An outstanding member of Palestinian civil society and a historical supporter of popular resistance against the occupation, Mustafa Barghouti sees the immense popularity in Gaza of the Great March of Return as the new paradigm from which the population and Palestinian political forces will have to take their cue from now on. We interviewed him while reports of dead and injured kept coming in from Gaza.
Blood and politics—Gaza once again demonstrates its centrality for the Palestinian issue.
It was more than just a day of death and pain for which Israel is the sole responsible party. There are two very important points that emerged from the Great March of Return. The first is that today [Saturday] we saw on the ground a concrete demonstration of Palestinian unity. Men, women, boys and girls participated in an initiative that for days the Israelis had labeled as violent, aggressive and threatening, which was simply trying to commemorate the Nakba and Land Day, and to reiterate that the Palestinians will never forget their rights. The only aggression came as Israel deployed tanks, armored vehicles and armed soldiers against unarmed civilians who were demonstrating for their rights and for preserving their historical memory.
The second point is that all Palestinian political groups, including Hamas, have adopted the form of popular nonviolent resistance. In fact, the Islamic movement, going beyond its proclamations and its manifestations of power, understands now that only popular mobilization, a nonviolent one, can achieve the goals that are shared by all Palestinians—beginning with the end of the siege on Gaza. I’m sure we will see more and more demonstrations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with thousands and thousands of people.
Ask the international community to intervene?
Condemning Israel is the bare minimum that is required of what we call the “international community.” Europe, for example, defends human rights and democracy in speeches, but then remains silent in the face of the crimes and abuses committed by Israel. Not a breath is heard from them, and when they do say something, it is only to repeat slogans and sterile formulas that serve no purpose in a deeply altered international and regional situation, in which, moreover, the United States has openly adopted the policy positions of Netanyahu, proclaiming Jerusalem the capital of Israel and disregarding the history of the city and the claims of the Palestinians.
Donald Trump will probably be back in Jerusalem in mid-May, to attend the opening of the US Embassy in the city.
And when he is there, he will have to face the fact that the Palestinians will not give up, and will continue the struggle for their rights, despite having to deal with a very powerful country such as Israel and the world’s only superpower, the US. I am sure that the popular resistance that is being seen right now in Gaza and the West Bank will not only continue until May 15, when Trump should arrive, but go on after that date as well. It will become a mass movement, peaceful but very determined against the occupation. This is the only path we have to resist Israeli oppression and free ourselves from it. All the others have proved to be failures.
Do you think the Palestinian National Authority is on the sidelines, not important for the popular struggle that is expected in the coming weeks?
I’m not saying that, but certainly the PA will have to radically change its strategy and give up his attachment to the 1993 Oslo Accords and the negotiating formula of the last twenty years. No one believes in that any more, and the Netanyahu government is taking advantage of that old framework to continue undisturbed its policies of occupation and colonization. The first thing that the PA will have to do is put an end to the break [with Hamas], because no Palestinian wants it, and no one can tolerate it any longer.