We were driven out of our village and the Israeli airport was built there; I am a refugee
The Netanyahu govt is an extremist one
We have no problem with SL- Israeli ties; we know that SL is with us.
The Palestinian ambassador Zuhair Mohammad Hamdallah Zaid in an interview with the refuted claims by his counterpart- the Ambassador of Israel regarding the Israel- Palestine issue.Excerpts from the interview.
Q : Ambassador, who do you actually represent? Are you a representing the Palestinians in Gaza under Hamas or the ones in the West Bank under the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)?
I’m representing the Palestinian State. I’m representing the PLO and all the people of Palestine, including refugees outside Palestine and those in Gaza and the West Bank and everywhere else in the World. I’m here to represent the Palestinian people. The PLO is the organisation that represents all Palestinian groups including Hamas and Jihad. This is the organisation the world recognises.
Q : To get to the main issue, the Israeli government, and most recently the ambassador of Israel, during an interview with us said that one of the main issues blocking peace is the Palestinian authorities’ complicity with Hamas?
First of all I will [identify] Hamas correctly. Hamas is not a terrorist group, it’s a Palestinian nationalist group acting on behalf of Palestinians. Secondly is Hamas an extremist group? Yes, but they negotiate with the Israelis. They have continuously been on talking terms with them either directly or through third parties. There is a two-faced attitude of the Israeli government. On one hand they will talk to them [Hamas] but blame us for talking to them and stalling the peace process. What is the reason for [the birth] of organisations such as Hamas? It is Israel and its policies. The Israelis have kept pushing the Palestinians and this is the result. Extremist groups will therefore find the support of Palestinians and people of other countries as well. Now they control Gaza.
Q : You have been involved with this process for quite sometime. In your opinion, where is it heading? What do you think is the solution to the problem?
As a Palestinian I suffered a lot personally. My people have suffered a lot too. We want peace. I don’t want to see my people suffer nor do I want any Israeli to suffer. Stopping this suffering is the only solution. But, what does peace depend on? It depends on ?us Palestenians having our rights and control over natural resources. This is to have the right to freedom of movement; it means our right to control our borders and it means our right to have good relations with other countries in the world we are a part of. But we are a lost people who are in a land under occupation. Israel can’t say it wants to control us and then calling for peace. There won’t be peace while they still occupy our lands. We are speaking about the clear borders of 1967. Let Israeli tell us on what borders they claim. To this day, Israel did not have borders: they haven’t declared their borders either. If the Israelis continue this policy it will lead to apartheid. See what the justice minister of Israel had said recently. These are Cabinet ministers of the Israeli government, the most racist government the country has ever had. There is massive discrimination not only against Palestinians but even among Jews themselves. They don’t allow us to visit our holy places and some streets in the West Bank. It’s to pave the way for their settlements on our lands the lands of the Palestinians. They stole our land from us to build these settlements. If they want to reach peace, they should declare their borders. We have been clear that we want our state on the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as our capital. We should also have control over our holy places, because they are holy to both Muslims and Christians belonging to humanity. We don’t have any authority to negotiate on them [holy places]. They are not up for negotiation.
Zuhair Mohammad Hamdallah Zaid was appointed as ambassador to Sri Lanka having previously served as the deputy chief of mission of the State of Palestine in India since 2009. Prior to his posting to India he served in many divisions including the Department of Israeli Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Palestine. He is a Master’s graduate in Diplomacy and International Studies and an undergraduate in Social Sciences and Humanities specialising in political science from the Open University of Israel.
Q : You said that you have no freedom of movement and that you don’t have access to your natural resources. Isn’t this really an exaggeration?
