Al-Ahram Weekly On-line   Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
2 - 8 November 2000
Issue No. 506
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'Those times are over'

By Sherine Bahaa

Marwan Barghouti, the man Israel accuses of masterminding the Al-Aqsa Intifada through his leadership of Fatah's local organisation, pledged, in a telephone interview, the continuation of the uprising until an independent Palestinian state is established on all territories occupied by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital

One month after the beginning of the Intifada, how do you see its future?

It is clear the Intifada has scored a number of results on various fronts -- the political, Arab, regional and international. I think the Intifada has fulfilled many Palestinian aspirations during this critical stage. Moreover, the current Arab nation's show of solidarity granted the Intifada more support and power.

Now, with the Intifada starting its second month, the Palestinians are adamant to continue the struggle despite the barbaric escalation by Israel. They [the Israelis] are now targeting all that is Palestinian, as seen in the siege imposed on Palestinian areas, the prevention of 150,000 Palestinians from going to work, in addition to security, economic and political measures.

What are the Intifada's achievements on the ground?

Internally; first, it established a national unity we have not seen for years. Second, it succeeded in bringing out the full potential of the Palestinian people, as well as threatening the actual existence of the occupation. Third, it turned the lives of Israeli settlers into hell. They are stuck in their places, incapable of roaming around as they used to on ring roads they built exclusively for their use, or in Palestinian areas.

On the other hand, the Intifada has also had a strong impact on the Arab level. The Intifada brought back the Arab summit, which was a crucial event that gave support and solidarity to the uprising through its political and financial decisions. However, we are still looking forward to the actual fulfilment of the resolutions the Arab summit agreed on to confront the Israeli aggression against our people.

Nonetheless, the Intifada has mobilised the popular Arab masses in a way we have not witnessed for years. It also brought decisions from international organisations in favour of the Palestinian struggle.

Most importantly, the Intifada proved to Israel that we are not slaves to the negotiating table. We have other options on the ground like continuing our struggle. We can make use of all our potential to reach out for our rights.

Yet, I want to reiterate we are not against peace or political action. But it is high time these talks focus on a time schedule for an end to the occupation, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the implementation of Security Council resolutions related to the plight of four million refugees.

The Intifada has also broken the US monopoly on the peace talks. The US sponsorship of the negotiations is not selling any more among Palestinians and we are now calling for international, Russian, European, UN and Egyptian participation in case of future talks.

So, can we say that the Intifada may act as a springboard to a political settlement through peace talks?

The Intifada has established a new basis for any future Palestinian-Israeli talks. We can negotiate, but we have to continue our action on the ground -- the Intifada.

From now on, we will never sit around the negotiating table to talk about halting the Intifada. The uprising will continue along with the political and diplomatic action; they will go side by side.

The Israelis are negotiating on one hand and building their settlements and creating new facts on the ground on the other. Those times are over. Palestinians will never, ever go back to this stage again.

Do you think the Palestinian anger on the streets is entirely due to Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa?

Sharon's visit was only the straw that broke the camel's back. The Palestinians had waited for long for the talks to have positive results and they have signed a long series of peace agreements. But these agreements did not translate into real changes on the ground. They were not even respected. There was a growing feeling of disappointment among the Palestinians because of the vast expansion in the building of illegal Jewish settlements and the continued detention of more than 2,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

The Israeli offer in Camp David did not mean more than the redeployment of the Israeli occupation forces in our occupied territories. But, when they came to the holiest of all issues -- not only to the Palestinians, but to the Arabs and Muslims of the world as well -- which is Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the Palestinians stood together with the Arabs everywhere against the Israeli brutality.

Fatah announced the establishment of its own militia. What does this mean and what will its goals be?

We announced that a group of armed members of Fatah expressed their readiness to act as a militia to defend Palestinian Authority areas, as well as Palestinian people. However, those are not new elements, they are already part of Fatah. It is the Israeli media that exaggerates their number and armament capabilities.

Palestinian people have no more weapons than what could be found in only one Israeli settlement inside Palestinian areas.

What about coordination between Fatah and the rest of the Palestinian factions?

There are around 13 Palestinian factions and political parties representing all religious, democratic and national trends who meet on a periodical basis. They talk together and lay out the strategy of the Intifada. These sorts of meetings had never taken place before.

What about Palestinians in the diaspora?

Palestinians in the diaspora are part of this war. They are our partners in the Intifada through their camps in Lebanon and elsewhere. Even those present in Europe, Latin America and the United States expressed solidarity with and support of our sacred Intifada.

The US is exerting great pressure on Arafat to bring the Intifada to a halt as a condition to resume peace talks. What do you expect the outcome will be?

Ever since the eruption of the Intifada, the US administration has intensified its pressure on Arafat to abort it. It would have been more appropriate to divert their pressure to the occupier, who uses tanks, helicopters and missiles against civilians, killing 160 Palestinians in less than a month and leaving around 9,000 injured, 1,500 of whom are fully handicapped.

The US lost its role as a fair sponsor of the peace process, they are totally biased to Israel. Yet, the Intifada did not bow to these sorts of pressures. The Intifada is our responsibility before our people and before the Arab nation. It will continue to fulfil our targets in freedom, sovereignty and independence.

Related stories:
Shifting borders
The Intifada this time
'Those times are over'
Snipers, gunships and now death squads
'Our blood is sacred too'
Blaming the victim
Exporting typhoid and guns
It's war -- virtually
Arab journalists join the fray
Blinded by the truth
Deciphering ZNN
The message is the medium
Also see Focus on Intifada 26 Oct. - 1 Nov. 2000
and Focus on Intifada 19 - 25 October 2000

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