- September 26, 2009
- 24 minutes read
Khalid Amayreh Interviewed
Mary Rizzo: Those who seek information about Palestine often tend to be attracted to particular writers and journalists for the special insights and gifts that seem to be uniquely their own. “The Middle East Crisis” is an issue having a profound, complex and multi-faceted dimension of interpretation, that for however long there has been a crisis (and worse), and despite the great abundance of written material available, more than we can ever realistically confront, the reader is driven to seek the voices that can analyse any aspect of the situation clearly. There really are far fewer with this talent than one would expect. The characteristic of this type of writer is that there is a distinctive voice or style, and more than that, there is a strong sense that the coherent and authentic ethics of this person are part of the message. It is not just reporting facts and intelligent analysis, but creating within us a consciousness of the moral situation that underlies the events. Khalid Amayreh is one such “source”. He is a very prolific author, and he is often able to correctly analyse the event of the day and place it into its overall context. This makes his work almost a diary of Palestinian events. However, as useful as it would be if he limited himself to reporting, Khalid Amayreh is far more important as a writer. He is concerned with the human condition and knows that the reader should not be left only with a cold reportage, because that would be telling only half of the story, and the less important half at that. His voice is the one speaking to the human heart, to the reader who sees the oppression that Palestinians are living under, and is mystified at they are no nearer to the end of their suffering. Khalid does not talk about “indiscriminate masses”, his work is almost a passion play, where there are names, identities, human stories behind all of the events narrated. In this interview for Palestine Think Tank, he touches on many issues in his intimitable way.
Could you briefly tell us about the work you do?
Khalid Amayreh: I am a journalist who since time immemorial has found himself, first as a human being, and second as a journalist, right in the middle of the fray of the enduring Palestinian plight. For example, I remember I knew all the details of Israeli commando operations and massacres when I was merely 7 years old.
When I went to the US in 1976, I wanted to study Computer Science, then Business Administration. However, as I saw Zionist circles on campus at the University of Oklahoma try somewhat successfully to change the black into white and the big lie into a virtual truth, I decided to study journalism.
Which I did. Now, I am fully-engaged in my work, writing nearly daily columns for a host of media outlets on three continents. Eventually, the internet became my ultimate domain because what I do say, and I always have much to say, is not particularly liked by the politically-correct media. Hence, I can say that in a certain sense, the internet has substantially freed us from the traditional media colonialism.
I am quite satisfied with what I have been doing. My articles are published and posted around the world in several languages, including Arabic, English, French, Spanish and other European languages. Many of my articles are posted on my website. It is www.xpis.ps.
MR: You have in the past several years faced some difficult situations. Two of these that we are aware of are your denial of a visa to leave the West Bank for conferences in Europe and the other was your arrest and brief detention. Both of these were the doing of the Palestinian Authority. Why do you believe they have put these restrictions on you?
KA: Yes, my success as a journalist, especially my ability to communicate the Palestinian narrative to Western audiences drew negative reactions from the Israeli security authorities. You know the Shin Beth, Israel’s chief domestic security agency, controls nearly every aspect of our life despite the existence of the Palestinian Authority. Hence, the Shin Beth constantly sought to persecute and harass me in the hope that I would tone down my outspoken criticism of the Israeli occupation and its often barbaric treatment of our people. In this context, they refused to grant me a press card, they refused to allow me access to Jerusalem. And finally, they imposed a harsh travel ban on me. In fact, I am still barred from leaving the West Bank. This is the behaviour of a country that claims to be a democracy.
As to the PA, it is very much slave of Israel. This is why I am also constantly harassed by the PA security apparatus. The PA doesn’t like my writings, and seeing that neither carrot nor stick would stop me, they often incarcerate me for a short period until a media outcry ensued in which case they would release me, hoping that next time I would exercise self-restraint, or more correctly self-censorship.
MR: You live in one of the areas where settlers have made any kind of co-existence in the same territory as the indigenous population impossible. In your view is the Hebron experience a typical one that would be reproduced whenever there would be closer contact between Jews and Palestinians, or is it in some way different?
KA: The settlers are mostly genocidal fanatics who would go to any extent, including cold-blooded murder, to reach their goals. And their goals can be summarized in one phrase, and that is the annihilation of the Palestinian people.
