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Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Gaza-Palestine. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.
YOUSEF ALHELOU, TRNN CORRESPONDENT, GAZA: In recent days, the Palestinian Authority and Israel resumed a fresh round of negotiations to end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the so-called two-state solution after a three-year hiatus. This sparked protests in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as hundreds of people took to the streets to voice their objection to the resumption of the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.The talks began with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 in what was the first face-to-face agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization led at that time by the late Yasser Arafat. It was hoped that the Oslo accords would set up a framework that can lead to a resolution of the conflict.Since then, many Mideast peace conferences, meetings, endless rounds of talks, direct and indirect negotiations mediated by the American administration have failed to fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people, namely, self determination, an end to Israel's military occupation of the Palestinian territories, the return of Palestinian refugees, and an end to Israeli apartheid.UNIDENTIFIED (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): Everybody knows that Israelis are not interested in peace. They are not happy with Abbas, who made many concessions, who is working against the interests of the Palestinian people. So the Zionists are exploiting the weakness of the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah to buy time through the illusion of peace talks.ALHELOU: Hamas movement, which took control of Gaza in 2007, a year after it won the parliamentary elections in January 2006, says that the acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas's decision to return to the negotiating table with Israel is not representative of the will of the Palestinian people and that "Abbas" does not have the right to relinquish Palestinian national rights. This came after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held another round of U.S.-brokered talks recently in Jerusalem.This also comes as Israel continues to build and expand its illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank and illegally besieging the Gaza strip since 2007.It is worth mentioning that Abbas said repeatedly that he will not resume negotiations if Israel will not freeze settlement construction, but he agreed to go back to peace talks while Israel is ongoing with its settlement construction.SAMI ABU ZUHRI, HAMAS SPOKESMAN (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): People took to the streets to express their rejection to the return of negotiations because the Palestinian negotiator is not authorized to do so. Negotiations are against our national interests, and we call the Palestinian Authority to stop these talks immediately and instead stick to our national rights.KHADER HABIB, PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD LEADER (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): The vast majority of our people reject the resumption of the so-called peace talks. The return to these futile talks on part of the Palestinian Authority is totally against the consensus of the Palestinian people, and we came out to reject it and demand Palestinian negotiators to stop wasting time and making more concessions.ALHELOU: Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and are demanding that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli government, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of Jerusalem. And while much of the international community regards the Israeli settlements illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel continues to defy all calls to halt its settlement construction and expansion policy.Despite the fact that the PA had previously demanded that Israel cease all settlement activities before talks can be resumed, it has bowed to American pressure to what Fatah officials said, to give a final chance for the so-called peace talks to lead to any possible major breakthrough.Fatah's vision for the Palestinian state is based on the strategy of national, geographic, and demographic unity for a globally-recognized Palestine.ATEF ABU SAIF, FATAH OFFICIAL: The Palestinian leadership decided to resume negotiation to avoid the pressure from the international community. And there was much skepticism that these negotiations would have produced something for this. The Palestinian leadership gave a limit, time limit nine months, after which we expect that if negotiation didn't produce or doesn't produce any result, then these negotiations should end forever. There is much widespread opinion among the Palestinians, including Fatah leadership as well, that negotiations are not going to produce anything, given the Israeli settlement expansion and the killing of the Kalandia Palestinian boys. So I believe the Palestinian leadership, at certain moment in the near future, will give up the idea of resuming negotiations.ALHELOU: Palestinians in the diaspora are calling for Palestinian National Council elections for Palestinians living in the Diaspora and in the occupied Palestinian territories.SAMAH SABAWI, PALESTINIAN WRITER RESIDING IN AUSTRALIA: This peace process is only there to allow for Israel to have more time to build more facts on the ground, to continue to expand on Palestinian land, while at the same time it punches the wind out of the sails of Palestinian resistance. The priorities for the Palestinian people today should be to try to build a liberation movement that is not beholden to the U.S. dollars. When you consider that the PA was forced back to negotiate with Israel because the U.S. threatened that it would cut its funding if it didn't do so, then you realize that you can't really have a liberation movement that has its own survival dependent on a very powerful ally that supports the occupation.ALHELOU: For their part, Palestinian left-wing factions, the Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, oppose talks and demand that the Palestinian leadership act as a guardian for Palestinians and their rights. ZULFIQAR SWIRGO, POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): The returning to negotiation is a waste of time, and there is no consensus among the different Palestinian parties and people. Mr. Abbas decided to resume the so-called peace talks without consulting other bodies within the PLO. Halting the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank is the first condition that should be met in order to go back to the negotiation table.What the current extreme Israeli government led by Netanyahu achieved when it released a number of Palestinian prisoners from its jails in order to encourage Abbas to resume talks was aimed at blackmailing the weak Palestinian leadership.We have tried peace talks for 20 years in the hope to [incompr.] over the military occupation of our occupied land, but what we see on the ground is more illegal settlements and colonization.ALHELOU: Haidar Eid, an independent political analyst, says that the past 20 years have led Palestinians nowhere. Instead, settlements have expanded and Gaza has been transformed into what some human rights organizations call the largest open-air prison.HAIDAR EID, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL ANALYST: I think 20 years of futile negotiations between Fatah and Israel have led us nowhere. In fact, they've led us to the expansion of the existing settlements in the West Bank and greater Jerusalem. They've led us to the erection of a monstrous apartheid wall in the West Bank and the besieging of the Gaza Strip. And I think that negotiations have only been about security of the state of Israel. And I think the only alternative that we can offer to the Palestinian leadership right now is a boycott, divestment, and sanctions against apartheid Israel after the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, because the Palestinian Authority has been futile and has led us nowhere and to no liberation or sovereignty of independent Palestinian state.ALHELOU: Some Palestinians describe the return to negotiations as a "catastrophic option" which lasted for 20 years as the Palestinian people reaped nothing from negotiations but more harm to the Palestinian cause. An end to the division between Fatah and Hamas and putting the national interests above all factional considerations is demand number one for the ordinary Palestinians who do not believe the U.S.-mediated peace talks would ever bear fruit.Yousef Alhelou, in Gaza for The Real News Network.
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