OPCAT application is Palestinian hypocrisy at its best

OPCAT application is Palestinian hypocrisy at its best
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The Palestinian Authority last month announced its intention to join 22 international conventions, including the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). Such a request should arouse a chuckle among anybody whose familiarity with the PA’s own practices is even minimal.

Last July, an Israeli court issued a precedential ruling that found the PA guilty of acts of vicious torture against 52 men and women — Palestinians and Israeli Arabs — suspected of collaborating with Israel in its struggle against terror. These unfortunate souls have now found refuge in Israel.

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Among the shocking testimonies given by the plaintiffs: Being forced to sit on broken bottles, having heated needles inserted into their genitals, the rape and murder of a victim's sister and many other acts of unspeakable cruelty. The torture was carried out with the full knowledge of the PA, the body now seeking acceptance to the OPCAT.

 

This hypocritical move is no coincidence. The Palestinians are fully aware that many in the West, and certainly at the United Nations, are more than eager to grant them an abundance of leniency when it comes to the PA’s role in violence and terrorism.

Try to recall when —or, if ever — you last heard about these unfortunate human beings. Have you read about their ordeal in the paper, or seen an item about it on the news? The likely answer is no, but not only because of this tendency to forgive the Palestinians; the sad story of the torture victims just doesn't correspond with those who prefer to use their platforms to tarnish Israel's name. Had the victims' stories served to portray Israel negatively in some way they would surely have made headlines already.

Blue & White Human Rights, which I oversee, became involved in the case in August 2017. Following the court ruling in their favor, the victims began the process of suing the PA for damages. In order to file the lawsuit, the Palestinians had to be examined by specialist physicians who confirmed their injuries were sustained as a result of the torture they endured. We soon will launch a crowdsourcing campaign to help alleviate other related costs.

Although there are countless human rights organizations active in Israel (many of which generally work against the country), we were the only ones willing to take it upon ourselves to help. We recruited a group of generous physicians to examine the victims pro bono, and they continue to lend their assistance today.

Unfortunately, not all of the wounds have healed. Many victims suffer from regular nightmares. Those who manage to sleep soundly awake in fear of what the day may bring. They have no contact with their families and the support network they otherwise would have had. Meanwhile, they stand at the forefront of a current struggle for recognition of their suffering — a struggle in which world public opinion has a role to play.

We will probably not succeed in changing the PA. Altering the past for these victims is impossible, and it’s likely that we can’t prevent future “suspected collaborators” from suffering the same fate. However, liberal states must not turn a blind eye to atrocities. It is no secret that the PA receives financial support from many countries, its representatives are invited to international forums, and they meet regularly with world leaders.

These leaders must stand alongside the victims and fight for their justice. They must demand loudly that the Palestinians are not exempt from basic human decency. Continued diplomatic ties with, and transfer of funds to, the perpetrators of those complicit is one thing, but silence in the face of these horrors is inconceivable. Least of all, the PA should be forced to answer to their accusations and be held to a minimal moral standard by their Western sponsors.

And should their governments continue to bury their heads in the sand, citizens of Western states need to hear the victims’ stories, and be made aware that the same entity pretending to seek peace institutionally perpetuates violence. A PA genuinely interested in halting terror does not torture those cooperating with Israelis to end it; it works together with them.

True advocates of peace and human rights must echo the cries of those who cannot do so alone — even if the oppressors are not the ones they’re used to scrutinizing. You cannot change their past, nor the horrors these victims have undergone, but recognition of their suffering is a step in the right direction.

Nave Dromi is the head of Blue and White Human Rights project at the Institute for Zionist Strategies.