- 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
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
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
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
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.