Senior journalist and author Vidya Bhushan Rawat in conversation with Abbas Milhem, Executive Director, Palestinian Farmers Union, Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine. The farmer leader talked on the harrowing situation Palestinians are facing and particularly about Israel genocide in Gaza. The conversation was recorded live on Zoom.
Vidya Bhushan: Hello and welcome to Lokayat. Today, we have a very special guest right from Ramallah in Palestine.
Abbas Milhem is a civil society activist and thinker. He also has 30 years of experience working in Africa, Sudan in particular as well as in Palestine. He is executive director of Palestinian Farmers Union.
Abbas is also active in the peace and Democratic movement in his country, mobilizing civil society organizations and working for the rights of the Palestinian farmers.
This conversation was recorded on line on zoom and an edited transcript is being presented here so that we can understand the crisis and why Palestine needs international support and assistance.
Welcome Abbas. For being with me here. First, I would just like to request you to give us brief information about what is happening in your country right now. What is the situation? And in which direction are things moving?
Abbas Milhem: First, I would like to Thank you for this program. And just briefly, I mean the situation that’s happening, and mainly the aggression against Gaza that started from by the Israeli army is speechless. No words can describe the terrible situation on the ground. As the media has covered, so far more than 2.2 million people have no access to food, medication, or hospitals. Schools and any single aspect of the ordinary basic needs of any human being. More than 70 percent of Gaza’s residential areas have been completely destroyed by the air strike and more than around 100,000 people being killed or injured so far in this bloody war in Gaza and 75% of those who were killed are children and women. It is the biggest number in modern history. And the situation on the ground, People are suffering. They have no food. Gaza is on the edge of starvation with the Israeli Army preventing even food aid from entering the crossing border between Egypt and Gaza. What are the Gaza people getting? The 2.2 million people receiving every day are less than 100 trucks of 1aid with a health, aid or food aid, when Gaza needs at least 1,000 trucks of food aid every day, they are receiving only 100 trucks. We have branches in Gaza among farmers who are reporting to us daily on the tragic situation, of the daily suffering and the hour by hour suffering of children, unable to get food and medication, unable to move from one area to another. Unfortunately, there is no safe place in Gaza, although the Israeli army has announced that those who will evacuate, and being displaced from North Gaza can go to the south as safe areas. Now all the strikes are concentrated in the south part of Gaza, so there is no safe place. Every day more than 100-200 people are being killed. Most of them are children, women and civilians. Unfortunately, the war in Gaza is not against Hamas but against everything. Against buildings, children, women, people, schools and against hospitals that were demolished and destroyed. It’s against everything.
Gaza is under the threat of being all wiped out. People and buildings at the same time. It’s different. And you know, although this war is happening in Gaza, there is another war happening in the West Bank, alsoc backed by settlers. Settler violence has increased rapidly from the time when this war erupted in Gaza. The number of settler violence attacks against farmers have jumped up from 3 attacks per day before October 7 to 11 attacks per day against farmers in the West Bank. The idea is to control and annex West Bank land to the Israeli settlers, and those settlers are doing their attacks backed by the Israeli army and backed by the government, in which there are two settlers who are ministers in that government, the Minister of National Security, and the Minister of Finance. These two ministers are calling upon their own supporters and settlers to increase their attacks against Palestinian farmers.
1,000 farmers have been forcibly evacuated from their farmlands, and their farmlands have been confiscated. Large number of grazing areas in the so-called sea area in Jordan Valley and in the south part of Hebron area in West Bank have been denied access to all livestock farmers. There are also physical attacks against farmer families. Large number of farmers were beaten severely and killed by settlers who were stopped in their farmlands while they were harvesting their olive harvest and this is another type of war appearing in the West Bank. We understand, and we know the reason beyond this is that the settlers are doing to benefit from the war conditions in Gaza to control large parts of West Bank areas, making the possibility of Palestinian existence in their lands impossible. And in fact, transfer Palestinians and the communities living there to Jordan. Here, in the West Bank, the army is first trying to force and gather people to transfer to Egypt. Use this phase to end the Palestinian existence in Palestine on Palestinian lands occupied in 1967.
