Due to the ongoing Israeli siege, the majority of Palestinians in Gaza have become dependent on aid. Here a Palestinian man raises his IDs as him and others wait to receive rations at UNRWA distribution center in the Gaza Strip, 6 March 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)
The following is an interview by Anna Weekes with Dr. Haidar Eid, Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine:
Anna Weekes: What is the current situation in the Gaza Strip?
Haidar Eid: One cannot talk about the situation in the Gaza ghetto without feeling disillusioned. What is happening here is a slow genocide taking place before the eyes of a very indifferent world.
The siege of Gaza and the continued illegal collective punishment of its residents by Israel has resulted in soaring food prices. Many foodstuffs, medicines and other goods, such as building material are no longer available. There are zero stocks available for 91 drugs. Hospitals are reporting zero stock availability of pediatric drugs, antibiotics, as chronic disease drugs, cancer treatment drugs, a range of kidney dialysis drugs and IV glucose solution. In addition, there are also shortages of kidney dialysis machine equipment. There is an increase in diarrhea amongst children and the possibility of outbreaks of typhoid and hepatitis if the blockade is not lifted. And the closure of the border crossing has resulted in [the dealths of] dozens of Palestinians in urgent need of medical treatment, including some terminally ill cancer patients [who] were refused entry to Israel or Egypt by the Shin Bet [Israel’s intelligence agency]. Dozens of other sick patients have also been denied access to hospitals in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the West Bank. Thirty-eight of them, including children, have died over the last two weeks. One thousand of these patients are on death row!
Fuel is increasingly scarce and expensive. The closure of factories has resulted in more than 80,000 workers losing their jobs. Needless to say that in the meantime, the Israeli Occupation Forces continue to bomb and attack Gaza, killing Palestinians, mainly children and civilians, indiscriminately.
AW: Is a two-state solution still possible?
HE:No. Let me remind you of the resolution adopted by the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) NGO Forum, held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001. It states clearly that “Israel [is] a racist, apartheid state in which Israel’s brand of apartheid as a crime against humanity has been characterized by separation and segregation, dispossession, restricted land access, denationalization, ‘bantustanization’ and inhumane acts.”
The establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders is unfeasible. A Bantustan-based system does not guarantee a comprehensive peace. It never did in Apartheid South Africa. Ironically, therefore, what the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between Israel and the PLO, have led to is a situation that was not envisaged by its signatories, that is the impossibility of establishing a sovereign independent Palestinian state on 22 percent of historic Palestine. Israel has already created a new reality on the ground by annexing Jerusalem and declaring it as the eternal capital of the Jewish state. So it will not be the capital city of a future Palestinian state. The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has risen to more than half a million. And the Apartheid Wall, constructed by Israel in the West Bank, has stolen between 20 to 30 percent of the West Bank, leading to an increase in the number of roads in the West Bank which are set aside for Jews only.
The establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is not mentioned in any of the clauses of the Oslo agreement. This matter was left to be determined by the balance of power in the region. This balance is in favor of Israel.
In any case, the establishment of a Palestinian state would not resolve the Palestinian question. It would not deal with the six million refugees scattered all over the world; nor would it tackle the issue of racism exercised by Israel against 1.3 million Palestinians living in Israel and treated as third-class citizens.
AW: What moves are Palestinians making towards campaigning for one state?
HE: A diverse group of Palestinian activists, from various backgrounds have come together to further peace with justice in the Middle East through setting up the One Democratic State Group. We believe that the one-state solution is the only viable option that guarantees comprehensive peace in the Middle East. We strongly believe that the establishment of a secular, democratic state on historic Palestine for all of its citizens regardless of religion, race, or sex — after the return of Palestinian refugees — is the solution to the Middle East conflict. That is exactly what happened in South Africa and Ireland. No exclusivity based on ethno-religious background. Establishing nation-states based on ethnicity, race, or religion is anachronistic.
We are also active in the Palestine-initiated campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. These measures, similar to those applied to South Africa during the apartheid era, are necessary to bring an end to Israel’s genocidal policies towards Palestinians. We believe that these nonviolent measures should be maintained until Apartheid Israel recognizes the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and the establishment of a democratic state for all citizens.
AW: Please give us your perspective on the meeting in Annapolis, US, aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict.”
HE: The Annapolis meeting was a fanfare with which the disgraced American president hopes to end his term as a “man of peace!” Like with Camp David, the fault is found with the Palestinians for the failure of this meeting. This meeting did not discuss the major issues that characterize the Palestinian question; namely, the withdrawal of Israeli forces to the 1967 borders, the right of return and Jerusalem. The US has always shown a pro-Israel policy vis-a-vis the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
The most dangerous point was in Bush’s opening speech in which he emphasized the “Jewish character” of the state of Israel. Now that is racism, as you know very well in South Africa. It asks us, and the international community, to forget about six million refugees scattered all over the world as a result of the establishment of Israel; and not even mention the cultural and national rights of the 1.3 million Palestinian “citizens” of Israel itself. According to this formulation, the Palestinians are only those who live in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Now, that is not the Palestinian cause; the cause is the right of return of the refugees, those inside and outside Palestine. There isn’t a slight possibility of having peace in the Middle East without resolving this question.
AW: What does your organization expect from the South African government?
HE: Well, we expect the post-apartheid South African government to show a better understanding of our struggle since we have a lot in common. South Africa should sever its diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel, exactly in the same manner as you demanded that the world boycott the racist governments of the Apartheid era. South African liberation figures, such as Desmond Tutu, Roni Kasrils and John Dugard, and even the [former] American President Jimmy Carter have called Israel an Apartheid state. How was Apartheid brought down? Not by having embassies in Pretoria, not by having economic deals, or any form of normalization.
AW: What can ordinary South African people do to support the Palestinians?
HE: Since UN, EU, the US and the international community have failed the Palestinian people, we bank on ordinary people to take whatever step, however small, to show their support for Palestine and rejection of Israeli genocidal war crimes. They can do that by putting pressure on their governments to force Israel to conduct itself within the parameters of the international law. But we expect more from ordinary South Africans since we have a lot in common. Treat Israelis the way you wanted us to treat racist South Africans.
Anna Weekes is a South African trade unionist and an activist with the Anti-War Coalition campaigning for the South African government to place sanctions onÂ Israel.