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The Path Ahead for Palestine

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Dennis Bernstein
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Reprinted from Consortium News

Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti
Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti
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The ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland by Israel continues unabated. Israeli forces continue to demolish Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, while they step up the pace of illegal settlement building on the West Bank.

In Gaza, the situation is beyond bleak. It is a major feat even to get fresh water. Thousands of children have been sickened because of this, and are suffering major health defects and learning disabilities as a result. Meanwhile, they are traumatized on a daily basis by the continuing military assaults and constant drone presence on the strip.

Mustafa Barghouti is a physician, activist, politician and General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative. He's been a member of the Palestine Legislative Council and is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO Central Council. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

Dr. Barghouti spoke last week with Flashpoints host Dennis J Bernstein about the future for peace in Palestine and independence for the Palestinian people. Bernstein reached the Palestinian leader at the United Nations.

DB: Welcome Dr. Barghouti. What brings you to the UN?

MB: We had a conference at the UN of 151 parties from all over the world, within the framework of the so-called socialist international. It was a very important platform to present the Palestinian issue. We reached the best resolution ever issued by all these parties supporting the right of the Palestinian people to end the occupation, to have freedom and justice. It calls for the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and to support the immediate end of occupation and all illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, as well as the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, especially the young people, children and the Palestinian elected members of Parliament who are held in Israeli jails.

It was a very good conference inside the United Nations. I hope these resolutions will help advance the Palestinian cause and explain to the world that we are struggling not only for the freedom of the Palestinian people, but also to liberate the Israeli public itself from its own Israeli government which is consolidating a system of occupation, oppression and segregation in the form of an apartheid much worse than what was in South Africa.

DB: In September 2014, following Israel's brutal 51-day massive assault and slaughter [on Gaza], you said, "This inhumanity can't continue. There is only one way out -- to establish a boycott, divestment sanctions (BDS) against Israel in order to dismantle the occupation and this apartheid." Do you still agree that is the only real future for Palestine, and how do you see it unfold?

MB: Palestine agreed to the two-state solution and the PLO recognized Israel while Israel still does not recognize the Palestinian state. Many Palestinians thought that by accepting the two-state solution, which is really unfair, but is a painful compromise that Palestinians can accept, they thought this would end the occupation and that Israel would finally let Palestinians to be free and dignified. Unfortunately it turned out that after 22 years of useless negotiations, these negotiations became a cover for Israeli illegal expansion of settlements and the negotiations became a cover for the destruction of the very last opportunity for two-state solution and peace.

After 22 years, Palestine discovered that the so-called peace process has itself become a substitute for peace. That's why we first need to change the balance of power before we speak about negotiations. The last atrocity in Gaza was the attack of 51 days that took the lives of 2,270 Palestinians, who were 85 percent civilians, including 580 children. This was one last episode of a series of episodes of massacres that have been waged against the Palestinian people.

When we speak about the balance of power, it cannot only happen with the resistance on the ground, which is a non-violent resistance -- it requires an international factor. That is what happened in South Africa. Without the boycott, divestment, sanctions against the system of segregation and apartheid, the South African injustice would not have ended. That's what we are saying today.

BDS is one international instrument to make the Israelis understand that their government is dragging them into a terrible situation. BDS is not against the Israeli people as people, or against Jewish people at all. Many Jewish people are supporting this, including many famous people such as Daniel Barenboim, famous musician, or the great historian, Ilan Pappe, and other very well know Israelis. BDS is not against the Israeli people, but against the Israeli government policy.

As we tell Israeli soldiers when they try to arrest us during non-violent actions, we are not struggling only for the Palestinian people but also to liberate the Israeli people themselves from the system of apartheid. Israelis will not be free from fear and the terrible system of apartheid, until the Palestinians are free from occupation. This is the message. It is very peaceful message, about a very non-violent form of struggle, but also about the determination of the Palestinian people to be free and dignified.

I hope that many Jewish people in the United States will understand that the Israeli government policy is destroying not only the future of the people in the region, but it is also harming the image of Jewish and Israeli people everywhere. It's time for people to understand that Palestinians deserve freedom and justice like everybody else. It's time for people to understand that Palestinians need to be free and will be free. Nothing will break us after 67 years of dispossession and displacement, 48 years of occupation -- the longest in modern history -- and now a system of apartheid and segregation.

All of that will not break our will because we are determined to be free like African-Americans are determined to get their rights in the U.S., the people of Algeria struggled for their freedom, and the American people struggled for their independence. It's the same. People aspire to freedom and nothing can stop that.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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