Interview with Mr. Musa Amer Odeh, the chief of the diplomatic mission of Palestine in Spain.
17 mayo, 2012
Mr. Musa Amer Odeh is the ambassador of Palestine in Spain; he has been Palestinian ambassador in many other places, such as Nicaragua, Brazil or Philippines. He was born on Doura-Hebron the 20th January 1947 and had studied in Jordan and Syria. He can speak Arab, English and Portuguese. This interview was made the morning of 10th May 2012 on the Palestinian Embassy in Madrid.
I decided to sent an e-mail to the Palestinian embassy in Madrid to arrange an interview because I am very interested on this issue; they answer me fastly and they offer me the great opportunity to interview the ambassador who answer all my questions without fear. He explains me the conflict and the situation in which are living most of the Palestinians but he also told me some anecdotes which help us to put a human face on that conflict that last too much time and that sometimes seems far away from us.
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: How would you understand the possible influence of the recent revolutions of the Arab World, the Arab spring, can have on the geopolitical situation on Middle East?
Musa Amer Odeh: Sure, we are part of the region and everything that happen will affect our situation but why the Arabs are moving for democracy is for the benefit of our people to have a democratic system in the Arab world. We used to receive support form regimes controlled by one person or a group of people, now we will have a democratic regime of Arab people, and those will support a lot to Palestine; so we are not afraid about what is happening in the Arab world, but Israel is unfortunately till now not treating correctly this, it is a deep change, an important one and there is an opportunity that Israel is loosing to have peace with us, because we are their neighbours, they are our neighbours and we must find how to live together they on their state we on our state, but the main question is that the occupation must finish, must have an end to be equal state-to-state.
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: About the situation on Gaza par example, is there any influence of those revolutions? Because it’s in the border with Egypt.
Musa Amer Odeh: Ehm… no, we have an internal in Palestine because we are divided. People in Gaza under the control of Hamas and people in the West Bank under the control of the PLO, but we are in are having now reconciliation between Hamas and the PLO, in order to be united to archive peace in our region. About the changes in Egypt we must understand those changes serve also the interest of Palestinian people.
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: Turkey had suspended their military treaties with Israel because of the incident of the attack against the “Freedom fleet” that carry humanitarian help to Gaza on 2010 and the overthrow of leaders as the Egypt’s one, Mubarak. Had suppose that Israel is waging more “aggressive” and less permissive politics against Palestinian population, per example the recent order to build new settlements on West Bank?
Musa Amer Odeh: Well, I think that Israel is responsible of loosing an allied like Turkey, which is an important allied in the zone, a very important Muslim country; but they are also loosing also Egypt because of their wrong policy. You can not be a continued occupying power an to look for normal relations with your neighbours. The leaders ofIsrael must realise that the interest ofIsrael remains on maintain peace with the Palestinians and with the Arabs, unfortunately they don’t. They have the military power, they have the support from the USA and they can’t continue like this. So for us Israel is not a democracy, because we understand that democratic countries can not controlle the lives of another people, confiscate the rights of another people. Second we think that they are not a democratic country because there is a discrimination against the Arab, that are 20% of their citizens. There is discrimination; you can go to the report of the European Council Generals in Jerusalem where they have a report of this year about the discriminations of Arabs inIsrael. And we must also remember thatIsrael is the only nuclear power in the zone, which attempts against stability in the region. Now they are calling all countries to wage a war against Iran whom they don’t have yet nuclear weapons, Israel already had them. So I don’t know how they understand that they have the right to have Nuclear Weapons and Arabs don’t have it. For us, Palestinians, we are in favour of a Middle East clear of Nuclear Weapons. We don’t want Israel to have nuclear weapons, we don’t want Iran to have Nuclear Weapons, we don’t want any country to have Nuclear Weapons. We need Middle East clean of Nuclear Weapons.
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: About the international recognition, after the entry of Palestine as a member of UNESCO the last year, 2011. What will be the next step to follow?
Musa Amer Odeh: We had our application for a UN member in the Security Council, because it need to pass through this. In the Security Council, the five permanents members have right of veto and the USA till now they don’t want us to be member of the UN, violating their own principals regarding the right of self-determination for people like the Palestinian people.
Now, we are planning to go to the UN again, to the General Assembly where there is no veto for anyone. So we can got a number of states as the Vatican now or Switzerland ten years ago, and we will continue asking as a full-membership in the UN based on the rules of the rules of UN. It’s our goal to be free and to end wit the exile and the occupation. Unfortunately Israel claims that we are trying to delegitimize Israel, which is not true, we only try to delegitimize the occupation of Israel. Because we are willing to live with Israel side by side, they in their state, we in our state.
