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Khaled Amayreh: A dangerous juncture in Palestinian history

While the Israeli Government is projecting an "economic peace" with the Palestinians and the French Government is calling for the recognition of a fictitious Palestinian State - deprived of land and sovereignty - Silvia Cattori has interviewed one of the leading intellectuals of the Palestinian resistance: Khalid Amayreh. According to him, the Western countries are in deep denial over the colonial reality of Palestine, which they only perceive through the prism of their Palestinian collaborators.

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Khaled Amayreh

Silvia Cattori: While large international solidarity associations with the Palestinian cause readily publish all the writings of Israeli militants and journalists like Michel Warschawski, Uri Avnery, Amira Hass, or Gideon Levy, few of your articles pass the censorship. This shows well that the discourse in the solidarity movement is biased, truncated at will; of course they condemn the occupation but they do not question the legitimacy of the Zionist State, the dispossession and the occupation of Palestine since 1948 etc. They denounce the 1967 borders but not those violated in 1948. So, is an Israeli Jew more credible when reporting on Israel and Palestine?

Khaled Amayreh [1]: Your observations are unfortunately correct. However, it is always better to view the half-full part of the proverbial glass. That these people don’t publish my articles is unfortunate, however, the fact that they have brought themselves to realizing that Israel is committing crimes and violating the basic human rights of the Palestinian people is a laudable act in itself.

What is more important is that a revolutionary act can’t occur outside its natural historical and political milieu. We just can’t expect people who were breast-fed with the holocaust religion all their life to suddenly convert to anti-Zionism. In France, as in the United States and much of the West, turning one’s back completely to Israel and Zionism means losing a certain part of one’s identity. Hence, many people are just not ready to undergo the desired transformation. My personal impression is that the final transformation will ultimately occur as the universal resistance to Zionism becomes deeper and irreversible as the futility of the so-called peace process become clearer, which is happening now.

Silvia Cattori: The murder of a Hamas military executive, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, has been largely commented. Never has Israel’s image been so degraded. But should we not see that no Western State condemns the Israeli policy of targeted killings of Palestinians fighters? Doesn’t this demonstrate that Western politicians do not want to see the ugly and brutal policy of the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman? ? [2]

Khaled Amayreh: You see, international politics is very much like a house of ill-repute. Principles, including so-called moral principles, mean nothing as opposed to statecraft. In western countries, leaders and politicians would go to a great extent asserting the ideals of freedom, human rights and democracy. However, when these principles collide with expediency or pass through a real test (e.g. Hamas’s election victory in 2006), they are let down in the name of realism and pragmatism.

The same thing applies to Israeli behaviour. Israel has always been a criminal entity. And the West went along with that. Hence, it would be naïve to expect the West to undergo a sudden awakening of its conscience just because Israel has murdered a Palestinian leader. Israel has always committed such crimes, and the West has always lived with this. So there is absolutely nothing extraordinary here.

Silvia Cattori: When Benjamin Netanyahu reiterates that Israel will never withdraw from East Jerusalem, nor return to 1967 borders, nor allow Palestinian refugees to return to what is now Israel, what means do you have to voice your anger?

Khaled Amayreh: I tend to believe him, which really convinces me of the futility of seeking peace with Israel. Unfortunately, it is too late for peace with Israel. Now it is either open-ended conflict, or a single democratic state in all of mandatory Palestine from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean where all inhabitants are viewed as citizens, irrespective of religion and ethnicity. Needless to say, the later concept is anathema for Israel, since it would lead to the loss of Israel’s Jewish identity.

Silvia Cattori: After calling to dismember Iraq, after destroying Lebanon and Palestine, Israeli regime wants now to attack Iran and encourage his allies to enter in his war propaganda. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government is openly the most eager to support Israel against Iran. But is it really Iran that threatens the Middle East?

Khaled Amayreh: No, Iran in no way represents a threat to the Middle East. Iran is still very much a Third World country that lacks the ability (and the inclination) to pose such a threat. Besides, Iran, unlike Israel, has not waged wars of aggression in modern times.

