‘Palestine Papers’ reveal PA collaboration with Israel, under US tutelage

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments

Mark Perry writes about Keith Dayton’s role on the Al Jazeera English website:

Despite Dayton’s presumed accomplishments, the forces he has overseen have been accused of being an arm of both the Israeli occupation and an extension of Abbas’ efforts to crush political dissent in the West Bank. Palestinian security forces have been accused of involvement in torture of Hamas officials detained in the sweeps in the West Bank over the last three years. Accounts of torture and abuse of power, of the willful crushing of political dissent and the shuttering of nongovernmental organizationss associated with movements and political parties opposed to PA policies have plagued the Palestinian security services – the Interior Ministry’s special “General Intelligence” (or “GI”) Service, the PG (or “Presidential Guard” – an elite unit guarding Abbas) and Dayton’s National Security Forcres (NSF). The reports are credible – and even admitted to by PA officials who call them regrettable and who vow to stop them.

Despite this, during his tenure, General Dayton consistently denied claims that NSF personnel were engaged in torture, telling the U.S. Senate that he kept a tight grip on NSF activities. Additionally, as a salve to congressional concerns, Dayton established a human rights component in the NSF training curriculum. Even so, reports persist of the summary denial of rights to Palestinians arrested by all Palestinian security services, including the NSF. The most recent and most sobering account of the denial of Palestinian civil rights – and the use of torture – was documented in a December 2010 report issued by The Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK. As disturbing, Aisling Byrne of Conflicts Forum recentlydetailed the emergence of a police state in the West Bank that rivals any in the Arab world.

Across the board, donors — including the UN — are financing the construction of the infrastructural matrix for the security sector — including prisons (UNDP is funding 52 prisons — “more prisons than schools” a security analyst told me during a recent visit to the West Bank), new security facilities and camps in 8 Palestinian cities (each intelligence agency has its own detention center in each town), an academy and a host of training colleges, security force barracks and other facilities. The principal target for this security infrastructure has been Hamas. Campaigns ostensibly to re-establish public order have provided the cover to clamp down predominantly on Hamas: Palestinian human rights groups have documented over 10,000 supporters of Hamas being arrested by the PA security forces since 2007. The current police/security-to-population ratio in Palestine – 1:80 – is not only one of the highest in the world, but is also financially unsustainable.

These are sobering and controversial claims, but they are true. In a shocking public admission of his goals, General Dayton tied America’s support for the NSF to Abu Mazen’s goal of crushing dissent, bragging about the political campaigns launched by his forces. “Across the West Bank,” he told WINEP, “these security campaigns have featured clamping down on armed gangs … dismantling illegal militias, working against illegal Hamas activities, and focusing on the safety and security of Palestinian citizens.” Has Dayton succeeded? A Hamas legislator puts it best: “The PA has succeeded more than the Israelis in crushing Hamas in the West Bank.”

In spite of Dayton’s “success,” however, there are persistant and nagging reports that his mission has been counterproductive – Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad has distanced himself from Dayton (and on several occasions refused to meet with him). Moreover, it was reliably reported that U.S. special envoy George Mitchell was angered by Dayton’s WINEP speech (and skeptical of Dayton’s role), and the shuttering of NGOs affiliated with Hamas has sparked broad dissent among politically powerful constituencies in the West Bank. These problems were catalogued in an important November 2009 report by the Foundation for Middle East Peace’s Geoffrey Aronson:

Regime protection, the incarceration of Hamas supporters – militants, elected officials, and activists alike – has failed to restore Fateh’s [the political movement led by Abbas] lost luster, blunt Hamas’ popularity or challenge its continued commanding presence in Gaza, or compel Israel to lessen its grip on the West Bank. Indeed the pursuit of Hamas militants as part of a broader rejection of armed resistance against Israel, and more importantly, the associated attack on the Hamas’ popular community network of support and education – the Dawa – has gravely compromised the image of Abbas’ forces as collaborating in Israel’s rule.

The Dayton Mission and The Palestine Papers

The Palestine Papers add appreciable information to our knowledge of the Dayton mission, the National Security Force, Israeli views of the force, the chain of command in the forces, details on their training and equipment and, most importantly, their political and security purposes. The papers provide chilling accounts of the Abbas authority’s concern with “working against illegal Hamas activities” – the emerging police state’s code for suppressing dissent.