Vidya Bhushan: Basically not only Gaza, where the war is visible to other people but West Bank is also under attack, where you have vast natural resources at the Jordan River and Dead Sea. I have read in your reports that the Israeli and American companies are earning trillions of dollars every year. So, it is basically also the war to capture the resources of the Palestinian at the moment.
Abbas Milhem: Absolutely. But now the annexation plan of ‘West Bank Land’ has been a policy for this recent government, which is the most extremist government in the history of Israel that adopted the plan, the policy of annexing the farm land area. But at that time in 2020, there was international pressure against this government not to do the annexation plan. They both disowned publicly and officially the annexation plan, but on the ground, they continued to implement the annexation by grabbing and confiscating a larger part of farmland farmlands area. But when this war erupted and started on October 7th, the settlers felt that they had a backup from the Government. Their hands were freed to increase their attacks and to grab more land, confiscate more, land, kick out Palestinians from their land in order to control the natural resources of Palestinians in their west bank areas, and the two main natural resources that are needed for practicing farmers are land and water, and Israeli army is backing up the Israeli settlers to control more land, and unfortunately, the larger parts of the area see land which forms like 60% of the area of west bank land, has been under the full control of settlers and the army from the beginning of this war until now. And just for you and for those who are listening to us, to know that it is the strategic storage for food, security, soil for agriculture production. It is an area that is rich with water resources and with fertile soil land suitable for agriculture practices. And any control of this land will make the life of Palestinians difficult and almost impossible. And this is a plan that has been put into practice by settlers backed by the Israeli army, in order to stop Palestinian dream of having their independence and their independence state.
Vidya Bhushan: It means, they want by hook or crook, by denying you land rights, water rights, to force Palestinian to leave their own country. Is it an existential threat for Palestinian people?
Abbas Milhem: It is a big threat and risks the existence of Palestinians because of these attacks, and because of this policy. And let me tell you, these are not just the attacks by settlers but it is it’s a government policy that was adopted by this Government, and it was announced even the policy of annexing and confiscating the entire farmland areas in West Bank, which is, as I told you before, 60% of the Palestinian land occupied in 1967, rich with the resources and the fertile soil area. It is now under the big threat of being totally under the control of the settlers, backed by the Israeli army, and by doing this they are emptying the land from its owners, who are, for the sake of expanding the settlements and deploying more settlers to that land to change the identity of the Palestinian land and doing it like a Jewish owned land. And this is a big threat for the existence of the Palestinians. And, by the way, grabbing land, and land confiscation has been in place from 1967 until now, but it has increased rapidly in the last years. With this new government the most extremist one. land backed by this government settlers, have increased their attacks to control more land and deploy more settlers. grab more land, confiscate more land, and establish new settlements from the lands that are owned by Palestinian farmers. Our food security is under big threat of collapse because of the control over water resources and land and farmland areas. Our access to land has been severely restricted by farmers and by the army, but mainly by settlers. It is forming a big threat and a big risk to the existence of the Palestinians on their farmland.
Vidya Bhushan: Who are these settlers? Are they the local Jews or European-American immigrants?
Abbas Milhem: The Settlers are, you know, Jews who were brought from all over the world and they were deployed and were given houses for free. That’s an exemption. Lands that are confiscated from Palestinian farmers and water resources confiscated from Palestinians. It’s like an 8 star of business for those Jews brought from different parts of the world. deployed in the West Bank and receiving incentives from their governments to continue to be settlers. You’ll pay no taxes and you get land for free, and you get water for free to get your agriculture protection. This would encourage you to continue being a settler. Those settlers don’t belong to this area. They were brought from outside and deployed in our Palestinian areas from the lands outside. And you know, using the land that was confiscated from Palestinian Owners.Most of the land where the settlements are established are lands confiscated from Palestinian owners and farmers. The water resources owned by Palestinians have been controlled by the Israeli army to benefit the Israeli Jewish settlers from different countries, European and non-European countries as well.
Vidya Bhushan: So, it’s basically that grand vision of Jewish land, you know, for everybody to come with big money and invest in the West Bank.
Abbas Milhem: Yeah, you know about history. Let me remind you and remind those who watch us, that in 1994, Palestinians and Israelis reached out an agreement. Peace agreement that was signed and backed up by the Western countries, including US and European countries. That agreement was meant to be a transitional agreement for 5 years. Palestinians were informed that by the end of 1999 that agreement would lead up to establish an Independent Palestinian state and Palestinians will have the right for self-determination. Unfortunately, that temporary and the transitional peace agreement remains temporary until now, although we are now going to be in the year 2024. Which means, you know, the case of that ‘peace agreement’ being not implemented on the ground. They benefited from this peace agreement so much that they used this time to expand more settlements and deploy more settlers.The number of settlers in 1994 was less than 200,000. Now, the number of settlers is700,000.
Vidya Bhushan: Oh.
Abbas Milhem: During the peace agreement, Israel did not respect the peace, as well as the agreement. They use that peace agreement to confiscate more land and to control more land and deploy more settlers in West Bank, occupied land of the 1967.although Palestinians accepted the historical compromise between Israel and Palestine to establish 2 States for 2 people. Israel uses so-called peace agreements’ to deploy more settlers and to confiscate more land. Unfortunately, the ‘twostate solution’ that was adopted during that peace agreement is still not implemented, and only playing for the benefit of the Israelis to deploy more settlers and confiscate more land, and this allowed settlers to increase their numbers with the silence from the international community who sponsored that ‘peace agreement’, without holding settlers accountable against all these attacks and confiscations. They were encouraged by the international community because they were not held accountable as criminals, and they confiscated more land. The Israeli army is protecting the settlers, when they attack Palestinian farmers and if any farmers try to protect the land they will be abducted and sent to jail and accused of being terrorists. It’s totally and completely an apartheid regime that was imposed by Israel against Palestinians.
Look at the Western Countries and the way they reacted to Ukraine when they were attacked by Russia. They supported them with everything, with weapons and they say that those who are fighting, using military weapons, are fighters for freedom. But when the picture comes for Palestinians to fight for their land, and to resist against the occupation then they are accused of being terrorists. If Palestinians struggle with the military, they are terrorists. If they struggle by words, they are anti-Semitic.
Who expects from occupied people not to resist the occupation?
Vidya Bhushan: Do you think that the October 7, incident or attack by Hamas on Israel was a kind of point where the Western world has been shocked. And because it says that Hamas incited Israel, even the US President has said that Israel has a right to defend itself. I was listening to the BBC. yesterday, and the British Prime Minister, British Leader of Opposition, is continuously saying that Israel has a right to react as it is reacting. How do you respond to it? Do you think that Hamas had made a mistake or somehow miscalculated things?
Abbas Milhem: Look my friend, countries have the right to defend themselves when they are attacked by other countries. Occupiers don’t have the right to defend themselves against those they occupied. Occupied People, according to international law, have the right to resist in order to liberate their lands. Now no one is supporting the killing of civilians, and we Palestinians have been suffering from this since 1967, and we are calling up the whole world, not to allow the killing of civilians, because we Palestinians have been stating this from all the past decades from the beginning of this occupation. And to understand the October 7, things you need to understand the context of the occupation and the suffering of Palestinians that have been from, you know, 56, or 57 years ago when that occupation started. Jails, killings. and the harassment of Palestinian children and families has been ongoing from 1967 until now. The conflict did not start on October 7, it started in 1967. You know, Israel was not attacked by Egypt or by any country there. Personally speaking, I don’t like any violent actions from anyone, from the Israelis or from whoeverI believe in peace, and I believe in the future, in the right of human beings to live in dignity. But we have been calling up the international community, asking them to interfere and to stop this occupation and end this occupation for the past decades but unfortunately no one is listening and they are acting as if they are blind. They don’t see the reality because they don’t want to react against it, and because this occupation has never been held accountable against all the crimes they conducted against Palestinian civilians. From now they will be encouraged to do more without being held accountable. Settlers are the same. Settlers are illegal by all laws in this world by European laws. Yeah. American laws. They say that settlers are illegal in the West Bank, because the West bank area is occupied land and despite that they do no actions to stop these settlers and to end the suffering of Palestinian farmers from accessing the land being controlled by settlers. Only words and words, my friend, words are not serving anymore. What is needed are actions against those who are not respecting international laws like what European countries are doing with other countries that do not respect the international human right law and the international legitimacy. Why these laws are applied to any other country except the Israeli occupation and when it comes to Palestinian rights. They act as blind people. They don’t, you know, understand that this double standard policy is not serving any more. It does not serve peace on this land for two people. You cannot find an agreement that will satisfy only one part on the account of the other. It doesn’t work, and Palestinians are shouting and trying, and I think what happened on October 7 is one of the efforts of Palestinians, in order to awaken the wall. See the suffering of Palestinians, and maybe take some actions to empower this occupation once and for the benefit of both, for Israelis, for Palestinians at the same time.
