By Talha Üstündağ, World Bulletin
WB: You are Palestinian. We would like to know when you have left there?
*AEN: My parents were born in Palestine, but they have both left Palestine at a young age. My mother was expelled with the other refugees at 1948 and my father is from the West Bank. After 1967 when Israel occupied, we could never go back. So I was born outside the Palestine, in the United States like many other Palestinians. I never lived there, of course I have visited several times. I was lucky to visit there, because many Palestinians have never had the chance to visit there. But I consider myself Palestinian. That's my story.
WB: Your family have ever told you how they were expelled, could you give us a few more details?
AEN: Yes of course, actually I mentioned, last year, because it was the 60th anniversary, my father wrote an article, which is on the electronic intifada, on his experience being expelled from his village in 1948. His village was one of the very very few where people returned to the village. Because it was right on the ceasefire line. They were able to return after the armistice was signed. The village is called Battir. So they were expelled and they lived in the open air under the trees several months and then they returned to the village. But my mother's village which is called Lifta in Jerusalem, they were expelled and that is among the first villages which were coccupied in early 1948, maybe in January 1948, and they had the house there. Remember, there were a lot of attacks, increasing attacks by the Zionist militias, at that time there was no state of Israel, that was before Israel was established. And they left, they were under fire all the time, they left their house, they left all their things. They went with some friends to the other part of Jerusalem, and that part of Jerusalem was attacked, they went to Jordan as many other refugees.
WB: Coming to your presentation, you proposed one-state solution since so-called two-state solution is nothing more than security of Israel. What is the essence of this solution?
AEN: The essence is very simple: Already there is a one-state solution, because there is only one government really exercises power in Palestine, which is the Israeli government. The problem with that it is a sectarian government, only the Jewish people live there. It uses violence against the rest of the population and it is running a system of apartheid. So, it is only the one-state. I mean Palestinians in Gaza can't do anything without the permission of the government in Israel. The same is in the West bank, the same is everywhere, so the reality is that it is one state. It is not going to be possible to divide, to partition the country again. So this solution, maybe you can refer to my presentation rather than repeating it, is an illusion. Now the reality is that the population before Israel was established, Palestininans were the majority, Arabs, Muslims and Christians were the overwhelming majority. Because of the expulsion and the partition, Palestinians became the minority, in their country. Now after 60, 61 years, they are becoming again a majority. Already now that 50 % of the population, in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, if you take them together. I am not counting the refugees outside the country. So, even if the Palestinian state, lets say all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it is the 22 % of the country and the Palestinians now are 50 % of the population. In 10 years it will be 55 %, in 20 years there will be 60 %. In 30 years there will be may be 80 %. Because the Jewish population is not growing. And actually it's in some ways decreasing, because a lot of Jewish people are leaving. And so where is the justice? To say that, the majority, who are the original people of the country, should have a state in 22 %. Now 22 % is not being offered to them. We talk about the two-state solution. That being offered in small pieces, which might be 13 or 14 %
WB: Maybe less, because the settlements are growing.
AEN: Maybe less, so what we talk about is putting Palestinians in reservations, like the American Indians,
WB: Or like the concentration camps of the Nazis?
AEN: Well maybe that is a very provocative comparison, but you could say that Gaza is like the Warsaw Ghetto.
WB: Or like the Bosnian War?
AEN: Or the Bosnian war or you could say that it is like the bantustans which were created in South Africa for the black people. There are many examples of what it is like. This is not the solution. But, all of these is designed for one reason: to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. What does it mean a Jewish state? Ok. What does it mean in fact? It means a state where one group of people has privileges, special rights and superior status, and the rest of the people are inferior. In the 21st century, it is impossible. We have to talk about the equal rights. Because, ok, tomorrow, let's say, imagine Israel leaves the West Bank and Gaza Strip and there is a Palestinian state there. What about 1,5 million Palestinians inside Israel? The citizens of Israel. You know, Raed Salah we heard here is a citizen of Israel. I mean that you have to remember that. Israel now says we might expel them, we might annul the citizenship, we might force them to swear allegiance to jewish state. It is still in process. These ideas are not new. These are the Zionist ideas that have been there for long time and advancing there long time. That's what it means a jewish state. It means a racist state. And I think that any solution has to be an anti-racist solution, a democratic solution, and one which gives everyone equal rights.
