Dr. Anwar h. Al Agha Ambassador of Palestine in conversation with the Dailymirror. On the November 29, 2012, after 65 long years the United Nations took a tentative step toward correcting a grave injustice committed against the people of Palestine when it recognised the State of Palestine . An overwhelming 138 voted for, with just nine against and 41 abstentions. The Daily Mirror interviewed Dr. Anwar H. Al Agha the Ambassador to Palestine after the historic vote.
By Shirley Candappa
Q: Mr. Ambassador let me first extend my best wishes to the new Palestinian state. But I do foresee some tough times ahead. Last week we spoke to the Deputy Head of the Israeli Mission in New Delhi Mr. Yahel Vilan. In the course of his discussion with us Mr. Yahel said the people of Gaza had elected a body of terrorists to rule that region. He added it was difficult to negotiate with terrorists. How do you see this in terms of reaching an accord or settlement to the Palestine-Israeli problem?
Since November 29, 2012, the name is now the State of Palestine. And for this we thank the international community. In one or two years we will go back to the UN and demand the right to full recognition and acceptance of the State of Palestine.
We are always hopeful that Israel will change its attitude toward the Palestinians.
If you talk of the Palestine-Israel problem we must look at what caused the problem.
The first cause is the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
First there was no Israel, there never was an Israel. This was a Palestine territory. It was created by a British mandate together with some western countries and given to a few Israeli Zionist gangs.
The problem started in 1947 with Israeli occupation of Palestine. There was a UN resolution 181 of 1947 that talks about a two-state solution and it was implemented in 1948.
The international community made the state of Israel. Unfortunately the state of Palestine was not recognised until November 29, 2012. We have been waiting for justice for 65 years for the thousands of Palestinians killed by Zionist gangs who committed massacres –for example the massacres at Deir Yasin, Sabra Shetila, Beit Hanoon, the massacre at Jabeliya and numerous other killings and massacres.
These killings are still going on. Throughout the 65 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine, we have been trying to reach a just solution to the problem in Palestine. We have been always trying to reach a just solution to the problem through the international community, the UN and with the help of some brothers and friends in the world.
Unfortunately they never succeeded in reaching a solution and give the right to the Palestinians to be recognized by the United Nations.
Now on November 29, 2012, the day recognized as Solidarity Day with Palestine, our state received official recognition. We start to talk of the state of Palestine, no longer talk of the Palestine Authority.
We talk of the State of Palestine. 138 countries voted in favour, with 9 against and 41 abstentions. This clearly shows that the International community is recognizing the State of Palestine and the right of the Palestinians to declare their state.
" If you talk of the Palestine-Israel problem we must look at what caused the problem. The first cause is the Israeli occupation of Palestine. First there was no Israel, there never was an Israel. This was a Palestine territory. It was created by a British mandate together with some western countries and given to a few Israeli Zionist gangs "
Q: With UN recognition of Palestine as a new state on November 292012 the Israeli Premier has threatened to build 3,000 more houses on Palestine territory and freeze the payment of $ 100 million. What is your response?
If you take the reaction of the state of Israel, it has always been the same.
Whenever you talk to the Israelis to do anything for Palestinians, they will reject giving us good things.
We are not begging Israel to give us things. It is our right. If it is our right they have to give it and they have to be pressurized by the international community.
When Israel threatens to with-hold $100 million which they say they will not give… it is our money seized by the Israeli on the borders for customs and tax and it should be paid by the Israelis because it is our money.
It is not something extra they are giving us or something we are begging for.
Now on the peace process… “if the Israeli want to live peacefully… and we have been always hearing the word ‘peace’ from the Israelis, but never feel they are serious”.
In this regard I remember the words of the late Israeli PM Shamir the then head of the Israeli delegation to discus with the Palestinians in Madrid in 1991. Some Israelis asked him “…are you serious about giving Palestinians their rights to create a state of Palestine…” and he answered “we can negotiate for 20 years without giving anything.”
That is why we never feel the Israelis are serious about peace.
If we talk about the threat to build new settlements, it is not new. In fact Israeli settlements have always been one of the main problems.
Because every now and then the Israelis seize lands from the Palestinians and build more settlements. They had planned to build these three thousand new houses long before the UN vote.
