Friday, September 24th | 18 Tishri 5782

March 11, 2020 7:20 am

Why the Arrest of This Palestinian Leader Matters

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow /


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds a map while speaking during a Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton.

JNS.orgYou have probably never heard the name Hussam Khader. But you should. Because what’s happening to him has extremely important ramifications for Israel and Middle East peace.

Khader, 59, is a leader of Fatah (the main component of the PLO) and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The council was established as part of the 1993 Oslo accords. Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin understood that transforming Palestinian Arab society from authoritarianism to democracy was one of the most crucial ingredients for a durable and meaningful peace. So Israel insisted that the Oslo agreement include the establishment of a number of democratic agencies and mechanisms, including a democratically elected legislative council.

Many pundits have strongly criticized the notion that the United States should pursue “regime change” around the world. One can argue that America doesn’t have the resources for such a mission; however, the concept behind “regime change” is sound, and always was. The concept is based on the fact that democracies almost never make war against fellow democracies. Nearly every major war you can think of in modern times was started by a dictator.

Written off by many as just another military man, Rabin recognized that the process of overhauling Palestinian Arab society would be complicated and take a long time. But he also knew that the only way to permit the Palestinian Authority (PA) to run its own regime just a few miles from major Israeli cities was to be sure that it would not become yet another aggressive authoritarian entity.

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Twenty-seven years have now passed since Rabin began the Oslo experiment. Twenty-seven years is also enough time to see the results of the experiment. After 27 years, there should be serious evidence as to whether the PA has made meaningful progress towards democratization and entitlement to statehood.

Which brings us back to Palestinian Arab legislator Hussam Khader. Last week, members of the PA’s official Preventive Security Services burst into Khader’s home in Nablus (Shechem) in the middle of the night and dragged him off to prison. His crime? He posted a comment on Facebook in which he criticized PA chief Mahmoud Abbas for having said that striking Palestinian physicians who are seeking a salary increase are “despicable.”

I have no sympathy for Hussam Khader. He is a veteran terrorist who has served time in Israeli prisons. But his arrest tells us a lot about the nature of the Palestinian Authority.

Crushing strikers and arresting dissidents, including members of the Legislative Council, has become routine under Abbas. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Critics of the regime are routinely tortured. Unions are intimidated. Women are treated as second-class citizens. Abbas’ “Cyber Crime Law” mandates prison sentences and fines for anyone who establishes a website that might “undermine the safety of the state or its internal or external security.”

As for Abbas himself, he refuses to hold elections for his position. Incredibly, he is now in the 15th year of his four-year term as head of the PA.

All of this has been documented by human-rights groups, although those groups never seem raise much of a hue and cry about it the way they do when they accuse Israel of some misdeed.

The Jewish “peace” groups that shout in protest if they think Israel has mistreated an Arab rock-thrower are conspicuously silent when it comes to the PA’s daily trampling of the rights of the Palestinian Arab public.

Take a look at the websites of J Street or Americans for Peace Now. See if you can find any angry press releases or furious opeds about PA oppression.

I understand why Jewish advocates of Palestinian statehood don’t want to talk about this. Acknowledging that the PA is a fascist dictatorship would mean acknowledging that a sovereign Palestinian state would certainly be a fascist dictatorship too. Too bad for Hussam Khader. He will continue languishing in a PA prison cell because he is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the Palestinian regime and everything that is dangerous about the idea of a Palestinian state.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism, now available on Kindle.

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