Vidya Bhushan: But the international community, particularly the Western world, is saying that Israel is basically reacting in self-defence. And suddenly Israel is being presented as a victim? Who has been victimized by the Palestinians.
Abbas Milhem: Yeah. the only meaning, if the world would be that naive to still believe the Israeli lies about being the victim. Israel is the fourth powerful military power in the world and is the first in the Middle East. They own all the types of killing machines, the creeping ones like bulldozers, and the flying ones like aircrafts.And on a daily basis Palestinians are attacked by the Israeli army and killed since 1967 until now in cold bloods. without any means. Who is the victim? Maybe, my friend, what’s happened now is that there is an international split in this world between those people who are with humanity, with international humanitarian law, and those who are supporting barbarity and aggression. And now there is a clear split and division, and we call upon those who believe in humanity to support the Palestinians. That’s the only solution in this country is the right for all those who are occupied to get their independence and the freedom and for occupiers, if they want to live in peace with their neighbours, Palestinians. And this was what is meant by the two-state solution.
Vidya Bhushan: So you don’t deny Israel’s right to exist?
Abbas Milhem: No. We signed an agreement with them. Palestinians signed an agreement with Israel as a state and no one is denying. We believed that the peace agreement will really bring peace for people but unfortunately, this government doesn’t believe in peace.
Vidya Bhushan: You have worked with numerous international organizations. You have worked in Africa, Sudan. You are working with many American organizations. I want to ask you this question: after the October 7 incident, or whatever you can call it, do you think that this so-called rule-based order that the West often talked about, is hypocrisy, because where are the institutions to protect people’s rights? The UN. The Secretary General is speaking and I think he has been put in isolation because nobody is listening to him. So where are the international institutions, the human rights institutions, the UN bodies. Have they failed? Or have the West shown their true hypocrisy? Because when the matter between West and others, then they are with their people irrespective of human rights.
Abbas Milhem :You know the skin and everything comes in their favour. And if that’s the matter between, say, Asian countries, or African or Asian fighting among them then they will talk about human rights and internationalism. They don’t want to talk about human rights where they are a partner or are a party themselves. Unfortunately, my friend, this will reveal the real ugly face of many Western governments who used to teach the whole world about values for so many decades, but with it came reality, they are racists because these values and principles were called before those who have blue eyes and blonde hair but not for the others. Look at Ukraine, and I told you this example in Ukraine. I mean they are, you know, talking about principles and values of human rights and democracy. But for Palestinians, they talk about Israel as defending itself’ against the occupied, the victims.Are they really committed to the values and principles of human rights and liberty they talk so much about? The reality on the ground shows that those people are far away from respecting even their own constitutions that are based on nicely written rules about human rights and democracy. That’s Only working for the Western, but not working for southern countries, including Palestinians.
Vidya Bhushan: Do you think that it might escalate now, because we are hearing that, you know, Israel wants to target Lebanon now. How do you respond to this? Is there any information about these things at your place?
Abbas Milhem: You know, there are many analyses. Actually,this Prime Minister understands that if the war ends he will go to jail. The only solution for him is to expand the war and to continue that war for as long as he can and if the war ends up in Gaza, he needs to open a new world in Libya. And not only this, he is even dreaming of having a regional war and bringing Americans and western countries in the trap but in a regional war, and maybe a third international war. And this will save the Prime Ministerfrom being arrested or sent to jail because of the corruption crimes he committed. We are paying the price, and the Israelis also are paying that if that will expand at the regional level, believe me.I mean the whole world will be under a big threat of a third world war that will be really catastrophic on the international level itself.
