By Dr. Abdul-Sattar Qassim
I am a writer. I also happen to be a writer who has been exposed to repressive actions by Arab and Israeli authorities more than most in the modern era. I have been shot repeatedly; on one occasion, by four bullets at once. I lost my job in Jordan and in Palestine and have been arrested by the Israeli occupation authorities and the Palestinian Authority, and put under house arrest and prevented from travelling. For anyone wishing to write about repressive measures taken against Arab writers and intellectuals, I am an example for all of them.
Once again — for the seventh time, in fact — the Palestinian Authority arrested me on 2 February because I called for the implementation of laws issued by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority.
The offending call was made in an interview with Al-Quds satellite channel, based in Beirut, about the situation in Palestine. I called for the application of two laws, namely the 1979 Revolutionary Law of the PLO and the 2005 Elections Law, which sets the maximum duration for the term of office for a Palestinian president at four years. There are provisions in the revolutionary law stating that anyone who collaborates with Israel or stands in the way of the revolutionary forces against it, and suchlike, should face execution; I read out the actual text on air. It should be noted that this revolutionary law is still on the statute books and was used against some members of Palestinian security forces who fled from Gaza to get away from Hamas in 2007. Most people, though, including some in the legal profession, know nothing about it.
It seems that members of the PA were terrified when I pointed out the existence of these two laws because they themselves violate their provisions. Indeed, the PA president himself is in violation of the Elections Law as, to-date, he has been in office for eleven years even though his term should have been over in 2009. Hence, they decided to fabricate a fuss about the matter on Palestine TV. They hosted a shaikh who issued a fatwa to get me out of Islam, and a university professor to say that I’m not educated. Neither of them read the provisions of the laws to the viewers, and they accused me of calling for the killing of the president by judicial execution. In fact, I did not call for the killing or execution of anyone because this is something that a court would have to order, not me. My argument is that nations which do not respect their own laws cannot stand on their own two feet or be liberated. Of course, the poor TV presenter insisted on asking questions and making accusations to denigrate my educational position.
I knew that the PA would arrest me, and I was ready for it; I always have a bag of clothes ready for prison. On 2 February, I saw a police car stop in front of my house. Four security men got out of the vehicle and accosted me, saying, “Give us your ID card and your mobile phone and come with us.” I asked them to wait a little so that I could inform my wife, Zain Al-Nesa’a (Umm Mohammed), about my arrest, and to bring my clothes bag and lock up my house; arrogantly, they refused. It was important for me to talk with my wife because our family is always subject to attacks by regime bullies; if she was unable to communicate with me, then she would be sad and confused. Anyway, they refused. In contrast, when the Israelis arrested me in 2014, they made arrangements for me to contact my family.
Interrogation was the second stage, and the prosecutor accused me of three crimes: undermining the prestige of the state, promoting false news and criticising high officials negatively, meaning the president of the Palestinian Authority. I denied undermining the state, as there is no state to undermine; what we have at present is merely a quasi-autonomous entity with no prestige. As for promoting false news, it turned out that they were referring to news published by one of the pillars of the PA about stopping 200 Palestinian resistance attempts against the Israelis. With regards to the third charge, I said that it was not true because we have no high officials in Palestine as, legally, there is no president of the PA.
Umm Mohammed called me on my mobile phone but got no answer, so she went home on her own. She found the front door open and looked for me but, of course, could not find me; she asked the neighbours, but none of them had seen me. She got suspicious, especially given that we are always being threatened. My daughter, Mais, collapsed and started to cry. One of my neighbours searched the house and found a room that was locked, so he broke the door down thinking that I might be lying inside, dead; the tension rose when they saw that I wasn’t there. My wife remembered the security cameras we have all around the house and, on checking them, saw the images of the security men and their car. A number of satellite channels took those images of Palestinian security forces outside my house and aired them.
Then I was imprisoned. They took me to a prison in Nablus full of criminals because they always work very hard to show that they have no political prisoners; they fear European reactions on this issue. I was put in a cell assigned to financial fraudsters. It was filthy and crowded with prisoners. The washrooms were unhealthy and we couldn’t make sure that we were clean enough to pray. Cockroaches roamed about freely, to the point that one got inside my ear as I slept.
At the court session in Nablus to extend my detention a request for bail was denied by the judge, who gave the security agencies 15 more days to finish their investigation, although the prosecutor informed me that the interrogation was over. My lawyer submitted a request for my release three days later and the judge agreed.
I was released on 7 February but I’m still waiting for the trial. I’m not worried about the judge, but am concerned about the external pressures that he is under. It’s not over yet.