In my opinion, the driving motive behind the Israeli-western hysteria against Iran is to ensure that Israel remains the sole, undisputed, and unchallenged superpower in the Middle East as it is now. Hence, the largely phobic talk about the possible destruction of Israel by Iran is more than rubbish [3]. It really insults people’s intelligence and should never be entertained by serious peoples.

Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear heads and bombs, along with their delivery systems, which means that it would be utterly foolish to threaten Israel. Some would claim that the Iranian leadership can be “foolish” but this is nonsense. A country that has been able to navigate itself through the treacherous terrains of international politics can’t really be foolish.

In the final analysis, we are talking about a potential challenge to Israeli supremacy in the region, not existence, a condition that has persisted since the aftermath of the Second World War. This is what irks Israel and the West.

As to Sarkozy, he obviously lacks the rectitude of an honest leader. He is very much a European copy of George Bush, but lacking the enormity of means that were at the latter’s disposal.

Silvia Cattori: How could France - totally aligned with Israel as it is since 2007 – help the Palestinian people to regain their rights? Did it not already lose all its credit and influence in the region? As for the strategy of Obama for the Middle East has it not already failed?

Khaled Amayreh: No, France is not really qualified to carry out a truly constructive role in helping the Palestinians regain their rights. France, especially under the present government, is too reluctant, too inconsistent, too unprincipled and too much seduced by Zionist romanticism.

Indeed, France has repeatedly demonstrated that its heart and mind belong to Israel, not to Justice. Moreover, the scandalous French stand on the genocidal Israeli onslaught against the people of the Gaza Strip a year ago was really a classical example of political whoredom. What else can be said of a major international power that once taught the world the meaning of liberty that stood idle, passively watching Nazi-Israel rain death on the heads of Gaza’s helpless children and women while mendaciously claiming to be doing this in self-defence?

Silvia Cattori: Have you not been shocked by the call to recognize a “Palestinian State without borders”, made by Bernard Kouchner on the day (21 February) of the arrival of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in Paris? If France wants to recognise a Palestinian State, why should it be without defining its borders?

Khaled Amayreh: Yes, I have. And I think many other Palestinians have the same feeling. The reason for that is very clear. The French proposal for recognizing a Palestinian state without borders should be viewed as a mere euphemism for the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.

Besides, any temporary arrangements would have be more or less vague arrangements in order to be accepted by both sides. And from our experience with the Oslo Accords, vague arrangements are always interpreted by the powerful side, in this case Israel, in a way that serves the Israeli designs, while the other party, the Palestinians, is left indulging in day-dreaming.

Didn’t Shimon Peres, the hero of the Qana massacre [4] say “I can’t post a guard at Arafat’s lips,” when the late Palestinian leader said that the Oslo Accords gave Palestinians an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital?

Besides, who would or could guarantee that Israel wouldn’t treat the “temporary borders” as “permanent borders”? The United States? France? The United Kindom? Germany (we probably shouldn’t even mention Germany, given her pornographic embrace of Israeli Nazism!)? [5] Well, these powers can’t even get Israel to stop demolishing an Arab home in East Jerusalem, let alone force Israel to withdraw from Palestinian land.

Silvia Cattori: The day after his call, in an article co-authored with Miguel Angel Moratinos [6] Bernard Kouchner spoke of a new plan that sets the agenda for negotiations on the final status of the Palestinian State. Here, again, do you think that this is a credible solution? Is not Bernard Kouchner’s plan an Israeli plan? A plan “for the establishment of institutions and the creation of a viable Palestinian State” that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had endorsed in summer 2009, that would build a state "in facts and on the ground" for 2011, through an increase of economic projects? What does that suggest to you?

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Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad (L) walks with visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (R) in the West Bank city of Jenin on October 4, 2008.

Khaled Amayreh: I think this plan is no plan at all. It is rather a process of deception very much like the defunct Oslo process. Besides, it is always ludicrous and vacuous to claim that a viable Palestinian state can be built while the Palestinian people are still languishing under a cruel foreign military occupation that controls every aspect of their lives.