I’ve met numerous settlers, and from my conversations with them, I can say that most of these people represent the Nazis of our time. What else can one say of a people who tell you that you either agree to be enslaved by them or you will be deported and expelled from your own country? And if you said ‘NO’, then you would have to be physically exterminated. These people are really depraved and sick. They would quote strange quotations from a host of religious books to justify their genocidal ideology. The brutal ugliness of their mentality has no limits.
What is more dangerous is that they don’t stop at the theoretical and ideological levels. They often translate their venomous and virulent views into cold-blooded murder of innocent Palestinians. And in most cases, the pro-settler Israeli justice system turns a blind eye to their murderous behaviour and lets them get away with impunity.
MR: You often refer to the actions of today’s Israelis as being similar to those of the Nazis, and you present in detail many of these crimes and abuses against especially unarmed civilians that indeed are strikingly similar. Do you believe there is a danger or risk in the use of this analogy?
KA: Well, this is a very good question. First of all, we have to remember that the holocaust didn’t start with Auschwitz or Bergen Belsen and other concentration camps. It started much earlier with comparatively innocuous things like the enactment of anti-Jewish laws in the early 1930s. Earlier, there was Hitler’s infamous book, Mein Kampf. Eventually there was the Kristalnacht, and we know the rest of the story.
Today, any serious observer scrutinizing the collective psychology and behaviour of the Israeli Jewish society would most certainly find many serious similarities between the Jewish state and the Third Reich. In Germany, they had the master race mantra, here in Israel they have the chosen people mantra.
In Germany they had the expansionistic concept known as Lebensraum; and here in Israel they have the settlement scheme. In Germany, they had the racist classification of people into ?bermenschen and Untermenschen, while here in Israel almost everything is defined through the prism of being either Jewish or Goy. The list goes on and on. Do you know that there are rabbis in Israel who openly teach that non-Jews are animals and whom the Almighty created in a human shape only in deference to Jews. I am not speaking about marginal or obscure figures. I am speaking about rabbis with thousands of followers who are backed by powerful political parties represented in the government and the Knesset.
Ask any average settler how he or she views Palestinians or non-Jews in general, and they will tell you that they are animals and that their lives have absolutely no sanctity.
In short, the Zionist-Nazi analogy is more than legitimate. It is an objective reality.
MR: Is it possible that there is the danger of a new Palestinian genocide comparable to that of ’48 with the discussions of “population transfer” of the Palestinians who live in Israel that are heard by several political movements that are in power in Israel, or is this population somehow protected and facing more danger are those in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
KA: The answer is definitely yes. I am saying so because Palestinians have always relied for their very survival on the good will of the international community and world public opinion. Hence, should the world community go into a brief slumber, I have no doubt that Israel would seize the opportunity and embark on the unthinkable.
More to the point, we must view the criminal Israeli onslaught on the people of Gaza nine months ago as a precedent that could be repeated again and again.
Finally, it is crystal clear that the Israeli Jewish society is drifting menacingly toward fascism. For example, today the very survival of the Benyamin Netanyahu’s government depends to a very large extent on the support of three manifestly racist political parties representing the extreme religious right. These are “Habayt ha’Yahudi,” “Echud Leumi,” and Shas, a formerly moderate Charidi party which has been moving steadily toward religious jingoism.
I am speaking about religious parties that see nothing wrong with the mass murder of innocent people. They always can quote from ancient books to justify their morbid ideology. Also, imagine how the world will look like when these racist groups reach power in Israel and seize control of Israel’s huge nuclear arsenal.
And this is not a matter of “if” but rather a matter of “when” it will happen, because it is only a matter of time before the fanatics of Gush Emunim and other Judeo-Nazi elements reach power in Israel.
MR: Palestinians in Israel comprise twenty percent of the official population. Why is it that, after Azmi Bishara, whose fate is now in exile, and a very few others, this large sector of population is under-represented in their parliament? Would it not be helpful to have more representation?
