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An article by Khalid Amayreh
Palestinian Authority must stop persecuting professor Abdel Sattar Qassem

A magistrates court judge decided on 26/08/2011 to detain Abdel-Sattar Qasem, Professor of political science at Naplus Najah University, for 15 days without charge. Observers believe that Qasem’s detention is because of his criticism of the Ramallah PA and the administration of Najah University in an article in which he criticised the arbitrary expulsion of 4 students and refusing to take them back despite the fact that the students got a court ruling in their favour.

2 September 2011

Abdel Sattar Qassem

Prof. Abdel Sattar Qassem is undoubtedly one of the most courageous and outspoken intellectual in occupied Palestine . He never flinched from speaking out against corruption, political despotism and especially the police-state apparatus of the American-funded and Israeli-tolerated Palestinian Authority (PA).

In doing so, he often paid a dear price as the PA security apparatus constantly haunted him for his non-conformist activism.

The PA simply wanted the Palestinian people, especially the intelligentsia, to "go with the flow" and pretend that the current political course of action would lead to liberation from the clutches of Israel’s colonialist occupation as well as a utopian state where human rights and civil liberties would be guaranteed.

However, for many intellectuals, such as prof. Qassem, ta king this path would be brashly unconscionable and spell faithlessness to one’s convictions, rectitude and morality.

I know Dr. Qassem quite well. He is the kind of man who would not hesitate to call the spade a spade. Moreover, he wouldn’t cower before power or be intimidated by threats, even threats on his life.

On several occasions, certain establishment thugs sought to silence him by whatever means necessary, including bullets. His car was torched and he had to spend jail-time in Jericho for cosigning a petition calling on the Palestinian leadership to combat corruption and graft and pay more attention to the views of the people.

In recent days and weeks, the persecution meted out to Prof. Qassem exacerbated markedly when PA security agencies arrested him for several days based on a concocted and vindictive complaint by the Najah University where Prof. Qassem has been teaching Political Science for more than 32 years.

The PA mendaciously claims that Qasssem made libelous remarks against the university administration. However, the fact is that the hasty arrest of an outstanding intellectual shows that the PA justice system and leadership don’t really see any difference between true defamation and slander on the one hand and legitimate freedom of expression and speech on the other.

Qassem had criticized the Nablus University for adopting inconsistent standards for admission. His accusations can be correct or otherwise. But this is not the issue. The real issue is hunting and haunting people, especially intellectuals, for voicing their opinions publicly. In the final analysis, Qassem is being harassed for criticizing the PA leadership.

Besides, the Najah university administration is not really all-stainless and immune from criticism. Its record is stained with cover-ups and lack of transparency.

In 2007, a cold-blooded murder took place at the university campus when one of Fatah’s Shabbiha or thugs shot and killed an Islamist student named Muhammed Raddad, who sought to protect Islamist female students from harassment by pro-Fatah students.

Far from seeing to it that the murderer is prosecuted and punished, the administration reportedly colluded and connived with the PA security apparatus to "bury" the case and consign it to oblivion.

It is widely believed that the murderer only spent a few weeks in jail, before he was freed and transferred elsewhere in the West Bank.

Last week, the Najah administration issued a decree, firing Prof. Qassam for violating university laws and regulations. In a terse statement, the university accused the 63-year-old professor of slandering it and besmirching its image. The dismissal decision was taken tersely, hastily and at the spur of the moment. It is also widely believed that it was an expression of personal vendetta on the part of the University president, Rami Hamdallah.

More to the point, there have been consistent reports that the quality of education provided at most Palestinian universities, especially in the West Bank, has deteriorated rather rapidly due to the politicization of the educational process, especially the heavy-handed interference by a myriad of security agencies answerable to the PA leadership.

Added to that is the marked deterioration of the morality level at most West Bank colleges due to the tendentious relaxing of disciplinary standards, which is prompting many conservative Palestinian families, especially from the vast countryside, to refrain from sending their daughters to these colleges and universities.

It is really ironic and lamentable that while some universities are displaying excessive liberalism, even to the degree of moral decay, on campuses, authoritarianism and despotism are being unleashed against free voices such as that of Prof. Qassem.

Needless to say, this is a bad harbinger for the future, because once these free voices are silenced, political leaders waiting to see the direction of political winds among the Palestinian masses would hasten to walk in the path of treason and compromise, fearing no challenge or even criticism from a pliant or scared public.

Finally, we call upon all free voices, academics and otherwise, to identify with Prof. Qassem and show solidarity to him. Letters of protest and solidarity ought to be directed to the PA leadership, especially Chairman Abbas, urging him to put an end to the persecution and harassment ai med at silencing this free and courageous Palestinian voice.

If we betray Prof. Qassem, God forbid, we would be sending the wrong message to the forces of authoritarianism and tyranny in occupied Palestine and across the Arab world. The forces of darkness and obscurantism would then be emboldened to snatch us quietly one by one. After all, these people are too unprincipled and too dishonest to be entrusted with the all-important task of building a healthy society.

Khalid Amayreh in occupied Palestine
The Palestinian Information Center, September 1st, 2011.

Khalid Amayreh (b. 1957 Hebron) is a Palestinian journalist based in Dura, the Hebron district. He did his university degrees in the United States: BA in Journalism at University of Oklahoma, 1982; MA in Journalism, University of Southern Illinois, 1983. For a long time, his life was not made any easier by the fact that he was largely confined by the powers that be to his home village of Dura near Hebron.

On his life experience as a Palestinian, see: “Reflections on the 1967-war anniversary”, palestine-info, 5 June, 2008.

Source: The Palestinian Information Center

About Abel Sattar Quassem, see also:
- « Interview with Palestinian Authority dissident: "I cannot just stay silent" », by Marcy Newman, The Electronic Intifada, 27 November 2009.
- « Dayton’s Joy », by Prof Sattar Kassem, silviacattori.net, June 11, 2009.
- « Blood for Bread », by Prof Sattar Kassem, silviacattori.net, June 8, 2009.
- « Palestinians will never surrender - Interview with Sattar Kassem, in Nablus », by Silvia Cattori, silviacattori.net, 11 September 2006.