I sincerely believe that Mr. Fayyad is acting very much like Alice in Wonderland. He is a man who was parachuted from North America to Palestine thanks to a decision by President Bush. I dare say he is not really acquainted with the Nazi-like nature of the Israeli regime. Moreover, he naively thinks that the building of institutions, probably along with international recognition, could create a certain mechanism, or a momentum, that would eventually make the proverbial viable Palestinian state an achievable task.

To this, we Palestinians, who have been through it all, from creation to destruction, say a big « No ». We have learned, the hard way, that the creation of a state before liberation is a dangerous and stupid act of gambling. This has been proven in a clarion way through the Oslo process, which gave us annexation instead of liberation and apartheid instead of statehood.

Besides, who would guarantee that Israel wouldn’t move its tanks to crush all the institutions Mr. Fayyad would like to build in cooperation with people like Kouchner, especially if Palestinians continued to be affronted with the durability of the « temporary borders » being proposed now?

Silvia Cattori: Salam Fayyad is a politician that Sarkozy and Kouchner would like to seat in power definitely. Luisa Morgantini, the leader of the solidarity movement in Italy, considers Salam Fayyad as a militant, a friend of the Palestinian cause. Who is Fayyad really for the Palestinians? What did he do to improve the daily life of his people? Have you seen fewer check points, less jobless under his regime? Is it true that the economic situation improved in the West Bank? What does it mean for the Palestinians on the ground? Do you believe that Fayyad could be the right person to solve the Palestinian cause?

Khaled Amayreh: In my opinion, Fayyad is a man who is effectively striving to carry out the Netanyahu concept of “economic peace” whereby Palestinians, or a majority of them, would accept trading off their national aspirations for jobs and money. In other words, he wants to us to settle for a deformed “state”, one without dignity, without freedom, without authority, without anything, for a little-whore of a state that would be perpetually subject and subservient to Israel. As to Jerusalem, the right of the refugees, the numerous Jewish colonies that continue to expand throughout our land, this is not of his concern. His ultimate concern is to achieve “economic prosperity” but at the expense of our legitimate and inalienable rights, including the right to freedom from Israeli Nazism.

If Fayyad’s vision were to succeed, God forbid, we would be condemned to many decades of serfdom and subjugation by Jewish colonialism, all in the name of peace.

Silvia Cattori: The Palestinian people and their cause can only suffer from the split between Fatah and Hamas. In 2008 you said that “it is imperative that member-States of the European Union (EU) either collectively or individually should initiate a meaningful dialogue with Hamas as soon as possible. Needless to say, such a dialogue would be expedient to all parties involved as well as to the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East." [7] In October 2009, when Fatah and Hamas were close to signing a pact of national unity, there was a big hope. Yet the division remains? How can we imagine that Mohammed Abbas and Salam Fayyad can be loyal in a future coalition with Hamas after all the betrayals that are known?

Khaled Amayreh: I am not really optimistic about true reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The reason for that is that Fatah, indeed the entire Palestinian Authority, lacks the will to act independently, given the fact that they both are almost completely dependent for their financial survival on western and pro-western Arab donors.

Indeed, the raison d’être of the Palestinian Authority (PA) now, at least from the American and Israeli view point, is to combat Hamas or at least inhibit its growth.

This is not a matter of a transient political strategy. It is much more than that. Israel, which continues to control the overall American policy in the Middle East, believes that the inclusion of Hamas into the main body of Palestinian politics would more or less raise the ceiling of Palestinian aspirations and expectations. This, not the issue of terror, is the main reason of Israel’s vehement hostility to Hamas.

Moreover, Israel hopes that a strong Hamas would ensure that Fatah wouldn’t make serious concessions to Israel with regard to cardinal final-status issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees.

This is why it is likely that the dichotomy between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas will continue for some time unless the Palestinian Authority delivers itself from the shackles of subservience to the United States and European Union, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Silvia Cattori: An intelligence officer of the Palestinian Authority, Fahmi Shabana al-Tamimi [8] has condemned the misuse of public funds within the Palestinian Authority; has he been heard? Where are the billions paid by the European Union?

Khaled Amayreh: No, he hasn’t been heard and is unlikely to be heard. The reason is clear. For the Palestinian Authority to truly and sincerely fight corruption, it would have to demolish the entire Palestinian Authority apparatus because corruption, in its various forms, is the other side of the Palestinian Authority regime. In fact, there is an umbilical relationship between the Palestinian Authority and corruption. This might sound as an exaggeration to many, especially in the West. But this is taken for granted here. In short, corruption infests every aspect of the Palestinian Authority so much so that only a thorough and complete overhaul of the Palestinian Authority would stem the plague of corruption.

Silvia Cattori: When Mahmoud Abbas asks Hamas legitimate authorities (in Gaza) to recognize Israel as a precondition to forming a government of national unity, does it sound normal?

Khaled Amayreh: No, it doesn’t. And he hasn’t the courage to say so openly before a Palestinian audience. Besides, he and his Palestinian Authority had recognized Israel a long time ago, and look what they have got in return?

Silvia Cattori: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized Israel. But is it to its honour? What is the usefulness of the PLO? Has it still a reason to be? Do you consider its representatives abroad as legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people? Mahmoud Abbas, does he not use the PLO to divide the Palestinians?

Khaled Amayreh: The PLO used to be a true representative of the Palestinian people. But this was when the PLO still retained it national chastity. Now, in my opinion, the PLO lost much if not all of its national honour, if only by indulging in manifestly treasonous acts such as the so-called security coordination with Israel. Some Palestinians are already calling the PA, the daughter of the PLO, a Palestinian “judenrat”.

Silvia Cattori: Your representatives outside do not seem to be concerned with the abuses of the Palestinian Authorities. Leila Shahid, Palestinian representative in Brussels continues to refer to Oslo, to negotiations, and other nonsense. By the way, the PLO representative is considered, for instance in France, as the legitimate voice of the Palestinians by activists like Dominique Vidal and Michel Warschawsky, with whom Leila Shahid has held conferences for years in France. Did the Palestinians expect them to resign in 2006 when Abbas and his Fatah movement had lost the power?

Khaled Amayreh: This is really tragic, because these people are supposed to defend the honour of the Palestinian people, not blindly support and defend policies that corrode this honour in the service of Israel.

My impression is that these people are following the old adage “when money appears, heads bow.” I am sorry that some of our people have reached this level of depravity.

Silvia Cattori: When the Palestinian representative in UNESCO Elias Sambar, or representatives of the Palestinian Authority, PLO or Fatah leaders, stigmatize Iran - one of the few countries in the region which denounces Israel without concessions - or blame the Palestinian Muslim resistance to be “Shia’a” [9], do they express the opinion of the majority of your people?

Khaled Amayreh: I don’t think so. My impression is that they indulge in this stupid ranting in order to receive a certificate of good conduct from the U.S. and Israel. Otherwise, one might ask what interest do Palestinians have in alienating millions of Shiite Muslims around the world by calling Hamas “Shia’a”?

Besides, didn’t Fatah and the PLO repeatedly beg Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to include Fatah prisoners in any prisoner-exchange deal with Israel; hence the hypocrisy on their part.

Silvia Cattori: Another grim reality: the Fatah collaboration with the enemy. Under these conditions when the Palestinians hear Abbas or Fayyad talk about the “liberation of Palestine”, can they believe them?

Khaled Amayreh: Yes, I know that too well. This is really beyond chutzpah [insolence]; it is pornographic hypocrisy bordering on mental sickness.

Silvia Cattori: You wrote that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) “is functioning very much like a hanger-on vis-à-vis the American backed Palestinian Authority“ [10]. But is it not sad to see that outside, solidarity associations and leftist groups consider the PFLP as a leftist party and, therefore, collect and send to its leader large sums of money? Is this a good way to help the Palestinians in general?

Khaled Amayreh: The PFLP is not what it used to be. Its effective alliance with an American-backed Fatah has more or less undermined its erstwhile reputation. For example, the PFLP has not adopted an uncompromising stance vis-à-vis the issue of security coordination with Israel. I remember that two years ago, one PLO security commander declared that « the Palestinian Authority and Israel have one common enemy, that is Hamas, » and the PFLP kept silent in the face of this national apostasy.

Moreover, the PFLP was virtually silent and made no reactions to the serious attacks by the Palestinian Authority on freedom of speech, human rights and civil liberties in the West Bank. To many Palestinians, this stand was unforgivable. More to the point, there is a widespread impression in occupied Palestine that the PFLP leadership has on many occasions allowed the Palestinian Authority leadership to utilize the PLO, of which PFLP is a founding member, in the showdown with Hamas.

None the less, most Palestinians, including this writer, still view with respect and admiration Ahmed Sadat, the imprisoned chief of the PFLP. We hope that he will be free from Zionist jails soon.

Silvia Cattori: The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a place forbidden to many Palestinians. New restrictions are forbidding Muslims to go on the site of Haram Al-Sharif. After all the punishments they suffered from the Israeli occupiers, is it not the cruelest of humiliations for the Palestinians?

Khaled Amayreh : Yes, it also shows that Israel denies non-Jews freedom of religion. How else can one relate to these draconian measures when people from Paris to Los Angeles can access the Aqsa Mosque while Palestinian Muslims and Christian who live only a few hundreds meters away are denied the right to visit and pray at their respective holy places? Even the most fascist states in history didn’t embark on such measures.

Silvia Cattori: Gaza remains under siege despite protests from many Muslims and non Muslims in the world. Can the Palestinians of Gaza continue to survive without outside help?

Khaled Amayreh: The Palestinians have no choice but to survive. The Palestinians have survived in spite of history because they constantly and feverishly clung to that choice, if you can call it a choice. The other alternative was ultimate demise and national obliteration. None the less, there is no doubt that the enduring Gaza nightmare represents a stigma of shame at the forefront of the international community as well as upon humanity’s conscience as a whole. It is more than lamentable that while an entire people is being raped, humiliated, starved, and tormented, the nations of the world are just looking on passively as if this slow-motion holocaust were taking place on a different planet or in a different galaxy. I really can’t find the right words to describe the gigantic crime of apathy toward Gaza. Now, I can understand why so many people remained silent when the Nazis were doing what they were doing Europe in the course of the Second World War.

[1] Khalid Amayreh, born on 1957 in Hebron and did his university degrees in the United States: BA in Journalism at University of Oklahoma, 1982; MA in Journalism, University of Southern Illinois, 1983. For a long time, his life was not made any easier by the fact that he was largely confined by the Israeli military authorities to his home village of Dura, near Hebron were he is actually based. He runs the website Exposing Israel.

[2] Benjamin Netanyahu, born in 1949, is the current prime minister and head of the extreme right-wing Likud party. He was the first to ever be voted prime minister via direct elections in 1996, and later served as foreign minister and finance minister under Ariel Sharon.
Avigdor Lieberman, born on 1958 in Kishinev, Moldavia, is the current foreign minister and leader of the extreme right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, which after the 2009 general elections has become Israel’s third largest party. Lieberman immigrated to Israel in 1978. Shortly after arriving in the country, he enlisted in the Israel Defence Forces and served in the Artillery Corps.

[3] Reuters participates in a propaganda campaign against Iran, Voltaire Network, 23 November 2005.

[4] Qana is a village in Southern Lebanon where many Lebanese civilians, who had taken refuge in a UN compound to escape the fighting, were killed by the Israeli artillery on April 18, 1996.

[5] Embracing Israel Costs Merkel Clout, by Judy Dempsey, Voltaire Network, 8 February 2010.

[6] Article in the French daily Le Monde of 22 February 2010, A Palestinian State: when?, by Bernard Kouchner and Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Voltaire Network, 23 February 2010.

[7] See: “Europe should speak to Hamas now”, by Khaled Amayreh, November 2008.

[8] See: “Hedonism in Ramallah”, by Khaled Amayreh, 18 February 2010.

[9] See: “The Shia’a Threat in Palestine: between phobias and propaganda”, by Jean-François Legrain, 1st October 2009.

[10] See: “What is wrong with PFLP?” by Khaled Amayreh, 16 October 2008.

Silvia Cattori

Silvia Cattori Swiss journalist. After having extensively written about diplomacy in South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean, she was witness to operation « Protective shield », launched by the Tsahal against the Palestinians. Ever since, she has devoted her work to raising global awareness of the conditions endured by the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation.

 
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