Ali Abunimah debates Daniel Pipes on BBC Radio Five Live

DOTUN ADEBAYO (BBC HOST): James Rodgers with that report. I’m joined now by Ali Abunimah who is a pro-Palestinian activist and co-founder of the website The Electronic Intifada. Ali Abunimah, after two years and two thousand four hundred deaths, surely its time to call the Intifada off?

ALI ABUNIMAH (THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA): Well, its not a question of calling it off. Yasser Arafat and others have called on the Palestinian people repeatedly to call it off. Its not about calling it off. The fact is the Palestinian people live under a foreign military dictatorship, which is the worst form of tyranny. Violence, massive violence is used against them every day as it has been for thirty five years, and there comes a point as we’ve seen in countries all around the world from South Africa to Eastern Europe where people rise up. And I think the Palestinian people have decided that life under this brutal foreign military dictatorship is no longer tolerable and they are prepared to pay a very very high price to have what you in Britain enjoy, and we here in the United States enjoy which is basic freedom and human rights. And Israel unfortunately continues to occupy their country, continues to build settlements, colonies on confiscated Palestinian land in order to prevent that from happening. And the whole world understands this and I think that were it not for the unilateral backing of the United States for the Israeli military dictatorship in the Occupied Territories we would have had peace and harmony between Israelis and Palestinians a long time ago.

ADEBAYO: Well we’re joined also by Daniel Pipes, who serves on the special task force on terrorism and technology at the US Department of Defense and has most recently published a book titled “Militant Islam Reaches America.” Well you heard what Ali Abunimah had to say there, Daniel. He puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of America. How do you respond?

DANIEL PIPES: Well I would say this fighting, this violence ensued two years ago when the Palestinians decided that the time had come to destroy Israel. They’d been feeling that Israel was too strong, that they didn’t have much of a chance and two years ago, because of the Israeli apparent weakness, the Palestinians decided the time had come for violence, and violence came. And for two years now the Palestinians have been hammering away at the Israelis in an effort to destroy the Israeli state. Well to their surprise, the Palestinians discovered that rather than be inclined to withdraw and be demoralized and sue for terms, the Israelis in fact responded with strength and the Palestinians are slowly and painfully realizing that this surge of violence that’s now two years old, that has cost them hundreds of lives, as well as the Israelis, hundreds of lives, has in fact taken them much further away from anything resembling a state, an economy, anything resembling a decent economy, an open political process, or even a decent culture. So the Palestinians, through painful mistakes, outrageous behavior and violent aggression have finally come to the realization, or are coming to the realization, it hasn’t quite happened yet of what a disaster they have, what a disastrous course they have gone on. I think there’s good news here. As the Palestinians realize that violence doesn’t work, we’ll see the begins of a realization that only by accepting a Jewish state in Israel will they themselves be able to have decent lives, where they don’t have the Israeli soldiers, they don’t have economic morass, and the cultural and political troubles they have at present. But that’s only going to happen when the Palestinians themselves stop this campaign of violence.

ADEBAYO: Ali Abunimah, there you heard it. The Intifada has been a complete disaster its about time you accepted the Jewish state.

ABUNIMAH: Well, Mr. Pipes always gets it wrong. When I was on Australian television with him about two weeks into the Intifada he dismissed it all as a little communal violence that would soon go away, and of course he�s got it wrong now because two years in to the Intifada, Israel has failed—

PIPES: Excuse me, I thought the terms of this debate—



ABUNIMAH: Two years — It’s my turn now—


PIPES: … that we were not going to have ad hominem

ABUNIMAH: Stop interrupting.

PIPES: I thought that we were going to have, the terms of this debate that no ad hominem

ABUNIMAH: Stop interrupting. Stop interrupting.

ADEBAYO: Hold on—

PIPES: … I already am being attacked by Mr. Abunimah.

ABUNIMAH: Stop interrupting.

PIPES: I will not be on this program if he attacks—-

ADEBAYO: Hold on Daniel Pipesï—

PIPES: I made it clear I will not be attacked—


ADEBAYO: Hold on, there’s nobody—

PIPES: I don’t want to be attacked. Did we not make that the terms of my going on this program?

ADEBAYO: There’s nobody attacking anybody at the moment.

PIPES: I am being told I was wrong then, I’m wrong now,

ADEBAYO: No, No, You’ll get a chance to come back.

PIPES: I don’t want to come back. I want to make it clear that I’m not going to be attacked by Mr. Abunimah.

