An opposition figure at the Palestinian Legislative Council said that an Arab summit will be couter-productive as far as the Palestinian Intifada is concerned, and what is needed is a real Arab support.
“I believe that if it is held, it means disaster to the Palestinian people It is now the American decision and the will of Israel. I hope the summit will not be held because it will place new pressures on the Palestinian people and leadership,”said Hassan Khreisha in a telephone interview with Albawaba.com.
The MP stressed that the Palestinian leadership should focus on the internal front and seek national unity rather than looking for support from the world.
He also called on the PNA to put an end to the peace process, and resort to armed resistance, the only option that would guarantee an independent Palestinian state, he said.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Q- The Palestinian people seem to be paying a price for their problems with blood. (Ariel) Sharon went to Jerusalem to gain larger media coverage in light of the rivalry within his Likud party, and (Ehud) Barak needs to appear as the strongman after he was accused by the Israeli people of being weak, a man who is fond of the Arabs, and ready to concede a part of Jerusalem. Is it true? Will the Palestinian people pay the price of internal Israeli problems with blood?
A- The Palestinian people do not pay the price of problems with blood. Those who led others to believe that Barak is a peace hero are those who are on top of the political hierarchy in Palestine. They asked Israeli Palestinians to vote for Barak and considered him as a hero for peace, this is a strategic mistake committed by the Palestinian National Authority PNA, since they considered that his assumption of power will solve problems, saying that he was a hero for peace and so all agreements that will be signed by Israel are just and rightful. But it proved wrong, and so they have to pay the price. The political leadership must pay the price of their own perceptions in regards to the Israeli position.
Q-There have been new developments, martyrs fell in Nazareth and the game became more embarrassing to Israel because there were Arabs in Israel who sacrifice their blood, what is your comment on that?
A- My only comment is that 52 years after the Palestinian Nakba (disaster) the Palestinian living inside Israel is still attached to his homeland Palestine, belongs to it,as a people and a cause, consequently his reaction (to the developments) was a normal expression. There is now a large group of our brothers from the (1948 Arabs) led by Sheik Raed Salah in Al-Aqsa mosque to protect it. This is part of their reactions, he came with his kinsmen to donate blood to Palestinian hospitals, scenes of cold blood killings have aroused the nationalist sentiments of those people and they offered martyrs in a new Intifada that was preceded only by the Land Day Intifada. They still hold fast to their Arab identity and belonging to their homeland, and so their reaction was spontaneous and wider than before. Nazareth mayor and the mayor of Um El-Fahm Sheik Salah are now targeted.
Q- Did you ever expect clashes to take place in Acre between Israeli occupation soldiers and our Palestinian brothers inside (Israel)?
This confirms the fact that the homeland cannot be divided, and that the homeland and all Palestine’s people are one, those people stood by us in the good and the bad, they are our kinsmen, which signifies that we build the national unity with blood scrapping any separation between the 1948 Arabs and the Gaza Arabs. We are a united Palestinian people who pay a price in order for Palestine to be free and remain Arab. By the way, we pay a lot on behalf of the Arab nation. We hope that its rulers would at least respond to us and convene a summit. I have always told PNA officials that if we really wanted Jerusalem, then the make-up of the Jerusalem committee should be different. Things and conceptions have changed, the Palestinian people pays the price, offers blood, washed out Sharon and the Israelis’ desecration with Palestinian blood offered in a spontaneous manner. The Palestinian people are still ready and able to offer sacrifices from any Palestinian village in the West Bank and Gaza.
They said once that the elderly die and the young will forget, the elderly died but the young didn’t forget. We, the Palestinians inherit the love of the land one generation after the other and I believe we went back to our past sentiments. We want out Palestinian land from the river to the sea, back.
Q- You said the Intifada did not begin with a decision and you said also that it will not stop with a decision, you also demanded a halt to the political process. In your view, and in light of the difficult Palestinian situation, the current Arab status quo and commitment of Arab officialdom to the peace process, can the Palestinian side declare their withdrawal from the negotiations? Is there a majority of members of the National and legislative councils who would endorse such move?
A- I don’t think that there is a sufficient number within the Palestinian institutions, whether it was a national or a legislative council, or an executive committee, to halt the process. But there is one thing in light of the balance of power, at Camp David we felt that the Palestinian side was facing one side that included the Israeli and the American sides along with Israel and the United States allies in the region. We were alone there, any settlement that could be made under such circumstances would be unjust, or one that we expect to achieve because we are not forced to sign a deal with the Israelis. Some say that we have to sign a deal with Israel, those who say that do not represent the Palestinian people.
We have one option now, to teach the next generations the Palestinian experience of one hundred years, because no one has the right to confiscate the right of the generations to fight occupation and we’re not forced to sign a deal with Israel.
Q- But you have just called for an Arab summit.
A- I believe that if it is held, it means disaster to the Palestinian people It is now the American decision and the will of Israel. I hope the summit will not be held because it will place new pressures on the Palestinian people and leadership.
