DATE October 26, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Daoud Kattab discusses the Palestinian view of the
troubles in the Middle East
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Now that the Middle East peace process has broken down, Palestinians and
Israelis are not only disagreeing about the injustices of the past and what
should happen in the future, they disagree about why the peace fell apart.
Later we'll talk with two people who participated in peace talks, Palestinian
Hanan Ashrawi and Israeli Uri Savir, and ask them what it would take to resume
negotiations. We'll start by examining what went wrong. In a few minutes
we'll talk with Israeli journalist David Horovitz.
My first guest is Palestinian journalist Daoud Kattab. He's the director of
the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, and he
directs an educational TV station. He's the co-executive producer of an
Israeli-Palestinian version of "Sesame Street" and the former managing editor
of an English language weekly. Israelis have accused Arafat of not attempting
to stop Palestinian violence; Palestinians say the Israeli army has
overreacted in its use of force. I asked Kattab what he thinks.
Mr. DAOUD KATTAB (Institute of Modern Media, Al-Quds University): Well, I
think we have two problems here. We have a problem which most people don't
understand, is that Palestinians are rebelling, are revolting, against a
foreign military occupation on their own land. So the protests are taking
place in the Palestinian areas, not in Israel, and they are against the
Israeli occupying army, not against the state of Israel. And by international
law, people have a right to rebel and to resist occupation. Now for seven
years Palestinians have been asked to keep quiet, to keep their heads low
because there is a peace process. They have seen no concrete results of the
peace process--their economic situation hasn't improved, their freedom of
movement hasn't changed, and what was offered, finally, in this permanent
status agreement, was not up to the standards and expectations of
Palestinians. So there is frustration.
On the other hand, when Palestinians protested with stones and threw empty
bottles and so on, Israel reacted very violently, which caused the cycle of
violence to be kicked up more, and every time Palestinians were killed on
their own land, defending their own land, there was more protests and the
protests caused more killings and the cycle of violence intensified.
So the Israelis never used batons, they never used shields, they never used
the normal gear that most people do to kind of quell the protests. Instead
they used live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, and later they started
shelling and using helicopters and tanks to shell civilian populations. So
it's not just me, but the Security Council, the European Union and Amnesty
International have all said that Israel has used excessive force in trying to
respond to the Palestinian protests.
GROSS: Do you know any of the young people who have been throwing rocks at
the Israeli military?
Mr. KATTAB: I did a profile a while back, it's called A Profile of a
Palestinian Stone Thrower. You know, they're young people who have
basically been born in times of occupation, and these guys today, you know,
some of them were young kids when the first intifada began. So they are a
people who, like all young people, have lots of hopes in their mind, but they
have been living, some of them--since they were born they haven't been able to
leave their own town because of the closures, because of the bans on movement.
And they have lots of pent-up anger and frustration, and it all comes out in
these protests. And things get worse when some of their buddies get killed or
injured, and they get even more angry.
So the frustration is a big problem here, the lack of feeling that the peace
process is going to produce any concrete results. They are unable to relieve
that in the way that the Israelis are humiliating the Palestinians. And,
again, the biggest problem is the continued killings, because when one gets
killed, there is a funeral for him and there is, you know, more anger and the
cycle gets worse and worse.
GROSS: You were once detained at the Palestinian Authority police station
that was bombed by the Israelis after the murder of two Israeli soldiers.
What were you detained for?
Mr. KATTAB: I run an educational television station, which was broadcasting
live sessions of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and there were some
very hotly debated sessions dealing with corruption in the Palestinian
Authority. And the broadcast of these sessions disgraced some people in the
Palestinian Authority, and they held me for seven days and afterwards I was
released without being charged, or even questioned about it. That's what
GROSS: How did that affect your feelings about the Palestinian Authority's
Mr. KATTAB: I'm not naive in considering the Palestinian Authority to be
dressed in white and, you know, angels from heaven. I do understand that they
have different priorities than I have. Their priority, as they stated, is
more the political process and the independence, and they feel that the issue
of democracy should really take second fiddle. At the time, I felt that that
was not my priorities and I felt that we needed to really build the proper
foundation for a Palestinian state, and therefore there had to be more
democratic and more free, and that's why we did what we did, and we continued
to do what we did even after I was released. Until this day, we continue to
broadcast sessions of the Palestinian Legislative Council. We hold very hotly
debated topics in roundtable programs, and we allow callers to call in and
they say, often, many things that are not very pleasing to the Palestinian
So it's a commitment that I'm strongly holding on to and I believe in, and in
the same tone I believe very much in the right of Palestinians to have an
independent state. So I would say at this very moment the issue of the
conflict with Israel is taking priorities, but our commitment hasn't wavered,
and we continue to believe in the fact that we need the rule of law and
democracy and separation of powers.
