Palestinian security officers detain a demonstrator during a protest in Ramallah over the death of PA critic Nizar Banat in custody

Why are Palestinians protesting against Abbas?

Explainer: Death in custody of outspoken Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Binat is latest in long line of grievances against the PA, which many Palestinians see as corrupt, while the security forces have been dispatched to the streets to often violently disperse the protests

Associated Press |
Published: 06.28.21, 12:27
Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets in recent days to protest against President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, whose security forces and supporters have violently dispersed them.
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  • The demonstrations were sparked by the death of an outspoken critic of the PA in security forces’ custody last week, but the grievances run much deeper.
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    Palestinian security officers in plainclothes detain a demonstrator during clashes that erupted following a rally protesting the death of Palestinian Authority outspoken critic Nizar Banat, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, June 26, 2021
    Palestinian security officers in plainclothes detain a demonstrator during clashes that erupted following a rally protesting the death of Palestinian Authority outspoken critic Nizar Banat, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, June 26, 2021
    Palestinian security officers detain a demonstrator during a protest in Ramallah over the death of PA critic Nizar Banat in custody
    (Photo: AP)
    Abbas’ popularity plunged after he called off the first elections in 15 years in April and was sidelined by the Gaza war in May. The PA has long been seen as rife with corruption and intolerant of dissent.
    The Palestinian Authority is one of the last manifestations of the peace process, which has been dormant for more than a decade, and is seen by Israel, the United States and the European Union as a key partner in promoting stability.
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    אבו מאזן
    אבו מאזן
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
    (Photo: AFP)
    The PA was established in the 1990s through interim peace agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which still represents the cause internationally. It was seen as a state-in-waiting and was granted limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
    Israel and the PLO held several rounds of peace talks throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The Palestinians sought an independent state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, territories Israel seized from Jordan and Egypt respectively in the 1967 Six-Day War. They were never able to reach an agreement, and there have been no substantive talks since 2009.
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    הפגנות ברמאללה כמחאה על מותו של הפעיל הפלסטיני ניזאר בנאת
    הפגנות ברמאללה כמחאה על מותו של הפעיל הפלסטיני ניזאר בנאת
    Thousands gather in Ramallah to protest the death of PA critic Nizar Banat
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The Hamas terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007, a year after winning an landslide victory in Palestinian elections, ousting Abbas’ Fatah movement and limit his authority to parts of the West Bank. Multiple attempts at Palestinian reconciliation over the years have failed.
    While the PA has ministries, security forces and the trappings of a state, its authority is limited to major population centers that amount to around 40% of the West Bank.
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    Nizar Banat lambastes the PA in a Facebook video
    Nizar Banat lambastes the PA in a Facebook video
    Nizar Banat
    (Photo: Screenshot)
    The increasingly authoritarian PA is dominated by Fatah, which is led by a small circle of men in their 60s and 70s. The 85-year-old Abbas, whose four-year presidential term expired in 2009, leads the PA, the PLO and Fatah.
    The PA leadership is widely seen by the Palestinians as corrupt and self-serving. Its policy of coordinating security with Israel to go after Hamas and other mutual foes is extremely unpopular. Protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday accused the PA of being collaborators, a charge that amounts to treason.
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    alestinian riot police and security officers in plainclothes clash with demonstrators following a rally protesting the death of Palestinian Authority outspoken critic Nizar Banat
    alestinian riot police and security officers in plainclothes clash with demonstrators following a rally protesting the death of Palestinian Authority outspoken critic Nizar Banat
    Palestinian riot police and plainclothes security officers clash with demonstrators at a protest over the death of Nizar Banat
    (Photo: AP)
    Last week, security forces raided a home in the West Bank to arrest Nizar Banat, who had repeatedly criticized the PA in online posts. His family says they beat him with batons before dragging him away. The PA says it has launched an investigation into his death, which ignited the latest protests.
    Banat was a candidate in the parliamentary elections that Abbas called off in April when it looked like his fractured Fatah would suffer an embarrassing defeat to Hamas. During the Gaza war that erupted shortly thereafter, Hamas was widely seen as fighting for Palestinian rights and defending Jerusalem while the PA did nothing.
    A poll taken after the war found a dramatic rise in support for Hamas, with more than half of respondents saying it should lead the Palestinian movement.
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    A Hamas rally in the West Bank city of Nablus
    A Hamas rally in the West Bank city of Nablus
    A Hamas rally in the West Bank city of Nablus
    Despite his unpopularity, Abbas can count on the support of powerful friends, with Israel, the U.S. and Western donors deeply invested in the PA’s survival. The PA also pays the salaries of tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants who would otherwise struggle to find work.
    The EU has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the PA over the years, and the U.S. and other nations have trained and equipped its security forces. The Biden administration has said it hopes to strengthen the PA and work with it to rebuild Gaza — where it has no power.
    Israel, the U.S. and the EU all prefer the unelected PA to Hamas or to the chaos that could ensue from the PA’s collapse. They are committed to working with the PA to manage the conflict and reduce tensions until some future time when the peace process can be revived.
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