Anger spills over after anti-Arafat campaigner

OUTRAGE AND division over Yasser Arafat's crackdown on a group of prominent Palestinians who signed a leaflet which - for the first time - publicly blamed him for "opening the door" to corruption, has escalated sharply after one of the signatories was shot.

Mo'awya al-Masri, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, vowed yesterday to continue his anti-corruption campaign despite being shot in the foot during a mysterious attack by three masked men in the West Bank town of Nablus.

The attack, on Wednesday evening, came amid a growing furore within the ranks of leading Palestinians which began when 11 people were detained without charge on the orders of Mr Arafat for signing a highly critical leaflet. Three were later released.

The document, which bore the names of 20 prominent people - 11 academics and professionals and nine law-makers - accused Mr Arafat of opening the door to widespread corruption. There have long been allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars have gone unaccounted for within the Palestinian Authority, but this was the first direct charge against the Palestinian leader.

The document also complained bitterly about the failure of the 1993 Oslo Accords to produce positive results over key issues, such as securing a capital in east Jerusalem, the right of return for millions of refugees and stopping continued building of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

The document called on Palestinians to "ring the bells of danger against the corrupt, unjust and manipulative policies" of the Palestinian Authority. "The homeland is being sold," it said, "We must stand together to stop this corruption." Mr Arafat's staff said it amounted to incitement.

Mr Arafat, and the Palestinian Authority which he leads, have repeatedly stifled internal criticism, partly because Mr Arafat is eager to enter final status negotiations with Israel with a united front, albeit enforced - a tactic which brings with it the risk that he will sign up to a deal which proves unacceptable to Palestinian public opinion and will eventually fall apart. But his latest display of ruthless autocracy appears to have backfired.

Indignation among Palestinians and international human rights groups was sufficiently intense for Mr Arafat's party, Fatah, to organise a noisy and well-publicised march through Ramallah on Wednesday in a show of support for the "president".

Although the attack on Mr al-Masri was immediately denounced by a senior Arafat aide, suspicions abound that it was an attempt by the security services - of which there are no fewer than nine organisations - to silence the signatories. For once, no one among the Palestinian groups appeared to be blaming the Israelis for mischief-making.

Unlike the eight still being detained last night, Mr al-Masri was one of nine Palestinian parliamentarians who signed the leaflet but have immunity from prosecution. He was attacked by armed men after returning from a meeting of the Palestinian Legislative Council at which he, and the eight other lawmakers, refused to denounce the offending document. Far from receiving support from their fellow parliamentarians, the council - to the horror of civil rights activists - censured the signatories, and voted to set up a group to monitor members' behaviour in future.

Speaking from hospital in Nablus yesterday, Mr al-Masri said the attack - which he considers a failed assassination attempt - "affirms the truth of the leaflet". He told reporters: "I am now more determined than ever to fight corruption. If there was law and order, this would not have happened ... Over the past few years, we have been shouting about corruption but hearing only our own echoes."

The shooting drew an alarmed reaction from the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, which said it now "fears for the lives of Palestinians citizens who dare to speak freely on political issues concerning the Palestinian Authority." A statement is also circulating, bearing the signatures of more than 35 Palestinians from the diaspora, many of them prominent figures, which condemned the arrests as a "totally unjustifiable attack on the freedom of expression".

"While carrying out these arrests, the Palestinian Authority is using the mantle of nationalism and the language of unity to stifle legitimate and necessary criticism and debate," it said. "Such repressive measures only harm the Palestinian people, and help their enemies, who point to the lack of democracy as evidence that Palestinians are incapable of governing themselves, and to the abuse of human rights by the Authority as an excuse for their own abuses." It carefully avoided naming Mr Arafat.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager - OTE £36,000

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A New Business Manager role sui...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - Inbound & Outbound Calls

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This particular opportunity is ...

Recruitment Genius: Windows Server Engineer - Compute Engineer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Compute Engineer role also ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor