The world looks to a new round of negotiations under US Secretary of State Kerry – where is Gaza in those talks?
Gaza is diverse and I cannot speak for Gaza as one, but clearly most here are opposed to negotiations. Hamas laid out its official position on Tuesday with officials expressing their dismay at the resumption of talks. Most organizations within the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) – among them the Popular as well as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP and DFLP) – oppose the talks. Only some members of Fatah have fallen for the lie that negotiations might bring a viable solution.
Speaking for myself, as an advocate for one democratic state of Palestine, I oppose the talks, which aim at a two-state solution. We believe that creating two states is no true solution but a racist one. Two viable states have become impossible to achieve – mainly because Israel has created facts on the ground that subvert the whole concept.
But more than that – the two state solution does not guarantee even a minimum of rights for the Palestinians. There is no talk anymore of the right of return for those refugees from villages and towns that were ethnically cleansed in 1948. 75-80% of Gaza’s population are refugees and international law provides for their return – what is there for them?
The Oslo accords never incorporated international law. And most importantly: they never dealt with Israel’s racist measures and apartheid system against Palestinians.
What alternative would you favor?
Fatah is the only force officially supporting negotiations. When I oppose them, I do not represent only Gazans but the majority of Palestinians. Our alternative? Stick to the call supported by most organizations in 2005: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)! The campaign calls on the international community to boycott Israel, divest from its economy and impose sanctions until Israel complies with international law. Then, when there is pressure, we can negotiate.
In South Africa the ANC did not negotiate before it had substantial backing. We cannot negotiate about basic rights at present, and equal rights must be the basis for negotiations about any kind of state. The only just solution is one like in Northern Ireland and South Africa, meaning a secular, democratic state for all.
How can this be achieved?
The first step is serious self-critique. Palestinians have to consider publicly what the leadership of PLO and Hamas have done to the Palestinian cause since the Oslo accords were struck. The past 20 years have led us nowhere. Instead, settlements have expanded and Gaza has been transformed into the largest concentration camp on earth.
Serious self-critique will, secondly, lead to dismantlement of the PA. The institution of the PA gives the wrong impression to the international community of an equality between the sides, as if Palestinians had an also army and occupied another people! We as Palestinians should have a local administration to organize daily life and the resistance, not to undermine it.
Thirdly, we have to forget about the two-state solution. It is a complete waste of time and energy. We should all be talking about one democratic state, because the two state option is a fiction.
What is the situation in Gaza like at the moment? How isolated is the population?
The situation has deteriorated. Israel has tightened its closure. Things have turned worse since last days of Morsi’s government in Egypt, when it decided to destroy all tunnels [on the Egyptian-Gazan border] that are vital for the supply of all basic goods here. After Morsi was ousted the destruction of tunnels continued, and now most are closed.
Furthermore, the only official crossing to Egypt, Rafah, is frequently closed, for example today. Rafah is vital! As all crossing points to Israel are virtually closed, Rafah is the bottleneck out of Gaza.
Hamas first renounced the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, now it lost the Muslim Brotherhood as a mighty ally in Egypt. What does this mean for the Hamas government?
Hamas is in a limbo now. It lost its most important strategic alliances with Iran and Hezbollah, which it gave up for closer relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar. Now that the Muslim Brothers are deposed from the government in Egypt, Hamas is left hanging in the air. And the new Emir in Qatar is showing a new style of diplomacy, increasing pressure on Hamas.
Hamas, as a matter of fact, does not have a clear-cut political vision. You keep hearing different, contradictory positions from various officials. This has also affected talks for reconciliation with Fatah in the West Bank, which have effectively come to a halt.
Gaza is controlled by Hamas, yes, but Hamas is no more than the leading prisoner among the 1.7 million prisoners of Gaza.
What are the current topics of Gaza’s internal politics?
First is the need to end this deadly, medieval siege imposed on Gaza in 2006. A slow genocide is happening here that has already caused the death of about 2,000 people who did not receive vital medical treatment in time. The rate of malnutrition in Gaza is the highest worldwide.
The end of this siege will only come within a political solution to the Palestinian question as a whole. When we talk about negotiations, we are talking about Gaza’s fate as well. That is also why we, activists in Gaza, promote BDS so strongly.
We are highly affected by what is happening in Egypt. We are holding our breath right now. We want Egypt to open the Rafah crossing permanently and unconditionally. It is our only option right now so as to not make us utter hostages to Israel’s will.
And how much support does Hamas enjoy in Gaza today?
Hamas has lost a lot of its popularity as it resorted to repressive tools and tactics against its opponents. Most people who voted for Hamas did so not because they were for Hamas, but because they were against the corruption of the PA and the concept of a two-state solution. As such, Hamas was the only option.
Now people are questioning everything that Hamas said before the election. It promised resistance, but in fact since the ceasefire with Israel in Dec 2012, it does not allow any kind of independent and popular resistance anymore.
Is there a vision for Gaza?
For me, there is one proper vision – a solution for Palestine as a whole that implements UN Resolution 194 which calls for the right of return for all refugees and compensation for their decades in exile. Gaza should become part of one secular democratic state called Palestine.
Israel has another vision – it wants to get rid of Gaza. It wants Gaza to become part of Egypt like it was before 1967 to end all its Gaza problems. The Egyptians do not want and will not allow that. Instead, what is happening now is a slow genocide in Gaza.
Edited in consultataion with Haidar Eid, and reproduced from his interview with Lea Frehse, Alternative Information Centre