Readers will find information on the formation of the NSF and various Palestinian security organizations outlined in a May 10, 2006 meeting between General Dayton and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. A second official document (a letter to Dayton dated May 25), details responsibility for command of the force. The May 10 meeting features Dayton as detailing the U.S. concern that the Palestinians coordinate their security regime with Israel and focus on strengthening a future Palestinian state – “not to fight Hamas.” Readers who spend the time to read in detail the menu of Dayton-related memos will see that, after June 2007, this focus shifts – toward open suppression of Hamas and other political dissidents.

A number of documents provided herein show the obsession of the Palestinian security services with policing the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt and detailing the types of cooperation between the forces and the Israeli military. It’sclear from the documents that the security services are intent to aid the Israelis in policing the smuggling of weapons into Gaza – early evidence that the PA was establishing the force as a weapon in its battle with dissidents to Abbas’ rule. The security situation and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza are an increasing concern to Dayton (his letter of June 1, 2006) in detailing the relationships of the various security forces. Dayton’s letter notes the lack of cooperation of Israel on the Gaza border issue. Even so, Dayton continues to build security force capacity (as outlined in the memo of a meeting held with Saeb Erekat on June 9, 2006).

A key document in The Palestine Papers (a Memorandum to “Dr. Saeb Erekat” of 4 March 2007) outlines the problems Dayton faces with the Congress, notes the role of Saudi Arabia in the internal Palestinian political process, speaks on the problems of the crossings between Gaza and Israel and touches on U.S. concerns with reforms in Fatah. A further memo (dated June 29, 2007) expands on this. The relationship with and cooperation between the security services is the subject of a fascinating exchange on 11 March 2007, and most particularly on July 15, 2007 – when Dayton announces that a full training program has been initiated in Jordan, though problems with the training program (outlined in a meeting of July 24, 2007) remain.

The most important document in the Dayton series is dated March 4, 2008. The paper reviews a meeting between Salam Fayyad, the PA minister of the interior, two other PA officials and Secretary of State Rice, White House official Elliot Abrams, General Dayton – with several others – in attendance. Of importance is Fayyad’s admission – “On Gaza, there was only one winner: Hamas” – and his reiteration that an end to settlement activity is the one key way to ensure the PA’s now teetering legitimacy. The cooperation between the security forces and Israel is noted in a memo dated September 4, 2008, including details of specific Israeli-Palestinian security actions.

21 Responses

  1. Yoel
    January 25, 2011, 3:11 pm

    How is it possible that the reaction of the Palestinian street to this has been to rally around Abbas and accuse Al-Jazeera of being Zionist?

    • MRW
      January 25, 2011, 3:22 pm

      Someone is orchestrating it to forestall other reactions.

      • DICKERSON3870
        January 25, 2011, 4:41 pm

        RE: “Someone is orchestrating it…” – MRW
        MY SNARK: Our USAID dollars at work!

    • annie
      January 25, 2011, 3:45 pm

      believe me, palestinians are definitely NOT rallying around abbas at this time, this is just what the ptb want us to think, the way it works is abbas gets his clique of supporters to attack al jazzerah (for it is the PA who doesn’t like AJ and is accusing it of lying) and then the medea picks it up and pushes the meme it is from the streets. it isn’t. it only takes like 20 guys to attack the office.

      kinda like lincoln group arranged for a crowd when they pulled down saddams statue. it was a set up, their were no crowds. designed strictly for western consumption.

      • MRW
        January 25, 2011, 3:49 pm

        Annie: ditto.

    • Potsherd2
      January 25, 2011, 5:48 pm

      Because the Palestinian street is being repressed by the Daytonistas.

  2. MRW
    January 25, 2011, 3:48 pm

    My cynicism knows no bounds now. I suspected something like this for a long time, but mention of it would have been deemed conspiratorial. Gloves are off in that department.

    No wonder the Gazans dumped Fatah in 2006.

  3. Jim Haygood
    January 25, 2011, 4:00 pm

    ‘The current police/security-to-population ratio in Palestine – 1:80 – is not only one of the highest in the world, but is also financially unsustainable.’