Vidya Bhushan: Yeah, it’s very, very dangerous. I’m sure that there are thousands of people within Israel who are in support of, you know, peace with Palestine, and want to live and co-exist. A large number of citizens in Israel are Palestinian origin, so I’m sure many of them want to have a peaceful coexistence with Palestinian.
Abbas Milhem: Yeah, look at the Jewish movement in the United States.
Anti-occupation policies are led by Jewish leaders, even in the United States, who are against the war. What does it mean? They know this policy of war will destroy not only the Palestinians but also the Israelis themselves. I think maybe the Americans understood this better. This will, you know, end up Israel as a state if they continue doing this war.
Vidya Bhushan: Yeah, that is very true. War can never be a solution at all.
Abbas Milhem: I hope that this war will be followed by a political settlement of the whole issue. Here in the country. and wise people in this world will be wise enough to impose the pressure that is needed to solve this problem once and the only solution for this is to end the occupation andgiving Palestinians their right to independence and for their freedom. And after then people can live together in peace. Take it up in a two state solution. And that’s it.
Vidya Bhushan: That is what would be very important as you know, peace without justice is not possible.
Vidya Bhushan: So that is where I always mentioned the acceptance that the two countries have the right to exist, both Israel and Palestinian. I think that is the best solution, and the promises that were made to Palestinian so many years backWhen the Israel State was createdhave to be respected. The onus is on the Western world, because it is they who did it, who actually exported their problems from Germany to the Palestinian land actually in the aftermath of the Second World War. Whatever has happened but now it is more on the Americans and the British particularly to resolve this crisis.
Abbas Milhem: If you sign and accept this peace agreement, you will get your independence in 5 years and Palestinians, you know we believed them. We need peace and we believe in peace as per experience, even our religion says when we say ‘asslamwalekum’ which means peace be upon you. But unfortunately, this government is the most extremist right-wing government in Israel and based on a coalition of settlers.Settlers are not going to believe in peace with Palestinians. They don’t believe the basic rights of Palestinians do even exist. They consider Palestinians as animals that need to be killed and get rid of all of them. So, with this government nothing can be achieved, and without pressure from the international community occupiers cannot be held accountable in order to save and secure peace in this land. The only solution is peace. If the only solution is peace then you need to make real actions to make peace happen.
And it doesn’t happen by just words and songs.Sometimes you need pressureto hold them accountable by having them paying the price of being occupiers and by punishing them puttingsanctions on all of them for being settlers. when they feel that they are paying the price of being settlers and that movement would expand, and more penalties against settlers to be adopted, and that would be applied. Make those accountable who commit war crimes from the Israeli army in order to impose peace by pressure.
Vidya Bhushan: What do you think about the South African government, you know, filing a case against Israelis on the on this issue
Abbas Milhem:They understand the suffering of other people like Palestinians. And really, South Africa was one of the brave countries that decided to take an action, real actions for humanity and for human rights. For we believe democracy on the ground by handling that file in order to hold the occupier accountable against the war crimes they conducted in Gaza, and I hope that what South Africa did,will be also taken by other countries too. And here what I mean by actions against occupations, because these actions will really impose a real pressure on the occupiers to accept the right of others to live in peace the same way they want for their own people.
Vidya Bhushan:I just wanted to know what is the latest situation in Gaza. Can you give us a brief about what is happening there? Tell us about the school, the children,the hospitals. You lost some of your relatives and it must have been a terrible time. Please. Share with us.
Abbas Milhem: I’m trying to find the word that can describe the situation. I was talking to one of our Union members in Gaza at 3 pm noon, 2 days ago. Hello, sir, where are you, I asked? ‘I am in the queue waiting for my turn to get 1 kg of salt, ‘he said. I’ve been in the queue from 8 am in the morning till now and it is 3 pm.And still I did not manage to get 1 kg of salt’. That apart, people have no possibility to get flour to make bread and medicine. 35% of hospitals and health clinics in Gaza were completely destroyed and demolished. No health aid is entering Gaza. As I said, it’s the 100trucks per day, including all types of aid for health and everything when the need in Gaza is at least 1,000 trucks per day, which means 90%of people in Gaza have no access to anything, no food, no medicine. The prices have jumped in Gaza, and people are unable to afford and buy as the people have no job and have no source of income. My wife’s sister now lives in Rafah. She was in Gaza, but when her family was killed, my father in law, mother-in-law and brother-in-law, when their house was demolished over them, were killed on October 9th. The sister in law, because she is married and she lived in another house, she survived. She has now moved to Rafah. She told us that she eats one meal once every 2 days. Only one meal. She fasts for 2 days. Get one meal.
Abbas Milhem: I don’t know how I can explain.
Vidya Bhushan: I can understand, It is very, very painful and very disturbing.
Abbas Milhem: 1,000 people who were killed are still under rubble. Their residence was dismantled. There are so many diseases, skin diseases, and different types of disease because of these bloods and flesh and it’s everywhere and there are no medicines. There are more than 350,000 children who are sick, and they have diseases, but they are unable to get medicine.There are people sheltering in schools. 35,000 people in one school.Can you imagine the simplest thing? 35,000
The sister of my wife is living in an apartment that has only 3 bedrooms. There are 45 people living in that apartment.Turn your image in that school. Think about people who need to go to the toilet.You may get your term after 4 hours.Can you imagine how women and children are coping with it?I mean, both are unable to describe the tragedy of the people.
Abbas Milhem: This bloody war needs to end soon. And now every single minute and second means more suffering for people. We are talking now, maybe for 10 minutes and so many people and the children may be displaced. You know, houses were demolished, and so every single hour, a minute, second, an hour there are more bloods, more souls that have been killed and vanished. unfortunately.
Vidya Bhushan: is the Israeli army still there, or they’ve come out.
Abbas Milhem: You know they are in all parts of Gaza strip. The Israeli army is bombing everywhere.They’re bombing in the centre. They’re bombing in the South,the so-called safe area, bombing everywhere in Gaza. There is no safe area for people and they are under the threat in Gaza. So when we speak to them, ‘Hello! Are you okay? They say. ‘So far we are waiting for our turn to die’.
And you imagine when you hear a message from people there sitting and waiting their term to die. Maybe in the next hour or in the next few minutes, or in the next day.
It’s a difficult life. Can you imagine children in Gaza for nights and days just hearing, you know?Bombs and bombs every day.
Vidya Bhushan: I can understand. It’s a complete failure of the international order, international system, international humanitarian law, international human rights organization.Everything that is called internationalism has failed actually to protect the children, the women, the older people, the common man in Gaza.
Abbas Milhem: Palestinians, will never forgive those who did not work to stop this war.
Vidya Bhushan:At least on humanitarian grounds. This is a shame for all of us actually, because at least, you know, on humanitarian concern also, the world has failed completely.
Abbas Milhem: Yes, yes, I can understand. But where are the humanitarian law, the humanitarian agencies and humanitarian grounds? Can you imagine the general Secretary of the UN calling up, for you know, a ceasefire and stopping the war for humanity purposes?And the government said, No. Not to stop the war. That’s why this world now is split between humanity and brutality. Those are all supporting brutality and those are supporting humanity. I hope those who support humanity will win over those who stand against humanity in this war because that is hope is the only way.
Vidya Bhushan: If you don’t hope, at least the people who are working to defend rights, for the people who are concerned about humanity, can only hope because, if they also become despondent there is no other way out. The people who work for humanity actually suffer more for their convictions.
Abbas Milhem: They have to suffer from various sides, you know from this side and that side everywhere. If you talk about peace, they will say you are against us.
Vidya Bhushan: Because, this world is, as you have said, split between the two kinds of forces, two kinds of ideologies. I just want to ask you the questionAbbas Milhem, is there any kind of governance in Gaza who is governing there? Is there any army, or the people are just doing themselves?
Abbas Milhem: There is no, no, there is no system here, because the clashes are still there on the ground every day. What they are doing is bombing, demolishing, killing, arresting people with brutality and punishing them. They harass them, even execute them and kill them in the field. There are many reports from the field in Gaza that civilians were executed in cold blood in front of their children.Many families were wiped out. The aid system is very weak. There are no humanitarian agencies. Everything has collapsed in Gaza.
