For years, the AMAN coalition of Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has focused on issues of administrative and financial corruption. However, the Palestinian section of Transparency International, established in 2000, decided in 2021 to tackle a much more controversial issue: political corruption.
Those two words seem to many to be synonymous rather than an oxymoron, but the eroded integrity of the current Palestinian leadership seems to have forced the local organization Transparency International to raise the stakes and tackle a corrupt political system which, between Others, called off an already long overdue national election and reportedly ordered the wounding of a critic in Hebron by Palestinian security forces, an act that led to his death and a violent crackdown on protests calling for accountability.
In their anger at the deterioration of the Palestinian political system, many repeated a statement made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he would step down if 50 or more Palestinians called him to resign. Abbas, 86, is now in his 12th year in office after long exceeding his four-year tenure and appears to have consolidated all power in his hands.
In a 10-point manifesto, AMAN called on the Palestinians to reject this anti-democratic slippery slope and made a special appeal to civil society organizations to “fight this political corruption by creating a coalition that can help move towards more honest governance. structure.”
Azmi Shuibi, a former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, produced the very first anti-corruption study in 1996, which resulted in an angry reaction from President Yasser Arafat and the arrest of a Palestinian journalist who disseminated the report. Shuibi, now an advisor on the issue of corruption, told Al-Monitor that the situation is very serious and must be dealt with with the efforts of all parties concerned. “We must raise the red flag and warn loud and clear that if the current political corruption is not controlled, we are entering a dangerous zone,” he said.
What seems to have triggered the escalation of criticism from civil society is the combination of restrictions on the two main areas of governance. Shuibi noted, “It has become clear that we have come to a situation where management has tightened its control over all areas of the company, including all outlets that have been used in the past. unnecessary civil society efforts. They have not only succeeded in stopping any criticism of the legislature, but the executive branch has undermined the judiciary. Without a cornered legislature and judiciary, the ruling party was able to stifle the people’s efforts to call for accountability. Things got even worse when the president started using presidential decrees without any discussion or debate for his own purposes and to keep some people in office for a long time. “
In order to illustrate the problem, AMAN has produced a set of infographics. He stated that 50 Palestinian ambassadors have been in office for more than five years and 14 for more than 10 years. Six governors have been in office for seven years and four heads of security agencies have not changed for more than 10 years.
Speaking on Wattan TV, Shuibi said everyone had to get involved to save the day. “We want everyone to be involved, be it those in power, factions, political parties or civil society. We are heading down and we are seeing signs of the kind of authoritarian power we will have that will shatter Palestinian dreams as expressed in the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.
Shuibi explained that the problem is no longer petty corruption or even finance based on lack of accountability, but has become a much more existential problem.
Shihab Amjad, professor of international relations at Al-Quds University, told Al-Monitor that corruption has been simmering in Palestine since the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority 28 years ago. “The Palestinian Authority has become a rentier system with no accountability mechanism and the absence of a parliament and executive that has monopolized all sectors of government. This is why the political system has been corrupted, ”he said.
Calls for reform seem to have had some success. Abbas agreed to meet with a delegation of civil society leaders who handed him a long list of issues to resolve. There has been no public statement on either side of what is on the list and the reaction of the Palestinian president. Palestinian news agency Wafa said that Abbas at the September 9 meeting told civil society leaders: “We are partners in defending the rights of the Palestinian people in the face of the occupation and its plans to to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
Abbas also underlined the importance of freedom of opinion within the framework of the relevant laws, with regard to the promotion of public freedoms.
Shuibi cautiously welcomed the meeting of civil society leaders with the president, but he was not completely reassured. “At best, we might have slowed the downward movement,” he noted.
It is not clear whether the campaign to elevate criticism to political corruption was behind the surprise meeting, but civil society leaders want to see action, not words. Of course, political corruption is not limited to the West Bank and the Abbas government, but applies to the situation in the Gaza Strip where there is an even worse case of political corruption. A holistic approach in which all concerned groups are needed to stop this deterioration which has lasted too long is partly due to the fact that the occupation has lasted too long.