KA: The Arab community in Israel is under-represented because of a host of factors. But the main factor is that the Israeli system is designed to keep the Arab community marginalized. Today, Israeli leaders from “right” and “left” are increasingly brazenly advocating ultimate ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Arab citizen. Tzipi Livni, the leader of Kadima, said on numerous occasions that Israeli Arabs would have to seek national fulfilment in the future Palestinian state. Her remarks are nothing short of a euphemism for expulsion and ethnic cleansing.
If this is the view of a respected “liberal,” and “centrist” politician, imagine the kind of attitudes the right with its religious and secular camps would have toward Israel’s Arab citizens.
MR: You have documented many of the acts against the Palestinian people. If you could put things in an order of those that should be resolved before the others, out of this selection, what would your suggestion be and why: the ending of the siege of Gaza, the dismantlement of the checkpoints, the dismantlement of the Wall, international recognition of Hamas as the legitimately elected representatives of the Palestinians and in the 2006 Legislative elections, release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, release of Palestinian prisoners from Palestinian jails, a freeze on settler expansion in the West Bank and Jerusalem?
KA: I think all aspects of the Palestinian plight are inextricably entwined. For example, the internal Palestinian problems stem mainly from the Israeli occupation. It was Israel after all which took draconian measures against our people following the 2006 elections when Hamas won the polls. This eventually led to the contention between Fatah and Hamas which culminated in the ousting by Hamas of Fatah militias from Gaza following a failed coup attempt against the elected government by Fatah forces backed and armed by the United States.
But, it is true, we just can’t solve and resolve all the problems facing our people in one fell swoop. The situation in Gaza remains very harsh and the survival of our people there is imputed first and foremost to their tenacity, resilience and steadfastness, not Israeli magnanimity.
The Palestinian prisoner issue is also a nagging nightmare that is constantly haunting our people. We are talking about nearly 10,000 prisoners many of whom are held without charge or trial because of their non-violent opposition to the Israeli occupation. Their continued detention is undoubtedly a repulsive reflection of the brutal ugliness of the Zionist mentality.
MR: Do you believe that the Palestinians should aim at establishing a new popular uprising, or should they wait and see if the Palestinian Authority can find a unity government or bring an end to Israeli occupation by themselves.
KA: Normally, uprisings, especially in the Palestinian context, are not planned. They just happen when the powder keg reaches the boiling point. But I tend to accept the hypothesis that another Intifada is only a matter of time, given the unmitigated occupation and repression as well as the scandalous failure of the peace process.
As to forming a new unity government, it is really difficult to accord this subject a lot of importance. After all, what is the point of forming a government that has no sovereignty and is subject to the draconian restrictions of the Israeli occupation?
MR: Do you hold out hope that the Obama Administration can bring about at least a bit of improvement for Palestinians, or is it equally subject to the Israel Lobby?
KA: No, not any longer. Until recently, I thought, probably naively, that Obama might prove himself to be a man of his word. However, his utter failure to stand up to the arrogant Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has exposed the American president as just another functionary of the establishment.
Moreover, what many in the West doesn’t realize is that for Israel to give up the spoils of the 1967 war, the Jewish state would have to be forced, even physically, to do so.
However, in light of Obama’s obsequious discourse vis-à-vis Netanyahu, especially with regard to the settlement issue, it is increasingly obvious that the US leader is not mentally or politically capable of doing what it takes to force Israel to end the 42-year-old occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The task of forcing Israel to end the hateful occupation would require a radical transformation, even a revolution, in American political thinking. And I just don’t see this happening in the foreseeable future.
MR: Why, in your view, have the Palestinian Islamist parties, especially Hamas, not had the strong support of the Ikhwan in other Arab nations, especially following the rejectionist stance of the so-called International Community following the democratic elections? Is it because the project of Hamas has a stronger nationalist nature to it, or might there be other reasons that you have reflected upon?
KA: I think they do as evidenced in the huge demonstrations organized by Islamic organizations throughout the Muslim world during the Israeli blitz against the Gaza Strip. However, we have to keep in mind that most Islamic parties and organizations are based in despotic and authoritarian states. Hence, the often tight restrictions imposed on Islamist activism do have a detrimental impact on the extent to which Islamists can render tangible material support to Hamas.
But the Islamists are giving extremely viable financial support to Palestinian Islamists without which Hamas would have had a much harder time facing international sanctions.
