by Khaled Abu Toameh.
It is time that international donors demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop using American and EU taxpayers’ money to clamp down on journalists and political activists. Otherwise, the world could witness next month the creation of yet another Arab dictatorship in the Middle East.
The Western-funded Palestinian Authority has decided to ban a Palestinian satirical show on the grounds that it offended some Palestinians and ridiculed others.
If the Palestinian Authority cannot tolerate any form of criticism from its loyalists, how can anyone expect it to respect the views of political opponents and rivals?
Many Palestinians see the ban as part of the Palestinian Authority’s continued assault on freedom of expression. They say that the move shows that the Palestinian leadership is not only lacking a sense of humor, but is continuing to emerge as another Arab dictatorship at a time when Arab masses are demanding regime change.
Palestinian journalists, political activists and human rights workers have all been targeted at one point or another by Palestinian policemen, all trained and funded by Americans and Europeans.
Western journalists and human rights organizations often tend to turn a blind eye to human rights violations by the Palestinian government. As far as many of them are concerned, a story that does not have an anti-Israel angel is not fit for print.
Failure to deal with such practices has only encouraged the Palestinian Authority to step up its offensive against actors, political critics, journalists and other activists.
The most recent victim was Majdoleen Hassouneh, a female journalist from Nablus, who was forced to go into hiding after being threatened and harassed by the Palestinian Preventative Security Force. Her crime: she had reported and photographed a demonstration staged by families of Palestinians held in Palestinian Authority prisons.
Because of her refusal to heed a summons for interrogation, the Palestinian police have arrested her two brothers as a way of pressuring her to hand herself in. Her plight, as well as the crackdown on freedom of expression and media, has received almost no attention in the West.
The decision to ban the popular satirical show Watan ala Watar [Homeland on a String] would not have been taken had the Palestinian Authority known that the move would draw strong condemnations from the international community and those who call themselves pro-Palestinian on university campuses around the world.
The show was taken off the air for allegedly ridiculing Palestinian physicians, policemen and government employees. The show was being aired on Palestine TV, which reports directly to Mahmoud Abbas’s office.
Of course Palestine TV is controlled by Abbas loyalists and those behind the satirical show are known as supporters of the Palestinian Authority. Still, this did not help Palestine TV and the producers of the controversial show.
Not surprisingly, some Palestinians resort to the Israeli media to express their opinions because they know that in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip there still is no free media. They also see how some Palestinians who dare to criticize Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are being targeted by various branches of the Palestinian security services.
It is sad that nearly two decades after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians are still lacking a free media and many are afraid to express their views in public.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an Arab journalist who works in israel and the Palestinian territories.