No system is functioning. There is no school system anymore. People are receiving no food aid and no health anymore, and no one knows about them, it’s a dangerous and very risky area. And then as you see everyday there areAir strikes against the South now which were considered as the safe areas where we as a unit tried to help our union members. It’s only 440 families that we are supporting now out of 2.2 million people who are in need, because this is the only fund that we received so far, and we hope humanitarian organizations can really do more actions and more funds and more work to support us. People who remain in Gaza need our support, to get access to some food in order to survive.
Vidya Bhushan: How is the situation at your place? How secure and safe is Ramallah
Abbas Milhem: Last night the Israeli army invaded Ramallah. They arrested many people from the city and every day they entered Ramallah and they were arresting people and they had clashes inside the city. Most of the West Bank cities are subjected to invasions every year, every night. The army has been there for twenty-four hours continuously. They demolished houses, they arrested people, beat them in the streets and arrested so many others, including kids and children. They were beating them in front of their parents and the front of their families, which is really catastrophic for the family to see their kids being beaten severely like this without being able to do anything to protect them.
We need international protection from this occupation, from this army. We need international protection from settlers. We need to end this occupation. That’s it. As I told you, it’s another war in the West Bank. They say that they are attacking Hamas but what are they doing in the West Bank? They’re doing the same, although Hamas is not controlling the West Bank. So, they’re using Hamas as any excuse.
Vidya Bhushan: Most of the people who analyze the Palestinian issue say that Hamas was created by the Western world to counter the movement launched by Fateh under Yasser Arafat and we remember him as a friend of India, you know, so always remember his warmth. What would you like to say to the international community? How should peace be brought in this region?
Abbas Milhem: Again as I mentioned this before, our policy documents mentioned this a lot you know. Some rely condemnation from the international community against settlement, expansion, or against settlers violence and statements of condemnation don’t stop this army from doing the land of our ancestors. What is needed now, after all this is ‘actions’ on the ground and sanctions against settlers and occupiers and holding them accountable
To impose peace by occupiers who end this occupation. This is the only thing that they can do. First, they should reconsider their values and principles of the so-called human rights, at least those that are nicely written in their constitutions. To abide by these concepts and principles and to act according to these principles. We’re not asking them to be Palestinians. No, we’re asking them to be real Europeans respecting the principles of Europeans as stipulated in their own Constitutions and Human rights law that applies to all.And the only thing that can stop this, are the pressures and sanctions and actions against occupiers. If they really want to see peace prevailing in this area and that is the only thing that would really be beneficial for the Palestiniansbut this will not be achieved by words. Peace can be achieved by actionsand actions need to be taken by the international community.
Vidya Bhushan: Do you think that peace will only be achieved, as the Israeli government feels when they send all people from Gaza to Sinai area.
Abbas Milhem: It will create another cycle of attacks from the Sinai border and from Jordan later. Transferring Palestinians from West Bank or from Gaza, will not solve the problem and will not bring Peace, will not bring security to anybody, because there is no occupied community that can stop the resistance against occupation. Instead from West Bank, they will be fighting from across the board and that would be easier for them, because then they have, you know, support from other countries who can give them weapons and then fight back to Israel. I mean, this will not bring peace.
Vidya Bhushan: Yeah. It will feed only the right-wing elements everywhere, you know, making it a religious issue.
The real answer is to accept that the Palestinian have a right to live with dignity, self-respect, and self-identity as an independent State.
Abbas Milhem: An independent variable state based on a peace agreement that is just unfair without acceptance of the 1994 historic agreement. Now, I mean, the world needs to research by pressuring Israel to accept the rights of Palestinian for determination for freedom, for an independent and viable Palestinian State.
Vidya Bhushan: Thank you my brother Abbas for your well explanatory words. I hope that peace will prevail andPalestinianwill have an independent state, a right to exist and live with dignity and self-respect. We extend our solidarity with the Palestinian people. Obviously, Israel too has the right to exist, as you said, very categorically. We are not denying anybody’s right to not exist. We want everybody to live peacefully together. Historically, you were living in peace together, as we all have read about the Palestine State, the very peaceful coexistence between the Jews, Muslims & Christians all living together.
Our solidarity and good wishes to you, and please keep safe and keep us updated about things happening.