Arafat has now no means of communication. Were he to get hold of a cellular phone, he would certainly address a message to the world. In the state of stress, tiredness and emotional exhaustion he must now be, we could not expect from him the talk he would have given when in full physical and emotional shape.
Still, it is not so difficult to figure out what he could have said today, had he been free to speak. As an human being, before being a Jew, as the expression of my love for both the Palestinian and the Israeli people, as a person convinced that the long-term happiness and security of each of the two people can be reached only through peaceful and brotherly relations between them, as a person who has closely followed the events and is knowledgeable in history, as a person whose friends recognise in him the wisdom he has accumulated in his 78 years of age, I dare fill the gap and produce the speech I think Arafat would have done. I hope this speech will meet with the approval of Arafat’s collaborators. I hope that most Israeli, will understand the deepness of my commitment to the peace and security of both people. They will understand the symbiotic nature of this objective. There can be no peace and security for Israel, unless there is peace and security for the Palestinians, and vice-versa.
Here is the speech which I hope Arafat will one day adopt as his own, once he is free to do that.
I, Arafat, head of the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian son committed to the realisation of a free Palestinian state having its capital in East Jerusalem, I Arafat, a man dedicated to the peaceful coexistence of the Palestinian people with the Israeli people, am addressing this speech to the whole world – While in jail for 27 years. Mandela was given the opportunity to get out free, any day he would agree to sign a declaration stating he is against the use of violence in the struggle for liberation. Mandela refused to sign such a declaration. He said that the real problem was not the violence of the people resisting a government which does not represent them, for whom they had not voted, and who catered to the interests of a minority. Mandela asserted that it was the South African government that should be asked to commit itself to renunciation of violence.
While proclaiming the sacred right of Palestinians to resist the occupation and the Israeli barbaric oppression and repression, I had always clearly denounced the suicide-bombing attacks, and any act of violence directed against innocent civilians.
But, following Mandela’s example, I do assert that it is the repressive Israeli government which should be put in the hot-seat and made to declare its intention to unconditionally evacuate the occupied territories, in the most immediate future, and to stop its violent terrorist repressive measures.
It is Israel that is in the box of the accused of the international public opinion, It is Israel that illegally occupies territories beyond its 1967 borders, and does violate the Geneva conventions and the so numerous UN decisions. It is Israel who violated international laws and UN decisions, by implanting a Jewish population in the territories she came to control as a result of an act of war. It is Israel who violated the letter and the spirit of the Oslo accord by increasing the number of settlements, installing a number of checkpoints, infringing on the rights of the Palestinians, damaging their economy, forcing them to live under an humiliating rule. Israel should be accountable for all these crimes, all its acts of terrorism as represented by the confiscation of Palestinian land, the destruction of Palestinian houses and the uprooting of olive trees, the targeting for assassination of many Palestinians. We should add to that, the arbitrary arrests without possible recourse to justice. All these crimes were committed after Oslo and before what came to be called the second Intefada.
I have denounced, and I do denounce the suicide bombings which caused so many Israeli victims. The fact that the Palestinian victims are far more numerous, do not diminish the tragedy of any family so hurt. Israelis and Palestinians have now at least this in common: they are being hurt by the loss of dear family members, man and women, adults and children. This has to stop.
Let me therefore speak of the Palestinian violence and how to stop it.
After Oslo, the Palestinian constituency supporting HAMAS was rather small. The Palestinian authority was enjoying a greater popularity. At this time, had the Israeli been faithful to the spirit and the letter of Oslo, HAMAS’ constituency would have dwindled by the day. It was up to the Israeli authority to act in a way that strengthens my hand, and weakens that of HAMAS. At the time, had Israel announced a policy of gradual dismantling of the settlements, HAMAS’ constituency would have been reduced to zero. The few leaders and members who would have had recourse to violent acts against innocent civilians, would have been arrested and, much more importantly, would have not been replaced. The HAMAS organisation, discredited by the obvious success of peaceful means in giving hope to the Palestinians, would have lost its ‘reservoir’ to replace those members captured or killed.
