A speech by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti on Palestinian political dynamics and Middle East peace.
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DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, SECRETARY GENERAL, PALESTINIAN NATIONAL INITIATIVE: I think it’s my duty to present to you the reality of the situation in Palestine, because I believe you have the right to know the truth. It is especially important to do that, given the fact that, unfortunately, most of the media outlets do not present to you the reality as they should, and in many cases, as I found in my work, most of the Western media is definitely influenced by a certain narrative, usually the Israeli narrative, when describing the situation. So, of course, when I present that to you, you’re not going to see that I’m neutral. I’m not neutral, and I don’t claim that. I am a Palestinian who’s defending [the] Palestinian cause, but who is defending justice in the region for everybody. But I will try to be as objective as I could. But presenting the truth, and the reality, too, is very important, because as once a great writer and feminist said, Virginia Woolf, she said nothing has happened till it’s been described. And there are big parts of our history that were lost because they were not described, and we’ve promised ourself that we will not let this happen to us again. I will try to explain to you the situation not because—you will notice in my talk I’m not going to talk about the Palestinian rights from the perspective of nationalism, because this is not my goal. As a matter of fact, I think even if I wasn’t a Palestinian, if I was born somebody else, Canadian, maybe, or anybody else, and knew the situation, I would be doing exactly what I’m going to do today, because this is an issue of justice that concerns not only Palestinians or Arabs or Christians or Muslims; it concerns all humanity. That’s how I see it. The second thing I will do is to try to explain to you this rise of a very powerful movement of nonviolence in Palestine and why the rise of this movement is so important, why it is promising, but why also it is so important that it is supported by strong international solidarity movement to guarantee its success. And then maybe I will try to explain what you can do to help in this situation. But let us first start with the situation. It is important to mention that the whole idea of two-state solution is not new. It’s something that goes back to 1947. Originally, the Palestinians—before most of them got dispossessed in 1948 by the Israeli troops, Palestinians opted and wanted to have one democratic state in Palestine with everybody living together, side by side, with equal rights and equal duties. The world community pushed for another kind of solution, which is two states, and in 1947 the United Nations decided on the so-called partition plan, which would allocate 55 percent of the land of historic Palestine to Israelis, to Israel, and 45 percent to Palestinians. At that time, Palestinians represented 70 percent of the population of Palestine and owned more than 90 percent of the land. Yet Israel was established not on 55 percent but rather on 78 percent. What remained was only the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is only 22 percent of the historic Palestine, and this area was occupied by Israel in 1967. In 1988, the PLO, being the representative of the Palestinians, decided to accept a very painful compromise, and that compromise was that they would agree with a two-state solution, where Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip only. That means Palestinians accepted to have a state in less than half of what they should have had, according to the same United Nations resolution which gave Israel its legitimacy. And many Palestinians thought this would lead to peace. That was the basis of Oslo Agreement. And to the great surprise of the Palestinian negotiators, when they went to Camp David in 1999, this was the map offered to them by the Israelis, where the state would be without Jerusalem, without borders, without many areas in the West Bank that include many of the settlements, and most important, without most of the water resources in the West Bank. And as if this was not enough, Prime Minister Sharon, at the time, of Israel, and then later Netanyahu, came up with this plan, which is to take away even more parts of the West Bank, specifically the whole area of the Jordan Valley, and to transform the concept of statehood into nothing but clusters of ghettos or bantustans. So it is important to recognize how the whole idea of statehood over years was reduced gradually from 45 percent to 22 percent, which Palestinians accepted, down to 18 percent, and then later to less than 11 percent in fragmented territories. Did this happen by accident? No. It happened according to a plan. And that plan was developed back in 1967, when the Israeli foreign minister at the time, Yigal Allon, decided to develop this plan, which was adopted by the Israeli establishment, to deal with a problem that the Israelis faced when they occupied us in ’67. That problem was we did not leave as they expected. The people decided to learn from the experience of ’48. And although their life was at risk, their decision was: we will stay even if we will be killed. And that created the so-called demographic problem for Israel, because they didn’t expect to occupy the West Bank and Gaza and find all these people. So the Yigal Allon plan was about how to contain the so-called demographic factor, and the Allon plan was was about building settlements around Jerusalem in the Jordan Valley, and then up in the north and in the south, to enclave Palestinian cities and villages into these clusters of ghettos or bantustans. And that’s exactly what happened. This is how the West Bank looked like back in 1967. All the yellow spots you see on the map are Palestinian communities—villages, towns, or refugee camps. There wasn’t a single Jewish colony or settlement. First they built settlements—all these red spots. Then they created a series of checkpoints. (I put on the map only half of the military checkpoints, which amount to 630 today, because if I put all the checkpoints on the map, you will see a completely black map.) Then came the wall. The wall was nothing but another factor in a matrix which was designed to appropriate as much land as possible. The wall, contrary to what many people think, is not a wall on the borders between West Bank and Israel. It is not separating Israelis from Palestinians. It is a wall that, in 85 percent of the time, is built inside the