The Daily Life of Kawther Salam

  ..: Speech given at the Parliament Club of the SPö in Wien, Austria :..
February 19, 2003
Note: This speech was delivered at the Parliament Club of the Austrian Socialdemocratic during a panel discussion organized and moderated by Mr. Hannes Swoboda, member of the European Parliament. Mr. Eldad Beck, foreign correspondent in Germany for Yediot Ahronot also participated. What follows is the text of the speech. The actual transcript involving all participants will be posted at some later time.

Good Evening Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel honored to be with you today, I want particularly to thank the European Parliament Member Mr. Hannes Swoboda, and the socialist Party, who provided this opportunity for me, to come and share with you the discussion about "The Conflict in the Middle East". I want also to thank the Austrian government, for granting me political asylum in Wien in a very short time after the occupation threw me out of my homeland in Hebron.

In 1997 during the peace time, the occupational military occupied  the rooftop of my house. On 31 Dec. 2000 they killed my neighbor Nayef Abu Dahood in my house for no reason, and just because he argued with them to stop harassing his wife sexually. On June 2002 the occupation blocked my house, confiscated my press card and threw me out of Hebron because my neighbors, the fanatic occupational settlers don't like my journalistic work, and evacuating me will make them happy.

In the next few minutes I want to give a short brief about the conflict in the Middle East, the current situation in Palestine and Israel since assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Talking about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is difficult, we can't divide the general notion of the Middle East conflict and Americans foreign policy under the new global order toward this conflict. Actually, the U.S wants to change the map and the political history of the conflict in the Middle East. The new global order is based on contradicting standards.  

Let me ask if there is any balance under the U.S foreign policy toward the Middle East? Do both nations, Israelis and Palestinians, have equal rights under the U.S. new global order? Is the current situation in Israel the same as the current situation in the West Bank? Do the U.S. have the power, or the will, to force Israel to respect the U.N. resolutions? Do the U.S. and Israel really want peace in Palestine and the Middle East?

Why do the U.S. and Israel want to isolate Europe from playing an active role in the Middle East, and why do they obstruct their efforts to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a peaceful way ? Does anyone, anywhere in the world, like to continue living under the occupation for 36 years, or as a refugee for over 55 years ?

Without looking very far, it becomes obvious that the answer to these questions is negative.

On April 1995, Yigal Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. This assassination cast a dramatic new light on Arab-Israeli peace talks and Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements. This event was a continuation of  Radicalism in Israel, and it halted the Middle East peace process, and effectively nullified the Oslo agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.

In the West Bank, 7 years after signing of the Oslo agreement and even during the peace time, the Palestinians were living under occupation, and under a military law which incorporates the worst of the British Mandate Law, the Turkish Law, and the Israeli military Law, which are often void of any justice and human considerations whatsoever.

Our dreams of peace and prosperity were evaporated by a bad economy, a high percent of unemployment, the military occupation and the continuous building of Jewish settlements. 63 illegal settlement enclaves were established without permit in the West Bank, 15 only in Hebron and the surrounding areas, and the military  continued confiscating Palestinians lands, demolishing  their homes, opening bypass roads, and stealing the water.

In Hebron, each housing quarter was receiving water for three hours every 60 days, while the settlement were stealing the Palestinians water. This situation caused acute shortage of water and irrigating flowers, and as a result Typhoid and Amoeba contamination related sicknesses were spreading in the southern area of Hebron even before the Intifada as a result of the use of contaminated water.

The curfew and the closures between the Palestinian cities and villages were imposed most of time, preventing the students, doctors, sick people, cancer cases and pregnant women to reach the hospitals for medical treatment in Jerusalem or in the Palestinians areas.

Halemeh Al Alol from Halhol delivered and lost her baby at the Israeli military border at the entrance of Hebron in 1999 after the Israeli soldiers prohibited her to enter the Hebron area under control of the Palestinian Authority and reach the hospital.

The Hebron area H2 under the Israeli control was under curfew for 123 day before the intifada even started. 1500 Palestinian shops were closed in the city of Hebron by military orders before the Intifada. Over 300 official complaints through the Israeli police unit made by Hebronite people after the settlers and the army engaged in stealing their shops during the curfew.

I filed myself 321 official complaints against the IDF soldiers practices and harassment against me between 1997 and 2000. Many complaints were about denying me the right to exercise my journalistic work and sexual harassment by soldiers.

More and more Palestinian owned houses were occupied by the military occupation as a permanent status. Even during the peace time, the military occupation would force the Palestinians to drink their urine. This was documented by the International observers of “TIPH” in their reports about Hebron, and in the Israeli T.V film "Hebron City without Mercy", broadcast on Israeli TV Channel 2.