    Hmm, why does this sound familiar? Oh, right — it’s the model the US is propagating in its Afghan puppet state. Even if enough Afghans could trained and retained in the army and police, the country’s war-torn economy can’t possibly pay for them.

    And under the near 5%-of-GDP cost of its military empire, the US economy is beginning to totter and wheeze a bit itself.

    Overwhelming security spending precludes rising living standards, as it crowds out productive investment. Call it the US/Israeli economic model.

  4. seafoid
    January 25, 2011, 4:41 pm

    The NY Review did a very good analysis of the Dayton regime back in the fall.

    link to nybooks.com

    “The most damage to the reputation of the Palestinian security forces occurred during the Israeli war in Gaza, which began in December 2008. In plainclothes and uniform, PA officers in the West Bank surrounded mosques, kept young men from approaching Israeli checkpoints, arrested protesters chanting Hamas slogans, and dispersed demonstrators with batons, pepper spray, and tear gas.40 The trust between Israeli and Palestinian forces was so great, Dayton said, that “a good portion of the Israeli army went off to Gaza.”
    According to Sha’wan Jabarin, the director of the Palestinian human rights group al-Haq, torture has in recent months again become routine. In polls taken since Fayyad took office, West Bank residents have consistently reported feeling less safe than Gazans, whose lives under Hamas rule are in many respects worse. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has dictated Friday sermons to be read by imams. Palestinian journalists, according to Amnesty International, were detained and threatened during the Gaza war for reporting on government suppression. The Palestinian Authority, since Fayyad became prime minister, has twice ranked lower in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index than any other Arab government. And Freedom House now gives the PA the same rating for political rights that it does for civil liberties—”not free”

  5. Jim Haygood
    January 25, 2011, 5:46 pm

    Beyond UFB — the PA collaborated in the Israeli siege of Gaza:

    Erekat also complained to US envoy George Mitchell in 2009 that not enough was being done to seal off tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, the documents reveal, undermining the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory, and urged that more be done by Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling of goods and weapons.

    link to guardian.co.uk

    After helping to starve its own people, the PA cannot possibly conclude any agreement with Israel. Its legitimacy is gone.

    From the fateful decision to nullify the 2006 elections, to the dodgy policy of extending Abbas’s expired mandate so that the talks could continue, the profoundly antidemocratic instincts of the US and Israel have had disastrous consequences.

    And now with Egypt in revolt, events are moving beyond the control of the antidemocratic fixers and schemers, who of course proclaim ‘democracy’ as their global trademark and raison d’etre. They’d better spin those Egyptian videos very carefully, before America’s army of unemployed, foreclosed and dispossessed start getting subversive ideas about empowering themselves.

  6. justicewillprevail
    January 25, 2011, 6:21 pm

    So let’s see: you undermine democracy in Arab states, install pliant regimes who collaborate in carrying our your policies and arrest any opponents. You then piously complain that there is no democracy in Arab states (and only democracy in the Middle East) and imply that Arabs cannot be trusted, do not want democracy, and will never compromise in negotiations, despite them offering you, their lord and master, just about anything you ask for while also pleading pathetically for the smallest crumb to bring back to their people. Which you, the tough guy, refuse whilst complaining that there is no negotiation partner so you don’t have to do anything. Kafka couldn’t have designed a more exquisite form of control and humiliation, a merciless system of exploitation of people who have no power, a crushing and cruelly dishonest stance which pretends to be ‘reasonable’.

    See Robert Grenier, a former CIA negotiator here, for a sympathetic account of the (deliberately) impossible position the US put the Palestinians in:
    link to guardian.co.uk

    • annie
      January 25, 2011, 6:33 pm

      great comment

      Kafka couldn’t have designed a more exquisite form of control and humiliation, a merciless system of exploitation of people who have no power, a crushing and cruelly dishonest stance which pretends to be ‘reasonable’.

      • eee
        January 25, 2011, 6:40 pm

        Ah yes, it is the US or Israel’s fault there is no democracy in the Arab world. Why is there no democracy in Syria then? Who is holding them back?

      • Taxi
        January 25, 2011, 9:14 pm

        Hamas won the ‘democratic’ election. And who refused to recognized their ‘democratic’ victory oh eee?

        You wanna another example?