occupied Territories, and in most of the time it is separating Palestinians from Palestinians. They claim that the wall was built for security reasons. This is not true. This map shows you the so-called Oslo map. On this map you can see in these dark brown spots the areas that were given to the Palestinian Authority to control. Now, of course, Israel has taken back everything they gave, because there isn’t any security (complete control of the Palestinian Authority) anywhere. But during the implementation of Oslo—it started in ’94—contrary to what Oslo agreement said, Israel did not redeploy from 90 percent of the West Bank as it should have, but redeployed only [inaudible] these dark spots, and allowed the Palestinian Authority to have some kind of functional authority in the yellow areas, like collecting garbage or controlling the sewage systems, where they existed. But the rest of the white area, this whole white area, which is called Area C, more than 60 percent of the West Bank was maintained under Israeli complete control. That means that if I have a land in Area C, I will not be allowed—. That was a deterioration, by the way, from before Oslo, because after Oslo, if I had to plant a tree in many of the pieces of the land in the Area C, even if I own the land, I would need a permit from the Israeli military. Nobody could build a house, put a water pipe, or build a school without Israeli permits. The only map that looks like this in modern history was this map, the map of the bantustans in the South African apartheid system. Then in some bantustans you have governments. In one of them you had even a king. But that meant nothing, because all these governments were under the control of the apartheid regime, as much as today the Palestinian Authority, whether in West Bank or Gaza, is also under the Israeli occupation. During 42 years of what has become the longest occupation in modern history, and after 62 years of dispossessing more than half of the Palestinian people, who became now more than 5.5 million refugees spread all over the world—including some of those who are living here in Canada—during this period of time, Israel has developed a system of apartheid. I know that for some Israelis it is a harsh word. I know some people find it difficult to use this word. And I invite you wholeheartedly to give me another expression, if you can, to describe this situation today where Israel controls more than 85 percent of our water in the West Bank and allows Palestinians to use no more than 50 cubic meters of water per capita per year, while it allows Israeli settlers to use 2,400 cubic meters per year, 48 times more than us. How would you describe a situation when Israelis make on average a GDP of $26,000 per year, while Palestinians make only $1,000, but we are obliged to buy products at Israeli market price because of an imposed tax [inaudible]? We even have to pay double the price that Israelis pay for water and double the price that they pay for electricity. What is even worse is the fact that most of our main roads in the West Bank, after 42 years of occupation, have been confiscated and have become segregated, and they are exclusive for Israeli people, soldiers, or illegal settlers, while Palestinians who dare to go and drive on them and walk on them could be sentenced, according to the most recent military order, could be put in jail for 7 years. Segregation of roads did not exist even during the time of Jim Crow laws in the United States. They did not exist even during the worst time of apartheid in South Africa. This is the wall. In the Canadian press, you frequently come across a description of the wall as a “fence”. Sometimes they call it a “barrier”. A fence is nothing harmful. We all know that. But this fence is 8 to 9 meters high. It’s going to be 850 kilometers in length. It would be three times the length and twice as high as Berlin wall used to be, the same Berlin wall which was heavily criticized for decades as an awful structure, and which the humanity celebrated the 20th anniversary of its downfall last November. A wall that is depriving people from freedom of movement. A wall that is destroying today our economy, destroying our health system, destroying our ability to get proper education. This is a woman standing on the roof of her two-floor building in Bethlehem. Her house is surrounded by the wall from all directions. I visited her recently, and she told me she cannot go to the roof of her own house anymore, because the Israeli army told her she needs a military permit to go to the roof of her own house. And when she asked why, they told her, because your presence could be a threat to the wall. This is the main road between Jerusalem and Ramallah. I am a medical doctor by education. I practiced medicine for 15 years in Jerusalem. I was born in Jerusalem. But since five years, I’m forbidden, like most Palestinians, from entering Jerusalem even with a permit. The situation in Jerusalem is horrifying. It’s a situation where serious discrimination exists. If a man or a woman who has Jerusalem ID tries to get married to another spouse from the West Bank, let’s say, he or she will not be able to grant the husband or the wife the citizenship of Jerusalem, which means the husband or the wife cannot come to live in Jerusalem. And if the person who is from Jerusalem goes to live with his wife in the West Bank, he will lose citizenship in Jerusalem. We know of a case recently when a husband and a wife were trying to solve their problem, and they were presented to a judge, an Israeli judge. All the thing that the judge cared about [sic] was how the husband and the wife were not living together and yet they managed to have three children. What is apartheid? Apartheid is a system when you have two different sets of laws for two different people living in the same area. Any Jewish immigrant from Brooklyn or Siberia would be granted immediately the citizenship in the airport when he arrives to Israel, and that person could live not only in Jerusalem but anywhere in any of the illegal settlements in the West Bank without losing the citizenship. If this is not apartheid, then what is apartheid? This road to Jerusalem does not exist anymore. It is already separated by this wall that is dividing Palestinians from Palestinians. On the right side of this photo, you see a man who is a Palestinian, and on the left side you see a woman who’s also Palestinian. I once watched a very good movie. I’m sure many of you have seen it. It’s called The Pianist. And I was touched by that movie. That movie shows the suffering of the Jewish people during the time of the