An Interview on the Geneva Initiative
with Dr. Sami Aldeeb
Chairman of the Association for one democratic state in Palestine/Israel
By Jean-Pierre Barrois [email protected]
Translated from the French by Norman Madarasz ([email protected]), and corrected by Sami Aldeeb
Published in: Counterpunch
« America’s best political newsletter »
December 12, 2003
Question: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a Christian of Palestinian origin and a Swiss citizen. I have lived in Switzerland since 1970. I earned my Bachelor’s degree (1974) and my Ph.D. in law at the University of Fribourg (1979). I also have a degree in political science from the Geneva Institute of International Studies (1976). Since 1980, I have been working for a Swiss institute as head of Arab and Muslim Law.
I have written several books and articles dealing mainly with the ties between law, religion and politics. My doctoral dissertation was a study of non-Muslims in Egypt. My latest book is on Muslims in the West. You can find a bibliographical list of my publications and a few articles on my website: www.sami-aldeeb.com
Question: Tell us about your involvement in the Palestinian Question?
Before coming to Switzerland, I had worked as a local employee of the International Red Cross in the Jenin region for two years. My job was to accompany Red Cross delegates as interpreter. I would greet and visit the families of Palestinian prisoners. I could see the misery of my compatriots. When I came to Switzerland on a student’s scholarship, I told myself I would not go into politics. My goal was to finish my studies and return home to better serve the people there. But in seeing Swiss Zionist Jews indiscriminately defending Israel I told myself I could not remain silent.
One day these Zionists distributed a tract in Switzerland requesting money to « make the desert bloom ». I was then reminded of Emmaus, the famous Biblical village that Israel had completely razed to the ground in 1967 after expelling its inhabitants. At the place where the village once stood, Israel has planted a forest for picnickers calledCanada Park, thanks to the « generosity » of Canadian Jews. Israel has erased the traces of this village with a forest! I then started to wonder about how many other Palestinian villages suffered the same fate under the effect of Israeli lies to « make the desert bloom ». I later encountered Israel Shahak’s list, which I publicized in various letters to the editor I sent to Swiss newspapers. The Zionists accused me of lying. I offered to submit the list to the Hebrew University to see whether the list was true or not. They rejected my offer. I then discovered they were speaking in bad faith. Meanwhile I was able to get three pictures of Emmaus from Father Pierre Medebielle of Jerusalem taken before and after Israel’s destruction of the village. I had them published in Switzerland. The Zionists once again accused me of lying. Yet the photos are there to see! I knew this village well since I had visited it before and after its destruction.
In March 1987, I decided to found an association with my Swiss friends to rebuild Emmaus. Our goal was to make the history of the village and its inhabitants’ demands known. One of our members, Christophe Uehlinger, took care of checking the list of Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel based on Shahak’s list, as well as Israeli maps specifically mentioning the names of villages with a Hebrew overprint « harouss », which means « destroyed ». This list was published in two editions by the Association for the Reconstruction of Emmaus. I also put the list of villages classified according to their district on the Internet, without the other details featured in Christophe Uehlinger’s brochure, so they could be available to anyone (see the list in: http://w1.858.telia.com/).
Swiss-Italian television went to Palestine to shoot an investigative report on the village of Emmaus. At the time, the crew met an Israeli soldier from Kibbutz Nahshon who had participated in the 1967 Six-Day War and had taken pictures of the destruction of Emmaus, and the expulsion of its inhabitants by Israel. We were able to buy the pictures in order to have a documented record of the village’s destruction. These photos are now available on the Internet (http://www.lpj.org/Nonviolence/Sami/Album.html). The documentary was broadcast by Swiss-Italian television on May 29, 1987. The inhabitants of Emmaus keep demanding the right to return to their homes, but the Israeli authorities have refused to grant them that right.
Question: Tell us about the Association for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel.
Emmaus is one among 385 Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel. Its inhabitants are one example among many of Palestinians who were expelled from their lands and homes. With the collapse of the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap for Peace, which gave a lot of hope, I told myself we also had to take care of the other Palestinian refugees. The main goal of these two accords, and for that matter the Geneva Accord, was to create two States. As such, the Israelis sought to strip the refugees of the right to return home. They told them: « You have a Palestinian State now for yourselves. You no longer have a right to come and live in the Jewish State. Get yourself a place to live in your own State ». This will never be accepted by the refugees, who are the eternal losers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They have proved themselves able to bring down any accord that has not taken their right to return into account. After all, if Sharon the Russian and Peres the Pole have the right to come and live in Palestine, it’s incomprehensible why these refugees would not be authorized to return home. I want to emphasize here that such a right poses no major problems since most of the villages destroyed by Israel are uninhabited. Most of the time, Israel has simply covered them over with forests so as to wipe out their traces.
