Basel al-Araj, a 31-year old Palestinian activist, was assassinated by the Israeli military on the early morning of Monday, March 6, 2017, in al-Bireh, Palestine. The Palestinian Youth Movement in Washington, DC is holding a protest outside the General Delegation of the PLO on Wisconsin Ave on Monday, March 13, 2017 at 5:30 PM, in protest of his assassination and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) role in his persecution and death via their security collaboration with the Israeli occupying power.
Born in the village of al-Walaja, located on the hilltops between Bethlehem and Jerusalem and currently at risk of isolation due to the route of the Separation Wall, al-Araj was a prominent leftist youth organizer in the Palestinian grassroots struggle for liberation. He was known for his study of Palestinian history, leading educational activities, and his outspoken position against Israeli military occupation and the PA’s security coordination with Israel.
Al-Araj and five other Palestinian activists were arrested by the PA in April 2016, at Israel’s request and facilitated by the security coordination framework between the PA and Israel. Held without formal charge, they were subjected to abuse and torture while in PA custody. After hunger striking for eight days, they were charged and released on September 9, 2016. Al-Araj immediately went into hiding as a precaution against the security coordination between Israel and the PA, in which the PA delivers Palestinians to Israel for extended detention and further torture. The other five were arrested by Israel shortly after their release by the PA.
On March 6, Israeli forces attempted to arrest al-Araj in a pre-dawn house raid. The raid took place in Al-Bireh, which falls within Area A and is under the full military and civilian jurisdiction of the PA. The Israeli incursion into Area A was either a breach of the PA’s limited autonomy or, in the case that the PA consented to the Israeli raid, was facilitated by PA collusion. Both reveal the failure of the PA to protect Palestinian civilians. After being surrounded, al-Araj exchanged fire with the Israeli military forces for two hours before the soldiers forcibly entered his home and shot and killed him at close range.
Al-Araj’s assassination is a continuation of the sordid Israeli practice to eliminate Palestinian leaders and undermine the national liberation movement. Rather than protest these murders and Israel’s use of lethal force against civilians, the PA continues to collude with the Israeli occupying power, thus exacerbating the vulnerability of nearly four million Palestinians residing in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
As of this year, Palestinians will have been living under the illegal Israeli occupation for half a century. The Trump Administration promises to inflict more violence and instability on the Palestinian population in the form of unquestioning support for a right-wing Israeli government carrying out forced displacement, unchecked illegal settlement growth, and killings.
Al-Araj’s stand-off with Israeli forces on March 6 was resistance to these conditions, however quixotic it may have been against an institution of aggression that included the PA in its machinations. His execution is a grotesque example of the precarity of Palestinian life and the fiction of Palestinian sovereignty. His life is not lost in vain as we, Palestinians in the diaspora, remember him fondly as an organic intellectual and community activist. We protest against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) at their Washington, DC offices, for facilitating the deprivation of Palestinian life. The PA is a subsidiary of the PLO and our protest is an effort to hold the “sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” to account.