WB: If you think about the self-determination of the international law, then it should be debated.
AEN: Yes, absolutely.
WB: And I could not remember exactly but you said yesterday by comparing South Africa and Israel, telling that they were discriminating by the colour. They do not say they discriminate by the colour of their skin, if they say so they could be labeled as racist.
AEN: What I said is I would say that Israel is a racist apartheid state. Some people say how can you say that. I'll give you an example. Now, in Gaza you have 1,5 million people living as if in a prison. 80 % of them are refugees. They didn't come from Gaza. They are refugees from cities, towns and villages that were inside Israel where in 1948, they were expelled and they went to Gaza and since that time they have lived in Gaza. Now, Israel does not allow them to return to their homes. Why? Why not while any Jewish person can come from America or Argentina or Turkey. Some jews went from Turkey to Israel and held citizenship, they gave them a house, they gave them a job. What is the difference with the Palestinians is that they are not Jewish. Certainly it is racist decision.
WB: And in fact they were original inhabitants of the lands.
AEN: Exactly, so, the world accepts that and they don't say it is racist. What I said is that, imagine, if, instead of saying we do not allow them because they are not jewish, say we don't allow them because they are black. Then the world would understand it is racist. But I will think what is the difference? There is not difference.
WB: When you say there is no difference, you are becoming anti-semitist, right?
AEN: Yes, I mean you know it is a racist system based on the racist idea. I am not against Jews living in Palestine, Jews always lived in Palestine, even they were in small numbers. But, you know you had Palestine under the Ottoman rule, it is part of the history in society there. You have people who came from everywhere. You had people from Africa, you had people from the Caucauses, the Circassians, Chechens and others who came from the Caucauses, you have Muslims and Christians and Jews living. You had some people coming from the Balkans, from Bosnia a small number. Armenians, who came. So you have a long history in Palestine of people coming from different places and there were not any problem. The problem is when one group comes and says everything is past, this is what created the problem. You had differences, you always had differences.
WB: Of course, and one last question then we will finish. When you think that this one-state solution, actually it is going to be realized in the future, because the majority is changing, can it be a cure for the world, for the region and for the Palestinians particularly?
AEN: I think it eventually will happen since I don't think, for the reasons that I told, that two-state solution is sustainable, or genuine or just that involves too many violations of rights of too many people. I think we are returning in a way to a natural situation which is that there was an Arab, a native Arab majority which was expelled. Through the passage of time this majority is returning. You know there are more Palestinians in Palestine today than ever before. So, in one sense the Zionist project failed. Because, the Zionist project has to take this country, this Arab country and turned into a Jewish European country. And after 60 years there are more Arabs in the country than ever before. So it failed. In the biggest criteria it failed. So, in the future that reality has to be part of the solution. And I think it will be difficult. You know. I will say this: that nobody ever expected when you think the end the apartheid in South Africa. It was a long time ago now. I took sentences that a lot of people do not remember, nobody expected it. People would say, like now, that it is impossible to have a solution. There will never be a solution. Maybe in a hundred years.
WB: And Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
AEN: Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. And apartheid ended. People say "OK. South Africa, there is not paradise". It is true. Turkey is not a paradise, America is not paradise. But it is a normal country, where people have their rights. And I think history is always full of surprises. In the sense that nobody predicted, they have all institutes to study the Soviet Union, all over the world. The US had spent millions of dollars to institutes to study the Soviet Union, and not had of one institute that predicted the Soviet Union would collapse.
WB: After the collapse they said that the reasons are these.
AEN: Of course, after the collapse, then everyone is an expert after it. So, what I am saying is that when we look at the situation from where we are today, we cannot ever say for sure that this will happen and this won't happen. We have to be open to many possibilities. I think the realities in this region and in the middle east are changing. I can't predict what will happen in one year, and ten years or twenty. But, I think there is enormous possibility for change.
WB: Thank you for the interview
AEN: You are welcome
*American academician of Palestinian origin, Ali Abu Nimah is one of founders of electronicintifada.