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Islamist Terrorism Hurts the Palestinian Cause: Nabil Shaath

By New Age Islam News Bureau


New Delhi: Urging Muslims to turn to terrorism to avenge the oppression of Palestinians helps only in undermining the cause of Palestinian statehood, senior Palestinian Authority (PA) member Nabil Shaath says.

“Terrorism is opposite to the aspirations of a liberation struggle. No one benefits from it. Let’s separate terrorism from the struggle to achieve liberation,” Shaath, a former acting prime minister of Palestine, said at a seminar in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on Tuesday.

He said he was in the US after the 9/11 attacks. “I felt we will pay a heavy price for (Al Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden’s actions. And we did.”

Shaath, who is now PA’s commissioner of international relations, is in India ahead of next month’s UN General Assembly, in which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to seek full membership of the world body as a declaration of Palestinian statehood.

“On 23 September, Abbas will address the General Assembly. We are hopeful of success. A total 122 countries (including India) already recognise Palestinian statehood, while only 57 recognised Kosovo (when it gained the UN’s full membership). Nine of the world’s 10 most populous countries recognise Palestinian statehood,” Shaath said.

The US, however, does not, and is expected to veto the move in the UN Security Council, of which India is currently a member. Shaath said he was in New Delhi to meet political leaders and diplomats to discuss the modalities of approaching the UN and what to do if the US uses its veto power.

Palestine is the only colony left in the world, he said. The first stage of the Palestinian struggle for independence was an armed movement, but it achieved little. The next stage, of trying to negotiate a settlement, began in 1991 and is generally known as the Oslo peace process.

Shaath said he, like many others, had high hopes from this process, but it was dealt a fatal blow when the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated in 1995. “The process was supposed to lead to a Palestinian state in five years, but even 20 years later, we are nowhere near achieving that through talks,” he said.

Today, the Palestinian struggle has entered a third phase—of non-violent resistance. “What began as a cause inspired by (Che) Guevara has now become a movement that looks upon Gandhi as a role model,” Shaath said.

But he differentiated between the colonisation of India and Palestine and said the Palestinian non-violent struggle cannot succeed without international pressure on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and revert to the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

“Around 78% of historic Palestinian territory became the state of Israel,” Shaath said. “After 1967, Israel occupied even the remaining 22%. That is all we are struggling for.”

He gave some stark statistics on the impact of Israeli occupation on Palestinian life. There are around 4 million Palestinians living in occupied areas, of which some 900,000—or one out of every five—have been to Israeli jails. Some 25,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed by Israeli settlers and army in Jerusalem alone.

He criticised Arab governments as well for not doing enough to support Palestinians. The irony, he pointed out, was that countries such as Saudi Arabia paid the PA more money when they were waging an armed struggle than when they are trying to negotiate a settlement.

“Nine months ago, we decided to seek full UN membership,” he said. “We want to continue negotiating with Israel for peace, but we want to do it as a state talking to another state.”