Holocaust and during the time of the Second World War. And I happen to be informed about that suffering, whether in the Holocaust or in other times, and nothing from what I’m telling you today negates, denies, or undermines the suffering of the Jewish people, whether in the Holocaust or during pogroms of Russia or during the Inquisition time or in other times. Nothing is denying that. But that suffering of the people during the Holocaust does not by any means justify the suffering of the Palestinian people today, because, first of all, we were not responsible for the suffering of the Jewish people. We were not part of it. As a matter of fact, Palestine was one of the safe havens where Jews and Jewish people lived side by side with Christian and Muslim Palestinians, in harmony, before the rise of the Zionist movement. And I am sure—I tend to think—sometimes I dream about this and think, if those who suffered during the Holocaust and died would come back to life, I am sure they will be today supportive of the Palestinian rights, because they would not accept injustice that they were also subjected to. That’s why when I was watching the movie The Pianist, I could not stop myself from thinking about Qalqilyah, a city with 46,000 people located in the north of the West Bank. You see an air photo in the slides here which shows you the city surrounded by a huge white structure from all directions. It’s the wall, which is enclaving the city, leaving only one little passage, a small road that is 8 meters width, which has a gate, and the gate has a key, and the Israeli soldiers hold the key, and they can shut off the city any time they want. This is how it looks from the air. You can see the wall surrounding the city. And on the left side you can see a highway [inaudible] which was also built on the land of Qalqilyah. But this road is exclusive for Israelis. The people of Qalqilyah would not be allowed to reach that road, as much as they would not be allowed to reach the land of their farms around the city. The only thing that changed in this picture is that recently the Israeli side has painted the wall and planted trees so that the drivers on the highway would not be hurt by the image of this terrible wall. Nobody, of course, thought of what’s happening on the other side. And today, tens of thousands of people are enclaved in clusters behind the wall, between the wall and the borders with Israel. They cannot go west and they cannot go east. They cannot go to schools or universities, or to hospitals. If they want to cross, they need permits, which have to be renewed every one or two or three months. But even if they have military permits to cross, they can cross only according to the schedule that is established here by the Israeli army, which says people can cross only between 7:40 in the morning and 8:00, from 2:00 to 2:15 p.m., and 6:45 to 7:00 p.m.—50 minutes a day. You can imagine what happens to a woman in labor if she has to give birth—and you know that labor doesn’t come to women according to a schedule. You can imagine what happened to some people who had heart attacks and suffered for hours before they were allowed to cross the gate. As a matter of fact, 80 women, 80 Palestinian women, had the great unpleasant experience of having to give birth in front of soldiers at checkpoints or in front of the gates. And they lost—one-third of them lost their babies. Nothing in the world can justify this image, when children have to line behind the gates and wait for the Israeli soldiers to cross. I know that recently here in Canada and in some other places there is a lot of talk about anti-Semitism, and anybody that dares to criticize the Israeli policy would automatically be accused of anti-Semitism. Well, let me tell you that the way I see it in this picture, what I see here is also anti-Semitism, where an Israeli soldier is practicing anti-Semitism against Palestinian children, who are Semites, too. In this picture you see, in the upper part, a farm. In the lower part you see what remained of the farm after the wall was built in the village of Falamiya. This used to be a market in another village called Nazlat ‘Isa. This, what remained of the market after the wall was built. This is a house that was cut into two pieces so that the wall would be built. And this is how close the wall is to people’s houses. This is how a settlement looks like. And this is how a Palestinian village looks like near that settlement. This is how it looks when people cross the checkpoints. They could be delayed for hours. But maybe one of the worst suffering is happening today in Gaza. The Israeli government claims that it has left Gaza, but the reality is that it is still controlling all the passages to Gaza, controls the water around Gaza (and that’s why any fisherman who dares to cross more than 5 miles into the sea would be shot at), and controls the airspace, as well. This little, tiny sector, which is only 360 square kilometers, with 1.5 million people living in it, has been put under terrible embargo and siege for the last 3 years. And last year the Israeli army used all its arsenal to attack that little sector. Sixty F-16 jet fighters were used to attack the Gaza area, and within three minutes they killed 240 people. The total outcome was 1,440 deaths among Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 412 children. Five thousand three hundred were injured, including 1,855 children. Had we have the population of the United States [sic], we would be talking about approximately 250,000 people killed and around 1 million people injured within a period of three weeks. Twenty-five thousand houses have been demolished partially or completely. The world community met in Sharm el-Sheikh and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the houses. After a year and a half, not a single house or school or hospital has been rebuilt, because Israel has not allowed a single sack of cement or piece of glass to enter Gaza, and the whole international community is incapable of convincing Israel to allow construction material to reach Gaza. In our research we did recently, we found out that 90 percent of the people who had to leave their homes during the attacks went back, and they are now living in these destroyed houses because they have no other place to go to. But one of the most painful things to me was the fact that when the Israeli army was leaving the inside of Gaza area, they destroyed, on their way out, 352 remaining factories for no reason whatsoever. All these images are images of factories that were destroyed completely.
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