Raafat Elayyan was arrested in his home in the village of Anata in the Jerusalem district of the occupied West Bank.Earlier Tuesday evening, Elayyan had appeared in a televised interview on the Palestine Today satellite channel to discuss a decision from the Fatah movement — the PA’s ruling party — to discharge him as its Jerusalem spokesperson on Saturday.
He was the second Fatah official to be removed from office over participation in a meeting attended by hundreds of local Fatah leaders on Saturday, which was dispersed by Palestinian security forces.
Former senior Fatah leader and lawmaker Jihad Tummaleh, who was also dismissed following the meeting, said on his Facebook page that the meeting was held to discuss “Fatah unity and awakening.”
Anonymous Fatah sources at the time said that the meeting was considered “illegal” and that its participants were accused of “delinquency” by Fatah’s Anti-Delinquency Committee.
According to Palestine Today’s website, Elayyan clarified in the interview that while he was removed from office as Fatah’s official spokesperson in Jerusalem and that his membership for the upcoming seventh congress for Fatah had been revoked, he had not been discharged from the Fatah party altogether.
Elayyan told the network that he believed he was punished because he had always been supportive of Fatah unity and demanded that all discharged Fatah members be allowed back into the party. “The disputes between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the discharged leader Muhammad Dahlan are not the only disputes within the movement,” Elayyan added.
However, he did call the dismissal of Dahlan “illegal,” quoting a number of Fatah leaders, including Executive Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad and Revolutionary Council member Kamal al-Sheikh as saying that Dahlan was never convicted of any charges.
He said there were also internal disputes over the membership of the upcoming seventh congress, expected to be held in November, and over the movement’s strategies and priorities regarding international and local relations. “The Fatah movement has reached a point of unclear vision on how to manage relations with Hamas and Israel,” Elayyan said.
Amid growing dissent within Fatah, the PA has come under fire for cracking down on Palestinians for criticizing the government, while the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) found in a 2016 poll that at least 64 percent of the Palestinian public are in favor of the resignation of Abbas.
However, according to the same poll, only 4 percent of the Palestinian public support Dahlan to become the Abbas’ successor, while 33 percent support Marwan Barghouti, an imprisoned Fatah leader, to replace Abbas as the next Palestinian president.
Prior to the discharge of Elayyan and Tummaleh, Palestinian officer Osama Mansour was detained on Oct. 1 for publishing a Facebook post asking Abbas to reconsider his decision to attend the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.
He was sentenced to a year in prison, but on the same day he was sentenced, Abbas issued a presidential decree to release Mansour and ordered that he be retired from serving with the security forces instead.
In August, International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report accusing the Palestinian government of corruption, stating that the recent violations of freedom of speech represented a larger pattern by Palestinian authorities which has been documented by the group over the past five years.
“At a time when many Palestinians are critical of their leaders, the crackdowns have a chilling effect on public debate in the traditional news media, and on social media,” the report read