5 March 2009 Edition
INTERVIEW : Dr As'ad Abdul Rahman, representative of the President of the Palestinian National Authority
Gaza: Beyond any nightmare
WHEN he rose to his feet to address the 2009 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Dr As’ad Abdul Rahman of the PLO and representative of the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was enthusiastically cheered to the podium.
His warm reception is a clear indication of where the sympathies of Sinn Féin lies when it comes to the conflict in the Middle East.
And in a speech punctuated with applause from the packed RDS, Dr Rahman spoke of the New Year invasion of Gaza and the slaughter of up to 1,300 Palestinians by the Zionist war machine and the anger felt by the Palestinian people at the complicity of the West in the invasion.
As he concluded his speech to thunderous applause and a standing ovation, the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams strode forward and embraced the Palestinian representative in a gesture of international solidarity.
It was against this backdrop of support and comradeship that An Phoblacht’s PEADAR WHELAN interviewed Dr Rahman.
“THE world has witnessed the demolition of Gaza that is beyond any nightmare,” the Palestinian representative bluntly told An Phoblacht.
“The Israeli war machine destroyed everything. They swept buildings away and crushed everything in sight.”
The Palestinian spokesperson went on to accuse the Israelis of operating a policy of brinkmanship when it came to its dealing with the people living in Gaza.
“Even before the latest invasion the Israelis were inflicting hardship on the people of Gaza. They would deprive people of food and medical supplies and then, when things were at crisis point, they would allow supplies in to prevent a calamity.”
This was the backdrop against which the invasion was carried out and now, after the death and destruction, people have to try to survive and feed their children.
Rahman pointed out that the Israelis totally control the only six border crossings into Gaza — and if they decide to close the checkpoints then nothing moves.
“In the aftermath of the slaughter, the health of the people in Gaza is a major concern, particularly the children.
“The highest percentage of those killed by the Israeli war machine were children, with the next highest percentage being women.
“As well as those killed in the bombardment, there are many more ‘unseen’ victims: those who died in their mother’s wombs.
“Of the 5,500 injured, up to 2,000 of these were also children, and many, many of them have lost limbs.
“And we don’t even know what the psychological cost of the invasion will be or how it will impact on people in the years ahead.”
Dr Rahman pointed out that the Israelis totally control the only six border crossings into Gaza — and if they decide to close the checkpoints then nothing moves
Reflecting on the silence of Western governments, Dr Rahman, who is the Executive Chairman of the Palestine International Institute in Ramallah, was extremely critical of the United States administration of George W Bush and Britain.
Indeed, Rahman accused the Bush administration of “endorsing the invasion”.
As for President Obama, the Palestinian spokesperson said the Palestinian people will take a “wait and see” approach, although he maintained there is “some optimism” that President Obama seems to favour the ‘two state solution’.
Our interview was, however, taking place in the aftermath of the Israeli elections with speculation, since confirmed, that neither the ‘left-leaning’ Labour Party under Ehud Barak nor the centrist Kadima party of Tzipi Livni being willing to form a government with rabid right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
“We could end up with an extreme right-wing government in Israel,” suggested Rahman before going on to say that the Palestinian National Authority could not deal with such a government “unless it freezes the colonisation of Palestinian lands”.
The Palestinian representative was very clear in his use of the term “colonisation” to describe the building of new settlements and the expansion of those already built on Palestinian land by Zionist settlers.
The difficulties facing the representatives of the Palestinian people and the scale of this colonisation of Palestinian lands, especially in the West Bank, has become more obvious in recent days with the news that the Israeli housing ministry has plans to construct more than 73,000 new homes in West Bank settlements.
That the strategy, exposed by the Israeli ‘Peace Now’ movement, were made ahead of the first visit to the area by recently-installed US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton speaks volumes.
The Zionist agenda is to clearly present the Obama administration with a fait accompli.
Already more than 280,000 settlers, in 125 settlements, occupy land stolen from Palestinians on the West Bank. Nor does the news augur well for any future peace talks given the welcome Yaakov Katz of the small but right-wing National Union party gave to the news. Katz said:
“I expect that, with God’s help, this will all happen in the next few years, and there will be one state here.”
It is likely that Katz’s party will go into coalition with Netanyahu as one of the smaller extreme religious groupings with an ideology that espouses the occupation of all Palestinian land by Zionist settlers.
The poor showing by the left in the February elections and the demise of the Israeli peace movement (which “suffered a fatal blow” according to Rahman, winning only three seats) could herald the end of the left in Israeli politics.
Dr Rahman is based in Ramallah, in the West Bank, and he spoke of how the lives of ordinary Palestinians are affected by the occupation and of living under the guns and violence of the Zionist army.
“We live with constant harassment, daily acts of assassination, invasions and arrests.
‘The highest percentage of those killed by the Israeli war machine were children, with the next highest percentage being women’
— Dr Rahman
“Every day the occupation forces carry out raids arresting people, shooting people – both civilians and activists. They mount permanent blockades, preventing people going about their business.
“In some cases, the Apartheid Wall has cut families off from families and whole villages are completely isolated.
“Qalquilya is totally besieged: it is a prison, a concentration camp. The wall surrounds the village and is shaped like a bottleneck and the Israelis have a permanent gate at the mouth of the bottleneck which they close when it suits them, totally isolating the people in the inside.”
Despite the hardship that the Palestinian people face, Dr Rahman maintains that their morale is high and that they are as determined as ever to achieve their right to establish a “viable Palestinian state”.
He also expressed his gratitude on behalf of his people to the people throughout the Western world who came on to the streets in support of the Palestinians in Gaza when they were being slaughtered.
“But we were not happy with the double standards of the Western governments,” he added.
He also called on the EU to end the Euro Med agreement that gives favourable trading rights to Israel.
The agreement was only signed on the basis that Israel would comply with international standards of human rights but the Israelis have yet to honour their commitments and, as the genocide visited on the people of Gaza shows, the Zionists’ adherence to respect for human rights is meaningless.
Concluding his interview with An Phoblacht, Dr Rahman praised his people and their determination to achieve self-determination.
“Our people have shown an amazing amount of steadfastness and all through their sufferings they have never lost hope of achieving nationhood.”
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.