After Hamas’s electoral triumph, Palestinians are in the news again, with thousands of them demonstrating against Denmark and European countries for publishing cartoons that they say depicts the Prophet Muhammad in an unfavourable light.
Last week armed Palestinian groups briefly surrounded a European Union office in Ramallah.
Aziz Duwaik, professor of urban planning at the Najah University of Nablus, won a parliamentary seat in the recent Palestinian legislative elections. His Change and Reform (Hamas) list won all nine contested seats in the southern West Bank town of Hebron at the district level, defeating the dominant Fatah party. Aljazeera.net spoke with Duwaik at his Hebron home. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Aljazeera.net: Why have Palestinians been so strongly protesting against the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad?
Duwaik: These cartoons have been insulting to our religion and injurious to our feelings. They were meant to insult, provoke and offend Muslims. And they have succeeded. I call on the government of Denmark and the people of Denmark and the rest of Europe to stop insulting other people in the guise of press freedom.
We respect press freedom, but ridiculing and besmirching our religious symbols is not press freedom. There is a conspicuous malicious intent here, and people’s right not to be insulted and offended overrides a Danish newspaper’s right to insult the prophet of Islam. Besides, we are living in a global village now, and we should respect each other.People in Europe value their liberties …And we value our religion and our prophet (peace be upon him). Press freedom is a great ideal. However, could one argue that Hitler and the Nazis were practising their freedom prior to the Holocaust? We know the Holocaust started with cartoons like this against Jews, and with books like Mein Kampf, and then came Kristallnacht … and then we know what happened.
These cartoons are a reflection of rampant Islamophobia in Europe, which is very similar and nearly as virulent as the anti-Semitism that existed in Europe, especially in Germany, prior to World War II. This anti-Semitism eventually led to the Holocaust and the deaths of millions of human beings.
You see, when you send out thousands of hate messages against a certain ethnic or religious community every day, you make people hate these people, and when mass hatred reaches a certain point, nobody would object to the physical extermination of the hated community when it happens.
Do you fear a Holocaust against Muslims similar to what happened to the Jews?
Why not? The Holocaust was committed by human beings, not by citizens of another planet, and Germany, where Nazism thrived, was probably the most culturally advanced European country in the 1930s and 1940s.
But Europe is now democratic, unlike Nazi Germany?
Yes, but who told you those democracies don’t commit genocide? America is a democracy, but we saw recently how this democracy invaded and destroyed two small and weak countries based on lies, while most Americans were duped into believing that Bush was doing the right thing.
Let’s talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Do you still want to destroy Israel?
You are asking the victims of Israeli oppression, occupation and racism if they are interested in destroying their oppressors and tormentors? This is a tendentious question that should be asked to Israel, which is occupying our country and oppressing our people and carrying out ethnic cleansing against us.
In fact, all that we want is to be free. Is freedom for the Palestinian people tantamount to destruction of Israel?
Are you not are evading the question?
I am not evading anything; it is you who is evading and ignoring reality here. Just take a look and see for yourself who is destroying whom, who is stealing whose land, who is savaging and persecuting and brutalising whose people, and who is practising ethnic cleansing and slow-motion genocide against the other.
But the question remains, how can Israel possibly talk with Hamas as long as Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist?
Why on earth should we recognise Israel while Israel refuses to recognise Palestine? Indeed, we can’t understand why the international community, strangely enough including some Arab leaders, is demanding that we recognise Israel but making no similar demands on Israel that it ought to recognise Palestine.
But Israel is a reality while Palestine is not.
Palestine is also a reality There are nearly five million Palestinians living in Palestine and these people have an inherent right to self-determination Do you think that we are children of a lesser God or something?
Israel has recognised the PLO and said it will accept President Bush’s vision which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state that would live in peace alongside Israel?
The important thing is not what Israel says but what Israel does. Israel has built hundreds of Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank and transferred hundreds of thousands of its citizen to the occupied territories. This alone shows the mendacity of its claims regarding Palestinian statehood.
Are you implying that the creation of a Palestinian state is no longer possible or realistic?
Precisely. Israel has effectively killed all prospects of a genuine and viable Palestinian
state in the West Bank. In a nutshell, there is no room left for a true and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. The implanting of so many Jewish colonies has made the creation of such a state utterly impossible.
Will you be willing to negotiate with Israel?
Negotiation in itself is not the issue. The issue is our rights as human beings and as a nation. If Israel is willing and ready to come to terms with our human, civil and political rights, then we can negotiate, otherwise we will not allow ourselves to repeat the same failed process of the past 10 years all over again. We maybe weak politically, but we certainly are not stupid.
The Oslo process was not a peace process. It was a process of deception and cheating and lies which enabled Israel to truncate our homeland with settlements and separation walls and roadblocks and closed military zones. We will not deceive our people as the Palestinian Authority did for 10 years.
Will you form a government of national unity, a government of technocrats, or a Hamas government?
We certainly prefer a government of national unity which we think would best serve the interests of our people. I believe that eventually Fatah will join the government.
But Fatah leaders have ruled out joining a Hamas-led government?
These statements by some Fatah leaders are mostly post-election reflexes; we understand how our brothers in Fatah feel after their electoral defeat. But I am sure that eventually some Fatah leaders will join the government.
What would you say to Palestinian Christians, some of whom might be worried about the aftermath of Hamas’ election victory?
I think if these fears are real, and I don’t think they are, they must be phobic in nature. The Christians of Palestine are our brothers, compatriots and countrymen. We are languishing under the same occupation and experiencing the same pain and suffering, hence it would be preposterous to even contemplate harming or even hurting these people.