The inexcusable, tragic murder of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat,– the fierce critic of the Palestinian Authority, or PA, whose “health deteriorated” mysteriously last week while he was in PA custody — shows us once again that Palestinians have no protection. No Palestinian is safe when they decide to stand up and demand rights, justice, or even life. All indicators now point to the PA, as responsible for this reprehensible killing. However, the PA was merely the finger that pulled the trigger.
The Palestinian Authority was created by Israel and it works for Israel — it is a tool in the hands of the apartheid regime. Israel is ultimately responsible for the death of Nizar, just as it is responsible for the death of countless Palestinians. The State of Israel is a violent, racist state that has plagued Palestine for more than seven decades and must be stopped before one more drop of Palestinian blood is shed.
The New York Times quickly published an article berating the corrupt Palestinian Authority and even the U.S. State Department issued a statement regarding Nizar Banat’s death. The State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said in a statement:
We are deeply disturbed by the death of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat and the information that has been reported regarding the circumstances of his death. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and community. We urge the Palestinian Authority to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and to ensure full accountability in this case. We have serious concerns about Palestinian Authority restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression by Palestinians and harassment of civil society activists and organizations.”
While the family and friends of Nizar undoubtedly feel a deep sense of gratitude that the U.S. Department of State cares enough to issue a statement, one wonders how it is that they don’t issue such statements when Palestinians die in Israeli custody. Is it possible that the U.S. Department of State does not hear of the countless thousands of Palestinians who are arrested, beaten, tortured, and murdered by the Israeli authorities? Curiously, it is only when the executioner is a Palestinian that the U.S. Department of State awakens from its slumber (or perhaps it takes a break from spreading democracy around the world) and pays attention to Palestinians.
While people find great joy in criticizing the Palestinian Authority, they must not forget that it was created by Israel in order to serve Israel and its interests. Blaming the PA for the death of Nizar Banat is the same as blaming the finger of the person pulling the trigger, or blaming the poison rather than those who administered the poison.
Who will be next? Who will defend them?
Reports from media outlets highlight the anti-PA sentiment that is being expressed in large protests throughout Palestinian cities. This latest abuse by the Palestinian Authority may have been a bridge too far and the PA may have underestimated the backlash from the killing of Nizar. We may even see someone being fired from their job or arrested for this, but the fact remains that the Authority itself is an arm of the Israeli oppression.
Those of us who are deeply involved in and committed to the struggle for justice in Palestine are intimately acquainted with Palestinian activists. We should be clear that the world let Nizar Banat die. I personally did not have the honor of ever meeting Nizar, but I live in fear for the lives of the ones I do know. The protests after the fact will not bring Nizar back and, unless we act to prevent the next Palestinian death, we will have failed to stand up to our responsibility.
We neglected to protect Nizar and his family from the brutal injustice that plagues Palestine. Tragically, he is not the first nor will he be the last Palestinian victim of the injustice. This is an injustice that has a name and a face, and with which so many people and governments are happy to engage.
The question raised by the untimely death of Nizar is: Who will stand up for Palestinian activists? Progressive politicians in the West call on us to “tone down the rhetoric.” Bernie Sanders was asked the following question about the use of the word “Apartheid:” “Do you think those who share your view should not use that kind of language?” The senator replied, “I think we should tone down the rhetoric.” The follow-up question should have been “For how long?” How much longer should the rhetoric be “toned down?” How many more fine men and women and children need to be arrested, tortured, expelled, and-or killed before it is appropriate to tone up the rhetoric?
Sanders did introduce a resolution to temporarily block $735 million in U.S. weapons sales to Israel, and he did admit that the sales of weapons to Israel are only “fueling the conflict.” However, this is far from enough.
There is an urgent need to protect Palestinian human rights activists who dedicate their lives to freeing their land and their people from the Zionist oppression. These activists are constantly persecuted by Israel — and by Israel’s contracted enforcer, the Palestinian Authority.
These activists and their children are regularly targeted, arrested, harassed and tortured; and, as we saw in the case of Nizar Banat, killed. While we may see a Palestinian official fired for what must be seen as an embarrassment for the PA, we will not see an end to this persecution until real protection is given to these courageous activists.
The days of expressing solidarity by wearing “Free Palestine” T-shirts are over. People of conscience who want to see an end to the bloody injustice in Palestine need to roll up their sleeves and demand it. There can be no tolerance for Zionism. Zionists and the multitude of Zionist organizations around the world must be shut down and all elected officials, from members of school boards to those who hold national office, must condemn Zionism and the State of Israel or be voted out in shame.
Zionism is racism and it has brought death and suffering to Palestine and its people. It is up to us to see to it that the death of Nizar Banat will not have been in vain.
Feature photo | Demonstrators carry pictures of Nizar Banat during a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 24, 2021. Nasser Nasser | AP