The army platoons occupying Palestinian house would often engage in harassing the women sexually and raping men, like for example Nazeha Abu Dahood from Hebron, who was harassed sexually in 1997 and who is still a psychological patient, and Khaled Al Nawagah, also from Hebron, who was raped by an officer of a border police unit while on his way back to Yatta village in 1998. These two cases, and many others, were documented through official complaints filed with the Israeli-Palestinian investigation Police unit DCO, as well as in articles published in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, and also in Palestinian newspapers.

These living conditions due to the occupation killed our hope of peace and human feeling. And the Palestinians started the Intifada for one reason only: Stop the Occupation. It must be stated clearly that the Palestinian National Authority did not start the Intifada, and they will not be able to end.

When the Palestinians first rushed to the streets in peaceful demonstrations at the beginning of the Intifada, they were received by an Israeli army shooting at them with live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets, tear gas, and American-made dum-dum bullets, which explode inside the human body causing death or horrible injuries.

According to the International law and many UN resolutions, the occupation is illegal, and it must end without condition.

The Palestinians have every right to fight the occupation, the illegal settlers and military, they have the right to fight for their freedom in any possible way. But no one has the right to kill innocent civilians in Israel, and any such attacks of suicide bombers were always condemned by the majority of the Palestinians, despite living under the the Israeli military occupation, and the continued heavy shelling of our cities and people by the air force.

But everyone should understand that the  suicide bombers come as a result of the occupation, the frustrating situation, and as a personal revenge of what the military occupation did to their families and friends. And as a revenge of military collective assassination in the West Bank and Gaza.

A young person who has their brother killed, the father arrested and possibly his families house demolished by the occupiers will not find any other way to express his anger than to kill himself, hopefully taking some of the enemies with him in the act. The suicide bombers will not inform their families of their decision most of times.

Nowadays, the current Israeli government is not willing to pay the price for peace, after the Israeli right center and the left have spent billions of dollars developing Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sharon is the father of the settlement movement and he is not going to abandon his baby, no matter how high the price for the Palestinians, the Israelis or the world peace. Even before Sharon took office as a prime minister, his strategy was to blame all acts of violence on Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians in order to delegitimize the Palestinian Authority.
Notice that Sharon rejected all peace proposals, even those  coming from Israeli and US circles. Sharon also rejected the peace proposal of the Arab countries which was declared at the Arab Summit in Lebanon last year.

Sharon and the Likud convinced Israelis that this current Intifada is a war that will determine the survival of the State of Israel. And thus the Israelis must rally behind General Sharon who will assure the survival of the Jewish State.

The public propaganda was very influential in convincing the Israeli public that the Prime Minister Barak gave everything to the Palestinians for the sake of peace, and that the Palestinians rejected everything.

In fact there was no real proposal offered by the Prime Minister Barak to President Arafat in Taba. All what happened at that time was that there were some meetings held between the two presidents, Barak and Arafat, for the purpose of testing each other, and what was proposed to Arafat would have denied the Palestinian State viability and Independence by dividing the Palestinian territory into four cantons entirely surrounded and therefore controlled by Israel. Even if President Arafat had accepted President Barak's so-called proposals at that time, the Knesset would most probably have rejected their implementation.

Mr. Sharon knew that all he had to do was to stick with his own beliefs, and everyone would eventually come around. In this way he has managed to take the Palestinian–Israeli conflict hostage.

Actually scrap that, he has managed to take the entire Middle East hostage to his vision of lasting peace, which he implements with the support of every American administration.

US Secretary of State Powell remarked before a national conference of Americans interested in U.S. Foreign policy "they cannot get a State by using violence", and urged Palestinians to halt their terrorism.

Perhaps Powell was not aware of the fact that the primary origin of devastating violence and terror is the occupation, the Jewish settlements, the continued robbery the Palestinian water and lands, the demolishing of their homes, the continuous shelling and killing of Palestinians in their homes, schools, and streets.

The Palestinians are fighting in a way that will bring peace, justice, freedom and Independence. The Israelis are fighting in a way that will continue occupation, building Jewish settlements, cause more killings and continuing the violation of the human rights of Palestinians. The Palestinians are not fighting to crush Israel, but they are fighting so that they will not be crushed by the occupation.

I do not understand how long the U.S will continue supporting the occupation and corrupting the Israeli society, while the conflict solution is very simple, it's just stop the occupation and building the Jewish settlements. And implementing the UN resolution 242, 338.

Declare the Palestinians independence State, and East of Jerusalem it's capital.

Give the refugee the right of self determination.

Release all the Palestinian Political prisoners from the Israeli Jails.

Otherwise, both of nations the Palestinians and the Israelis will continue live in a circle of blood, hate and revenge. And Israel will never achieve security under occupying the West Bank and Gaza