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'Hamas would have not existed if...'

October 17, 2023 10:15 IST
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'If Israel had stuck to the peace accords, Hamas would have had no one to fight.'

IMAGE: Palestinian kidney patients lie on hospital beds as health officials say they are running out of fuel to operate dialysis devices. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

"Israel is not interested in controlling the lives of two million people in Gaza. From the Oslo Accord days they do not want to take responsibility for Palestinians, they would rather let Egyptians take control over Gaza," Palestinian political observer Dr Maher Awawedh, who is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ in the concluding part of an informative interview.

What will happen to Gaza? What is the fear of the people living in Gaza?

People of Gaza now say, 'Never Again!'

Whatever happened in 1948, when Israelis kicked Palestinians out of historical Palestine land by making them refugees in Gaza, they will not leave Gaza now.

75 percent residents of Gaza owned land in mainland Israel and have been made to live like refugees for the last 75 years.

Palestinians are not going to Egypt. They want their own land as recognised by the United Nations.

Do Palestinians regret that they left their house during the nakba ('catastrophe' in Arabic, referring to the 1948 creation of Israel)?

It was not their decision to leave their own land. Israel massacred thousands of Palestinians in 1948. They became refugees in their own country and were pushed to a corner of their own land.

We should have fought harder in 1948, but the British were supporting Israelis and didn't treat us well.

Jews never had their own country. Don't you think Israel has the right to exist?

In 1993 Palestine recognised the State of Israel but Israel never recognised Palestine. We recognised them though they have 72 percent of Palestine land and we have a little more than 24 percent land with us now.

Israel promised to withdraw from our territory but they never withdrew from our lands.

Ask any Israeli where is Israel's border? And they will never be able to tell you where is Israel's border, as it does not exist.

They want to expand their country more and more.

Israel believes wherever an Israeli soldier is standing, the Israeli border exists there.

What is life like in the West Bank vis a vis Gaza?

Let me first talk about Gaza because the situation is very grim over there.

There is power outage and hospitals are not functioning. The banks were also bombed, so ATM machines do not have cash.

There is no water to drink in Gaza now.

In the West Bank, the Israeli army blocks the movement of Palestinian people every now and then.

My daughter is a doctor in a nearby village but cannot access her hospital as Israel controls every movement in the West Bank.

Israel controls everything that you can see with your naked eye in Palestine.

The situation is very difficult.

The only exit point for us is the border to Jordan, that is the only international connection for Palestinians living in the West Bank. Here, too, Israel does not allow us to use that.

Previously, we had an airport in Gaza, but Israel bombed it. We had an airport in Jerusalem too before 1948, but Israel took over so Palestinians cannot go out of the country by road or air because Israel does not give us permission to do so.

There is a belief that Saudi Arabia was going to give Israel recognition as a State and establish diplomatic relations, and therefore this attack took place. How far is this assumption true?

Once the Non-Aligned Movement went, including India's effort, to its lowest, things became very poor.

The deal was Israel should accept Arab peace initiatives and Israel will normalise with all Arab States. Now, unfortunately, I do not expect much from the Arab League though Egypt made a strong statement against Israel as they bombed their truck which was sending aid to Palestine in Gaza. The trucks then had to turn back and therefore we do not expect much from the Arab League.

We hope an emerging superpower like India would change their views when they see on the ground, rather than through Israeli propaganda.

IMAGE: A journalist's car burns at the site where an explosion killed Reuters visual journalist Issam Abdallah and injured colleagues from Reuters and other media in Alma Al-Shaab near the border with Israel, southern Lebanon, October 13, 2023. Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

Israel has always stood by India when it comes to India's war with Pakistan unlike the Arab League, so why will not India stand by Israel?

Palestinians have always taken a balanced position when it comes to India. For example, on the issue of Kashmir, you will never hear Palestinians making a statement which is pro-India or pro-Pakistan. We want the support of both the countries (for our cause).

It is complicated when it comes to India's internal politics.

When will Israel stop attacking Gaza?

Israel, after its humiliating defeat, will try to make a ground attack on Gaza. They will make a buffer zone which they did in the West Bank, Lebanon and even in Gaza previously.

Hopefully, democratic countries will pressurise Israel not to do that because Palestinians have become sitting ducks that Israel is targeting.

Will Israel move tanks and soldiers into Gaza to capture it permanently?

I don't think they are interested in controlling the lives of two million people in Gaza. They are not interested.

From the Oslo Accord days they do not want to take responsibility for Palestinians, they would rather let Egyptians take control over Gaza.

They will try to re-establish their dominant image over Gaza by proving to the world that their technology is superior so other countries, including India, believe in them and buy their war machinery like the Iron Dome.

But, I don't think they will succeed in doing that by proving to the world they are superior militarily after the October 7 attacks.

Can we say Israel is against Hamas, but not Palestinians?

No, this statement is not true. If a Palestinian businessman wants to buy, say, 80 tonnes of milk powder they cannot do so because Israel controls Palestinian lives to such a great extent.

Palestinian businessmen are not allowed to import more than 60 tonnes of milk by Israel.

If I want to build a good hospital in Palestine I will not be allowed to do that by Israel as they will not allow me to import hospital equipment.

If our businessman in West Bank wants to import from India we will have to pay a tax to Israel at the border. This is because Palestinians do not control their own border.

According to the Oslo Peace Accord, Israel will collect our tax and pay back to Palestinians by deducting only 10 percent administrative money.

Instead what Israel does is that it gives excuses that the Palestinian businessman is blacklisted so they will charge him extra taxes. This makes our budget run into deficit.

IMAGE: Rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel, October 13, 2023. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Why then is every major democracy in favour of Israel? Be it the USA, France or Great Britain, they all have come out strongly against Hamas.

I am not mentioning Hamas, but Palestinians.

Hamas would have not existed if Israel had gone ahead with the Oslo Peace Accord by ending their occupation.

Things have not moved on the ground for peace because there is no will from Israel's side and since Israel's closest ally is the USA which every other country follows.

Do you mean if the Oslo Peace Accord was enforced on the ground, Hamas would not have existed today?

Yes, (not) as a military force in resistance to Israel.

Palestinians themselves are divided between Hamas and other leaders on the West Bank, and therefore all these problems.

We are not united because Hamas and the Palestine Authority were calling for elections and they wanted to hold the elections in Jerusalem.

We Palestinians hold Jerusalem as a very sacred place and Israel used to allow us to hold elections over there even when they were occupying it. We held our elections in 1996 and now we want to hold elections to elect a new president and new parliament.

Israel told us we can hold elections but outside Jerusalem, which is not acceptable to us.

This is the reason elections in Palestine are on hold.

Now, to answer why there is a division over Palestinian politicians. There are two schools of thought: One is, pursue non-violence; and second is, going for violence in resisting the occupation of Israel.

Now, if you are fighting for freedom then you are allowed to go for violent means or non-violent means. Palestinians went for non-violence by going with the Palestinian Authority to end Israeli occupation.

We had signed numerous peace accords to end Israeli occupation, but unfortunately, in the last 25 years, nothing happened on the ground.

And then came Hamas who said the Palestinian Authority did not achieve anything with non-violence, therefore they are taking the route of violence. Therefore, Palestinians got divided.

If Israel had stuck to those peace accords, Hamas would have had no one to fight and the Palestinian Authority too would have no one to fight.

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