Yesterday, the Israeli minister of war Ehud Barak, the Israeli commander of the occupation arrived in Vienna on an official visit as a guest of Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos. The press office at the Austrian Defense Ministry announced the visit only a few days before his arrival.
The news of the visit of Barak to Vienna was not interesting, it shocked the Arab communities, especially the Palestinian community and many Austrian pro- Palestinian groups. They all called for a demo in front of the Austrian Ministry of Defense. They all released statements in which they described their disappointment about the visit of Barak and the invitation by the Austrian government.
Ehud Barak acquired the title of a war criminal all over the world, after the inhuman military invasion to Gaza and dropping tons of forbidden phosphorus among the civilians, which caused the death of more than 1500 Palestinians, most of whom were women, children and civilians, and almost destroying many residential neighborhoods after executing all the members of the families who lived in these areas.
However bitter the visit of Ehud Barak was for me, the practical ethics of my journalistic work forced me to participate and to cover the press conference. After I saw the Austrians soldiers standing in their place to receive the minister, and before I reached the entrance for the journalists, I fell to the ground before the gate. Perhaps this happened to me because of the bitter memories and the painful events which I suffered at the hands of Israeli occupation soldiers. Falling on the ground caused me bruises and pain, but also woke me up from my thoughts and memories.
Inside the defense ministry, I stood before very polite soldiers, press spokespersons who all had good manners and education, as opposed to the aggressive and miserable treatment I remember from the Israeli soldiers, who always humiliated, insulted, abused and searched us with their wild dogs. The press team of the Austrian ministry was all professional, polite and helpful in their dealing with the journalists present at the event.
Opening the Press Conference
Minister Norbert Darabos and Minister Barak came to the press conference. On the right stood Minister Darabos and behind him the flag of Austria, EU flag and Israel. On the left stood Mr. Barak.
Here is the raw transcription of press conference.
Minister Norbert Darabos
Austria has always sought a special role in the middle east. The region is very important to us, and Austria and Europe carry a high degree of moral and political responsibility for the security in the middle East, for a secure of Israel. Because of this we seek since a long time to implement an active policy in the region, and we see ourselves as a balancing force between all peace-seeking actors in the middle East.
Austria is committed 100% to the conclusion which were discussed in the frame of the discussion regarding the situation in the middle east which took place in the EU Council some days ago, insofar as it concerns a two-state solution, the issue of Jerusalem. Austria is 100% committed to the common position of the EU in these issues.
I would like to mention the bilateral conversations in short. In this year we agreed to expand and deepen our cooperation, which takes place on a good basis. I would also like to remind you, that not long ago we sent a military attache to Israel. He is here, among us, Colonel Egger, who fulfills his duties in a very excellent way. This was a political signal, the fact that Austria sent a military attache to Israel.
Minister Ehud Barak Speech, without correction to the grammar?
Thank you for your hospitality, for having us here. I came here to meet with the minister and to deepen and strengthen the good relations which exist between Austria and israel , between relationship but the defense establishments. We have had in the past you know ups and downs in the we are looking now into the future confident that it could and should be moving forward. we decided to establish a working group on defense issues. we signed a MOU and we are looking forward to the future.
our exchange with the minister, the geopolitical situation, the middle east, the opportunities to move forward with peace agreements as well as the challenges facing israel practically the whole world. we see Austria as an important member of the EU and a friendly member now for israel, we especially thank you for sending year after year over decades several of your best youngsters to our border with Syria to help to run the UN operation UNDOF on the only alpine-like peak in israel with snow all over the year. the Austrian youngsters now led by general Inke is a extremely effective representative of the UN and of your people and contributes a lot to this front, and hopeful for future potential of coming, opening ways of understanding each other, we and the Syrians on both sides of the border. basically I shared with the minister our thoughts about the potential opportunities for going to negotiations with the Palestinians and at a certain point with the Syrians, as well as our worries with the looming challenge of Iran, and the immediate challenges of Hezbollah on the north and hamas in the Gaza strip.
i am looking forward to the rest of the visit. today in the hope to see the minister coming back again to israel to see us. thank you.
Q: Mr Minister I would like to ask you – the hamas has announced, they have indicated that they would announce today, would come up with a surprise statement. do you have an idea what this could cover and could it be related to the exchange of prisoners as has been speculated about for a long time?
A – Barak: I can hardly predict what an israeli party, a political party, would have said, and today, if you told me, not even my own party, so you might understand that i can not predict what the hamas have on their minds but if its supposed to happen today then we will know within another 12 hours. i don’t know, i really don’t know.
Q: does israel consider the negotiation path on Iran over closed or close to finish and what is the next step from your countries perspective?
A – Barak: we don’t see, think, that its over. we clearly see that you all can see the Iranian manipulate they are giving contradicting answers, sometimes on the same day from different sources and its never over. they are clearly trying to maneuver, if you have to extrapolate they probably believe that the same like Pakistan could do it generations ago, and north Korea a few years ago. they will always, also will be able to manage through all these obstacles being put by the IAEA or by the world community. but we still believe its time for diplomacy probably tough diplomacy, there is a need for tough sanctions probably based on the chapter 7 of the charter, but clearly something that is well and clearly coordinated to include at least the Americans, the EU, the Chinese, the Russians, the Indians. short of this, it wont be easy. there is a time limit to block them, to sanctions, and we keep telling the truth. we recommend to all players to not remove any options from the table. we do not remove, we see that is not te right way to approach it, but we want to re-emphasize that it is still the right time for diplomacy – it should be decisive, conclusive, tough. sanctions-led diplomacy.
