The Guardian • Issue #2096

Palestinian Ambassador speaks

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2096
Palestinian Ambassador HE Izzat Abdulhadi with Andrew Irving.

Palestinian Ambassador HE Izzat Abdulhadi with Andrew Irving.

Interview with Palestinian Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Izzat Abdulhadi: part one. Interviewer: A Carruthers

AC: Your Excellency, I first want to convey greetings from the CPA Central Committee, Party President Vinnie Molina, General Secretary Andrew Irving, and our Branch here in the ACT, as well as our sorrow for the Palestinian people.

Starting with recent news, the UN Security Council resolution 2728 has passed, with only the United States abstaining. Is this a positive move?

IA: As the Palestinian government and the Palestinian Embassy in Australia, we welcome the recent Security Council resolution, although it is not enough because our main objective is to guarantee a sustained, comprehensive, and permanent ceasefire. However, this resolution should provide some relief to our people in Gaza and facilitate the effective delivery of humanitarian aid to the people, especially in the holy month of Ramadan. Actually, although it is for a short time, it should provide an opportunity for further negotiations towards a permanent ceasefire. So, it’s not enough, but it is a step in the right direction.

AC: The history of the resistance is one of bare survival and struggle. We hear a bit about the more recent history, but I wonder about the longer view, going right back to the 1948 Nakba and Mandatory Palestine under the British. How does all that history inform the present?

IA: We can’t truly understand the current situation in Gaza without understanding the historical context and the political context. This is what we’ve been trying to explain to the public around the world, that history did not start on 7 October, and that the Zionist settler colonial project commenced one hundred years ago. It’s important for the public to understand the various episodes of Israel’s ongoing colonisation of Palestine.

I think we made a mistake in the past by not effectively linking the current struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip (ongoing since 1967) to the plight of the Palestinian people in 1948, what is called Al Nakba or the Catastrophe. Without this political/conceptual framework, it’s very difficult to understand the situation, or our own narrative about colonisation.

The Zionist colonial project started long before the establishment of Israel in 1948, when the Zionist movement started developing its own plan to occupy Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The foundation for the establishment of Israel was the Balfour Declaration, issued in 1917 by UK Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, in which Britain committed to supporting and facilitating the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. In the following years, based on these developments, the Palestinian national movement organized many demonstrations in resistance against the British mandate, theft of Palestinian land, and Jewish immigration from Europe to Palestine which was enabled, promoted, and encouraged by the Balfour Declaration.

In 1947, the UN General Assembly issued resolution 181, known as the Partition Resolution, suggesting two states: one Arab state and one Jewish state. It is worth mentioning that this was enabled by Australia’s representative to the UN, who heavily supported partition and the establishment of a Jewish state on Palestinian land. More than 50 per cent of historic Palestine would be for a Jewish state despite the fact that, at the time, Jewish people were just 30 per cent of the total population in historic Palestine. The Palestinian people rejected the Partition Resolution as unfair and unjust.

It’s also important to emphasise that support for the establishment of Israel was pending the right of return of Palestinian refugees. It was conditional recognition for Israel based on Resolution 194.

In 1948, more than 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed and forcefully expelled from their homes by Zionist/Israeli forces, and more than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. As a result, we lost Palestine. Israel had seized 78 per cent of historic Palestine, and just 22 per cent of the land remained (what is known today as the Occupied Palestinian Territories: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza). Gaza was put under Egyptian administration, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem were annexed to Jordan.

This is also when the refugee problem began: Palestinians refugees dispersed and mostly settled in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, and many others migrated to live in the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, North America, and Australia. The 1948 Palestine refugees and their descendants are still waiting to return home. Actually, it’s important to emphasise here that support for the establishment of the State of Israel was conditional – based on the realisation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return, per UN Resolution 194.

In 1967, Israel forcefully occupied the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine, starting the illegal Israeli occupation that is still continuing until the present.

AC: A real history lesson! To go to the question of statehood though. You mentioned various proposals for state solutions: two-state, one-state. ‘State’ means government of some kind. What are the paths to statehood, what forces will be involved, and how can it be achieved in real terms?

IA: Look, in 1965, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was formed. This was the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Its Charter called for one democratic state where Jews, Christians and Muslims live together in peace. In 1988, the PLO declared a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state in the 22 per cent of historic Palestine that remained under Israeli occupation: the West bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. This political outcome of the first Intifada was a significant, and realistic political step supported by the both Palestinian people and the international community. From 1988 onward, the PLO’s political program would be based on a two-state solution in accordance with international law.

In 1993, the PLO signed the Oslo Accords, and bilateral negotiations between PLO and Israel began with the stated aim of implementing a two-state solution, including the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The PLO strongly believes that a one-state solution is no solution, as it is not realistic and goes against Palestinian interests as it would not achieve Palestinian self-determination in statehood. However, the notion of a one-state solution has started to attract attention and gain support, especially among Palestinian youth. The rationale for supporting a one-state solution is in the failure of bilateral negotiations between the two parties for 30 years (primarily due to Israel’s continuation of its illegal settlement expansion and its extreme position towards Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security, and other final status issues) and the reality that Israel’s intensive and persistent illegal settlement expansion and land confiscation will soon make the establishment of a viable Palestinian state an impossibility. Actually, Israel’s extremely restrictive position is pushing forward a one-state solution – but Israel cannot continue to claim that it is a Jewish and democratic state while maintaining an apartheid regime in the occupied Palestinian territories.

There has been a clear shift in recent months among the international community, who want to support the self-determination of the Palestinian people and the establishment of a Palestinian state, not necessarily with the agreement of Israel.

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