Interview With the Palestinian Ambassador in Havana

August 9, 2002

The following article excerpts a recent interview with Imad Jada'a, Palestinian ambassador to Havana. The interview, by Marelys Valencia, a staff writer for Granma International, was published on August 6.

Why does the United States want to eliminate Arafat from the political arena?

I would like to ask this question. How could the United States give Carmona and his coup d’état its blessing in Venezuela when Arafat was democratically elected by his people, under international supervision. Then it declares that it wasn’t democratic and Arafat must be eliminated. The Palestinians are a people like any other and have the right to choose the direction they wish to take.

What would happen if Arafat didn’t exist? Arafat is a son of the Palestinian people. He was born from the suffering of the people, he grew up seeing his people repressed and humiliated. He is one of millions of Palestinians who have felt this; the Palestinian people placed their faith in Arafat. As a human being, he will disappear one day and whoever comes after him to lead the Palestinian people will also have lived and been part of the people’s suffering. They are trying to eliminate someone who knows the value of Palestinian blood, not just Arafat. That is what they are trying to destroy, a symbol. That’s why the people will not let it happen.

Some days ago, a report was published regarding the repercussions of these two years of violence on the Israeli economy, a loss of around $20 million USD. What has been the damage inflicted on the Palestinian people?

The damage is incalculable. Destruction of civilian properties like the Gaza airport, which was demolished, as were the beginnings of projects in the city’s port, buildings, etc. One day we will be able to calculate the cost. Economic damage can be recuperated, but who will give back life to the innocent victims of genocide? It’s no coincidence that a UN report published a week ago claims that Palestine’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world at 66.6%, 55% of the population is living below the poverty line, and 80% of children from eight to 14 are suffering from psychological disorders as a result of the horror they have experienced in the last two years. These are current realities. Forty percent of Palestinian women are anemic. These details are not reaching the news cables in the era of satellite television.

How are Palestinians in the seven occupied cities of the West Bank living?

They have a 24-hour curfew that is only lifted when Israel wants to capture people who go out on the streets to deal with their problems. The fact of the Jewish holocaust is known, but today the entire world is witnessing how they mistreat children, how they tie them up with nylon string that is stronger than they are, blindfold them and take them off in trucks to unknown destinations.

And what happens to them?

Nobody knows. The few that return speak of the horror, torture at the hand of the Israelis, but to date there are 8,000 disappeared Palestinians. All we know is that the Israelis take them away in front of their homes and families. There are some imprisoned in the Nagev desert in the south, where in July and August temperatures reach 47 degrees.

Can Palestinians go to work in the occupied cities?

No, there are curfews. Last week we experienced another humanitarian crisis at the Jordanian border. Some 3,000 Palestinians, men, women and children who needed to cross the border between the West Bank and Jordan in order to return to their homes, were left stranded for one week without tents or water, due to an Israeli curfew imposed when the government suddenly decided to reorganize the border crossing. Three thousand people were stuck there. That’s no lie. The entire world saw it, but there’s a total silence about it and silence is complicity with the enemy.

Do you believe there is really a will on the part of Israel to establish a dialogue?

Everything indicates that there is an Israeli-U.S. agreement, with international participation, to defer the crisis with these inventions that lead us into a blind alley, or on an ambiguous route in order to make us forget what happened yesterday and not solve the problem. The solution to the problem of Palestine is very simple. There are dozens of UN resolutions on the issue, from the Security Council and the General Assembly. What is obstructing the decision? Israeli arrogance and lack of respect for international law. When Israel feels that it is a normal state with a normal economy and a normal people, it can start to think of a solution. However, when the radical circles saw that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had decided to work for a genuine peace, they eliminated him and never spoke of him again.

Now the mediators, and specifically the European Union, are trying to propitiate Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian cities occupied in recent months and to halt any further Israeli colonial settlements in Palestinian territory. But that would be to return to the talks in 2000, before the Intifada.

This is the tunnel I was talking about. They are now talking about returning to the situation prior to September 28, 2000, but who’s going to compensate for all the destruction that has taken place since then. Who is going to mend the human and political wounds inflicted since? We do not have to return to that date, we must return to the partition plan of 1947, we must return to Resolution 242 that obliges Israel to retreat from the territories it occupied in ’67, and we must also return to Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, which divides Palestine into two states. The world accepted the Israeli part, but the Palestinian part has never been resolved. It would be easy if a genuine will existed.

Starting from now, there is a proposal to form a quartet of the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations to mediate in the conflict.

Starting now, starting yesterday, 10 years ago. Why must we continue looking for initiatives when everything is in place? The only thing that needs to be done is to establish a mechanism with the motto “let us respect international law,” which calls for the creation of the Palestinian state. In order to create that state a plan is needed, a working agenda that the international community will respect and defend. Looking for new plans and initiatives is a waste of time, is more aggression for Palestinians and more reaction from Palestinians, more suicides, more bombs and more deaths on both sides. . . .

What would happen if the Palestinian response were to cease for a moment, simply to see how Israel would act?

No, I would like to ask: why don’t we test it out by withdrawing the Israeli troops from Palestinian territory, test out when they are going to give us all the money stolen from our government in order to use it to solve our people’s problems. It’s not simply having Palestinians test it out, when it is well known that any action is followed by reaction. The problem is the occupation and there is no partial or complete solution until the Israeli troops withdraw. There isn’t going to be any peace and tranquility in the Middle East if the Palestinians cannot enjoy their rights.

Here, this must be brought to the attention of all humanity: in the previous Intifadas of ’87 and ’93 the most Palestinians did was throw stones. Those children who were seven in ’87 and ’93 are now immolating themselves. What are those who are children now going to do in 10 years after seeing what has occurred from 2000 to date? The world has to open its eyes and think hard on this issue. The world has to take urgent measures and think of the reaction that will be produced in 10 years. What authority will be able to control those young people? It's a very complicated and worrying question. The sooner a solution is found for the Palestinian people, the sooner there will be well-being for the entire international community.