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Long Lives His Legacy: Nizar Banat and the Palestinian Struggle

Nizar Banat was a prominent Palestinian political activist and an advocate of free speech. He was known for openly speaking out against the rampant corruption under the Palestinian Authority (PA), the entity responsible for his murder. Banat’s murder has raised many questions: a Palestinian activist revolting against his state’s government body? Wasn’t the PA supposed to fight in tandem with its people against the Israeli regime? Or did the death of Banat expose the corrupt system running the PA?

Banat was detained on June 24, 2021 when security forces barged into his home in Al-Khail, Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.  Hours later, the PA announced that the political activist had died.  A post-mortem examination stated that Banat was brutally beaten all over his body and died less than an hour upon his arrest. 

His death sparked protests across the state and the PA faced global outrage. 

The PA, according to Amnesty International, is known to “heavily restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly. [It has] held scores of people in arbitrary detention and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment. Justice for serious human rights violations remain[] elusive.’’

The PA was formed in 1994 during the Oslo Accords and was established as “a five-year interim body designed to administer parts of the Palestinian territories and coordinate with Israel on security matters.” However, the bounds of the PA were never finalized as talks came to a halt and the Second Intifada broke out. In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was elected as leader of the PA and has been in office ever since. Abbas reportedly receives support from Israel and the West, which consider the frail man as a safer option than Hamas, the resistance group in control of the Gaza strip

A long time defender of human rights, Banat was revered for his vast knowledge of Palestinian political and social history, and was known to be a staunch critic of the PA and its leader Mahmoud Abbas.

“Other people are critics of the PA, but no one was like Nizar. He was articulate: he could join the dots in a way others couldn’t, dismantling the PA’s lies with truth,” said Fadi Quran, a prominent human rights activist who has been arrested a number of times by both Israeli and Palestinian forces. “The fact that he used to be a member of Fatah himself also made him a threat. He was not just speaking to the opposition, but directly to their base.”

Banat was born to a working class family and studied at a university in Jordan before returning to the West bank, where he married and had five children. He trained as a lawyer, but life in Occupied Palestine was never easy. He lost his job and instead worked as a carpenter and an Arabic teacher. He even wrote a book on the history of the Palestinian struggle.

Banat garnered a significant following on Facebook, where he built his legacy and educated the masses on sociopolitical issues. In early 2021, Banat hoped for change when the PA announced elections. He worked on standing as the head of the newly formed Freedom and Dignity List in the parliamentary poll slated for May.

In April, Mahmoud Abbas postponed the elections due to Israel’s restrictions in occupied East Jerusalem. But many Palestinians were not convinced and realized that Abbas did not fear losing the elections to Hamas, but to a fierce Nizar Banat. 

This further brought the PA agenda to light. It was now clear that the PA “served only their own interest and that of the Israeli occupier.’’ Banat was courageous enough to say it out loud, and his fearless stance is what posed him as a great threat to the PA. 

In May, Banat’s house was attacked with tear gas and rubber grenades—all while his family was inside. Banat lashed out at the PA and even called on the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to impose sanctions on the Authority for postponing the elections.

On June 19, 2021, Banat exposed the latest scandal on his Facebook page. In a video, he revealed that the PA agreed to “swap a future delivery of Pfizer vaccines for a supply of one million jabs from Israel which were about to expire.’’

Banat then called on the Prosecutor General Akram al-Khatib:

“Before you, attorney general, is a crime of the highest level. Show us what you will do if you think your children are equal to other people’s children. However, it seems that you are a partner in this corrupt deal, and have reserved your share of the new vaccinations for yourself and your children,” he said. “You have to serve the public interest. We are not your slaves or Mohammad Shtayyeh’s slaves, or anyone else’s. The Palestinians who were silent [over your corruption] do not deserve any better. But I will not be silent.”

Two days later, he uploaded another video saying,

“PA leadership in the West Bank has always traded in everything. If we go back in history, it even sold the weapons meant for the Palestinian revolution […] Their whole lives they have been mercenaries and behave in this way.

Three days later, Banat was killed. Thousands attended his funeral, mourning the loss of yet another voice for Palestine. People flooded the streets and condemned the PA. In response, the Palestinian Security Services summoned their men to attack the protestors. 

While Banat’s perpetrators hoped to silence him forever, his legacy continues to inspire freedom-seekers worldwide, for they remember him as the man who single-handedly shook the throne of the PA by fearlessly exposing its crimes to the world.

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  • Zamena Manekia Manji

    Zamena Manekia Manji is a breaking news writer for TMJ News with experience of over 10 years in the field. Her areas of focus are important breaking stories in North America specifically untold stories from a minority lens.

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