By Eric Walberg
Following is an interview with Canadian university professor Eric Walberg who says the Palestinian intifadas will continue as long as there are Palestinians alive to fight for their rights.
Interview by Omid Tamrabadi
Q: Do you think that protests against the failure of peace talks are the motivation behind the current Intifada?
A: No one on either side takes the endless talks seriously. Netanyahu has made it clear more than once that he has no intention as prime minister of ceding any more settlements or of stopping their expansion. His goal is to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel, to lead the way to destruction of al-Aqsa Mosque and the building on Temple Mount a Jewish temple dedicated to King Solomon. Palestinians have no ‘negotiating’ position, as they were granted a state in 1947 by the UN, which Israel subsequently denied them. They merely trust that the UN will eventually be able to enact the original agreement or convince Israel to negotiate a solution in line with the agreement that allowed Israel to be created in 1947. So the intifadas will continue as long as there are Palestinians alive to fight for their rights.
Q: Please comment on the hypocrisy of western countries, which loudly bemoan every death of a western and/or Israeli citizen and ignore the daily killing of dozens of Palestinians.
A: Yes, western media is hypocritical, marginally concerned when a westerner dies, but oblivious to the daily torture and murder of Palestinians. But the concern for westerners and those with western passports does have some effect. Just two days ago, a Canadian artist of Palestinian origins, Rehab Nazzal, was shot in Bethlehem unprovoked, merely taking pictures which the Israeli conscripts resented. Resented with good reason, for these members of the Israeli Defense Forces were spraying a Palestinian neighborhood with “skunk,” a smelly, nonlethal liquid used for crowd control. So one of them turned around and shot her to teach her who is boss.
Eitan Weiss, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, told the Ottawa Citizen that there was no report of the incident, and that in cases of a non-lethal injury to an individual “it’s very difficult to prove that it ever happened, and it’s very difficult to prove that it didn’t happen.”
Weiss was still fuming because of Nazzal’s exhibition “Invisible” in Ottawa in June, before she went to Bethlehem and was cavalierly shot by his defense forces. “Invisible” was held at the Karsh-Masson Gallery in Ottawa’s City Hall. It did precisely what good art should do — attract wide public attention while provoking thought through arresting images.
Held under the glowering gaze of the ‘Harper government’, the show sparked attacks in both the Senate and the House of Commons, prompted by Israeli ambassador Rafael Barak’s complaint to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. For good measure, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa issued a statement condemning the exhibition and calling for its removal.
To its credit, the city resisted pressure to shut the show down. The exhibit that incensed the Israeli ambassador was “Target” which evoked the daily atmosphere of violence against anonymous, innocent Palestinians. In her Senate speech decrying the mayor and city councilors of Ottawa as “enablers of hate,” Linda Frum demanded that Nazzal include Israeli victims, basically denied Nazzal’s right to honour the victims of Israeli violence, including her brother and the others, shown in the video as martyrs. Frum claimed to “speak on behalf of all decent and peace-loving Canadians who abhor terror as a means to obtain political ends,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that it is Israel itself that is conducting unending terrorist acts with impunity.
In her reply about “Invisible” in the Ottawa Citizen, Rehab Nazzal responded: “The works in ‘Invisible’ are challenging, but they are part of the tradition of critical art. It is through challenging interventions that suppressed subjects can be brought to light. The extra-judicial assassination of Palestinians, the attacks on peaceful Palestinian demonstrations, and the brutal treatment of Palestinian prisoners, these are the central issues raised by the various works in the exhibit.”
Of course, Palestine will not be liberated by art exhibitions alone, but they help. As do Israeli/Zionist attempts to close them, bringing world attention to both the exhibition and the hypocrisy of the critics. Nazzal’s ‘problem’ in Ottawa was that her exhibition was very public, at the heart of the City Hall, unlike previous exhibits of “Target” in Toronto and San Fransisco, at little-frequented art galleries. “Collective memory resurfaces in the interstices of aesthetic culture. In art and music, in theatre and dance, the story of war’s victims is revived,” wrote Michelle Weinroth, defending Nazzal.
With the election of a new government in Ottawa committed to a “nonpartisan” policy in the Middle East under the Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau, Palestinian supporters can now hope for some pressure on Israel. Our voices have some chance of being heard, and our mainstream media will be forced to be more “nonpartisan”. Thousands of Canadians have already written the prime minister and foreign minister to protest the shooting of Nazzal, part of their ongoing commitment to supporting the Paletinian cause. Israeli crimes will not go unrecognized by the government. Efforts to inform Canadians will continue.
Q: Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia cooperate with Israel, even though their official relations are cool. The latest coalition intended to overthrow Syria’s government is led by the US, with Turkey and Saudi Arabia as key players. What is your opinion about this?
A: This coalition is literally a pact among devils. It can only lead to further unnecessary bloodshed. All three have shown incompetence and duplicity concerning the Arab Spring and its aftermath. The only consolation is that their schemes are bound to fail. The only honorable coalition is that of Iran, Russia, Hizbullah and Syria. What is needed, at the very least, is a ‘coalition of the coalitions’ to deal with ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Q: We are at the end of year of 2015, how did you see the Palestinian issue in this year and what is your prediction for 2016?
A: Everything depend on the US. Can it swallow its pride and make peace with Iran (and Russia)? That would be the best way to politely back off its deadly embrace of Israel, but domestic political pressure from both the Zionists and the Evangelicals makes that a tall order.
Sunni anti-Shia sectarianism has weakened the Sunni case everywhere. A ‘New World’ in the region requires reconciliation with Iran in particular, and between Sunni and Shia in general, whether it be in Iraq, Yemen, or Bahrain. US-Saudi acts there show that long-term Sunni dominance and persecution of Shia continues to be behind their unresolved crises. Suddenly, Iran is at the centre of resolving the Middle East nightmares. Even the western mass media can no longer deny this.
Let’s not forget Israel, where there is some open criticism from both left and right, moreso than in the West. The incitement campaign against Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who dared expressing sympathy to Gazans’ suffering, has broken all records of hatred and verbal violence in the Israel mass media. Yes, against the President himself, who is a staunch right-winger and supporter of the settlements. But he finally had enough and decided to speak out.
Another voice of reason is Yair Lapid, the former Israeli finance minister and now a leader of the opposition. Two-stater Lapid, a former television broadcaster, is the head of the Yesh Atidparty (“There is a future”). Lapid argues that Israel must seize the diplomatic initiative with the Palestinians if it is to continue existing as a Jewish-majority democracy. So, in the most optimistic scenario, a shake up in the US, say Donald Trump as president, could be enough to nudge Israel into making peace.
How 2015 changed the world.