ADEBAYO: But let’s get a chance to discuss what we’re here to discuss. Ali Abunimah, just for the sake of us please just try and restrain some of the language towards Mr. Pipes. Let’s try and discuss the issues, ‘cos we’re talking about serious issues here.

ABUNIMAH: Those are things he said publicly. He doesn’t want me to comment publicly—


PIPES: He is again talking about me. I am not the issue—


PIPES: … We’re discussing the Palestinians and Israelis.

ABUNIMAH: Well let’s discuss—

ADEBAYO: Let’s hear—

PIPES: I’m going to hang up if he talks one more word about me—



ADEBAYO: I’m sure it’s going to—

ABUNIMAH: Mr. Pipes wants to stifle debate. He’s welcome to hang up. I’m not asking him to. He cannot tolerate any disagreement.


PIPES: The terms of this debate is we’re not to talk about each other.

ADEBAYO: Gentleman, gentlemen, please. I’d rather not reflect wha’s going on in the troubles over there at the moment. Let’s try and keep this to a level debate now. Ok, I’m sure its very difficult to discuss this without referring to what both of you, both have said in the past. You’re welcome to quote each other, but please let’s keep it on friendly at least, you know very diplomatic terms.

ABUNIMAH: Well I’ve certainly tried to do that and it seems I’m not allowed to even quote Mr. Pipes, who has written, who has written—

ADEBAYO: Well let’s stick to the subject—

ABUNIMAH: … that thirty million Pakistanis and one million Palestinians are murderous, potential killers and barbarians and should be treated as such. And because he has such extreme views…

ADEBAYO: We’ve got that, but let’s talk about the situation, let’s talk about the Intifada.


ABUNIMAH: Well, alright, let me answer your question very quickly and simply then, if I may. The Palestinians of course accepted Israel in the Oslo Accords, accepted Israel on the seventy eight percent of Palestine which Israel occupied in 1948, and was recognized by all the Arab states at the Arab League. Israel still refuses to recognize Palestinian rights, is still building colonies on occupied Palestinian land, and is so desperate to do so that they even recently brought a group of tribesmen from the darkest forests of Peru, and placed them in the middle of an Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories, because they are so determined not give up an inch of this land and to let the Palestinians have what everyone in the world thinks they should have, which is freedom. And Mr. Pipes is just so dead set against that that he doesn’t even want your listeners to hear me say this. And he’s currently engaged in a campaign in the United States to shut down debate on America’s campuses and to label anyone who dares challenge his opinions an Islamic fundamentalist or an extremist. But as we’ve just heard he’s the one that doesn’t want to allow any debate.

ADEBAYO: Well, in fact he’s decided to… oh no, Daniel Pipes, you’re with us still again.

PIPES: I’m with you, just there was a telephone glitch.

ADEBAYO: Ok, well, as Abunimah, sorry Ali Abunimah was saying, its very much down to the Israelis to ease up the pressure on the Palestinians. I mean they’ve made their point now, haven’t they? We can start talking instead of warring.

PIPES: This is a topsy turvy world that Mr. Abunimah is portraying. The fact is that the Israelis, in the process of Oslo negotiations said to the Palestinians, Ok, if you accept us we will give you various benefits, we will give you autonomy—

ABUNIMAH: Then why are they still building settlements?

PIPES: … we will give you control over water, and over this and over that, and the Palestinians instead of accepting this hand that was being proffered to them, decided that what this suggested was pal…pardon me, was Israeli weakness. The result of that was the violence that is now two years old. I think it is now so clear that the Palestinians do not accept Israel. It is so clear that an idea which was on the periphery of Palestinian political life a decade ago is now at its absolute center, in which almost everyone with a public voice from the preachers in the mosque, to the politicians…


PIPES: …to the suicide bombers all agree that…


PIPES: …Israel must be destroyed.

ADEBAYO: Well I don’t think you conducted it in the spirit that I was hoping for, but thank you very much, nevertheless, gentlemen. Daniel Pipes there from the special task force on terrorism and technology at the US Department of Defense, and Ali Abunimah, pro-Palestinian activist and co-founder of the website The Electronic Intifada. You’re tuned to Five Live on 909 and 693 AM, and FM frequencies in England, Scotland and Wales.


The above is an EI transcript of “Up All Night,” BBC RADIO FIVE LIVE, September 29, 2002, 0115 GMT