They said that it’s an unilateral state by the Palestinians, it’s not unilateral to go to address 193 countries in the UN. The unilateral thing is the Israeli policy, building settlements in our territory, building walls in the heart of our territory, confiscating lands n our territories and making Jerusalem a Jewish city which is not, because it had the three religions (Christians, Muslims and Jewish). It can’t be a Jewish city, it’s a multi-religion city.
So the Israelis don’t want us to fight for our rights, they don’t want us to go to the UN, they don’t want us to go to the UNESCO. What is the danger against Israel when we got a membership in the UNESCO? UNESCO is for culture, is a peaceful organization of the UN. Israelis don’t want any kind of identity for Palestinians, but there is a determination from the Palestinian side to continue our struggle, a peaceful struggle, to have our rights, to have our independence, to establish an independent Palestinian state because when the UN decided to divide Palestine into two states in 1947 with the resolution 181. They had planed two states Israel with the 56% of this territory and the State of Palestine which had the 44% of the territory, but in 1948 Israelis they established a state on the 78% of the territory, so they occupied from the beginning half of the area which was kept for us from the UN. And now they are not willing to keep us the rest which is 22%, they don’t want because they are building settlements, they are building walls and they are confiscating our water. They are controlling 84% of our water and they are selling us our water at the highest price of water on Earth. We are buying our water, so it’s unfair. And there is a responsibility for the international community to put an end for this unfair situation in the Holy Land.
We, Palestinians, deserve to be free, we had the highest level of education in our region, so we are qualified to have a modern state, a democratic one and to participate on building the future on the coming generations.
The occupation is a problem for Palestinians to build their economy and to build their future, cause if we want to export or import anything we need the permission ofIsrael. Our President, elected for the people, if he wants to move for city to city in Palestinehe needs the permission of Israelis. It’s not fair and it’s inhuman, and it’s a humiliation for our people.
And in the occupied territories which are so small, around 5.000 km2, there are more than 600 military checkpoints, in the heart of our territory, not in the borders between us and Israel, between the Palestinian cities and it made the live of Palestinians a hell.
It’s not easy for you, Europeans, imagine the suffering of the Palestinian people under the occupation; can you imagine that a pregnant woman come form a village to the hospital in the city, they stopped her on the check point for one hour, two hours… so more than ninety times they deliver their babies on the military checkpoints, because they were not allowed to go to the hospital. And imagine that Palestine is like Spain, in winter is very cold, low cero sometimes, and in summer is hot; imagine a lady put deliver her baby on the Israeli check point in front of hundreds of people waiting to pass. Many times ladies die or their babies die. What kind of danger for Israel’s security can be a pregnant woman bleeding? It’s only a humiliation for our people, we will never accept this, and we will continue our struggle, peaceful struggle, to achieve our goal which is peace, the greatest goal on Earth. To reach our objective we need the support of the International Community, to reach justice and peace, but not only for our people, also for our neighbours, including the Israelis, and for the humanity at large.
We need our rights, we are the last country under occupation and this occupation must have an end.
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: Knowing the position of the US of America about the entry of Palestine on the UNESCO, they are against the participation of Palestine on the UN’s institutions. What strategies do you consider corrects to avoid a possible veto on the Security Council of the UN?
Musa Amer Odeh: Why? We can ask ourselves: Why are they opposing the rights of Palestinians to be members of the UNESCO? We have historic places for the humanity and they need the protection of the UN. Why any other country have the right to be a state and Palestine don’t have? Why the USA have the right to be a member of the UNESCO and Palestine don’t have? The USA only have 300 years and we have more than 10000 years, we have Jericho which birth last year 10000 years of habited live, the most ancient city on Earth in Palestine.
So why? Why are they opposing? Why are they punishing the people? Why are the punishing the UNESCO, because the had cut their money to the UNESCO? Because Palestine became a member, not through a war, through voting, in a democratic way.
Why if they believe in democracy are they opposing democracy here? The UNESCO voted for our membership. So it’s very strange, I know that if there are elections on the USA they hesitate to take any action that the Israelis wouldn’t accept, because there is an Israeli lobby, a very strong one, and the candidates looks for the votes and the money of this lobby, but we don’t have any kind of interest to confront the US, they are a superpower and we are a small country, we are just looking for our freedom, but we will not accept their double-standard policy about Palestine.