Q- But the summit is expected to take a decision not to concede entire Jerusalem and the rights of the Palestinian people.
A- The Jerusalem committee has met, but its decisions were met with favorable reactions from the United States and Israel. I heard yesterday that the Arab League had met, expressed denunciation and condemnation. This is not enough, we want the Arab world and its forces to act and offer support to Palestinian people, there should be demonstrations in the Arab world, we want demonstrations in the world to back our steadfastness. We were always the first to move in support of Arab rights. It’s time for the Arab nation to move, we should hear of an Arab demonstration and not a Palestinian one. We saw (such demonstrations) in Ein El-Helweh refugee camp, in Lebanon’s refugee camps, in Jordan’s refugee camps. We want demonstrations in Arab countries, in Egypt, Syria, or in any Arab country to tell the Palestinian people we stand by you, because we have always stood by our Arab nation. We don’t want any Arab summit to exercise pressure on us. I believe that in light of the fluctuation of balance, and with the current American hegemony, we should take a decision to halt normalization with the Israelis and that Sharon should not be received. I have proposed that any meeting between any Palestinian official -regardless of his rank- and Sharon should be banned, but I believe that following the recent flare-up, some will meet with Sharon if he becomes a prime minister or in any decision-making position.
I wish we could ask the Arabs and ask ourselves to stop using the Palestinian people, and that the Arab regimes stop using us as a bridge leading Israel to the Arab world. In this context, we value the role of those who reject normalization with Israel in the Arab world, we don’t want anyone to talk to us on TV about the advantages of normalization with Israel. This would be cheap talk, normalization with Israel is supposed to stop, and so dose any meeting with any Israeli government official or opposition member. The Arab masses should demand from their governments a trial of any Israeli leader visiting any Arab country, or at least refrain from receiving him. An Arab summit is called up to announce that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state, this would be mere talk that does not benefit us.
Q- We saw Palestinian youths on TV asking bitterly: “Where are the Arab and Moslem leaders……” Do you believe that a new Palestinian trend has developed seeking to turn the conflict into a Palestinian-Israeli one?
A- First, I must say that no one in Palestine believes that he is separated from his Arab nation, we have a Pan-Arab nationalist orientation stretching to the east and not the west, and so none of us thinks of “Palestine’ the conflict. It is true that we spearhead the conflict but we are backed by the Arab world. But what is meant by the backing is Arab participation. This is what we have been seeking for a long time. We want the Arab world to be with us because we are part of the Arab nation and it is demanded to support us. This would mean that our cause is not ours alone and therefore we should not be secluded. Now under the American, Israeli and European pressure, we should restore the pan-Arab dimension on the anniversary of Abdel Nasser’s revolution. We want to improve our relations with the Arab world so we can affect and get the effect, affect positively and get the positive effect as regards the Palestinian question that is a central one to all Arabs.
When some had floated the idea that the Palestinian decision is an independent one, a large sector of the Arab nation took it that the Palestinian cause is no more a central one. This talk reflected on some Arab summits to the extent that the Palestinian cause was not brought up as a central cause to the Arabs, and some started to think that it had ended. The Palestinian question has not been resolved , it still moves Arab feelings and sentiments and inspires many people who fight for freedom and independence.
Q- Can you explain the kind of participation needed in order for Arabs to support the Palestinian struggle?
A-I said that what we need is at least to stop dealing with Israel in the Arab world, to close Israeli embassies in some Arab countries, close consulates and representative offices and ban visits by Israeli officials. We could see in some Arab countries that an Israeli can enter without a visa while a Palestinian is forbidden from entering an Arab country, this is sad. We hope they will respond to us by acknowledging that the Zionist enemy is still the enemy of the Arab nation. If this has been achieved, then we can restore the form of the relationship between the occupation and the Arab nation to a confrontational one and not to one of a friendship, this is the minimum of what we expect from Arabs.
I don’t want them to fight on behalf of me, or to rise up (to occupation) on behalf of me, neither to sacrifice their children and youngsters on behalf of me. I want a stand of support that makes me feel that the Arab nation still considers the Palestinian cause a central one, by expelling Israeli ambassadors and consuls from Arab countries and preventing any visit regardless of its purpose….no technology or participation in anything.
Q- Yesterday we heard fiery statements from Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatening revenge from Israel, we heard a statement from Ramadan Shalah that Israeli mothers will shed blood not tears….etc., another statement from Liddawi said the Palestine Authority was a barrier to their resistance operations, what’s going to happen?
A- We must first acknowledge a certain thing. We have reached an impasse, the Palestinian political powers and groupings, the civil society powers, everything in Palestine is at an impasse. It is engulfed by a new culture that has developed within the Palestinian society, the culture of fear. This culture has developed as a result of mal-practices by some PNA officials, namely the security apparatus that has previously resorted to political arrests - a thing that has not been expected under the umbrella of a national Palestinian authority, but it happened. Some Islamic movements received blows from different parties, the gravest of all were the blows they had received from the PNA and its security apparatus. But if the threat was blood for blood, killing for killing, and a child for a child, then this is a useless talk at this stage, because anyone who wants to conduct a military operation will not announce it to the people, for the one who plans keeps quiet about his plans, and the one who talks a lot will not do much practice.
The current popular uprising, the Aqsa Intifada, will not be paralleled by any act even if they carried out operations similar to those of 1990, and it will remain less than that carried out by the masses in a spontaneous form of struggle.
Q-Can you explain to us what happened to the five factories burned down by (Palestinian) youths on the Green Line, as well as the issue of Joseph Tomb in Nablus?
A-Any intifada in the world could either be escalated or lead to bargaining. Escalation means movement from the a state of ‘stones’ and bare chests, to armed struggle and use of weapons, or to bargaining through the uprising.
I believe that the possibility of bargaining in the current uprising is very weak though it exists yet it is very little. The possibility for escalation is high and will remain so when the Authority and its apparatus line up with the people straight away to protect the Palestinian security.
Concerning the factories, they were moved from the “1948”areas to the Green Line that borders the town of Tulkarm. They consist of four factories producing liquid gas, copper, cartoon and agricultural products. We used to see a thick cloud coming out from the area of the factories which were transferred under an Israeli court ruling. Here is where the danger lies. Because the court decision to move them from the internal parts to the Green Line stipulated, they operate when the wind blows eastward, and when it blows westward, the factory should stop operating. This is one form of racial discrimination and disrespect of the ordinary citizens. A few statistics that we have showed that a large number of them who live close to the factories had cancer- mostly children- specifically lymphatic cancers, asthma and breathing difficulties. This has been documented by Israeli medical reports and proved by the Palestinian side.
We tried several times to remove them by legal means and others but to no avail. The demonstrators headed to the area when the confrontations were taking place somewhere else, but it was decided that they should also take place close to the factories. Then the (Palestinian) young men burned down Nahasud factory for agricultural products, after bulldozing a part of it to the ground using two bulldozers from the factory itself. Then they destroyed another new factory and the cartoon factory and set them on fire. If you go to the area, you will see a smoke cloud still billowing four hours after the factories were burned down.
Q- Can you mention the names of factories that were burned down?
A- One of them is Nahazori, named after its owner, a Fiberglass factory, and a gas plant, where a Palestinian once died. The first was set up near an Israeli military base, and when an Israeli soldier got sick because of the emitted fumes, the military camp was moved from the area. The forth plant produces cardboard.
Q- What about Joseph Tomb?
A-We are in constant contacts with our brothers members of the parliament in Nablus. They have told us that the site was destroyed and burned down completely, and there are no Israelis left there. Now the people of Balata Camp are at the site.
Q- It is understood from what you have said that you demand a declaration of armed resistance. In your opinion, are circumstances ripe for such an option, and what are the political implications of this?
A-What concerns me in the first place is the unity of our people. The political agreement [between the Palestinians and the Israelis] and the Oslo Accords have created a gap in the Palestinian national unity. In light of this, any feasible option that would give life to the national solidarity is acceptable. Our unity is usually enforced when there is an external danger, which many Palestinians do not recognize now; some call it the Zionist regime, other call it Israel, and a third group say it is the other side; in all cases the differences are due to Oslo.
At least I can demand that the Oslo accords be abolished, and we build up our national unity, on the understanding that it is the most important when compared to outside issues. For example, the president traveled for thousands of miles to the US and to other world countries consulting them on the declaration of the state. Such issue can be settled internally if there was national unity, but if our domestic front is weak, the support of the whole world would not be useful.
After years of negotiations we come to realize that there are no options left but popular resistance. I tell you very clearly and frankly that I believe if the resistance option is taken, there will not remain a single Israeli settler in the West Bank, and this was proved true by the first Intifada.
There are now 197 settlements in the West Bank, inhabited by 350,000 Israelis, among them there are 17 settlements surrounding Jerusalem, which we want as our capital. In Gaza, the number of settlements is 19.
These settlements have become a fact on the ground and we face that with celebrations; we go to the site, perform Friday prayers and say hello to the soldier who has no right to take a decision whatsoever, then we go back to our homes. What we want is real confrontations where a settler no longer feels any safes in his settlement, say, near Tulkarem, than he is in the one near Tel Aviv.
Days ago, this was the case, because when anyone from Hamas, or any Islamist movements wanted to carry out an operation, he would have been arrested and therefore suppression was two-fold: that exercised by the National Authority, and that experienced during confrontations with the Israelis.
I think that if we want to resist settlement, people are to be left free to take actions of resistance. Then, I believe, no single settler will stay in the West Bank. If people are given the chance to resist, the Palestinian state will be declared in one to two years at most.
The Israelis are cowards when they face real confrontations. They fear face-to-face clashes with people more than they fear conventional war, at which they believe they are superior by all criteria.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)