Apart from the refugee problem, it had to be made clear that the creation of two states means that the Palestinian Statewill have a Muslim majority discriminating against non-Muslims and women, and that the majority in the Israeli Statewill be Jewish and discriminate against non-Jews and women.
Finally, the territory on which the two states would be established is as large as a handkerchief. Both Jews and non-Jews who live there feel tied to the totality of the territory, and they share common economic interests. Cutting the territory in two would only create other injustices. And in no way, would the Palestinian refugees allow Israel to live in peace. In the event of an attack, Israel will reoccupy the Palestinian State and everything will start over again at square one.
Therefore, we have got to bow before the evidence that the only viable solution is to found a single state with equal rights for everyone. This state would have to reject all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion and sex. Moreover, throughout its history Palestine has been divided for only about twenty years, i.e. between 1949 and 1967. The country’s geography doesn’t allow division. To be sure, one can say that the hatred between Jews and non-Jews in that region is preventing the creation of a single state for the moment. But this hate is due to injustice. If injustice is repaired, hate will disappear. The territory’s division into two states will only exacerbate this hatred. If you have contempt for your brother, it isn’t acceptable to cut your mother in two.
The idea to create a single state has often been asserted by Israelis and Palestinians alike. The PLO once adopted it as its main credo. The late Edward Said used to plead for such a state. But nobody went into the details regarding the legal framework by which such a state would be governed. It appeared to me then that we had to create an association to take care of this idea and develop it. This is how the Association for One Democratic Sate in Palestine/Israel was born on April 15, 2003. For the very first time its bylaws have set the legal framework for the state we seek. They can be found in different languages on our site: www.one-democratic-state.org.
These bylaws are based on the principle that: « Peace will be the fruit of justice » (Isaiah 32:17). Today, December 6, 2003, the Association has 296 members: Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others, who live inside and out of Palestine/Israel. Several new members join almost daily. We have tried to gather different articles on our website arguing in favor of such a solution.
Question: What is your position on the Geneva Accord?
Our Association has rejected the Geneva Accord, judging it to be immoral because it violates the Geneva Conventions and International Law. The Accord knowingly neglects the Palestinian refugee’s right to return. In addition, it divides the country into two states, which will necessarily be two discriminatory regimes. We have requested that Switzerland, in the name of democratic and pluralistic debate, finance another conference that would take account of the Palestinian refugees’ right to return as well as plead for the creation of one democratic state in Palestine/Israel. We are still awaiting a reply.
Palestinian negotiators were set up by their Israeli interlocutors. The Zionists have always tried to get the Palestinians to give up on their right to return. But this is the first time that they have managed to get such a renunciation. Those who participated in the negotiations can never turn back. Even worse, these negotiators did not have a mandate to discuss the right to return and did not consult the Palestinian refugees.
Now that the Palestinian negotiators have returned to their country, they are discovering that the refugees are angry with them. They have threatened to take them to court, even to kill them. It has risked provoking a civil war among Palestinians. What can be done in this case? Our Association believes that it is Switzerland’s duty to come to the negotiators’ assistance and grant them political asylum – before they are killed. This is what we have requested from the Swiss authorities.
Question: How does your association intend to reach its objectives?
Our Association has an educational goal. It wants to promote the idea of peace based on justice and respect for international law. It believes that there will never be peace in the Middle East without the return of the Palestinian refugees. It is convinced that the conflicting parties will end up adopting this point of view – which is increasingly contemplated by Israeli and Palestinian authors. We therefore want to spark a debate about this solution on Israeli, Palestinian, Arab and international levels. We cannot force anyone to adopt our point of view, but we are telling them that the only alternative to this solution is a descent into hell for all of us. And this is being confirmed on the field on a daily basis.
Further to promoting the idea of one democratic state, we do not discount the possibly of one day, if our numbers keep increasing, proclaiming a government in exile, just as De Gaulle did with a view to liberating France. We may also form a political party that will consist of Jews, Christians, Muslims and others to help us carry out our objective.
For information on our association or on joining it, please fill in the questions below, returning them to the following address: www.sami-aldeeb.com