GROSS: You're the co-producer of a Palestinian-Israeli version of "Sesame
Street." What's the idea behind this show?
Mr. KATTAB: Again, the show that we produced really took off after the
beginning of the peace process, and our aim was, and still is, to really plant
with children the concepts of tolerance and mutual respect, and to stop the
dehumanizing process that exists today between Palestinian children towards
Israeli and vice versa. And so we try to present to our children a different
version of what Israelis are like, and also in Israel to show them Palestinians
different than what they are stereotyped as.
And we ran a season of shows, and they were successful in the sense that
studies showed that they did help in starting to change perceptions. The road
was, and still is, very long and unfortunately the power of guns and violence
speak much louder than the movements of puppets on television. And so I'm
really concerned that really we cannot do that type of programming with
violence going on outside, because that really drowns whatever words and
sounds of peace there are.
GROSS: So the program is still going on now?
Mr. KATTAB: Well, we shot and broadcast a season. In fact, this week we were
supposed to start negotiating another season with Jordanians and Israelis, but
the violence has postponed all our meetings. So yes, we did run a session and
we basically filmed it and broadcast it, and we were hoping to do a new
GROSS: You teach at a Palestinian university, Al-Quds University in East
Jerusalem. Would you give us a sense of what kinds of discussions and debates
are going on among your students now?
Mr. KATTAB: Unfortunately, the school year has never gotten off to start--it
hasn't started yet. We were supposed to start and the conflict, the protests
and, most important, the Israeli closures of the areas has forbidden students
and teachers from entering. So we're really not able to conduct education.
It's something that I think many of your viewers and listeners don't
understand, is that our whole life is taken upside down. People cannot go to
work, people cannot come to the university, and, you know, every day this
protest continues, it's not very pleasant. It's very, very difficult. But
the frustration is so high, and the feeling of helplessness is so high, that
people just say, `You know, forget it, you know, let's all go out and protest,
because they're not allowing us to go and to move and to conduct normal life.'
So there is really no more--in the last month or so, normal life hasn't
GROSS: How has your life been changed by the clashes between Israelis and
Mr. KATTAB: My life is changed for years, but mostly I'm fighting with my
wife all the time, because she's afraid for me, and I have to balance between
her concerns and my responsibilities. And I'm also concerned about my staff
and the people who go out and film in the night. I'm worried about, you know,
hearing one day that one of my camera people get killed or something. So it's
quite difficult position being an employer and being a husband and a father,
because you have so much responsibilities.
GROSS: Now the TV station that you run is a university-based station, a
Mr. KATTAB: Yes. It's an educational TV station from the university.
GROSS: And is it operating now or is it shut down?
Mr. KATTAB: No, it is operating. It hasn't been shut down.
GROSS: What kind of program are you carrying?
Mr. KATTAB: We have actually recently changed a lot of our programming, as
you can imagine, but two things that we've really tried to concentrate on very
lately which is to really to do a lot more first aid training because people
are--you know, people who are being injured sometimes get killed because of
the way that they are being kind of carried and dealt with on the spot. And
we're doing now a lot more psychological programs for children, because there
is a lot trauma among our children when their homes are being shelled, or
when they're hearing gunfire. So we're bringing psychologists and so on to
answer questions of parents and trying to put people at ease, or try to at
least let them speak their minds so that they don't--you know, because it's
very, very difficult, the emotional status of adults and children. It's
really scary, and we've tried to help with that by doing programs with experts
who can kind of explain to parents on how to deal with such cases.
GROSS: Would you like to see Palestinians and Israelis go back to the
negotiating table and work on a peace agreement again?
Mr. KATTAB: I think every sane Palestinian and Israeli wants negotiations to
take place. The shooting and bombings and stone-throwing, being killed, is
certainly not something that anybody wishes. But I do wish that when the
negotiations are returned, they are returned on the basis of attempting to
find realistic solutions, respecting each other and not trying to use the
weight of power as the basic rule. Instead of might being right, we hope that
right becomes might.
