PLO allows Arab killings, Israeli rights group says

January 10, 1994|By New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM -- In a rare criticism of Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group said yesterday that Palestinian political leaders bore responsibility for the killing of hundreds of Arabs in the occupied territories who were accused, falsely in most cases, of collaborating with Israel.

The rights group, B'Tselem, said that the militant Hamas movement had carried out most of the killings, and that the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel's partner in peace talks, had done almost nothing to stop them.

"The responsibility of Hamas and the PLO for killing and otherwise harming suspected collaborators is clear," B'Tselem said, as it issued a report detailing a pattern of killings going back to the early days of the Palestinian uprising against Israel, now in its seventh year.

The report said the situation had not changed much since the PLO and Israel signed an agreement in September on introducing Palestinian self-rule to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Local squads allied with the PLO's mainstream faction, Al Fatah, have continued to attack people accused of being collaborators, the study said.

Through 1993, the report said, roughly 750 to 950 Palestinians were killed by fellow Arabs, with the higher estimate based on reports from the Israeli army, which yesterday put the precise figure at 964 as of Dec. 22.

The army, often accused by human rights groups of indiscriminately shooting Palestinian protesters, has cited the "collaborator" killings as evidence that Arabs in the territories are now more likely to be killed by other Arabs than by Israeli soldiers. To underline this point, Israel Television last night showed graphic pictures of the bodies of suspected collaborators.

B'Tselem said soldiers had shot 1,067 Palestinians to death from the start of the uprising in December 1987 through December 1993. But in the last three or four years, collaborator killings have clearly outstripped army killings.

B'Tselem -- whose name means "in the image" in Hebrew, and is taken from the description in Genesis of humans being created "in the image of God" -- does not let Israel off the hook.

Its report accuses the Israelis of illegally exploiting the weakest members of Palestinian society, like drug addicts and criminals, and of using their power over critical aspects of daily life in the territories to blackmail people into working for them. Also, the report charges that Israel violates international law by using these Palestinians in interrogating prisoners, some of whom are tortured.

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