This past week jewishinfoNews on Skype interviewed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Here is part one of the interview:
jewishinfoNews: Thank you President Abbas for giving us the opportunity to spend a few moments with you in your presidential palace in Ramallah. Mr. President, let’s start by going back to 2008. It’s my understanding that in 2008 the Obama administration privately made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. To quote: “The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority,” Now in 2015, you’re still in power. You obviously took the administration’s threat seriously, didn’t you?
Abbas: I sure did! Well, U.S. Bilateral Assistance alone to my people for 2015 will come in around US$414 million, plus a pittance from the Europeans, and also from my brothers, the Saudis, Algeria and Qatar. In 2014 we got nothing from Egypt, the UAE, Kuwait or Oman. And I want to say something about this. In 2010 the US gave us about US$510 million and in 2011 US$546 million. Why is it less now? I agreed to remain in power as they demanded of me, didn’t I? I was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority on 9 January 2005, for just a four-year term. And now look how it is. My people don’t like me. Two thirds of the West Bank demand my resignation and two thirds do not believe my current resignation from the PLO Executive Committee is real. I don’t understand why my popularity has dropped significantly in the West Bank while improving slightly in the Gaza Strip. Perhaps I should consider moving to the Gaza Strip. What is there not to like about me? I spend over $5 million a month from US-provided budget in salaries to our martyrs in Israeli prisons, even though such payments contravene US law, which prohibits funding of any person who engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity.
jewishinfoNews: And then there was the Hillary Clinton comment.
Abbas: You know, in November 2009 I publicly announced my intention not to run for re-election, though I did say I would stay until the next presidential election. And then what happened? Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State at the time reacted angrily to my comments and said that my not running in the election was not an option. So, what was I to do? And now, look at my position. Here I am doing my best to run the West Bank when the figures show In the absence of a viable peace process 57% support a return to an armed Intifada, 51% oppose the two-state solution and 42% believe that armed action is the most effective means to establish a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel and only 29% believe in the efficacy of negotiations. Yes, perhaps if it wasn’t for the Americans threatening me, I would consider moving to the Gaza Strip.
jewishinfoNews: Mr. President, in August 2014 at a meeting with academics at the presidential residence in Ramallah, you said and I quote: “I consider each Palestinian child and youth as my own son, and I am responsible for his safety.” And a few months later, in December 2014 you said, I quote you again, “We say to anyone who commits a crime against any human being: Who gave you the right to murder any human being?”
Mr. President, just over a week ago two Palestinian children Hassan Manasrah (15) and Ahmad Manasrah (13), stabbed Yossef Ben Shalom (21) in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of East Jerusalem, then repeatedly stabbed a 13-year-old boy Jewish boy who was riding his bike. My question to you is this. The young children, some of whom are only 13 years of age, who are going around in Jerusalem killing, mutilating Jewish children, women and men, do you regard them as your own sons and daughters?
Abbas: Look no further than who started this violence. My children are only defending their rights. If it wasn’t for Israeli violence against my children… did you know one of the two children was hit by a car while fleeing the scene, and the other was shot by Israeli police?
jewishinfoNews: Mr. President, last month you said, and I quote once again, “Every drop of blood that has been spilled in Jerusalem is holy blood as long as it was for Allah. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded, Allah willing.” And in July of 2014, quoting the Quran at the end of a speech you said, “Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.” Do you believe your comments have been interpreted by your children as a sign to take to the streets and kill Jews?
Abbas: Palestinians are fighting for the defense of the Noble Sanctuary [the Temple Mount] We bless them, we bless the Murabitin [those carrying out Ribat, religious conflict/war to protect land claimed to be Islamic], we bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they [the Jews] have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.
jewishinfoNews: Mr. President, it is my understanding that in the past year only 12,000 Jews visited the Temple Mount, compared to 200,000 Christians and over 3.5 million Muslims. It would seem to be that … (interrupted by Abbas)
Abbas: The occupation and its extremists treat Al-Aqsa as they please. We will not sit idly by in the face of these attacks. My official spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh stated that we strongly condemn the occupation’s army and police invasion of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the attack of [Muslim] worshippers. East Jerusalem and the places holy to Islam and Christianity are a red line, and we will not sit idly by in the face of these attacks.
jewishinfoNews: Mr. President, forgive me, but are you saying the Church of Holy Sepulchre is yours and that you are protecting it from the Jews? What have Christians in general, as well as the Vatican to say about this? If I can continue. Earlier this month you were quoted as saying: “In these difficult days, the Israeli government is escalating its strong offensive against the Palestinian people everywhere… Honestly, we do not know what the reason is for this, since the Palestinian side did not attack and did not do anything against the Israelis. If they [Israelis] think that the [Palestinian] people in Jerusalem are protecting themselves that is our right. We have to protect our holy sites, Islamic and Christian. If they think to divide the Al-Aqsa [Mosque], it is unattainable, and they will not succeed.” Mr. President, I am somewhat confused. Are you implying that Jewish children and women are actually taking up arms against Muslim and Christian holy sites and attacking them and therefore have the right to be killed by Palestinian youth?
Abbas: (Cleans his eye glasses)
jewishinfoNews: Let’s turn for a minute to your relationship with North Korea. This past August you sent good wishes to Kim Jong-un and you, I quote, “expressed pride in the historic and strong friendship” between North Korea and the PA. In your telegram you stated, that you “wished leader Kim Jong-un an abundance of health and happiness, and progress and prosperity for his nation.” In addition, you expressed pride in the historic and strong friendship and mutual respect between your countries.” And emphasized your constant striving to develop and strengthen these ties, and your great appreciation of the stances of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which consistently demonstrates solidarity…”
Mr. President, according to various reports, including those published by the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry, they stated that: “Abuses in North Korea were without parallel in the contemporary world, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence….Fear of collective punishment is used to silence dissent. There is no independent media, functioning civil society, or religious treatment.” Mr. President, it would seem to be that under the rule of Kim Jong-un, North Korea remains among the most harshly repressive countries in the world, yet you opened your heart to him and wished him an abundance of health and happiness? How do you think this personally reflects on your ability to govern your own people?
-End of Part One-
Photo credits: Abbas: israelfrontline.com | Kim Jong-un: chicagonews.com
(This interview is envisioned in the virtual unconsciousness of the author)
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SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”