And we have been humiliated so much in the negotiations, because the Israelis
basically say, `We are negotiating with each other,' and they come to the
table basically and make an offer, and and it's a take it or leave it offer,
and they don't really negotiate in good faith in the sense that they give and
take. They only come and they say, `This is the best we can give you, and we
are the powerful side, and you'd better take it, or else, you know, you'll
continue to be under occupation.' And there is enough pride in Palestinians
to say, sometimes, `No,' and that really angers the Israelis. They say the
Palestinians are not being understanding of the Israeli generosity, this
returning land that was taken by force in an illegal way is a kind of a
charity for the Palestinians.
So I think the perceptions, the way the negotiations have taken place has to
change, and I think we really need to have much more respect of each other
for the negotiations to work.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. KATTAB: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: Daoud Kattab directs the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds
University in Jerusalem. He spoke to us from Amman, Jordan.
Coming up, Israeli journalist David Horovitz, editor of The Jerusalem Report.
This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: David Horovitz, editor of The Jerusalem Report,
gives an Israeli look at the collapse of the peace process
TERRY GROSS, host:
My guest, David Horovitz, is the editor of the Israeli news magazine, The
Jerusalem Report. He's lived in Israel since emigrating from England in 1983.
In his new book, "A Little Too Close to God," he writes about what he
describes as the `thrills and panic of a life in Israel.' The panic aspect
has been emphasized by the collapse of the peace process, a process which he
has supported. He's currently visiting the United States. I asked Horovitz
for his interpretation of why the peace fell apart.
Mr. DAVID HOROVITZ (Editor, The Jerusalem Report): I have to say that I'm
amazed by the number of people who are willing to speak in certainties and
have those certainties sort of overturn a couple of days later. And I think
it's foolish to try and draw firm conclusions, but the sense on the Israeli
side is that with all the Palestinian claims of exaggerated Israeli response
and allegation that this is some kind of Machiavellian exit strategy by
Israel, it really does seem as though it was Yasser Arafat who basically
wimped out, who had spent all these years telling his people that they were
going to get everything that they were aspiring to, and then when he was
presented with an opportunity for a compromise that I think both sides would
have been rather unhappy with, but I think both sides could have lived with,
he felt unable to do it. I assume he thought that people would kill him, but
he was the guy who was always talking about the `peace of the braves,' as he
put it. Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by his own people for doing something that
some of the far right of Israeli politics thought was unthinkable, and maybe
Yasser Arafat would have been putting his life at stake.
But he would have been getting a state in partnership with Israel on almost
all of the territory that the Palestinians had sought from the prime minister
who was offering to share Jerusalem with them. So I think the Israelis really
cannot be faulted for what they were offering, and it does seem to me as
though for Yasser Arafat, this has been a way out.
GROSS: Let's look at some of the alternative political scenarios now in
Israel. Barak is considering trying to form a coalition government with Ariel
Sharon. Sharon is a hard-liner against peace. Why does Barak feel like he
needs to consider this coalition with Sharon?
Mr. HOROVITZ: Well, first of all, Sharon would bridle at the notion that he
is against peace. He would say that he is against making compromises to
Yasser Arafat, because he never thought that Yasser Arafat's heart was in it,
and I imagine that Mr. Sharon, along with many of the Israeli right, are
feeling, along with anxiety, a sense of vindication.
But for Barak, now, he has a real problem. He's going to be voted out of
office in a matter of days unless he puts together a new coalition. Remember,
he was trundling along fairly happily, by Israeli political standards, until
about three months ago when he accepted President Clinton's invitation and
came up to Camp David and offered to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians.
Now when he went to Camp David, his majority coalition fell apart. His
partners deserted him. These were, on the whole, the Orthodox and
ultra-Orthodox religious parties in Israel. They were unhappy with the
concessions that he was getting ready to make, and they left him at the head
of a minority coalition, which would have meant that if he had reached this
treaty with Yasser Arafat, he would then have gone back to the public and
said, you know, `I've lost my majority here in parliament, they've voted me
out of office, but I've signed this peace deal, and I hope you'll now re-elect
me with a nice strong majority and I'll be able to implement this peace
Well, of course that fell apart. The irony now is that because he tried so
hard to make peace, his coalition fell apart, and to survive in power now he
needs to attract new coalition partners, and the most obvious partner is the
Likud, the other large--relatively large party in Israeli politics.
