Nizar Banat, an Arab carpenter and house painter who lived in Chevron, had been an outspoken opponent of the Palestinian Authority for many years. He repeatedly focused attention on PA corruption and, most recently, posted on social media strong criticism of PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh over his refusal to accept Israel’s offer of more than one million soon-to-expire but currently needed Pfizer vaccines to the PA in exchange for an identical number of doses purchased by the PA and expected to arrive later this year.
Earlier this year, Mr. Banat formed a political party to contest PA parliamentary elections, which, in the end, were canceled by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to Mr. Banat’s family, some 20 armed Palestinian soldiers stormed the family home last Thursday at 3:30 a.m. and brutally beat him before arresting him for violating the PA’s cybercrimes law, which limits what residents of the PA territories may post online.
The local PA governor announced that Mr. Banat had died. “During the arrest,” the governor, Jibrin Al Bakri, said, Mr. Banat’s “health deteriorated, and [while] he was immediately taken to Hebron hospital and after doctors checked on him, it appeared the citizen was already dead.”
The citizen’s family members had a different take.
“The Palestinian security forces did not come to arrest him,” said Hussein Banat, a cousin of the deceased activist. “They came to assassinate him.”
Another relative, Majdi Banat, said that the police had blown off the door of the house with explosives and that the beating of Mr. Banat lasted for a full eight minutes.
“They told him you are wanted dead or alive,” the relative said. “Last May, they tried to kill him by shooting at his home.”
Another Arab resident of Chevron critical of the PA, Issa Amro, told CNN that he and other dissidents “are afraid of being killed by the lawless Palestinian security forces. It is clear there is a decision to get rid of the opposition and activists at any price.”
Mr. Amro, who recently met with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Ramallah, had previously been arrested after a critical-of-the-PA social media posting of his own.
The European Union’s representative office to the Palestinians said it was “shocked and saddened” at Mr. Banat’s death, and called for a “full independent and transparent investigation.”
Mr. Banat’s death set off protests by some Palestinians, who accused the PA of murdering the activist. In Ramallah, protesters shouted slogans calling for the removal of Abbas from office, and PA policemen used tear gas and clubs to disperse the protesters. In an attempt to deal with the public outrage, PA Prime Minister Shtayyeh ordered the formation of a special commission of inquiry to investigate Mr. Banat’s death, but few imagine it will be an objective investigation.
What the activist’s death demonstrates are the true colors of the Palestinian leadership in Yehudah and Shomron. It may be a less hateful and murderous entity than its counterpart in Gaza, but it has hardly shown the responsibility, accountability and respect for human rights that any future Palestinian state would need to demonstrate in order to prove itself worthy of being granted full self-governance.
And not just in the way it treats civilians under its current control. Since the beginning of June, PA media has repeatedly broadcast a speech by Mr. Abbas in which he promises that even if the PA is left with only “one penny” in its coffers, he will pay that penny to the families of dead, imprisoned and wounded terrorists.
The policy of doling out rewards to terrorists’ families, commonly and accurately known as the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy, is compelling evidence to the inherent moral corruption of the Authority.
It also encourages terrorism, as any Arab who spent up to five years in prison receives unemployment benefits for a period of time equal to the length of their sentences. Released terrorists who spent 5-10 years in prison are entitled to a position in the PA or a fixed salary. Released terrorists who spent over 10 years in prison are guaranteed a high-paying PA position.
The U.S.’s Taylor Force Act conditions the bulk of U.S. aid to the Palestinians on the PA abolishing such payments. President Biden and Secretary Blinken must not overlook that law as it considers renewal of aid to the PA.
The State Department issued a statement in the wake of Mr. Banat’s death, expressing “condolences to his family and community” and urging the PA “to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and to ensure full accountability in this case.”
The statement continued: “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.”
Those concerns are well justified, and they should extend as well to Mr. Abbas’ scorn for U.S. objections to his paying terrorists to kill Jews.