Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti: ‘Oslo is dead, killed in Gaza’
In your opinion, the recent war in Gaza was not against Hamas. Why was it started then?
Mustafa Barghouti: This war was all about the question whether Palestinians hold on to their rights: Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinians, the right of the refugees, the right to live in dignity and in freedom. This war was intended to break the Palestinian will to live as a free nation and to force them to cease their battle.
Israel claims to have won the war and Hamas says the same. What is your opinion?
Mustafa Barghouti: This is clearly not a victory, but a defeat for Israel. Despite the large number of victims and the devastations, Israel did not succeed to break the will of the Palestinians and to destruct their determination to live as a free nation. On the contrary, this war has shown the true face of Israel and revealed the crimes of that country against the people of Palestine, despite the international community’s role as silent accomplice. I consider this war a turning point for the Palestinian cause. A turning point that is comparable to the events in Soweto in 1976, which revealed the crimes of the apartheid regime in South Africa and led to a worldwide condemnation. The war in Gaza gave new oxygen to the Palestinian cause and allowed it to take a new start.
How did the events affect the Palestinians on the West Bank?
Mustafa Barghouti: The war generated two things. It brought massive support for the resistance and for the right to resist. It also created a huge disappointment in the Palestinian Authority, which claimed having good relations with the US and being in a negotiation position with Israel. But when the Gaza war broke out, the Authority appeared not to be able to defend and protect the people. And on top of that, it made many mistakes.
For which mistakes do you blame the Palestinian Authority?
Mustafa Barghouti: Among others, for the hard reaction against the peaceful demonstrations on the West Bank and for blocking the humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip. Another major mistake was that they coordinated with the occupying forces while Gaza was being bombed. But Mahmoud Abbas and his Authority’s biggest mistake was the quote that the war is to be blamed on Hamas. Abbas didn’t play his role as a leader defending his population very convincingly. As a consequence, every inch of popularity that Hamas lost due to the internal quarrels, was regained during the Gaza war.
How can Abbas’ lack of decision power be explained?
Mustafa Barghouti: His wrong attitude is based on an erroneous vision and on an erratic strategy. And this strategy is the consequence of the biggest mistake since the Oslo Agreements, still ongoing today. The mistake is to think that the Palestinian Authority is an alternative for the liberation movement. Exactly this idea caused the internal division and led to the struggle for the Authority, which, in fact, is no authority. We are still talking about an Authority under suppression.
Negotiations are ongoing in order to install a government of unity. Will they be successful in your opinion?
Mustafa Barghouti: Only if three conditions are fulfilled. Firstly, there has to be a genuine intention to come to an agreement. Secondly, Hamas and Fatah need to accept that they can’t claim the absolute power of the Palestinian people. And thirdly, they should have enough muscle to resist external pressure.
Who do you think is most opposed to a government of national unity, Hamas or Fatah?
Mustafa Barghouti: The Authority has many problems. Its attitude towards the war in Gaza has weakened its position to represent the Palestinian people. Another problem is that the liberation organization PLO became a closed organization, excluding not only Hamas and Jihad, but even our organization, Almubadara. But as I see it, the largest obstruction to form a government of unity is Israel’s opposition. This became clear already in 2007. When a government of unity was composed, Israel did everything in its power to set up the world against it. At first the US started supporting Tel Aviv, later the European Union followed. Exactly this pressure paralyzed the unity government and caused its fall.
Israel does not negotiate with Hamas because Hamas does not recognize Israel.
Mustafa Barghouti: If Israel would first show a map and point out the borders, then we could speak about recognition. To this date, we don’t know which borders Israel is talking about. Israel doesn’t want to go back to the ‘67 borders, doesn’t want to let go of Jerusalem, doesn’t want to dismantle the colonies and doesn’t want to recognize the rights of the refugees. Israel wants recognition without showing any intention to stop the occupation. Israel has merely recognized the liberation movement PLO, but never a Palestinian State, which I think is a big mistake. Should Israel agree with an independent Palestinian State based on the ‘67 border situation and on the destruction of the wall, then everything is possible. I am sure of that.
An occupied nation and Authority are being asked to guaranty the safety of their occupiers, and the rest of the world is being asked to protect the occupier against the people he is occupying. This is shameful.Hamas could also take the first step and recognize Israel.
