Liebe Leserinnen und Leser,
die neue Zenith gibt es ab sofort im Handel – wie immer mit Beiträgen von uns Sharqisten. Unter anderem haben wir in der neuesten Ausgabe ältere Menschen im Nahen Osten gefragt, wie sie die oft als Revolution der Jugend beschriebenen Umbrüche in der Region bewerten. Mein guter Freund Abu Abed Ahram, geboren 1948 in Jerusalem, konnte im Heft nicht berücksichtigt werden, mit seinen 14 handgeschriebenen Seiten hätte er den Rahmen gesprengt. Auf Alsharq geben wir ihm Raum für seine Gedanken zum sogenannten Arabischen Frühling und zur Situation in Palästina.
Abu Abed, it is often said that the Middle East experienced in 2011 a „Revolution of the Youth“. How do you see what happened in the last 12 months in your region?
When we saw the dictator Ben Ali flee Tunisia we have been overwhelmed with a feeling of joy, hope and exhilaration. The incident triggered nostalgia and memories of the fifties.
The results of the elections in Tunisia were in favour of the Islamists who won the majority of the votes. It seems that the Islamist movement in Tunisiaaccepts the rules of western democracy, the separation of powers in addition to a pluralistic system. They also declared their belief in peaceful means through the ballots.
Was that a single isolated incident or shall it have a domino effect?
Soon after mass demonstrations broke out in Egyptand led, after sacrifices, bloodshed and persistence to the resignation of another dictator, or a pharaoh who has been governing Egypt for over 30 years. The young generation wanted freedom, social justice, dignity and a society where corruption is not rampant. However, the better organized Islamic Brotherhood managed to gain the majority in the elections. That was expected and the rules of democracy should be respected. But also we have the Salafis who represent an extreme version of the Islamic group who unexpectedly came second and said to receive support from circles in the Gulf states. It is thought they were not on bad terms with the old regime. It seems that the young revolutionary forces will not have a say in running Egypt.
The Americans want the coming rulers to honour the Camp David agreements, not to have a relation with Iranand adopt an economic and home policy acceptable to the Western powers. Also they should take into consideration the well being of the Coptic Christian minority.
The Islamists have reached an understanding with the army and have agreed, at this stage, as it seems to accept the American demands. The economy and security have retreated. The gas pipe to Israel has been blown several times but as for the Palestinians Gaza is still under siege. Egypt still needs American aid and the army has an interest in keeping good relations with the USAparticularly regarding the supply of weapons. The relations with Israel will not deteriorate beyond a certain limit.
Then came Libya which represents a rather difficult ball game. It was a flagrant military intervention that destroyed the defenses and army of Gaddafi. This reminds us to what had happened in Iraq. Libya is a major oil exporter and the Western oil companies have secured long term contracts with the country. Moreover reconstruction and arms constructs are on the way.
The Libyans shall pay the price. There is also a definite change in foreign policies towards the Western powers. It seems we have changed a dictator with Western hegemony. Also Libya is no more a united stateas we are witnessing internal conflicts on regional, tribal and religious basis. Lybia shall not have the previous active role in Africa.
In Syriathe demands for freedom, dignity, equality and justice are genuine and justified however things are not limited to democracy. The importance of the outcome stems from the geographic and strategic location of Syria and its political and military alliances. If the result would be similar to what had happened in Iraq then we shall witness a civil war which may last for long time, a disintegration of the army and the state apparatus and finally the partition of Syria. When Iraq was occupied and its army was disbanded Israeland Iranbenefited. The Iraqi people suffered heavy human and material casualties, many became refugees and the country was partitioned. The Western powers along with Arab Gulfstates are already interfering in the struggle over Syria. This investment will have a very high return, a bonanza. From there we can appreciate the reason behind this relentless, persistent zealous efforts to topple the regime. The results of this decisive conflict shall have far reaching consequences on the regional and world level. It shall redraw the strategic scene of the Middle East for years to come. This draws our attention to what American officials termed the new Middle East or the “creation chaos”. While the Arabs are busy with their internal problems Israel seizes this opportunity to pursue unhindered its expansionist policies particularly in Jerusalem. The Palestinians are being weakened and their cause is not high on the agenda.
Did you participate in any protests?
No, we have enough problems.
What was the most decisive/important political event in your life? Why do you consider the event so important?