Imagine, If China violate, according the understanding of the USA, the right of one citizen; they immediately create a cause against China, a great cause. But when the came to Israel which is violating our simple rights, they don’t do anything. They are protecting the occupation, the Israeli aggression. They are violating their own principles.
Self-determination is a fundamental right for the people, and they are excluding us, we suppose to be part of the international community and self-determination must work on the Palestinian quiz. So they should let us to decide, and to the International Community to decide, not using the veto. It’s not fair. And also they have the responsibility to take care about stability and peace on the world as a superpower, and in this case they are against this principal, unfortunately.
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: Since some years ago, an International campaign against Israel had been waged because of different politics that there are developing on the zone, as the building of a wall in the West Bank and the construction of new settlements of that zone. The great controversy generated by those issues hadn’t archive to stop any of the measures, although they suppose a violation of the “Route Sheet”). Why all that international pressure couldn’t change the things?
Musa Amer Odeh: Well, they had the right to build the wall around the West Bank if they want, although we don’t need walls we need bridges; but they are building it in the heart of the West Bank, on the goal on confiscating more land and to confiscate all Palestinian water sources, as I said we buy our water from the Israelis at the highest price on Earth. So the international community agree with us, they support us, but unfortunately we had the veto of the USA against us and it made the things so difficult for us.
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: Nowadays the Palestinian political prisoners are waging a hunger strike. What is the position of the National Palestinian Authority (NPA) about that?
Musa Amer Odeh: Well, It’s our duty to protect the rights of Palestinians, because the Israelis putting those people on jail, they are violating the UN’s resolutions and the UN Charter because you can put anyone in jail for ten years without accusing me of something; this is happening now in Palestine, and it’s a violation of our rights. Israel is the only country where the torture is legalized,Israel had passed in their parliament many laws in the last years which discriminate the Arabs inside Israel, I don’t know how the International Community allows this to happen. It’s a shame that they allow it to happen, becauseIsrael still the only country about the rule, by the protection of a superpower. Par example when Iraq occupy Kuwait, theUSA send their troops with the International Community to liberate Kuwait from Iraq, and then some years later the create another war against Iraq because they said that there were Weapons of Massive Destruction in Iraq. In the case of Israel, Israel is occupying Palestine for 64 years and Israel had nuclear weapons since 1956; we are not asking none about create a war against Israel but we want to ask Israel to comply and to respect the UN’s resolutions and if the don’t do it the International Community must take measures, they can put restrictions to their economy as the International Community had done to the apartheid regime of South Africa before, no one send the troops to South Africa, but thanks to the solidarity of the International Community and the struggle of the South African people, the apartheid collapse, and the apartheid Israeli regime must collapse too.
So for us there is nothing against the creation ofIsrael, we already recognize them as a State but at the same time we want to be members of the UN, we want to be free of the Israeli occupation
Víctor Corvera Descalzo: Do you know the opinion of the Arab-Israeli parties with representation on the Israeli parliament (Knesset) (T’Al, Hadash y Balad) about this hunger strike?
Musa Amer Odeh: There are 20% of the population of Israel, and nowadays Israel don’t accept them, because Israel came to them, they are the indigenous people of Palestine. They have their representatives in the parliament but also the representatives are discriminated. If you see the Arab areas of Israel you will see that the development in the Arab zones and in the Jewish zones is very different, both pay the same taxes but Arabs had fewer services than Israelis.
Let’s put an example, the city of Nazareth, there are hundreds of Palestinians there, and the Israelis ha created “High Nazareth”, a new one; and you can see the differences, you can see which settlement is supported by the government and which not although the Arabs pay taxes like the others. It’s also easy to see the difference between West and East Jerusalem, although it violates some UN’s resolutions, it’s like East Berlin and West Berlin years ago. But the Israelis had annex Jerusalem to Israel violating the international rules but they still treating the East part like a part of the third world. So this is a huge discrimination, discrimination sometimes by law, I don’t know how the international community can accept this; only Israel impose this measures and they have a very important lobby in the USA. Some European Countries they believe the story because the have a dark history with the Jewish people in Europe, so the Arabs inside Israel, they suffer discrimination. You can see that there is democracy and that they are in the parliament; ok… they are in the parliament because they have the right to be there but it’s not from the Israelis kindness, it’s because they are citizens and Israel must be a State for all citizens, not only for the Jewish, for all, Greeks and Muslims too, but nowadays it’s not like that, Muslims are discriminated about the jobs and also in the University, but there is even discrimination between the Jewish. It’s unfair, and we are on the XXI century.
Madrid, 10th May 2012