The Chaotic Use of Weapons and the Building of a Civil State

A great controversy arose over the possession and carrying of weapons in the Palestinian society. The repeated questions asked were: Under which regulations and laws should this be done? Who is the responsible party for controlling and legalizing its use?

Written by: Sameeh Muhsen* 

A great controversy arose over the possession and carrying of weapons in the Palestinian society. The repeated questions asked were: Under which regulations and laws should this be done? Who is the responsible party for controlling and legalizing its use?

The use of weapons in a random manner has spread outside the framework of the law, where they are being used against defenseless citizens to settle personal disputes, to intimidate groups in society, to take old revenge, and/or to commit crimes based on various allegations.

The first Legislative Council approved Law No. (2) of 1998 regarding firearms and ammunition, specifying the conditions and reasons for acquiring, carrying and using weapons. Article 14 thereof prohibits carrying weapons in public places, conferences, meetings, public parties and weddings. It also strictly forbids the carrying of weapons in public and assigned the responsibility of its implementation to the Ministry of Interior.

Despite the enactment of this law, the Palestinian National Authority was unable to implement it, where it argued that the Oslo Accords signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government in 1993 restricted the areas of its control and influence. This pretext remains incomplete since the Accords allow the Palestinian security services to operate in B Areas, which include the largest number of densely populated Palestinian rural towns and villages, with prior security coordination. In addition, the proliferation of weapons in the areas that fall under the Palestinian Authority’s full jurisdiction is more numerous and diverse than in the aforementioned area. As for C Areas, which fall under full Israeli control and have low population density, the occupying forces have the ability to confiscate any weapon, even after a thousand years, that they suspect may be used against them.

The possession and carrying of weapons are linked to a social culture based on the characteristic of masculinity.  There are some who fire bullets when participating in social events, such as a wedding or the release of a prisoner, of which these bullets have led to the killing or wounding of individuals. However, they are neither held accountable for these murders nor for carrying these weapons in places prohibited by law.

When analyzing the phenomenon of possession weapons in the Palestinian society, it is unfair to fully hold the PNA responsible. The vast majority of these weapons come from the black market in Israel. Does the Israeli occupation benefit from this? From my long experience with the occupation, I do not hesitate when I answer: “Yes.” As long as weapons are not used against them, then “the Palestinians can go to hell.” The weapons that the occupying forces turn a blind eye to are the same weapons that reach the hands of individuals and/or various groups who are outside the law. Therefore, its use will remain restricted to the purposes for which it was acquired.

In the past few years, hundreds of Palestinian citizens have died as a result of using weapons outside the framework of the law, at the hands of law enforcement officials and/or at the hands of armed men. Since the beginning of this year alone, 26 citizens have died as a result of the chaotic use of weapons and/or their misuse. These deaths are the result of the sudden spike in crimes, quarrels between different social groups, cases that fall under the so-called “family honor”, accidents that occurred while playing around with the weapons, and even at the hands of law enforcement officials. There have also been 14 cases of suicide. Over the past years, Palestinian civil society organizations, in general, and human rights organizations, in particular, have taken a clear stand against the phenomenon of the chaotic use of weapons, given that this phenomenon poses a threat to civil peace and contradicts the conditions for establishing the civil state that Palestinians dream of after decades of struggling and suffering.

There is no doubt that the high crime rate in the Palestinian society is inseparable from the spread and expansion of the phenomenon of the chaotic use of weapons. There is also no doubt that the lack of strict implementation of the law, whether organizational, tribal, or official cover for those who carry weapons, the growing phenomenon of outlaw groups and the occupying forces’ interest and benefit in spreading chaos in the Palestinian society and distracting them from confronting and fighting against Israel all contribute to the spread of this dangerous and disturbing phenomenon and its threat to civil peace.

The matter of limiting the spread of this phenomenon requires participatory efforts amongst the PNA, with its security and civil agencies, national and Islamic parties and factions, civil society organizations, public social figures and cultural and media and political elites in order to eliminate weapons and protect the civil peace.

*Poet, writer and human rights activist, based in the Nablus Governorate.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.

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