GROSS: Palestinian leaders have said that if Sharon was in a coalition
government, the Palestinians would be unable to negotiate with the Israelis
because Sharon is such a hated figure, he led the invasion--the Israeli
invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the invasion in which there were massacres in
Palestinian refugee camps.
Mr. HOROVITZ: Yeah, Ariel Sharon is definitely not the most beloved Israeli
politician in the Arab world. The trouble is that it seems sometimes to me
that the Palestinians never told their people that Ariel Sharon wasn't the
Israeli prime minister. And I don't think they ever told their people that
the man who Israel did elect as prime minister last year was offering to work
with them toward statehood. I think if Ehud Barak had gone up on Temple Mount
a month ago and started talking about how dreadful it was that there were
these mosques up there, then you might understand why there would be this
But first of all, it was the leader of the opposition, the party whose
policies Israeli voters rejected last year who went up there. And second of
all, he didn't say anything particularly provocative. This visit, even if it
upset, angered the Palestinians simply by virtue of Mr. Sharon being Mr.
Sharon, need not have sparked all the senseless, stupid killing that we've
seen in the last month. And need not have pushed Mr. Barak to the point
where he is now trying to keep together a very disillusioned Israeli public,
trying to keep his country in some kind of unified mode. And being forced to
seek out political support from the people whose overall policies he was
GROSS: David Horovitz will be back in the second half of the show. He's the
editor of the Israeli news magazine, The Jerusalem Report and author of the
new memoir, "A Little Too Close to God."
I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music; credits)
GROSS: Coming up, more on why the peace process fell apart and what it would
take to resume negotiations. We'll talk with Hanan Ashrawi, a former member
of the Palestinian delegation to the peace process, and Uri Savir, Israel's
representative to the secret Oslo peace talks.
And we continue our interview with Israeli journalist David Horovitz.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
We're talking to Israelis and Palestinians today about the breakdown of the
peace process and what it would take to resume negotiations. Let's get back
to our interview with David Horovitz, editor of the Israeli news magazine The
Jerusalem Report, and author of the new memoir "A Little Too Close to God:
The Thrills and Panic of a Life in Israel."
As someone who favors the peace process, is this very frustrating to you to
see political leaders who are not in favor of the peace process poised to
Mr. HOROVITZ: It's very frustrating, but it's not as though I feel that the
Israeli electorate has walked away from this process, and in a sense there's
nothing much that Israel can do about this now. I still think that if--I
mean, these clashes that are continuing on a daily basis involve a great
imbalance in the death toll, and I think many people understandably are
focused on that and draw conclusions from that. But I'm not sure the
conclusions they draw are correct, because in every case that I know about,
certainly in almost every case, Israel has responded to attack. And in the
one or two cases where it's alleged that individual Israelis have initiated
attacks on Palestinians, well, the Israeli authorities have moved to arrest
these people. Israel, I am absolutely convinced, has no desire in seeing this
GROSS: You know, the charge that Palestinians and other Arab leaders are
leveling at Israel is that it's overreacted in its use of violence, that when
people are throwing stones at the military, the military try a lesser form of
retaliation than shooting and shooting to kill. What's your response to that?
Mr. HOROVITZ: Well, I feel that I'm no qualified 'cause I'm not out there on
the front lines to say that this or that incident surely they could've
resolved it without resorting to whatever use of force they did use. I think
it's fair if you look at the first two Fridays of this violence, that Sharon
went to the Haram el-Sharif, the Temple Mount, on the Thursday, the following
day, Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount were met with a fairly strong
response by Israeli police, and I think there were seven people killed that
A week later, in a really desperate effort to ensure that didn't happen again,
the Israeli authorities actually abandoned the Temple Mount during Friday
prayers, and there were indeed clashes beyond that particular area, but no
bloodshed on the Temple Mount itself. And it may be that somewhere between
those two types of police deployment, the very strong presence the first
Friday and the non-presence the following Friday may be, if there'd been more
sensitive policing on that first Friday, some of this bloodshed might have
But I think it's very hard to second guess people. I would stress--I've heard
it being said many, many times in the last few weeks, and I've shared
interviews with Palestinian journalists who've said the bullets are only
flying one way. That's not the case. The bullets are flying both ways and
there are some very cynical youths, young protesters who are incited to go out
by the Palestinian media, who are told by the Palestinian media and their
leadership that there is no hope, that the Israelis are just relentlessly
brutal, who I don't think were ever told that there was an Israeli government
that was working toward statehood with them. These people are out there on
the street, they're protesting, and from within their ranks are the occasional
people firing, and they are what is attracting the gunfire back.
