'Israel’s actions are that of an apartheid regime. The only difference is that we are all brown.'
Dr Amal Jadou, Palestine's deputy foreign minister, talks to Porimol Palma of The Daily Star about the decades long Palestine-Israel conflict, and the recent escalation of violence against the Palestinians.
What is the situation now on the ground?
The situation has been very difficult for a very long time. It is getting more and more difficult now. The globally-accepted two-states solution to the conflict is escaping us mainly because of the Israeli policies of colonisation and settlement. It is a policy of displacing the Palestinians with Israeli settlers by moving Israeli civilians from Israel to the occupied territories in violation of the Geneva Convention. Today, we have more than 700,000 Israelis living in the occupied territories in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. When the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993, we had 100,000 Israeli settlers. But today, we have 700,000 settlers. Israel wants to increase it to one million by 2025.
The problem is the Israeli claim that this is a God-given land to them. We all believe that we are created by God, but God does not discriminate based on gender, race, colour or ethnicity, rather He accepts us all. It is very important that we don't mix religion with politics. This is a political conflict that requires political solutions.
Palestinian territory is dispersed – there is no continuity between them, they have become like dots on the map, like separated islands. Their ability to establish a contiguous Palestinian state based on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as the capital is becoming more and more implausible. We have a minority of 700,000 Israeli settlers controlling the lives of 3.5 million Palestinians. There are two sets of laws that apply to the two territories – one in the occupied territory, and the other, for Israeli settlers. A different law applies for the Palestinian citizens. We have extrajudicial killings. We have roads for the settlers only and roads for Palestinians only. There is a bus system for the Palestinians and another for the Israelis. All of these are actions of an apartheid regime. The only difference is that we are not black and the Israelis are not white. We are all brown. If we were black and they were white, it would have been an explicit apartheid regime.
Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh was recently killed by the Israeli security forces. Are the Israeli authorities trying to send the message that they won't allow any fair media coverage?
She is not the first one. Of course, she is an icon of Palestine. We all love her and respect her. She was telling the truth about Palestine and the region. But there are killings of Palestinians on a daily basis. The coverage of those killings is not as prominent as that of Akleh. It is the immediate outcome of the policy that was adopted by Prime Minister Bennet of Israel, who basically ordered his soldiers to shoot to kill Akleh without any kind of restraint. This is really a very dangerous policy, and while moving from one city to another, I see the soldiers at the checkpoints with their hands on the trigger. They are ready to shoot and can shoot anyone. Basically, there is no sense of safety or security. Her murder is in line with the policy that they don't want the media to cover what really happens.
The Arab states – UAE and Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – established their diplomatic relationship with Israel in 2020. Earlier, it was Egypt and Jordan. What does this imply?
It means they have given up on their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, which clearly calls for ending the Israeli occupation of the Arab occupied territories in return for normalising relationship with the Arab and Muslim world. Unfortunately, they have done this based on self-interest. Despite this, the dialogue with these countries could continue within the Arab League. We know that the populations of these countries still believe in the just cause of Palestine. I hope that they also will abide by international law and respect the border resolution of 1967.
When all Palestinians need to unite, we see a division between Hamas and Fatah. Is it a roadblock to solving the crisis?
No, I don't think that it contributes to the lack of progress in the peace process. Currently, there is no peace, no process. But I can tell you that long before there was a division, the peace process was not moving anywhere. In fact, the party that negotiates for the Palestinians is the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) –all political parties agree to this. Today, it is the Israeli government headed by PM Bennet says no to negotiations, no to the two-states solution, no to meeting with Palestinians, and yes to the expansion of settlements.
But yes, our unity is very important. I hope we can move in the direction of election as an exit-way for the Palestinians to choose their representatives, and we will respect the outcomes of the elections. I think every Palestinian is working towards an independent Palestinian state. I believe that Hamas is a political movement, a party that participated in the participatory elections in 2006 and won, and then was given the chance to govern but the world boycotted it, and that basically is one of the reasons that we have division. I believe that there are dialogues that are taking place in different countries under the leadership of the Egyptians, Algerians and others who help the process of unity among the Palestinians. In fact, during the last year's aggression, we saw how Palestinians all over the world, in West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and in Israel stood together and presented a unified position of support to an independent Palestine.
Militarily, Israel is far more powerful than Palestine. The US is also Israel's very close ally. Do you think there is real willingness in the international community to solve this crisis?
Here comes the issue of the universality of international law. When there are other conflicts in this region, the world comes together in order to find solutions and we have seen this in Europe just recently. So, international law needs to be applied universally. After all, international law is the culmination of many wars from the past. So far, the international preventive diplomacy has failed. We may have a chance to succeed by providing an opportunity for the international community to take a stand against the violation of international law and the regime of occupation and apartheid.
Do you have any new idea in mind that could be effective in realising your demand for an independent Palestinian state?
We are talking to everyone, engaging with everyone. It is important for us to explain the situation all over the world. We have friends all over the world. There are many countries that are trying to play a role. Our hope is that the UN will step up its efforts. A US delegation visited Palestine and Israel in order to push for a revival of the political process. We hope that their efforts are successful. I feel that the international community will play its role to find a just solution to this conflict.