A few days ago, the media reported that a Gaza youth leader, Alaa Miqbel, was headed to a U.S. State Department-hosted conference in Ramallah. The event was designed to inform Palestinians NGOs how to promote technology and communication of their mission to the public. It was part of a stale U.S. diplomatic initiative meant to show that Palestinians could be empowered economically, even if not politically.
Miqbel, director of the Gaza office of the Palestinian youth organization, Pyalara, had his invitation with him and was directed by U.S. diplomats to the Erez crossing where he’d received a permit from Israeli authorities that would allow him to travel to the West Bank. When he arrived, instead of getting his permit and being on his way to the prestigious conference, Miqbel was arrested and thrown in an Israeli prison. The Shin Bet announced they’d caught a dangerous Palestsinian terrorist red-handed. Miqbel, if Israeli security geniuses could be believed was a member of the banned militant Islamic Jihad.
The only problem was that Miqbel was not the person the Shin Bet thought he was: not a member of Islamic Jihad, not a militant. The Israeli security cops never bothered to ask why a wanted militant would travel to an Israeli crossing and apply for an Israeli travel permit. They didn’t stop to wonder how the U.S. government would invite a known terrorist to an NGO technology conference in Palestine. In fact, the U.S. consulate had done its own security screening of conference participants. Apparently, U.S. security leaves Israeli in the dust. The former cleared Miqbel for participation, while the latter couldn’t find its way out of a paper bag.
Until now, this story seemed at most a typically embarrassing snafu, perhaps a deliberate provocation by the Israeli security services, a bit of spit in the eye directed towards Obama’s efforts to renew the peace talks. But an Israeli source tells me that the arrest was a security fashlah (error) on the part of the Shin Bet, which staffs the crossings. They arrested the wrong man.
But now, rather than releasing him and admitting their mistake as any respectable security agency (I know there are few!) in a western nation might do, the Shin Bet refuses to concede its mistake. That leaves Miqbel to suffer as yet another victim of the outrages of the Israeli national security state. So an entirely innocent man will, my source tells me, likely be charged with some made-up offense and forced to get a lawyer and remain in prison until he cops a plea.
A similar case is that of Dirar Abusisi, the kidnapped Gaza civil engineer who’s nearing his second anniversary in Israeli captivity (without being brought to trial). Abusisi has seen two prisoner releases come and go and remains in Israeli custody, again due to the fact that the Mossad refuses to concede it made an error in arresting him in the first place. The prisoner has begun a hunger strike to dramatize his predicament.
As Phil Weiss pointed out, the irony of the Miqbel incident is that U.S. diplomats (and liberal Zionist pundits like Tom Friedman) believe they can ameliorate conditions for Palestinians by improving economic opportunities. But this arrest proves that political rights must take priority over economic issues. There can be no ultimate economic success without political power.