We also have to remember that Hamas is mainly an asset, not a liability, for Islamic activism around the world, which means that support for Hamas by Islamic groups in the Arab-Muslim world is not exactly altruistic in nature but is also motivated by a certain degree of expediency.
MR: The division of the Palestinian people along many lines, while an internal problem, does prevent more firm opposition to the military occupation of Palestine. Do you think there is a way to overcome the divisions, or are they destined to increase with the introduction of measures such as Dayton’s “Security” forces in the West Bank, for example?
KA: Well, in the final analysis, Palestinian divisions are a symptom of the Israeli occupation. They are not a home-grown malady but rather a foreign-induced phenomenon sustained through political and economic manipulation of certain objective Palestinian needs. After all, we are very much a prisoner population who have been relentlessly used by the Israelis as a field of experiment for over 40 years.
I believe that the ultimate raison d’être of the “Dayton forces” is to crush public opposition to any prospective “peace” deal that would be imposed on the Palestinian people. Needless to say, such a deal would be tantamount to a real liquidation of the Palestinian cause. However, I really doubt whether these forces would succeed in their mission in the long run.
The Palestinian cause is simply so deeply rooted in the collective conscience and psyche of our people, so much that it is inconceivable that these kids would succeed in morphing our people into submission. That would be anti-historical antithetical to the nature of things in Palestine.
MR: Recently, the first group of Palestinian refugees from the Al-Tanaf, Al-Waleed and Al-Hol refugee camps in Iraq have been “settled” in the USA. What do you think of this kind of programme?
KA: Naturally, we are very suspicious about any resettlement of Palestinian refugees anywhere in the world. But I am certain about one thing, namely that the refugee plight and the right of return will continue to define the Palestinian question.
I am saying so because the refugee problem is the Palestinian problem.
MR: What kind of personal experiences does the average Palestinian living in the West Bank have with the Israelis?
KA: Well, it is safe to say that the mental landscape of every Palestinian man, woman and child is overwhelmed with the Israeli nightmare. Ours is a landscape shaped by home demolitions, land seizure, evil roadblocks and checkpoints manned by trigger-happy soldiers, humiliating inhuman treatment, cruelty, terror and unrelenting criminality. Ours is a real holocaust minus the gas chambers. We are after all the longest suffering people on earth, and we continue to suffer on a daily basis.
Today in every junior high school in America, students read Anne Frank, while in every high school Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ is requisite reading. This is the man who says rather brazenly that he readily identifies with Israeli crimes and that he couldn’t bring himself to say bad things about Israel.
The victims of the first Kristalnacht enjoy the world’s approbation and sympathy, while at the same time having succeeded in demonizing an entire people for whom Kristalnacht still remains a night without end.
MR: It seems that access to information about the reality of Palestine, especially of the hardships brought on by the war, the checkpoints and the blockade of Gaza, should enlighten the public that there is a humanitarian emergency. What, in your view, is preventing the international community and the Arab nations from expressing moral outrage and demanding their leaders to hold Israel accountable for these situations?
KA: I think the Arab masses would want to help the Palestinians, and they are actually helping. However, for most Arabs helping the Palestinians, especially Hamas, involves a certain risk as most regimes view identification with Hamas as connoting opposition to the regimes itself. This is true in American-allied states such as Egypt and Jordan.
As to people around the world, I think the overall outlook is positive. I think a growing number of people are now willing to take to the streets to voice their solidarity with our people. But what we need to do is to keep up the good work and try as hard as possible to isolate the evil entity.
MR: Do you believe that there is a great deal of fear in the Palestinian people which prevents them from voicing denouncements of the corruptions of the PA and the PLO before it? Or could some of this be because the allocation of funds is filtered through these organs and people need to make a living?
KA: Of course there is. The Palestinian Authority is effectively a police state without a state, and the corrupt people and their supporters, friends and cronies occupy powerful positions in the PA hierarchy. Take for example the millions of dollars arrogated by Yasser Arafat’s widow, Suha. It is widely believed that the former “First Lady”! received millions of dollars from the PLO as part of a financial settlement which very few Palestinians know about. As to the justice system, it is very much subservient to the political level and the security apparatus. This is how the donor countries, e.g. the US, are shaping Palestinian “democracy.”