We know their style, they make their plans and use it whenever it suits them.
In the meantime we keep hoping the Israelis will change their attitude toward the peace process, the Palestinians and are serious when talking about peace.
We have had peace initiatives before. We have the Oslo Agreement, but unfortunately we cannot negotiate with the Israelis forever without getting anything.
You must remember it is not only the Israeli settlements, the Israelis are holding more than 7,000 Palestinians in prisons in Israel. We have also the apartheid wall built by the Israeli occupiers on Palestinian territory. Then you have the daily killings and abduction of Palestinians by Israelis and the closure of Palestinian organisations and institutions by Israel.
Q: The Israeli Prime Minister has said Mr. Abass going to the UN was in gross violation of Israeli-Palestine agreements.
That is not true, that is not true at all. When we commenced negotiations with them, the negotiations were based on a two-state solution -based on UN Resolution 181about a 2-state solution.
The 138 countries who voted for Palestine, have studied these agrements well, before they voted. But this is the attitude of Israel.
But from now on the State of Palestine can sue the Israelis at the International Courts. Israeli leaders who are responsible for killing Palestine civillians have to be brought before the international courts.
"If we talk about the threat to build new settlements, it is not new. In fact Israeli settlements have always been one of the main problems.Because every now and then the Israelis seize lands from the Palestinians and build more settlements. They had planned to build these three thousand new houses long before the UN vote "
Q: Now that Palestine has been recognised as a state will you be filing cases of human rights violations against the Israeli leadership for crimes committed against civillians in the Gaza and elsewhere?
If we see Israeli violations continuing we will have to. Because they killed Palestinian civilians they have to be brought before an international court of justice.
The leaders of the Palestinian state are watching... if the continuous violations of human rights don’t stop, they will file cases against them.
The problem is the Israelis feel they are above the law.
How can anyone imagine that Israelis can commit crimes against innocent civillians living in the Gaza and walk away free? That is impossible. The leadership of the Palestinian state is monitoring the situation and if violations continue... we will go to the court. We also want the siege of Gaza to be lifted.
Q: Israel says the rulers of Gaza are terrorists and are continuously attacking them (Israelis) and were thus forced to build what they call a fence.
As I said, Israel feels it is above the law. They are occupying Palestinian lands.
Imagine if they came here to Sri Lanka and occupied your land.
What would your reaction be? Would you sit quiet allowing them to occupy?
Of course you will not. You will have to resist.
If there were no occupiers in Palestine lands there would be no attacks, these are Palestinian territories.
Q: The Deputy Head of the Israeli Mission to Delhi in his discussion with us also said Israel was ready to return to UN mandated borders, but absolutely reject the right of a return of Palestinian refugees.
I do believe some countries supporting Israel in the UN may block any demand for a return of refugees.
No, the situation at the UN is now different. The world is changing. This is reflected in the 138 countries who voted for a State of Palestine.
There was a big change. Some of the countries who voted for Palestine were not those who earlier supported Palestine. Yet they resisted pressure from countries like the US and France.
They are talking of justice and when talking of justice you cannot talk of only a part of it.
Even the British government said they support this vote, but they put some conditions ... “that Palestinians will not go to international courts...”
But we told them we no longer accept such suggestions.
The British should be ashamed... even the Israelis are not talking about it. In fact one of the main problems comes from the British government.
The countries who used to control the UN earlier are losing their hold. Even European countries have changed their minds.
They believe the Palestinians have the right to statehood and build their institutions. These countries came to Palestine and evaluated the situation on the ground.
They also could not bear the atrocities committed by the Israelis. Their vote for Palestinian statehood was based on their confidence of what they saw. Finally Israel will be forced to accept these new realities.
The countries who voted for Palestinian statehood recognise:
The right of return of the Palestine refugees to their lands,
The lifting of the siege in Gaza
The lifting of the ban on organisations and institutions which have been closed,
The removal of the wall of apartheid, because they fall within the borders of the State of based on the 1967 borders Palestine
If Israel is serious about peace and Palestinian rights, they will withdraw from the settlements. They had settlements in Gaza and the Sinai and withdrew from them.
They will have to accept the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.
The right of return is one of the main issues of the Palestine-Israel problem.