If you want to visit Palestine we can’t give you a visa. The visa has to be given by the Israelis who control the border. Just go and ask them if they would give you a visa to go to Ramalla or to Hebron. They won’t and those are not even holy cities. That’s for the world in general but for Palestinians it’s worse. I’m a Palestinian and I haven’t visited the Al- Aqsa Mosque in 30 years. What about our brothers, the Christians and some other Jews who live in Nablus? It’s the same. They don’t allow us to move between the cities; they don’t allow us to visit our holy places. They also prevent us from having access to our natural resources, especially water. Some of our villages have gone without a drop of water for over two weeks during summer. The natural gas we have in both Gaza and the West Bank are stolen from us. We can’t export or import anything freely. Everything that is exported and imported goes through the Israelis and they take away whatever they want to. They put bars to every single thing in our lives. Look at the discrimination in their laws- the Knesset ( Israeli Parliament) is to pass a law where a Palestinian who throws even a single stone at a settlement will be imprisoned for 35 years. And the law is to apply only to us. What about the Israeli settlers who throw stones daily at vehicles and people? Are they above the law? The Israeli Army and Police protect them. See what they are doing in Al- Quds in the West Bank.
Q : But the main issue that has been raised, one which was raised even during that interview, was the issue of Hamas firing rockets. Doesn’t Israel have the right to defend itself?
Yes. Hamas has fired rockets; but why? You are asking me this question assuming it is a level playing field. It isn’t level; they are much more powerful. I’m not saying that the Hamas behaviour was right or wrong. Hamas developed and gained support because of Israeli policy. Israel has surrounded Gaza and the West Bank and don’t let the two connect. Why is Hamas launching rockets? It’s a cycle. One must look at the result of these rockets. How many Israelis have been killed or injured due to rocket fire? Four or five? Proportionately it is nothing compared to what our people undergo. Firing rockets does threaten Israeli lives or the economy of Israel. But when the Israeli Army enters Gaza they kill the best of our men. We will kill too because we have a right to protect our land, be it Hamas, Jihad or Fatah. We will not give away one centimetre of land under our control now. This is what the international community has recognized. Consider what happened in Gaza. Now Israeli soldiers are telling the world how they shot at elders and children. They give three minutes to evacuate and then bomb houses. Are three minutes enough to take your belongings and leave? How many houses, mosques, hospitals, and schools were demolished? Everything in Gaza was a target. Now the world is rising against all of this. This government of Israel is an extremist government. And it doesn’t want a two-state solution but a one-state solution for two nations.
Q : So that’s not an option?
We are ready and have always been ready for a two-state solution. But the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is a fascist one. During the election they buried the two-state solution and Netanyahu promised a Jewish state. Then what about the Muslims and the Christians we have? What about the other Arabs? Netanyahu is a racist and an extremist. Israel doesn’t want peace; all that they want is more time. The international community must take responsibility because they supported and created a state of Israel. It was the United Nations that passed a vote and recognised them. Now the Israelis themselves are accusing the UN of antisemitism and that it is biased and against Israeli interest.
Q : But Israel claims this issue cannot be solved in New York, or by the international community. Instead they want you to come to the negotiation table because the solution has to come from you. Isn’t this true?
We tried this for over twenty years even with the intervention of the US. But what was the result? How many settlements have Israel founded since then? How many settlers? What have we achieved? Nothing. We are not against negotiations, our president told the world we are ready to negotiate, but, they accuse him and us for being ‘ diplomatic terrorists’. Our President said clearly that a solution has to be through negotiations and we have denounced violence. The Palestinians have always complied with every requirement of the international community in order to come to the table. But they haven’t. Everyday they build a new settlement, and adopt new extremist policies and laws against us. This is why we are asking the international community to intervene.
Q : Which part of Palestine do you come from? Is it the West Bank or Gaza?
I am a refugee. My original village is where the current Israeli airport is located now. We were driven out and I am currently in another village in the West Bank.
Q : Do you have relations in Gaza?
Yes, I have many friends and relations there.
Q : Do you meet? How do you communicate?
No, we don’t meet. We have contact only over the telephone, because we aren’t allowed to go there. The corridor between Gaza and the West Bank should be open to us, but it isn’t.
Q : What is your view of the ties between Sri Lanka and Israel which are developing gradually?
We don’t see a change in Sri Lankan policy towards Palestine. The support for this issue cuts across all parties and all communities across Sri Lanka. We thank the government and the people of Sri Lanka for their support. From our side we will do our best to see that the Sri Lankan government achieves its goals and gets support from the Arab world. Arabs in general have a very good relationship with Sri Lanka and I believe it will continue. We have no criticism of the relationship between Sri Lanka and Israel because we know that Sri Lanka will never let us down.
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