Mustafa Barghouti: The recognition is an excuse. Abou Mazen (Mahmud Abbas) and the PLO recognized Israel and were involved in the one-year lasting discussions in Anapolis. What has happened after these negotiations? The colonies’ territory was multiplied by 38. The number of checkpoints increased from 521 to 696. The construction of the wall went on. The “judification” of Jerusalem continued. 990 prisoners were released, but in the same period 4590 people were arrested. So which are the results of the peace negotiations? Israel doesn’t want to negotiate, neither with those recognizing neither with those not recognizing the country. The key issue is the occupation and without a stop of the occupation, no peace can come.
You personally are in favour of non-violent resistance.
Mustafa Barghouti: I am not against other ways of resistance, as long as they are in line with international law. Hamas has the right to defend itself, Israel can’t claim the monopoly on that right. The origin of violence is not resistance, but occupation. But in my opinion, only peaceful and massive nationwide resistance has a future.
There were demonstrations in the Arabic countries, but the authorities remained remarkably silent. Like in Egypt.
Mustafa Barghouti: The people’s movement was large and amazing. The number of people protesting in the streets against the Gaza war was tremendously high, not only in the Arabic countries, but all over the world. It was even the most spectacular support action in the entre history of the Palestinian cause. Regrettably, the support on institutional level was less spectacular. The governments didn’t follow the people, which is not new. Nelson Mandela, the world’s symbol for human conscience, was only taken off the US terrorists’ list six months ago.
What do you think about Europe’s position?
Mustafa Barghouti: Very disappointing. I’m on my way to Gaza right now, where white phosphor is still burning. The use of illegal weapons, the killing of civilians, the attack on the UN schools: none of that could prevent the European ministers from having dinner with Ehud Olmert. It’s also terrible to see that the EU still concluded has privileged partnerships with Israel and that democratic countries, respecting with human rights, are nevertheless exporting weapons to Israel. Experimenting new weapons was also one of most important reasons for the Gaza conflict. Israel is the world’s fourth largest weapon exporter.
What’s your opinion on the possible intervention of foreign forces between Israel and the Gaza Strip?
Mustafa Barghouti: I think that those who are in favour of an international intervention are in fact protecting the occupation. Why are no troops going to Jerusalem? Why aren’t they going to the West Bank to protect us from the occupiers? Why aren’t they in El-Khalil to protect us from the colonists? It’s the first time in the human history that two phenomenons occur: An occupied nation and Authority are being asked to guaranty the safety of their occupiers, and the rest of the world is being asked to protect the occupier against the people he is occupying. This is shameful.
So you would oppose to the presence of a foreign power?
Mustafa Barghouti: Indeed. I would agree if Israel would withdraw from all occupied territories. From Gaza, because Gaza is still occupied, and from the West Bank. Only when the withdrawal will be completed, international forces can be installed at the frontiers between them and us.
Besides the war on the ground, there is also an ongoing media war. Did the Palestions win this last war?
Mustafa Barghouti: Palestinians and Arabs lost the media war. Despite the large number of civil casualties media continued to emphasize the devastating responsibility of Hamas and the right of Israel to defend itself. The Israeli point of view is dominating. There’s a coherent story behind it. On the side of the Palestinians, there isn’t. Some even managed to make the victim responsible for the war. On the other hand, we have seen some changes, for the first time supported by the civil society, offering a forum to the Palestinian voice through the Internet. We should build on that.
Do you think that the US will change its Palestinian-Israeli policy now that Barack Obama came into power?
Mustafa Barghouti: That is now the biggest challenge. If Obama’s policy towards the Palestinians doesn’t change, then the words and values he stands for have no meaning. What we expect from him, but also from the European Union, is to install a tribunal to investigate the war crimes in the Gaza Strip and to help us to stop the blockade. People might not be aware, but Israel is blocking everything and doesn’t allow as much as a peace of glass to enter, not a sack of cement and no wood. And this while most of the windows in Gaza are broken. The blockade is an organized and continuous warfare.
Is it still possible to negotiate peace?
Mustafa Barghouti: It’ s possible. Let the negotiations be organized at an international conference and let them be based on the implementation of the UN resolutions and on the international right, not on what Israel would like. Oslo is dead, its last phase was killed in Gaza.