In Conversation with Political Analyst Dr Waiel Awwad
To understand the trick of terminologies, the tyranny of narratives and the possibility of resolution around the ongoing situation in Palestine, Kashmir Observer interviewed senior Arab journalist, writer and political analyst Dr Waiel Awwad.
How did the current hostilities begin? The dominant narrative has been that Palestinians fighters firing rockets inside Israel triggered it
The problem started in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah which Israeli's have tried to occupy since 1948 without any success. Ever since East Jerusalem and West Bank were annexed by Israel in the 1967 war, Jewish settlers increased ten fold. So, building activities of settlements never stopped with a sole aim of engineering a demographic change and Judaizing the holy city in clear violation of International law that considers it an Israeli occupied territory and any changes of its demography illegal.
So Sheikh Jarrah enclave has been a main target for the Jewish settlers who are calling for extermination of Arab populations and confiscation of Palestinian houses. Israel's draconian laws give only the Jews the right of citizenship, ownership of housing and other civic rights. Palestinians, especially in the old quarter of Jerusaelm are forced to leave their ancestral homes. Some cases are in the court and difficult to be solved by any law since there is no historical evidence except in the Torah as they claim.
Moreover Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, stirred the fresh trouble by resorting to provocations in order to get a new lease of life since he is indicted by the court on corruption charges and is facing an imminent jail term.
Besieging Al -Aqsa Mosque on the holiest night of Al-Qadr and then shooting and tear gassing worshippers was a grave provocation. Following this, Hamas issued a warning to Israeli government to end the siege. Israeli Defense Forces were waiting for the other side to get provoked and no sooner did Hamas fire a rocket, the doors of hell were opened on Palestinians and continues without a break.
The Jerusalem Post says “Israel is winning battles, Hamas is winning the war”. How do you see the emerging situation after relentless Israeli bombings on Gaza and other provocations elsewhere?
It is tragic. There is no winner in war and the death of innocent people must be stopped by all means. There is no justification for a war on people under occupation. As per International law Israelis cannot call it a defensive war. It’s not a war in Palestine. It’s a genocide. This is not a war but continued massacres of defenceless Palestinians.
Despite growing international outrage against Israeli actions in Palestine, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged that the offensive against the Gaza Strip will continue. What in your view makes him disregard international laws and public opinions with such contempt?
It is nothing but an aggression on people by a politician who doesn't believe in peace and has never recognized Palestinian’s right of existence in the holy land. Benjamin Netanyahu is not a man of peace nor is he helping Israelis to live in peace and co-exist with Palestinians and Arab neighbors.
Why Netanyahu disregards International law is because Israel enjoys total backing of the United States. Its wars on innocent people are fought with sophisticated arms and arsenal provided by the US and its allies. It won't be wrong to say the US is solely responsible for allowing the Israeli killing machine to continue crimes against humanity. Trampling international law by blocking UN Security Council resolutions against Israel is a main job of the US at the world body. The former president Donald Trump went a step further and recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and gifted him the occupied Syrian territory of Golan disregarding all international laws. So Netanyahu is using US support to the full advantage of right wing Israeli settlers who reject even a two state solution.
Do you agree that the blatant approval or complicity voiced or signaled either through silence or lukewarm ‘neutral’ statements by much of the international community like the US, EU and UN has emboldened Israeli regime to carry on with its expansionist policies?
Palestine is a victim of colonialism, and Britain is chiefly responsible for creating the state of Israel through the Balfour Declaration of 1918. During the British mandate on Palestine from 1918-1947, a number of Jews migrated from Europe where they were persecuted. Colonial Britain had promised a homeland for the Jews in Palestine and so it helped ensure Jewish domination, started arming European Jewish settlers, shielded their crimes and turned blind eye to the massacres they committed of local peoples to facilitate the influx of settlers from all across the world.
The sufferings of Palestinians have never ended ever since. War after war has led to Israel capturing more Palestinian territories and using truce and peace deals to swallow and annihilate the whole of Palestine. The world is watching this horror — the second Nakba happening now after 73 years of the first exodus of Palestinians.
I will not be surprised if another massacre is committed in Sheikh Jarrah as a collective punishment for its residents or resisting the forcible eviction from their homes.
It is a shame that the International community has failed to find a peaceful solution even after dividing Palestine into two states in 1948.
The whole world understands that Palestine is under Israel’s occupation and people under occupation must be protected under international laws at all costs.
Has the recent rapprochement between Arab states and Israel led to despair in Palestine or is their resolve to resist occupation still intact?
Yes Palestinians feel betrayed once again. Having said that the Arab rapprochement with Israel was never there for the Palestinian cause. Arab's signed the 'Abraham Accord', also called 'Deal of the Century', under pressure from former president Donald Trump, his son in law Kushner and Benjamin Netanyahu. The current crisis has proved that the Abraham Accord is dead.
The Arab Peace Initiative which was agreed upon during Beirut Arab Summit in 2002 was presented to the world as the Arabs were ready to accept Israel and recognize it provided a Palestinian state was established side by side a Jewish state with the borders of 4th June 1967 and East Jerusalem as its capital. But the peace initiative was then rejected by Israel.
Yes, you are right. It did give more incentives to the Prime Minister of Israel to take on the 1948 Palestinians and continue with ethnic cleansing policy and by extension, complete the project of turning historical Palestine into an Israeli Jewish state and expel remaining Palestinians.
Some experts say the resistance front’s capability in not only withstanding but also confronting the Israeli war machine has exposed the regime’s fragility. Do you agree?
