. Mickey’s wife, Havi, was severely injured and two of their children, seated in the back, were trapped. A happened to drive by with his wife just a few minutes later. He realized what had happened and stopped to help, administered basic first aid and guarded the car and the children from tens of other Palestinians who went by and threatened him to step aside. Once word had got out that A had helped Jews, he was immediately fired from work and got the message that his life was in danger, so he fled from the West Bank to Tel-Aviv. However, he didn’t have the papers that allowed him as a Palestinian to work in Israel, so for a very long time he lived in a tent and slept on the beach, eating from bins.
When the Israeli public became familiar with his story, a vocal campaign arose, calling for the Minister of Interior to grant A not only a work permit but residency for him and his family. This campaign was led by the Mark children and by the heads of the Jewish municipalities in the West Bank. Last month, A, his wife and his 2-year-old child were finally reunited as Israeli residents. The campaign leaders also made sure that the family had an apartment waiting for them, and many Israelis donated appliances for the family’s new start. A’s name, however, still has to stay unknown, for fear of his life.
The second story happened only last week when the Palestinian police threatened to persecute LGBT activists in the Palestinian Authorities. The Palestinian movement Al-Kawas (“rainbow”) had just held an event in Nablus, and had to cancel another event that was supposed to take place in Ramallah shortly after. A local activist told the Israeli press how, although homosexuality isn’t illegal in the PA, the police ‘planted’ drugs in his apartment so they would have an excuse to arrest him. The Palestinian police also issued a statement that the LGBT activities are a “blow to our values and tradition”. Ironically, though Al-Kawas is a pro-BDS movement, persecuted activists have fled to Israel. A survey that was held not long ago by Princeton University and the BBC shows that in the Palestinian population, people are more accepting to the idea ‘honor killings’, that is murdering a member of one’s family (mostly women) in order to safeguard the family’s ‘honor’, than they are to homosexuality.
The third story is of the new Fatwa (Islamic ban) that was issued by Sheikh Akrame Sabari, the head preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Sabari said it is prohibited for a Muslim woman who is suffering from domestic violence to file a complaint to the Israeli police, even if – as in the case of women in Jerusalem – that is the only police available.
It is, of course, almost too obvious to point out that in all three stories, the State of Israel turns out to be the body that is defending Palestinian lives, not to say – saving them. But this doesn’t excuse the terrible reality that many Palestinians live in; a reality caused by the low level of human rights granted by the Palestinian Authority to its citizens: If a young man who comes to aid of a Jewish family after a terrorist attack has to run for his life; if LGBT activists cannot hold a closed event without being persecuted and beaten by the police; if suffering women are forbidden to reach out for help; then there is a severe human rights problem that has got nothing to do with Israel, and everything to do with internal Palestinian government, together with Palestinian culture, values and beliefs.
The fact that pro-Palestinian activists and groups call themselves “human rights” organizations is old news. But alas, they serially focus only on the right to self-determination (which, they claim, is being violated by Israel), while choosing to ignore far more basic rights that are being violated by those who they campaign so vigorously for – like the right to life, security and dignity.
The Palestinian aspiration for a state is not the peak of fulfilment for Palestinian human rights. In fact, for many Palestinians – especially LGBT, women and those who are considered ‘cooperators’ with Israel – such a state will mean that their situation is about to get much worse.
Individuals, NGOs and especially countries and international bodies who donate to the Palestinian cause out of concern to Palestinian human rights should use their influence to confront the Palestinian authorities with this, and condition any future aid on serious changes that will be made to improve the level of human rights protection within the Palestinian community. Otherwise, in the name of human rights, they will be promoting a state that violates them daily.
(Picture credits: Shomron regional council, Shutterstock, AP Oded Baliti)