Latest update: November 18th, 2013
Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
While the Palestinian Authority continues to demand the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails, it has long been ignoring the fact that thousands of Palestinians are languishing in prisons in several Arab countries.
The families of the prisoners held by Israel at least know where their sons are and most visit them on a regular basis.
But in the Arab world the story is completely different.
The daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi recently revealed that dozens of Palestinians have been held in Kuwaiti prisons since 1991. The families of these prisoners do not know anything about their conditions.
That Palestinians are being held in prison in an Arab country is not surprising. What is not understood is the Palestinian Authority’s position.
According to the report, the Palestinian Authority has never approached the Kuwaitis concerning the fate of the prisoners.
Mohammed al-Udwan, the father of one of the Palestinians held in Kuwait for the past 25 years, said that he still does not know exactly where his son, Essam, is being held. He and other families complained that the Palestinian Authority has not done anything to help them.
The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Kuwait, Rami Tahboub, refused to comment on the plight of the prisoners there. Reached by phone, the ambassador first said he was busy with a meeting. He later stopped answering the phone.
Hassan Khraisheh, Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, urged the emir of Kuwait to put an end to the “tragedy” of the Palestinian families whose sons are held in his prisons without trial.
Khraisheh called on the emir to inform the families whether their sons were still alive. “If they are dead,” he added, “then we want confirmation and information where they are buried.”
Kuwait expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after U.S.-led coalition forces liberated the tiny oil-rich emirate in 1991. The move came in retaliation for the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s [PLO] support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait a year earlier.
After liberation, the Kuwaitis also arrested many Palestinians on suspicion of collaboration with the Iraqi occupation army.
Recently, the Kuwaitis finally allowed the Palestinian Authority to reopen the Palestinian embassy in the emirate. The move came after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas apologized for the PLO’s support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
But the Palestinian Authority leadership is apparently too afraid to ask the Kuwaiti authorities about the Palestinians who went missing in the emirate during the past two decades. Abbas does not want to alienate the Kuwaitis; he is apparently hoping that they will resume financial aid to the Palestinians.
Two weeks ago, Abbas boasted that he had acted as a mediator to secure the release of nine Lebanese nationals abducted 17 months ago in Syria.
Abbas’s announcement enraged families of Palestinian prisoners in Kuwait and other Arab countries. The families said that Abbas’s top priority should have been to secure the release of Palestinians, and not Lebanese, from Syrian prisons.
Hundreds of Palestinians are held in various prisons in Syria, some for more than two decades. In the past year, at least two prisoners were reported to have died in Syrian and Egyptian prisons.
Again, the Palestinian Authority leadership has not even demanded an inquiry into the deaths or the continued incarceration of Palestinians in the Arab world.
A prominent Palestinian writer who spent three weeks in jail in Syria described the prisons there as “human slaughterhouses.” Salameh Kaileh was arrested in April last year on suspicion of printing leaflets calling for the overthrow of Bashar Assad.
“It was hell on earth,” Kaileh told Associated Press. “I felt I was going to die under the brutal, savage and continuous beating of the interrogators, who tied me to ropes hung from the ceiling.”
For the Palestinian Authority, the plight of Palestinians in Arab prisons does not seem to be an important issue. As far as the Palestinian Authority leadership is concerned, the only “heroes” are those prisoners who are held in Israel. For the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians who are being tortured and killed in Arab prisons are not worth even a statement.
About the Author: Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.
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