Should people boycott Israel? Pt.3 Omar Barghouti
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. We’re in Ramallah, Palestine, and we’re joined again by Omar Barghouti. He’s a founding member of the Palestine Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. So let’s talk about Palestinian politics. And when we’re going around talking to people from refugee camps and otherwise, everyone says that the reason the resistance seems sort of stalled, which is what people describe it as, more or less, is because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, and they say if there was unity, there’d be resistance. So do you think that’s true? And what do you make of this split?
OMAR BARGHOUTI, PALESTINE CAMPAIGN FOR THE ACADEMIC AND CULTURAL BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL: Okay. I think it’s a simplification to call it a split between Hamas and Fatah. And I think Hamas fell into that trap of alienating the entire Fatah Party. Fatah has a big coalition, actually. It’s not an ideological party, so it has people from left, right, and center, religious, seculars, and so on. Hamas’ problem, and the Palestinian problem, actually, in general, not just Hamas’, was with a section of Fatah that was connected with the American CIA and with Israel, and they were doing their bidding in Gaza. Hamas took that fight from just fighting this group, this small section, a very strong but small section of Fatah, to alienating the entire Fatah, turning this [into] war, civil war, so to speak, between Fatah and Hamas. And now everybody talks about Fatah and Hamas. And it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s what it has become: a split between Fatah and Hamas. Certainly that has weakened the Palestinian position, and certainly that has weakened Palestinian resistance. But we’ve also had other problems, with or without that split, thinking, where is Palestinian resistance going, how effective is it, are we adapting to the unipolar world or not.
JAY: Okay. Before we go there, let’s focus a little bit more on Fatah and Hamas. As I told you earlier, we did this story about the Doha Debates where Fatah and Hamas debated, and we’ve been interviewing representatives. Are there real issues of principle between Fatah and Hamas? When I asked them the question, they don’t describe the split the way you just did. For example, Hamas says, well, we’re for armed resistance and Fatah is not. They say that Fatah negotiates and recognizes Israel; Hamas says, we don’t. And they say, in order to have an agreement, there needs to be some kind of negotiations on what the Palestinian project is, and then there can be agreement. Is that what it’s about? Or is it about—when I talk to people in the camps, they say it’s about—well, what it’s really about is they all are fighting for their own positions.
BARGHOUTI: I think it’s a mix of both. I think it’s not purely a political-ideological split. There’s also split on power—whatever you can call power under occupation, actually. They’re fighting over seats of power under the boots of the occupier, which is sad, which is really ironic. Yes, there is that competition over whatever is left to rule in Gaza and the West Bank, but there are certain political differences, of course. But to say that Fatah is not supporting armed resistance and Hamas is is again simplifying issues. Fatah started armed resistance in 1965. There are big sections in Fatah that still support armed resistance, regardless of what I think of the effectiveness of armed resistance. And there are sectors in Hamas, a minority, but sectors in Hamas that do prefer negotiations if they’re given a table to negotiate over. The US and Israel have completely ignored the Hamas political leadership, and they’ve not invited them to any sort of negotiation. Otherwise, I don’t think Hamas is as dogmatic and over-principled as people make them to be. I think they’re far more pragmatic [inaudible]
JAY: Well, what do you make of this document? There was a draft document that was negotiated between Fatah and Hamas. Part of the deal was Egypt was supposed to broker this negotiations. They give the document to Egypt. Egypt rewrites it. Then Hamas says they don’t agree with the rewriting, and Fatah accuses Hamas of making an issue out of nothing. Hamas says, Egypt messed up our document. What is this all really about?
BARGHOUTI: Well, this is about details that make us lose the full picture. What the Egyptian government did is actually trying to impose US-Israeli conditions on Hamas, its surrender treaty, really, while the siege continues, while the slow death of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza continues with full complicity of the Egyptian regime and full complicity of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. So the complicity is—it’s not just American and European and Israeli partnership in this siege of Gaza; it’s also Egyptian and Palestinian, unfortunately. They play a smaller role, but they do play a role. And it’s about that. So the Egyptians are hardly—the Egyptian regime is hardly a neutral bystander who can be a fair judge in this kind of agreement.
JAY: Second-largest recipient of US aid in the region now. Now, when I speak to some of the representatives of Fatah, they say the reason there’s no deal is because the Damascus leadership of Hamas is too under the influence of Iran, and this is all part of a chessboard between Iran and the United States, and Iran doesn’t want a deal now. So do you think there’s anything to this?
BARGHOUTI: It’s a minor factor. It exists. External pressures—the Fatah leadership is very influenced by the Israeli and American positions. So, I mean, no one is here completely independent. And Hamas is certainly influenced to a certain extent by Iran. But this is not the main factor, I think. But my problem is that neither Hamas nor Fatah have a real serious strategic outlook, a vision of what they plan to do to end Israel’s system of oppression. Neither party has given the Palestinian people a platform, what they plan to do to end occupation and apartheid.
JAY: So what should that platform be?
BARGHOUTI: I think the main platform is we cannot focus on our internal struggle against Israel without involving the world. If there’s one thing we can learn from the Northern Irish, the Algerian, and especially the South African experience, the world must be involved. And this is what the Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions (BDS) movement is trying to do. Without solid international solidarity that is persistent and effective, there is no way to push Israel to concede Palestinian rights. There is no way.
JAY: Now, for that to be effective, it’s going to have to work in the United States—
JAY: —because the rest of the world could actually join your boycott—
BARGHOUTI: And it wouldn’t—.
JAY: —and it wouldn’t matter too much if the United States [inaudible]
BARGHOUTI: It would matter, but not too much. Absolutely. It needs—but the US is not the only economic power that’s supporting Israel, actually. The European Union as a bloc is probably the largest trading partner of Israel, and people forget that. So the campaign, the BDS campaign, is succeeding very much in Europe, in the mainstream labor unions, some political parties, civil society groups, and so on. It does affect Israel economically. For example, one particular company, a French company by the name of Veolia, involved in the Jerusalem light rail, which is a colonial project connecting Israel’s colonial settlements with the city of Jerusalem, we started a campaign against Veolia, and we succeeded. Our partners in Sweden succeeded in making Veolia lose $4.5 billion contract to run the Stockholm Metro. And they had other billions and billions of dollars of losses in France, Britain, Iran, and other places. So it is biting, slowly but surely. The Norwegian pension fund has divested from Israel’s largest military company. So did the Swedish sovereign pension funds. The largest Danish bank has done so. So we’re starting to see a trend of divesting from Israeli companies and international companies that are profiting from Israel’s occupation. We cannot ignore this. This is not minor. This will pressure European governments, and eventually it will pressure the US as well. Even inside the US, the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement is growing exponentially since Israel’s massacre in Gaza in the beginning of 2009.
JAY: Well, in the next segment of the interview let’s talk about how Palestinians speak to Americans, ’cause the message is not getting through very strongly. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Omar Barghouti.
End of Transcript
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