Nazareth mayor Ramez Jaraiseh says the struggle of Israeli Palestinians is not limited to the attainment of their civil rights in the state of Israel, but it is also in support of the Palestinian’s just cause and quest for independence. He said Israeli Palestinians will continue their struggle for equality in Israel.
Jaraiseh told Albawaba.com in a phone interview on Thursday that Palestinian citizens living behind the Green Line expect Israeli attacks supported by police.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Q: Did the Israeli aggression against West Bank towns and the Gaza Strip have an impact on the situation in Palestinian towns in Israel?
A: We have expressed anger and solidarity. Thirteen Palestinians fell martyr in Nazareth, Umm El-Fahm, Jatt, Kufr Kanna, Sikhnin and Arrabah. This is a crucial time and it is important that such developments are used and be understood to be in favor of the Palestinian uprising.
Q: In view of the current Israeli flare-up, do you expect Israeli attacks?
A: Well, it happened in some areas, and such danger exists.
Q: Did it happen today?
A: No, it happened on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Q: Do you expect any attack?
A: Such danger exists but hinges on police taking precautions, either to prevent it, or to let it happen and keep the danger there.
Q: Nazareth witnessed major developments and many martyrs fell there, did you take any security measures to protect the city’s residents?
A: We didn’t take any measures, because we don’t have the means, but the people will rise to their responsibilities to protect Nazareth. When an attack occurred, people in all neighborhoods gathered to protect the city and worked together to prevent the attackers from entering the city. In other words, there was a reaction, it could be a quick one, but we don’t have the tools. The tools that we have consist of a stick and stone and this is the maximum means available to us. It would be difficult to defend ourselves against any attack. We bore the responsibility and held the police, as an executive power, responsible for what happened. The responsibility of police in any regime is to protect people and citizens, but the martyrs fell dead under police fire.
Q: There was a shift to the right in Israel lately, where is the Israeli left? Did any specific Israeli powers move to contain the shift to the right as well as the racist extremism?
A: Regrettably, the Israeli leftist voice was absent, but some change in the Israeli public opinion has been perceived lately along with the beginning of a change in some circles of the Israeli left. Some delegations visited Nazareth expressing anger and solidarity with our demands that the government take responsibility for what happened and that a legal inquiry panel be set up to determine those responsible for the escalation (of the violence) and to punish them. The basic thing is that the government has been held responsible, we don’t need an inquiry panel, but we set this demand as a challenge knowing that the government will not name a panel in practice. There has been some change, but I don’t know what kind of impact today’s developments will have, but before today’s developments, there has been the beginning of a change.
Q: How can we talk, following recent developments in Nazareth and other Arab towns, as well as the issue of the racist extremism, about the assimilation of Israeli Arabs (in the Jewish state)?
A: First, we didn’t talk about assimilation, we talked about the possibility of co-existence on a basis of continued struggle to be treated as a national minority, as a national unity where we have national rights in the country and rights of a national identity and not to be treated as communities with civil rights to be tackled on a daily basis. This will be a continued struggle, nothing will change it, and nothing will stop us continuing the struggle.
We view the future of the co-existence not as one of assimilation, but one based on national equality. Of course, the situation will be more difficult in the short run, but how will it be in the long run?
Such things are related to the development of events, and undoubtedly to what will happen in regards to the Palestinian question and the Arab-Israeli conflict in general. Will it move towards a continuation of the negotiating process and reaching a settlement that would have an impact on our situation, or will the situation move towards a disastrous explosion in the region that will also affect us? I think it is difficult to predict what the next course of events will be in the future, but in both cases, as far as we are concerned, our struggle will remain the same. It will be a struggle in support of the Palestinian cause and our Palestinian people to achieve the establishment of its independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. At the same time, we will continue our struggle for equality.
Q: How do you evaluate the international reaction in light of the current situation and the international moves the region is currently witnessing?
A: International moves are very important, in the view of the Palestinians, because the Palestinian side is the weaker in the balance of power, and it is evident to which side the balance shifts. The just right of the Palestinian side will, however, prove to be stronger in the future. International intervention is essential in the current balancing of powers to allow all changes in the political situation to favor the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership. In other words international intervention should be viewed in a positive manner and as an important element.
There has been a demand recently for international protection of the Palestinian people, and an international inquiry panel to investigate all that happened, and is still happening, to show the world who was responsible for the current deterioration (of the situation). The fact is that any solution or settlement cannot take place without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state or without Jerusalem as its capital.
Q: How do you view the recent call by (Knesset) member Azmi Bishara for international protection of the Palestinians on the Green Line?
A: It was not proposed in this way by Azmi Bishara, because this would mean relieving the Israeli government of its responsibility in providing protection to the Arab Palestinians in Israel. We should inform world public opinion about what is really happening in Israel with respect to the Arab Palestinian minority. We believe this is important in order to create international pressure on Israel so that it stops its extremely grave crackdown against citizens legally at least, living in the same state.
There is a difference between international protection, and gaining the support of world opinion to imposing a solution on Israel, and halt the brutality and crackdown that has been going on for the past 12 days. We don’t want to relieve the (Israeli) government of its responsibility.
Q: There have been expectations of a flare-up in Nazareth and other Arab towns in Israel against the (Israeli) military strikes which targeted the West Bank, but there wasn’t much there to mention. Was there an agreement that the Palestinians should calm the situation there?
A: Yes, there was an attempt to calm the situation a few days ago, out of a feeling of responsibility, because we are well aware of the realities of our situation and our struggle for the issues we fight for have different rules than those within the Palestine Authority territories, Gaza Strip and the West Bank. There is a difference in political geography between the two cases in terms of the situation, the reactions are not necessarily the same, and we know what is being proposed in any future settlement. What has been proposed is a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but this minority will remain a national minority within Israel in any way or framework of the settlement proposed at world or international level. Within such a settlement, the aims, strategies and types struggle are different because one of them will be achieving the national equality which I talked about. We know we will remain a national minority within the state of Israel in any future settlement.
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