Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Witness from the West Bank

Daphne Liddle recently met Comrade Fouad, a member of the Palestinian People’s Party, from the village of Beit Furik in the occupied West Bank, who has come to London on a brief speaking tour about the conditions and problems currently facing Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Daphne Liddle: What do you hope to gain from this visit?

Fouad: "Originally to build solidarity between our community and to meet people here to find out their views about the struggle. In addition to that I am interested to get to know more deeply the people who are active in building solidarity with Palestine and deepen my knowledge of the situation here.
I am very grateful for the invitation because on a personal level it gives me the opportunity to advance the twinning process in a more concrete form.
I will be taking part in the twinning conference and we’ll be taking practical steps to make it all happen. This relationship needs to be developed on an organisational level and there is a lot of work to so. That is why this visit is so important to build something definite that we can benefit from.

DL: How can people in Britain help?

Fouad: In Britain there is a strong sympathy here because there is a tradition of civil liberties and human rights, more than in some other places and because of this we want the friendship of the British people. Britain is so powerful internationally, so it helps if the British people can put more pressure on the British government through their politicians to help the people of Palestine. We want you to put more pressure on your government.
What I witnessed today on the street in Lewisham at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall, just talking to the people of Britain and telling them about the human rights problems, I was very impressed by the friendship shown.
We need to raise awareness of our problems and we hope that some of you will come and visit us.

DL: The British government in the past has played a role in creating the problems, for example through the Balfour Declaration and so on. How do you feel about that?

Fouad: "That’s really why I’m here. I was being a bit diplomatic before. The British people are now becoming more aware of their history and the wrong deeds of the British Empire. Your government helped to bring about this situation and it has a responsibility to be involved in resolving it to bring peace and justice. We want you to put pressure on your government.
At the same time we are asking people who are concerned to come and visit Palestine to see for themselves the reality of the situation.
You are interviewing me for a communist newspaper, I too am a communist, a member of the Party of the Palestinian People and we have friendly relations with many other communist and workers’ parties, including the Workers’ Party of Korea. They are among those who support our struggle.

DL: Do you believe that Saudi Arabia could do more to help Palestine?

Fouad: Yes, the Saudi government could put more pressure on the strong governments in the world. Money and charity are not enough, we do not want to be beggars, we want a free independent state and to support ourselves. The Saudis should support us in this.
Palestine is a full member of the Arab League; its laws say that if one member is in trouble the others should give support but this is not applied to us, we do not see it.
There are meetings and meetings but we do not see anything, nothing effective happens.

DL: We have seen lately some divisions among the Palestinians, is Islam a force for progress or reaction?

Fouad: The presence of Hamas in the government of Palestine is the result of Fatah’s failure to make progress. The people are not concerned about Islamic fundamentalism; they voted in revenge for the non-success of Fatah and not because of a commitment to Hamas. If you speak to the people they are far from being religious extremists.
When Hamas took over the government they suddenly discovered they were facing more political issues than religious. Hamas is now longer quite so popular. Why? It’s because elections are really a political matter and not religious. Hamas believed the people had voted for them for religious reasons so they started to push the religious aspects of their policy and the people did not accept it.
Fatah are doing a bit better now on certain issues.

DL: Is the legacy of Yasser Arafat still important to the people of Palestine?

Fouad: Yasser Arafat was a militant person and everybody respected him. But some of those around him grew corrupt. He led as a strong personality. As long as he was alive this corruption did not emerge but when he died it came out into the open.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation included everybody, it was an umbrella movement. Arafat was a great individual personality but people who were not so good were attracted to surround him. After he died they did not give good leadership and Hamas won support.
There has been a big confrontation with Hamas in Gaza and Fatah is now getting better organised. This is terrible that brother is fighting against brother when we should be fighting the common enemy.
Fatah needs to reorganise but it still has problems with people who were in the old leadership and who were corrupt. That’s why the people were turning to Hamas.
Now there is a new young leadership trying to move those people. Because of them Fatah was not operating professionally.
We wanted to build the first independent sovereign state on Palestinian land. And we as communists really supported the state at the beginning and had real hopes to build a government with human rights and a civil society.

DL: Does the Israeli occupation make it impossible for any Palestinian government to achieve progress?

Fouad: This is true but it is the job of Palestinians to confront this and fight against it. If it requires us to rethink and retrain ourselves and to build unity then we must do this to confront the enemy.

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