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Barrier Will Bring Neither Security Nor Peace

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From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
http://www.btlonline.org
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Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for the week ending Feb. 20, 2004
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Palestinians Charge Israeli Barrier Will Bring Neither Security Nor Peace

Interview with Mazin Qumsiyeh, co-founder of Al-Awda, Palestinian Right to Return, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Listen in RealPlayer http://www.btlonline.org/qumsiyeh022004.ram

The Israeli government has announced that it is altering its construction of what it calls a security barrier, to be closer to the recognized boundaries between Israel and the West Bank and to be less intrusive into Palestinian territory. The barrier is now planned to be 420 miles long, rather than the original 480 miles, and construction, which is one-fourth complete, continues.

The Palestinian authority, which opposes construction of the barrier, says adjustments to the Wall's route are unacceptable. The legitimacy of the Wall is now being challenged at both the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which can issue only an advisory ruling, and the Israeli Supreme Court, where the Association for Civil Rights in Israel contends the barrier infringes on Palestinian rights.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Mazin Qumsiyeh, co-founder of Al-Awda, or the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition. He talks about the wall and about his conviction that the only just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a one-state solution where Jews, Muslims and Christians can live together as equals.

Mazin Qumsiyeh: We call it apartheid or segregation wall. It’s intended to put Palestinians in Bantustans, basically, or ghettoes surrounded by these huge walls, fences, ditches and security barriers that are intended to impoverish them and isolate them in such a way that eventually they will give up and leave. It’s separating Palestinians from other Palestinians, it’s separating Palestinians from their farms and lands. Even with this idea of reducing the length of the wall slightly, and avoiding too much pockets in it, it still ends up creating at least three major ghettoes, basically, for the Palestinians, reservations. The wall is being built in the occupied areas; it’s not being built as a fence between Israel and the occupied areas. It’s being built inside the occupied areas, and it’s surrounding Palestinian towns and villages, and it cuts very deeply into those areas, creating four Bantustans ? three in the West Bank and one in Gaza.

Between The Lines: Even people who don’t necessarily support the wall say that the Israelis are building it to try to prevent suicide bombers from coming inside the green line, and you’re not even talking about that. You didn’t mention that.

Mazin Qumsiyeh: Right. No, the barrier is not a barrier for security. It does not provide security for Israelis; in fact there’s been studies that show there are increased security risks for Israelis. For example, Israel cites that the wall around Gaza Strip reduced suicide bombings. If that is the case, why are thousands of Israeli soldiers ? a whole division is in Gaza Strip ? that’s already surrounded by fences, and why is this division demolishing thousands of Palestinian homes on the other side of the fence that already exists in the Gaza Strip? So the reality of it is that the wall is not about security. The wall is about impoverishment and control and about entrenching an occupation that’s illegal by international law.

Between The Lines: What do you think about what they’re calling now the Geneva Accords, these proposals to basically arrive at a settlement between Palestine and Israel?

Mazin Qumsiyeh: The Geneva Accord, just like the road map, failed to mention human rights and international law. Those four words ? two main things ? are ignored in the Geneva Accord. And without human rights and without international law, there can be no peace. The Geneva Accords are basically sell-out accords by some Palestinian puppet leaders in the West Bank who think they are representing the Palestinians when in reality most Palestinians think of them as collaborators with Israel and are trying to implement a solution that was tried in South Africa and has failed, the thought about the solution being that we can segregate Palestinians, put them in a small area and call it a state, and that would solve Israel’s demographic and other problems. You cannot do that, you cannot ignore international law, you cannot ignore the right of refugees to return to their homes and lands and call it a solution that will bring peace. It will never bring peace, it will only bring more bloodshed.

Between The Lines: What is your take on what the majority of Palestinians would like to see?

Mazin Qumsiyeh: When we talk about Israeli public opinion and Palestinian public opinion, this implies some kind of parity or equality between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is a colonial, occupying power that ethnically cleansed 530 Palestinian villages so that five million of the nine million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people. They don’t really have a voice in what these arrangements are being made. Obviously, the Palestinians all support resistance to the occupation. Some of them support resistance by different means, by non-violent means, some of them support violent means, and on the extreme, there are some who support suicide bombings.

Between The Lines: Describe a little more about why you believe that a one-state solution is the only possible solution to this very difficult to solve problem, and, obviously, what that would look like.

Mazin Qumsiyeh: It would be exactly like happened in South Africa. In South Africa, you do not divide between the whites and the blacks. That does not work. That’s number one. Number two is, within the state of Israel, even if Israel, by miracle, withdraws from all the West Bank and Gaza, which I don’t believe is possible, because there are 400,000 Israeli colonists and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza who are not going to vacate, simply, and there’s no way you can have a viable Palestinian state on 22 percent of Palestine, and even carve it up even more to accommodate these 400,000 settlers or at least the majority of them. But even if Israel withdraws from the West Bank and Gaza and allows a Palestinian state truly sovereign in the West Bank and Gaza, that still leaves the problem of the fact that within the Green Line, in the areas that Israel would end up controlling, there are 1.3 million Palestinians, and they include Christians and Muslims. And Israel needs to become a state of its citizens and not a state for the Jewish people.

For more information, visit the group's website at www.al-awda.org. Mazin Qumsiyeh is an associate professor of genetics at Yale University and the author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan," soon to be published by Pluto Press.

Related links on our website at http://www.btlonline.org/btl022004.html:

- Electronic Intifada Publishes news, commentary, analysis, and reference materials about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a Palestinian perspective
- Tikkun Magazine, www.tikkun.org, A community of people from many faiths and traditions, with a vision of healing and transforming our world.
- "Israel/Occupied Territories: Wanton Destruction Constitutes a War Crime"
- "The origin of the Palestine-Israeli conflict"
- "Middle East Time Line"
- ZNet Middle East Watch, History and Context
- "Ten Years After Oslo"
- "Israel's Bombing of Syria Increases Fear of Regional Conflict"

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Melinda Tuhus is a producer with Between The Lines, which can be heard on over 35 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (http://www.btlonline.org), for the week ending Feb. 20, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

PRINT INFORMATION: For reprint permission, please email betweenthelines@snet.net.


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