MR: What can the exiled or Diaspora Palestinian community do for their brothers and sisters in Palestine?
KA: Palestinians in the Diaspora have a grave responsibility to carry out. They should constantly communicate our plight to the world, they should always be eloquent spokespersons for their people and their cause. But in order to be successful and effective they have to organize themselves and try to enlist local support for Palestinian grievances in their respective places of residence. My ultimate advice to Palestinian expatriates is: make as many friends as possible for our just cause. And don’t allow yourselves to be diverted from the central goal, and that is to create and effect pressure on the Zionist regime.
And don’t get yourselves involved in any activities that might be misconstrued as “anti-Semitic.” Judaism is not our enemy.
MR: What can “internationals” do to help?
KA: “Internationals” and other solidarity activists have a hugely important job to do. They are witnesses to what Satanic Zionism has been doing to the Palestinians. Israel would want to gang up on us while the eyes of the world are shut. It is very much like the way a murderer or a thief behaves. They don’t want to be seen committing their crimes.
In fact, I can safely claim that had it not been for these courageous men and women, the level of Israeli terror against the Palestinians could have been much worse.
Therefore, I would like to salute each and every one of these heroes who have been sacrificing their time, energy and careers in protecting an unprotected people. You are the good Samaritans of our time. So come here, bring your friends, and don’t forget your cameras. May God bless you all.
MR: You are often considered to be especially sensitive to and close to the positions of the Islamist parties, and very often, there are more than a few false representations of them, including for example that Hamas had help from Israel in its foundation, with some even saying Mossad was involved, that they won the elections only because they represented a “protest” vote, and more crucially, that their operations are not resistance, but are rather terrorist acts. Evidence points away from all of these positions, yet they are part of an interpretation trend as much in “the left” as for “moderates” and “neo-cons”. Why do you think that despite evidence, for instance, Hamas always maintained their unilateral truces, while Israel engaged in targeted assassinations of high-ranking leaders of Hamas, people across the board are so quick to accept these false representations as legitimate?
KA: I am not affiliated with any political group. This is because I had long realized that affiliation with an ideological or political party would interfere with and be detrimental to my work as a journalist. Besides, the little philosopher inside me always tells me to be constantly free-minded.
I remember that poet who described fanatical adherence to a political party. He said: I always voted at my party’s call, and never thought for myself at all.
Having said that, I also realize that it is imperative that people must support just causes and speak up the truth even in the presence of power. This is why it is paramount for my mental and psychological health that I must stand against such vices as oppression, arrogance, immorality, mendacity, selfishness, hypocrisy, rapacity and racism. I know it is not easy to swim against the current. However, it is also true that silence or indifference or inaction in the face of evil is morally disastrous in the long run. We mortals live a few decades in this life. It is essential therefore that we lead a dignified life shaped by our concerns for freedom and justice and sublime human spirit.
As to Hamas being helped by Israel, I think this is a form of disinformation by the anti-Islamist camp aimed first and foremost at besmirching Hamas.
The way Hamas has been behaving and acting since its foundation more than 20 years ago should be a clarion refutation of all these lies and insinuations.
This is not to say though that Israel has not tried and is not trying to pit Palestinians against each other. But this is not the same as saying that Hamas was created by Israel or that its growth was facilitated by the Israelis.
After all, Islamic fundamentalist groups are a global phenomenon and by no means confined to occupied Palestine.
MR: What do you think the final status might be in terms of statehood and what do you foresee as a timetable for this?
KA: It is very difficult to figure out how and when this conflict will end. What is clear though is that it won’t come to an end in the foreseeable future. I am convinced that the increasingly-religious conflict will continue for several more decades. However, in order for the conflict to reach an exhaustive conclusion, Zionism would have to disappear.
A final point, I strongly believe that time is not working in Israel’s favour as Israel is going to find it increasingly difficult to live normally in a hostile environment. Fifty years from now, Israel will be surrounded by more than 700 million Arabs and Muslims. And Jews themselves would be a small and dwindling minority in mandatory Palestine.
And like Albert Camus said “in world where everything can be denied, there are forces undeniable, and on earth where nothing is sure, we have our certainty.” And I think the dismantlement of Zionism is a historical certainty.