The Palestine Papers reveal that the British government played a significant role in equipping and funding the Palestinian security forces, several of which have been linked to torture and other abuses.
More unbelievably, the UK’s MI-6 intelligence service proposed detaining members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an extraordinary –and illegal – scheme in which the European Union would have paid for their detention.
Under the heading “degrading the capabilities of the rejectionist groups,” the MI-6 document suggests:
“… the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the Occupied Territories. US and – informally – UK monitors would report both to Israel and to the Quartet. We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are welltreated, with EU funding.”
An appendix to the document outlines how the British government might help the Palestinian Authority. It includes British plans to seize firearms and rockets from the West Bank and Gaza; to cut off funding to “rejectionist groups” like Hamas; and to reduce weapons smuggling through tunnels into Gaza.
It is difficult to say which of these ideas were actually put into practice. But two subsequent documents from the following year suggest that, at the very least, the British government provided funding for Palestinian security forces.
A document from the British foreign office provides “a synopsis of the project work that the UK is engaged in with the Palestinian Security Forces.” It documents hundreds of thousands of dollars in security assistance to the PA.
Of particular note are two $90,000 allocations, one to the Preventive Security force, the other to the General Intelligence Service.
Both have been linked to widespread human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in July 2008 that Preventive Security had carried out most of the arrests of Hamas activists in the West Bank. “Many of the arrests were unlawful,” the group reported, “and arrested individuals sometimes encountered maltreatment at the time of arrest or torture during interrogation.” General Intelligence was also linked to cases of torture.
“The most abusive forces, local groups say, are the Preventive Security or General Intelligence Service. Most of the abuses documented in this report were committed by one of those two forces,” HRW concluded.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, the British foreign office said it takes allegations of torture “extremely seriously.”
[Foreign office minister Alistair] Burt raised the issue of human rights abuses when he met [Palestinian prime minister Salam] Fayyad last week and asked for a concrete assurance that allegations would be investigated and appropriate actions taken. PM Fayyad gave this.”