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'Modi can help break Gaza siege'

October 16, 2023 08:59 IST
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'India is respected by both Israel and Palestine.'
'India can push the international community for the peace process.'

IMAGE: Israeli soldiers gather near tanks as violence around the nearby Gaza Strip mounts at the Israeli side of the Gaza border. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Palestine's Ambassador to India Adnan Mohammad Jaber Abualhayjaa tells Shobha John that India has an important role to play in its ongoing war with Israel.

Even as he rues the hypocrisy of the West which makes Palestine feel like it is under apartheid, the envoy says that India is respected by both sides and Prime Minister Narendra D Modi should use his good offices to help end the siege of 2.2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.


The Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, has been one of the most deadly since Israel was founded in 1948. Has Hamas helped the Palestinian cause or spoilt it?

Let us look at history first. The Palestine problem has been a catastrophe for 75 years, or at least since 1967 when the area was under occupation and we used to resist with an armed struggle.

Following the Oslo Accords, agreements signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993 and 1995, a Palestine State was supposed to be formed in 1999.

There was a peaceful man called Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister of Israel, who wanted peace with Palestine.

But these Accords have been killed by extreme Israelis as they want both the land and peace.

They have no solution to the six million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (four million) and two million with Israeli nationality.

This is probably the sixth war since 2008, and the international community can't find a solution to this.

The UN has passed more than 800 resolutions on Palestine, but nothing came of it.

So the Hamas war is a reaction to the extreme government in Israel which has killed 260 Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of this year, confiscated our land and jailed our people.

Are the Palestinians with Hamas and its extremist behaviour?

Hamas does have its audience among the Palestinians, a big percentage, but I don't have the statistics.

We don't want more bloodshed and civilians killed -- either Palestinians or Israelis. We condemn that.

However, the international community has shut its eyes and we feel as if we are under an apartheid regime.

Did the scale of the Hamas attack on Israel surprise you?

Yes, it surprised everyone. But Israel has been bombing the families of Hamas, but not Hamas members themselves.

The US is investigating whether Iran helped Hamas.

I don't know. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said there is no evidence yet of Iran's involvement.

IMAGE: The ruins of a Palestinian house hit by Israeli strikes at the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, October 12, 2023. Photograph: Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa/Reuters

What does the attack say about Israel's military preparedness and intelligence network? Will this embolden Hamas further?

Israel has the servers of phones in its territory and has the Pegasus software, so it can hear conversations on mobiles.

Despite such security, it is surprising that Hamas attacked it.

Whether it will embolden Hamas, I am not sure. They are still throwing rockets. The Palestine Authority, for its part, is trying to send food and supplies to Gaza.

Will the taking of Israeli hostages by Hamas serve the purpose of getting Palestinians released from Israeli jails?

I hope so. I am sure they will be released.

IMAGE: An Israeli tank fires near Israel's border with the Gaza Stripv in southern Israel, October 12, 2023. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Why did Hamas attack Israel so brutally now? How much of Hamas' activities has to do with the hardline stance taken by Israel's government in the Gaza Strip?

Hamas has said the bombings are due to the killings in Gaza by Israel, the raids by it in Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque, an important place for us, and the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Will the present situation affect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political future?

Israel always solves its problems with Palestinian blood. What we have read in Israeli newspapers is that Netanyahu is 94 percent responsible for what has happened in the past week.

IMAGE: Palestinians flee their houses and head toward the southern part of the Gaza Strip after Israel's call for more than 1 million civilians in northern Gaza to move south within 24 hours, October 13, 2023. Photograph: Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

Has India's position vis a vis Palestine undergone a change under the present government? While Prime Minister Narendra D Modi was the first Indian PM to visit Israel, he also visited Ramallah, the seat of the Palestine Authority, in 2018.
Do you think India is doing some tightrope walking between the two? What hopes do you have from India?

India is with the two-State solution. It is a very important country and is respected by both Israel and Palestine.

We hope it can play a positive role to end this crisis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi can help break the siege of 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza Strip and help them get food, water and electricity.

India can push the international community for the peace process. It will be able to play that role.

IMAGE: A rally in Amman, Jordan, to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Photograph: Alaa Al Sukhni/Reuters

Were the Hamas attacks also an attempt to derail ongoing negotiations brokered by the US for normalisation of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could change Middle East politics?

I don't think so. The attacks must have taken years of preparation, it was not sudden.

Should the Israeli-Palestine conflict be seen from a historical perspective rather than just a strategic one?
According to Biblical times, this was the promised land of the Jews.

This is a big lie. It is in the interest of the West to have Israel. In fact, Joe Biden, when he was vice-president, had said that Israel is the best investment America makes. Israel is seen as a military base.

The West has been hypocritical in its stance in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Israel is destroying the two-State solution, but the West is silent.

Do you think an independent Palestinian State is no longer a priority for the Arab world? After all, cooperation has opened up between Israel and several Arab countries.

That is not true. An independent Palestine is a priority for the Arab world. They don't want war in the area, they want peace.

Israel's thinking is that if it normalises relations with other countries, they will forget about the Palestinian issue.

IMAGE: An aerial view shows damage caused following the mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen in Kibbutz Beeri. Photograph: Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

What is the future for the Palestinians and is a separate Palestinian State now a chimera?

No, the two-State solution is the most practical one and recognised by the international community.

If Israel does not want the two-State solution, let us live in a democratic State and the historical land of Palestine.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi during the ceremonial welcome at the presidential compound, also known as Muqata'a, in Ramallah -- the Palestinian seat of government, during his visit in 2018. Photograph: Ministry of External Affairs

Do you foresee this war spiraling out of control and including Hezbollah in Lebanon, thereby bring Iran and Lebanon into the war?

I hope not. We don't want the war to expand and see more killings. The UN is with the people of Palestine.

If the US wants peace in the Middle East without finding a solution to Palestine, it cannot happen.

What has been the role of the Palestine Authority?

Since 2014, Israel has refused to meet the Palestine Authority. This is the most extreme government in Israel in the last 75 years.

European countries have their representatives in West Bank and have daily reports about what is going on there.

The Palestinians will continue their struggle and can't be destroyed.

They can't kill all the Palestinians -- they have a high birth rate.

We don't want our children jailed and killed every day, we want them to play like others and see peace.

The poverty in Gaza is around 70 percent and hunger is already there without the siege.

The siege is a war crime. But we will keep the struggle for an independent state going.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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