Instead, the Israeli government, by violating the letter and the spirit of Oslo, by increasing the number of settlements by its policy of establishing humiliating checkpoints, has weakened my hand and strengthened that of HAMAS. And as long as HAMAS, thanks to Sharon, enjoys the support of a large constituency, repressing their leaders is of no practical use. It only results in the feeling by Palestinian that I would be more devoted to the Israeli interests than to theirs.
It is not at all surprising that Sharon is acting in a way that strengthens the hand of HAMAS. Already Shamir, the past Israeli premier, and member of the same Party as Sharon’s, is on record in the Time magazine as saying that Israel fears more the moderate Palestinians than the extremists. He explained that nobody could ask Israel to sit at the negotiating table with extremists. But pressure could be exerted on Israel to sit with the moderates and that, Shamir said, is dangerous for Israel.
Sharon’s policies are in tune with those of Shamir. Arafat is dangerous because he strives to a peaceful and just solution. Therefore, Sharon must paint him with the colours of extremism to be able to refuse to negotiate with him, and to implement his objective of increasing and enlarging the settlements.
Today, it is very easy, even for an isolated individual, to build an explosive device and to transform himself into a suicidal bomber. If this individual is just a crazy man, there would be a single act of terrorism followed by no other. However, in a situation in which the Israeli policies create humiliation and despair in the whole Palestinian population, such isolated individuals, even without a HAMAS organisation, become numerous.
I have no doubt that, were Israel to evacuate the territories beyond the green line, the cases of suicide bombing will become very rare, and there will be no volunteers to replace those who die.
Sharon, you have the choice: either you want me to be a Quisling in collusion with you to more and more deprive the Palestinian people of their rights, their land and their means of subsistence and their dignity, or you want me to be a partner in the road to peace a partner who will efficiently eliminate from Palestine all roots of violence towards the Israeli people. The first option is not in your cards. You cannot play it. I will never agree to facilitate your subjugation of the Palestinian people.
However, the second option is open either to you or to your successor. All you have to do is to give back some hope and dignity to the Palestinian people. Just announce an intended date for the evacuation of the territories and the dismantling of the settlements. Retire immediately from the cities you have reoccupied, eliminate the checkpoints between these cities, allow me to rebuilt the structures of the Palestinian authority, and the rest will be up to me as the representative of the Palestinian people. With hope and dignity, the Palestinian people will support my all encompassing struggle against violence and the people and organisations which resort to it.
The rest of my speech is directed to the Israeli people.
Our two people have the most important aim in common: long-term peace and security. In fact, and since our objectives are identical, we should be allies, and not enemies. The one thing that prevents the Israeli people from considering us an ally is the lack of trust, the fear that somehow, once the Palestinian people are free to develop their state, they will renege on the promise to have their state live harmoniously side by side with the Israeli people.
I think that the fear that, if an extremist Israeli party comes to power, it could find a pretext to invade the new Palestinian state, is by far much more credible.
The Palestinian people is sick and tired of the occupation, the humiliation and the lack of economic opportunities. The moment they will start having a taste of freedom and economic development, all their efforts will be invested in this direction. They will throw out of their midst whoever would ask them to go in adventures against Israel. The Palestinian people, if only given the taste of dignity and prosperity would throw out of its midst all trouble makers. I hope the Israeli people would do the same. We are certain that there is no Israeli “gene” making the Israelis become anti-arabs. Likewise there is no Palestinian “gene” making Palestinians become anti-Israeli.
It is in my intention to overlook the writing of a Palestinian constitution. In accordance to what I know of the will of my people, it will have to be the most democratic in the world, the most tolerant in the world. It will also mention, as a constitutional principle, the need for the friendship between all the peoples of the middle-east, and particularly the friendship between the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. Once Palestine becomes an independent state, and once such a constitution is adopted by the Palestinian people. any Israeli either passing through Palestine, or residing in it, should feel at home as if he were in Israel. I want to hope that the reciprocal would become true.
All that looks now like a dream. It is my dream, and I would give my life to make from this dream a reality. Moreover, I think that it is also the dream of the Palestinian people.
Let us remember, the starting point is to give back hope and dignity to the Palestinian people.