It was the Arab defeat in June 1967, when Israeloccupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gazain addition to Sinai and the Syrian Golan Heights. Although it had an impact on individuals yet it influenced the life of many. Some Palestinians were naïve to believe that a settlement may soon be reached but the long years of occupation proved the contrary. Whereas the Arabs considered the land occupied territories, Israelis believed that this is part of their ancestral promised land and therefore acted accordingly. They pursued in the West Bank the same policies and practices adapted in 1948; a policy of ethnic cleansing, displacement of Palestinians, land confiscation, annexation and continued expansion of settlements and colonization in a well planned pattern that would prevent the establishment of any future Palestinian state. Time has proven that Israelsucceeded unilaterally in creating facts on the ground. The financial, political and military support of the Western powers enabled Israel to achieve its goals. The pro-Israeli mass media also played an instrumental role in advancing and covering the Israeli practices. As Israelis want a predominantly Jewish state they considered Palestinians a demographic threat. American diplomatic intervention aimed at managing the conflict and giving Israel all the time needed to continue the settlement activities. Israel would only allow Americans to mediate in the conflict while other countries or international forums are strongly excluded. Negotiations therefore lasted for years and years without any real progress. Europeans are invited to contribute financially. Americans declare that in any future settlement Palestinians should take into consideration changes on the ground. The interpretation of such statements means that the settlements should be recognised and shall not be dismantled although, according to international laws, annexation of land and settlement are illegitimate. It sounds ridiculous when Israelis talk of painful concessions.
Why do you consider the event so important?
Back in 1967 the memories of 1948 massacres perpetrated against Palestinians in towns and villages such as Deir Yassin and Ramleh were still fresh. This resulted in a new wave of refugees from the West Bank to Jordan. I recall how Israeli forces encouraged Palestinians to leave by offering them a free trip by bus from Damascus Gate in Jerusalem to the bridges crossing the river Jordan. People who managed to stay miss most of their friends, colleagues and relatives while those who left or happened to be abroad were never allowed to return. New generations have been born and grew under occupation. They never experienced a free life. In order to ensure the security of the Israeli occupation and subjugate the Palestinians coercion was inevitable. Thousands of Palestinians were murdered, detained, subjected to torture and investigation and long years of imprisonment. The reason was to deter suspects and others who may think of resisting. The number of those who have been detained for different periods since 1967 reaches thousands. I do not know the exact figures but the practice is going on and on. Collective punishment such as curfews, checkpoints, movement restrictions are a routine practice. Every aspect of our life is influenced by the Israeli authorities. A powerful tool utilised to control individuals and groups is the identity card system. Before one leaves home he instinctively checks his ID as he may be asked at any moment to prove his identity. No one can go through any of the 500 checkpoints in the West Bank without an ID. With a click of a button a soldier can retrieve needed details relating to any individual including his security record, non-payment of due taxes, traffic fines, municipality dues, et cetera. Even the so-called Palestinians’ authority ID cards and numbers are given by the Israeli minister of interior.
Permits to build a house in Jerusalem, even if one is lucky enough to find available land takes years, tedious administrative procedures and high charges. Building without a municipal permit means running the risk of having your house demolished. Moreover you shall be requested to pay the fees of the bulldozer along with the expenses of the security team monitoring the operation. In other cases you may keep the house but in return you shall pay exorbitant fines for years. It is almost impossible for young couples in Jerusalemto find a house. Jerusalemites who are obliged to live behind the separation wall are not recognised as legal inhabitants. To renew your ID or get a birth certificate for a new born or a 16 year old you should provide all justifying documents proving that you live within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.
Further we can talk about any Palestinian economy. Any economy to grow requires free flows of people and goods. According to the Osloagreement 60 percent of the West Bank is considered area C, where Israel has full security and administrative control. Palestinians cannot build there schools, agricultural installations, cisterns to collect rain water or dig wells. This area is considered a reserve for future settlement expansion. In general land, water, electricity, airspace and communications are under Israeli control. Even areas classified A and B are not beyond the reach of Israel. All these pressures are intended to convince Palestinians to immigrate. Regretfully many Christians left the country. Economic duress, which is not only a result of recession or market factors but due to systematic policies, create social problems such as high rates of divorce, family disintegration, addiction, school drop outs and psychological disorders. Long term gradual pressures including complicated administrative procedures lead to what Palestinians term “silent transfer”. About 50 percent of young people who go abroad to resume their high studies do not return. We are witnessing a steady process where Israel is persistently changing the history, geography history and demography of our land. Every Palestinian is living this bitter experience yet this is not the whole story yet.
What kind of advice would you like to give to the young people?
The young people may not need my advice because they are more brave than our generation. They took the first step towards genuine change. They have broken what is termed the barrier of fear, I hope they are aware enough not to be deceived. Their revolution may be exploited by others or deviated but they know the way. I may tell them not to be disappointed because the road to freedom is not paved with roses.