      • Citizen
        January 26, 2011, 6:39 am

        Peru joins the growing list of S American states recognizing a Palestine state on ’67 borders: link to imemc.org

    • Citizen
      January 26, 2011, 6:28 am

      A real commitment for a fair peace settlement by the governments of the major powers led by the U.S. is the absolute prerequisite for a real peace process.

      The main case to be made in such a Palestinian policy thrust is that it’s not in anybody’s best interests, including those of the Jews of the world and Israel, that the Zionist state be allowed to go on defying international law and pouring petrol on the fire of Islamic extremism.

      The days of there being one rule for the behaviour of all nations except Israel and another rule exclusively for Israel must be ended.

      There are only two ways to run the world. One is in accordance with the rule of law. The other is jungle law. Unless contained, the nuclear-armed Zionist monster will likely take us all back to the jungle.

  7. piotr
    January 25, 2011, 7:19 pm

    USA complicity in the lack of democracy in Arab world:

    1. In the case of PA, the lack of democracy there and repression are totally American made. What is quite insane about that policy that we could make our stooges somewhat popular, e.g. by forcing settlement freeze, or even better, the border deal with “largest Yerushalaim”, but we did not.

    2. We support lavishly Egypt to maintain very large and very repressive security forces. I think the same is the case in Jordan. So at least two, but perhaps three, repressive structures are more or less on US payroll.

    3. Out exhibition pieces of democracy building in Iraq and Afghanistan feature massive repression, torture and corruption.

    4. We lend moral support to repressive structures in countries like Morocco and even Syria by subcontracting torture to their “shops”.

    5. We betray nascent democracies when we do not like election results. Territories and Lebanon come to mind.

    6. Never in my knowledge did we support some actual movement in more democratic direction. And more then once we removed popularly elected goverments (most recently: Haiti and Honduras).

    7. Dayton’s effort comes from a long tradition, google “School of Americans”, how we trained perpetrators of torture and genocide.

  8. Yoel
    January 25, 2011, 7:26 pm

    Political phenomena are overdetermined. That’s not the point. The point is that the US and Israel, purported champions of democracy, have been doing everything in their power to make sure it is impossible in the Middle East. Bringing up that there are other reasons blocking democracy is a non-sequitur.

    • Citizen
      January 26, 2011, 6:10 am

      Making non-sequiturs is eee’s full-time job on this blog.

  9. piotr
    January 25, 2011, 10:04 pm

    One point which is blithely neglected: Lebanon has a democracy. Imperfect and idiosyncratic, but so is Israel. Right now, a government changed in Lebanon due to (gasp, pass the salts!) parliamentary manouvers. And if an assassination contributed at occasion to the change in government, so it happened in a neighboring democratic country.

    Quite importantly, Lebanon has free press, at one can read biting critique of almost anyone, including Hezbollah (which, I presume, has media outlets of its own). Yet, Israeli apologist even TODAY claim that Israel is “precious” on the account of being the only democratic country in its region. While Lebanon can be threatened with sanctions etc. if it is not obedient, not too mention outright massacres perpetrated by the “precious only democracy”.

    Yet, when the government that WE like is threatened, for several minutes our talking heads prattle about importance of PRESERVING the democracy there, and then, back to “Israel is the only democracy”.

    Second, is Iraq a democracy? Either it is, and then Israel is “one of only three democracies in the region” (or is it four?), or it is not, and if not then American responsibility cannot be denied.

    Third, someone asked about Syria. Syria is actually a fairly pluralistic society, unlike, say, our pet Saudi Arabia. Religious minorities are treated better than in some neighboring democratic countries (except for Kurds, I guess). And police is killing fewer peaceful protesters than in some neighboring democratic countries (killing protesters is a marker of an “imperfect democracy”, likewise dispatching uniformed death squads that are incompetent to boot and kill “a wrong person”).

    About treatment meted to protesters. Today a poster showed pictures from Cairo. One striking detail: how little tear gas was used compared with Bil’in and places like that. One can see the Egyptian goons were shooting single canisters rather than thick salvos. I would be also curious if Egyptians blindfold their detainees. Are Israeli security forces most brutal in the region?

  10. Citizen
    January 26, 2011, 6:12 am

    Cook, on the Palestine Papers, sums up their importance:
    link to jkcook.net

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