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Executing Scapegoats

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  • Ami Isseroff
    Executing Scapegoats by Daoud Kuttab I found myself in a very difficult position this week. Without giving much thought to it, I had begun defending the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 20, 2001
      Executing Scapegoats
      by Daoud Kuttab

      I found myself in a very difficult position this week. Without giving much
      thought to it, I had
      begun defending the decision of the Palestinian Authority to execute a
      number of Palestinians
      accused of facilitating sensitive information that led to the Israeli army's
      assassination of
      intifada leaders.

      My arguments were simple. The situation in the occupied territories is akin
      to war, with the "enemy"
      shelling our populated neighborhoods from tanks and helicopters and Israeli
      sharpshooters gunning
      down our people.

      The most frightening has been the Israeli death squads who are playing
      judge, jury and executioner.
      They are given specific orders to kill Palestinian leaders without
      attempting to arrest them and
      allow them due process of law.

      This is not simply a Palestinian allegation. It has actually been publicly
      admitted by Israeli
      military officials.

      Given the situation of "war" and the information supplied to the Israelis as
      key to the success of
      the assassinations, it seemed to me that the Palestinian National Assembly
      had no choice but to take
      radical deterrent steps.

      Surprisingly enough, my opponents were many and they didn't come from
      supporters of Amnesty

      To describe the situation as "war" is not appropriate, I was told. How can
      it be war when the
      Israelis are informing the PNA when and where they plan to shell? How can it
      be described as war
      when top political and security officials are meeting all the time? Both
      public and secret meetings
      are taking place all the time.

      Rani, a television producer who spent time in an Israeli jail during the
      first intifada, was the
      first to jump all over me when I tried to defend the executions.

      Did you see the trial they had on television? This was a mockery. The judge
      didn't even listen to
      the complaints about the torture, including the admission of the doctor. And
      why did they put it on
      television; don't our children see enough every night? Did you see how the
      camera zoomed in when
      they announced the sentence? How can we have a normal society when mothers
      disavow their sons on
      television? And then they replay the trial and executions as if it were an
      Oscar-winning film or

      "Maybe the whole idea is to deter others," I tried to defend.

      "These kids had no idea what they are doing, they got NIS 2,000 and a girl
      for taking a picture of
      gunmen who were parading on the streets in front of everyone. They don't
      deserve to be executed,"
      said Issa, a member of my staff. He also pointed out the fact that those
      accused were very young -
      18 or 19, saying it was wrong to kill them.

      Issa's argument was not only about their age but also that those who were
      accused of collaboration
      and executed were simply "small fry." Why not go for the "big fish," those
      collaborating on a much
      higher level? They should go after them.

      Ata, a former technical member of the negotiating team, had yet another
      argument. The problem is
      with the PNA itself. These assassinations are the way for the Palestinian
      Authority to distance
      itself from the public accusation that it is deeply involved with the
      Israelis as regards security
      coordination, etc.

      This argument was further strengthened by Abed, a Fatah activist from the
      Bethlehem area. He
      confided to me that senior PA figures have stated that they might have been
      wrong by letting
      collaborators off during the last seven years.

      But don't the Oslo Accords forbid executions? I asked. The former negotiator
      insisted that there is
      no such wording in the Oslo Accords but it is implicit in many parts of the
      agreement. Anyway, the
      entire accords are considered null and void since Israel has not honored
      many of its clauses and the
      deadlines, that are an integral part of it, have long elapsed.

      Abed however, tried to explain the dilemma of the PNA.

      If the PNA didn't get involved we would have moved further and further into
      a tribal war. "[Hussein]
      Abayat's family is very big and they would not be quiet until they avenge
      the killing of their son,"
      Abed said, referring to the Fatah leader who was assassinated in the middle
      of the day by an Israeli
      helicopter as he was driving in Beit Sahur.

      For me, however, the most important argument against the executions was the
      failure of the PNA to
      have warned people properly about probable consequences to such behavior.
      Even though the minister
      of justice has now issued a public warning, many feel that is not fair to
      carry out justice

      There is no doubt that the young Palestinians who were executed were clearly

      They are yet one more reason why this crazy situation should not be allowed
      to continue and a just
      peace must prevail.
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