History taught us that “Right is Might” and not the vice versa. There is no loss of right as long as you strive for it. The Palestinians will never succumb to atrocities and pressures. Killing and terrorizing acts by the Israeli army and Israel's occupation of Palestine will be resisted and freedom will be achieved by Palestinians one day. The Israelis know that there is no military solution to the problem and they are unable to erase Palestine from the map despite all the support they have had.
The spirit of resistance is growing stronger and Palestinians are never alone and will never be. The holy city will be the main rallying point for Muslims and Christians alike to fight back Zionist supremacy and control of the city and thwart any attempt to demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque and Christian ancient churches.
What would you say about the ‘conflict of two sides’ narrative pushed by the media about Israel’s aggression in Gaza?
Israel's propaganda machinery is strong and very professional. They knew the value of image and media to achieve their political objectives unlike Arabs who have all the resources at their disposal. Zionists are masters of deception and have a strong control on global media. For the last 73 years, they made the world believe that they are the victims and Arabs are the aggressors. Infact, the Arabs foolishly adopted David Ben Gurion’s statement that the "Arabs wanted to throw us into the sea".
Now with the IT revolution and proliferation of social media, it is very difficult to hide the truth. The horrors of war on Gaza and the tragedy unfolding in the Palestinian lands is now there for all of us to see. In spite of all pressures and inducements to media houses to change the narratives and justify the retaliation against Gaza, they have failed to a large extent. They can no more hide the powerful and horrendous images of the dead bodies of children and old people and the assault on people's homes. They are failing to hide the truth and large demonstrations calling on world to stop the genocide is manifestaion of that.
But let me also say it is sad to see some reporters and media houses looking into the issue from a narrow prism to deny the reality on ground. But they do it at the peril of losing their credibility.
To know little is very dangerous and it is more so when the media is biased in projecting only one side of the story. We need to know the root of the problem and why there is violence and not merely report symptoms without focusing on the cause. The propaganda machine is trying to show the aggressor as a victim and condemn the victim for resisting the aggression. Balanced reporting is a challenge but the truth shall prevail.
The terminology used by mainstream media has come under sharp scrutiny lately. We usually hear the redundant platitudes of describing the killing of Palestinian civilians as “clashes”. It has been the norm with most of the mainstream media. How are people across the Arab and wider world taking it?
If you are following the events in occupied Palestine, you will notice the gradual changes of terminology dictated to media personnel by the Israeli authority — from “occupied territory” to “disputed” and now to “legitimate Jewish state” where the Palestinians are not welcome!
The challenge for Israel now will be to change public opinion that there’s no two-state solution, it is a Jewish state surrounded by radical Islamic elements. Through this narrative they will justify the possession of nuclear weapons and shift their focus on Jordan as an alternative to a Palestinian state temporarily, before creating a Palestine in Iraq as per the first Zionist organization plan in their meeting a century ago where they set up the objectives of greater Israel from Euphrates to Nile.
Is there any credible alternative media available in the Arab world? If yes, what is their reach?
Unfortunately, most of the Arabic channels are least independent in their reporting and mostly reflect the opinion of the country where these channels are based. However, it is getting more transparent in telecasting from the ground and disseminating news all over. It is up to the media houses whether to use it or not. Many strategic study centers have conducted lots of studies in English. Credibility is relative, and you can rely on local reporters, bloggers, and others available on social media. We need to diversify our sources and make our own assessment and judgment based on facts and reliability.
How much support is there for a two-state solution in Palestine? Do Hamas and like minded parties, who do not recognize Israel's right to exist, offer any realistic solution?
We all know that no one can eliminate the other, and war is the last option. When peace becomes a strategic option for all stakeholders, then peace is possible. No one will throw the other in the sea. Therefore, we need to find a common ground for a permanent solution by implementing the UN Security Council resolutions in this regard. The right of Palestinian state is eternal and will be achieved. The Palestinians and Arabs are interested in comprehensive peace with Israel. A significant number of Israelis were interested in peace with the Arabs after the Madrid Peace Conference 1991, the accord with Palestinian authority (Oslo accord 1993) and the Wadi Araba Treaty with Jordan in 1994. But for the last 15 years the number of Israeli willing to have peace with Arabs is declining.
The conflict in Palestine has been a recurrent tragedy. Does the latest escalation bring us any closer to its end?
I think this latest tragedy reminded the international community of its moral responsibility to end the suffering and reach a settlement once and for all. The people of the region have been suffering for decades. The ongoing attacks and counter attacks bring more misery and may go out of hand if the assault is not stopped and other resistance forces will join and trigger a long war in West Asia. The world community has to wake up and end the oldest war in the world.
It is up to the Israeli's to make peace with the Palestinians and not force Arab countries to normalize relations by applying US pressure without finding a solution to the Palestine cause.
The Palestinians love their homeland and will never abandon it as they are sacrificing their lives to protect it and get their freedom. The world is changing; the regional changes after this assault no longer favor the right-wing government. We must join hands with the minority in Israel who are interested in peace with the Arabs, otherwise, it is an all-out war. This will be a lucrative opportunity for terrorist organizations and certain regional leaders to ride the wave and aggravate the situation and make it impossible to reconcile and live in peace and harmony.
The region is full of natural resources and more discoveries in the Mediterranean Sea of oil and gas that can be shared equally among neighbors. This is merely a wish in a greedy world. Denying the Palestinians their share of wealth is also part of the objectives to control the Gaza strip once again and re-occupy it at the cost of its long suffering people.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.