Pictured: An-Najah University. (Image source: Ameen Rammal/Wikimedia Commons)
“Pro-Palestinian” activists at university campuses in the US and other Western countries have long been waging various campaigns to denounce Israel and hold it fully responsible for the continued “suffering” of Palestinians.
These activists, however, seem to care little about violations committed against the Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip — even when fellow students in the West Bank and Gaza are being targeted.
In recent weeks, the PA has been waging a campaign of arrests and intimidation against Palestinian students at some of the West Bank universities. The students, according to the Palestinian Authority, are being targeted because of their affiliation with opposition groups, including Hamas. The students, in other words, are being targeted because of their political affiliations and not because of any crime they committed.
Last month, the largest university in the West Bank, An-Najah University, issued a directive banning the Islamic Bloc student list from carrying out any activities on campus. The university administration did not offer any reason for the ban. The decision was announced shortly after a student list affiliated with the Palestinian Authority's ruling Fatah faction accused its rivals in the Islamic Bloc of carrying out “political activities” on campus on behalf of Hamas. The Fatah-affiliated students later closed the offices belonging to their rivals on campus.
In response, the Islamic Bloc issued a statement denouncing the university administration's ban as “unfair and unjustified.” The statement said that Palestinian university students in the West Bank “were continuing to suffer from harassment, repression, torture and politically motivated arrests.”
The university administration defended its decision and said that it also banned the activities of the Fatah-affiliated list on campus. A spokesman for the university pointed out that tensions on campus only escalated after Hamas's recent brutal crackdown on Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip.
Last month, Hamas security forces used violence to disperse Palestinians protesting economic hardship and increased taxes imposed on residents of the Gaza Strip. Fatah says that Hamas security forces broke the arms and legs of dozens of Fatah protesters, including a senior Fatah official, Atef Abu Seif.
In the past week, the Palestinian Authority security forces arrested two students from An-Najah University, apparently as part of an ongoing crackdown to silence and intimidate political opponents.
A video posted on YouTube showed armed Palestinian security officers in plainclothes beating and arresting student Musa Dweikat at the entrance to An-Najah University in Nablus. The security officers are seen knocking Dweikat to the ground and repeatedly kicking him before he is carried to a police van.
The video sparked a wave of protests among Palestinians, including local human rights activists. The Association of Civil Society Organizations in Nablus condemned the Palestinian security forces for the force used against Dweikat and called for holding those responsible to account. The Association also condemned the “ongoing arrests and violations against the Palestinian Basic Law” against students because of their political affiliations and opinions. Noting that politically motivated arrests were also taking place in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the organization said that the human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were “harmful to the image and reputation of the Palestinians.”
Dweikat was the second university student to be arrested by the Palestinian Authority this past week.
The other student, Ibrahim Shalhoub, was arrested by Palestinian security officers at his home in the village of Deir al-Ghusoun in the northern West Bank. Shalhoub's family said that the officers conducted a thorough search of their home and confiscated their son's cellular phone and computer. Shalhoub was arrested after he threatened to appeal the decision by An-Najah University to ban the activities of the Islamic Bloc student list.
Another West Bank university, Al-Quds University, announced last week a similar decision to ban students affiliated with the Islamic Bloc from running in the student council election.
Earlier this month, Palestinian security officers and Fatah activists tore down election banners belonging to the Islamic Bloc at Hebron University in the West Bank. The move came on the eve of elections for the university's student council. The Palestinian security forces also summoned several students for interrogation, apparently as part of an attempt to intimidate them and undermine the chances of the Hamas-affiliated Islamic Bloc from winning the election.
Hamas and other Palestinian groups accused the Palestinian Authority security forces of acting with a mob mentality against university students in the West Bank. “Our people and sons in the West Bank are facing a gang in contradiction of morals, laws and national values,” Hamas said in response to the crackdown on university students. The PLO's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called on the Palestinian Authority to “stop dealing with a mob mentality toward with Palestinian students.”
It is ironic that Hamas is accusing its rivals in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority of acting like gangs.
This is the same Hamas that has repeatedly resorted to repressive measures, including breaking bones and shooting unarmed protesters, to silence its critics in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and the PA have been at war with each other since 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip. Since then, hundreds of Palestinians, including political activists, journalists, writers, and university students, have fallen victim to the power struggle between the two groups.
The latest crackdown on university students in the West Bank is the latest sign of the mounting tensions between the two Palestinian parties. While the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are busy beating up each other's supporters, “pro-Palestinian” activists on US and Canadian university campuses are busy blaming Israel for Palestinian woes. For these alleged activists — who are remarkably passive when it comes to truly assisting Palestinians — their protests seem more about hating Israel than anything else. If they really cared about the Palestinians, they might stop abusing Israel long enough to notice the abuse that the Palestinian “leaders” inflict on the people under them.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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