Barak protested and asked the press conference organizer, after he allowed others to ask their questions and ignored my request: “Why do you discriminate against the lady there who wants to ask a question? I was the lady against who is discrimination Barak protested!!!
Barak surprised me in his protest, and because of his interest in letting me ask a question. I thanked him for his protest, but, would Barak have protested if he knew that I was a Palestinian journalist?
Q: What do you expect on part of the EU in the upcoming talks with Iran. How do you see the position of the EU and countries like Austria in these negotiations and in the pressure you have to put on Iran?
A -Barak: I think that Iran is the challenge for the whole world, not only to Israel. I can hardly conceive a non-proliferation regime or any stable world order if you allow Iran nuclear motivate or initiate a nuclear the competition a nuclear kind of Iran or other members of the middle east community single members like Egypt, turkey or Saudi Arabia, they can hardly afford to not being nuclear if Iran … Iran hegemonian intentions vis-a-vis the neighbors especially the gulf states will be kind of more dominant once they turn nuclear if the world will allow them. the very situation of a major oil exporter that sponsors terror in many corners of the middle east, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to an extent the hamas in Gaza is supported by the Iranians.
All these phenomenons together make it quite a disturbing landscape for the whole world we believe. so we believe that everyone should contribute its part to this effort to block them becoming nuclear. it is still possible. my judgment is that if the EU join hands in carrying out the sanctions it will have to with a variety of aspects of the Iranian relationship with the world, it could extremely helpful if European and American as well as other countries, major companies, stop or at least control the nature of their relations with Iran it could be extremely helpful, and of course the wider the front the front the Iranians see in front of them taking them politically to represent the will of the world that they will stop enriching uranium and stop their move toward the military nuclear capacity its the better. so there is clearly a role for the EU on all these aspects.
BARAK: Min ween (from where) ?
KAWTHER: From Hebron. My neigbour was the extremist Baruch Marzel. 1997 your soldiers came and occupied the rooftop of my home. I lived with them for 3 years in a disaster. 2002 they threw me out of my homeland, because I am a journalist.
BARAK: Who, Baruch Marzel?
KAWTHER: No, Your soldiers. On the roof of my house. Your soldiers occupied my home. I lived with your soldiers three years together. They harassed me sexually. All kind of harassment.
I am asking you, when are you getting out of Hebron? 42 years of occupation are enough. Genug ist Genug. (Enough is Enough)!
My second question is for the defense minister.
Austria is a state of law where the human rights, and the international laws are respected. How do you explain, your Excellency, minister Darabos, the visit of Ehud Barak, the Gaza blockader, the Jerusalem blockader, the hospital blockader, to Austria, in contradict to international laws, Austrian laws and constitution? Thank you very much and Tuda Rabah.
Barak gave me (… ) answer, as usual; “we accepted, we did, we protected ourselves and more lies.
A – Barak: I happen to be there when we came to Hebron 43 years ago. And I can still remember what go does there. We were living side by side Jordanian Hashemite kingdom and Egypt, with no any friction for years. We were coerced into this war by a Jordanian attack. We just protected itself, ourselves. So we came there under a joint Arab attack, not the first one it was the second one, I remember the first one even earlier. We were aware of the consequences of this. We are there. We are ready to strike a peace with the Palestinians which will put an end to this abnormality and establish two states, a Palestinian one and an Israeli one living side by side.
I tried ten years ago the prime minister with your then-leader Arafat, trying to reach an agreement. We were ready to go as far as needed on order to achieve it. I found that Arafat was not interested in solving 67, namely the occupation. He wanted to solve 47, the very establishment of the Jewish state.
And that is something that we cannot accept, namely a diplomatic kind of suicide. We are ready even under this government, Netanyahu government, that seems to be a right-wing government.
We are ready to negotiate tomorrow with Abu Mazen all issues including Hebron. we accepted all the previously signed agreements. We accepted, we announced it. We want to see a safe Israel side by side with a viable Palestine. We are still looking for our Palestinian partners to negotiate. I am confident the solution could and should be found that will give the Palestinian people its state to live sided by side with Israel in security and good neighborliness. But there is a need, it takes two to tango, it takes two to negotiate. We are ready and we want to see the Palestinian leaders coming to this very table.
A – DARABOS
There was also a question for me. I already mentioned that at the beginning of the process we are clearly committed to a two-state solution, what means that we are for a viable and democratic Palestinian state, and we as Austrian Republic also believe that this is the best guarantee of security for Israel. We have traditionally had good relations with the Arab states, also in the region, and because of this I also mentioned that we would like to visualize the peace process in so far as we have offered Austria multiple times as a locality where to conduct negotiations. Together with the EU we are supporting the efforts of the USA, the negotiations about the questions, about all the questions including the borders, the question of Jerusalem, the question of the refugees, the question of the security and the question of the water. We also support together with the EU the establishment of a Palestinian state, also in the context of the so-called GSVB, missions in the context of a previously established EU neighborhood. This is what Austria can contribute to a peace process and this is what we will contribute, and we will also maintain this position in the future.
How would you feel if an armed robber raped your home and threw you out of it, then prevented you from entering your city, seeing your mother, family, friends and beloved ones, then stole your dreams, your ambitions, your smile, your prosperity and your work, if he stole everything from you, and then deported you, to live alone in a foreign land? Would you be happy if you saw that thief again, or if you met him in your exile?
What if a murder killed your people, children, women, men, and even the sick and the paralyzed among them, destroyed their lands, their plants and their fields, and then jailed them for a year, a month, a week or even a day in a cage without eating drinking and sleeping? Would you be happy to see this murderer again?