GROSS: In your book you write that, `although it would be comfortable to
place all the blame for our woes on the other side, we have often been as
pigheaded and racist and proprietary as they are, if not more so.' I'm
wondering if you can give us an example of what you were talking about there
and also if you think that that kind of Israeli pigheadedness and Israeli
racism is responsible in part for the current breakdown in peace?
Mr. HOROVITZ: Well, I have to say that the section you quoted, as in fact the
whole book was, in fact, you know, written obviously before this particular
outbreak of violence. I think in the past Israel has probably missed
opportunities to move forward more rapidly. I think when one wants--when the
time finally comes to take a step back from this descent into violence and
start trying to understand why it happened, there may be people who feel that
the whole process moved too slowly and that there were interruptions that if
they had been avoided might have meant that people lost less faith and became
less disillusioned and perhaps benefited more quickly from the process, and it
might've come to fruition more successfully.
But I must say I think that Israel has actually matured in the last few years.
Matured to the point where when Barak went off to Camp David in the summer and
for the first time--I mean, there were taboos broken in those talks that the
Israeli public I don't think dreamed would be broken. I mean, it may be that
for Yasser Arafat, the notion of merely having some kind of control in East
Jerusalem and merely having some kind of control in the old city and merely
having to settle for something less than full sovereignty on the Temple Mount
was not good enough, but I have to tell you, for the Israeli consensus, the
Israeli public, the notion that a prime minister would be willing to negotiate
a relinquishing of sovereignty in East Jerusalem, some kind of relinquishing
of sovereignty in the old city, it was unthinkable until three months ago.
And yet Barak went off to Camp David and he put proposals on the table that he
probably had no guarantee the Israeli public would ever support, but the
Israeli public did not immediately erupt in a hysteria of opposition when he
came back from Camp David without a peace treaty, it should be said, without
having achieved success despite having proposed those kinds of compromises.
The public did not erupt. So I can't fault the Israeli public at this stage,
and like I say, I wouldn't fault the left, thoroughly disillusioned by what
has happened now, they are not willing to endorse those kinds of compromises
certainly for the foreseeable future, for the near future.
GROSS: Well, David Horovitz, I want to thank you very much for talking with
Mr. HOROVITZ: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: David Horovitz is the editor of the Israeli news magazine The
Jerusalem Report and author of the new memoir about life in Israel, "A Little
Too Close to God."
Coming up, we talk with Hanan Ashrawi, former spokesperson of the Palestinian
delegation to the peace talks.
This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Hanan Ashrawi discusses the continuing violence in the
Middle East and the prospects for peace
TERRY GROSS, host:
Yesterday the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution
expressing support for Israel and condemning Yasser Arafat and other
Palestinian leaders for encouraging the violence, ending in the senseless loss
of life. Hanan Ashrawi told me she considers this a cynical manipulation of
the pain of the Palestinian people for the sake of votes and campaign funds.
Hanan Ashrawi was the official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to
the Middle East peace process from 1991 to '93. She now serves on the
Palestine National Council and is the founder and secretary-general of the
Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.
She's currently visiting the United States. This morning I asked for her
interpretation of why the peace process has fallen apart and why Palestinians
are so disillusioned by the way it had been going.
Ms. HANAN ASHRAWI (Former Palestinian Spokesperson): Well, in the first
place, I think the Israelis did not make the transition, the sort of
qualitative shift in the mind-set and mentalities that they have a peace
partner and not a people under occupation. The mentality of occupation is one
that distorts extremely the sort of view of the other and the mind-set of the
self were implicit in the thinking if not explicit. It's a racist paradigm of
having an almost God-given gift to enslave a whole nation, to dictate to the
other side, to intimidate the other side, to continue with the policies of
occupation even under the guise of the peace process. So we ended up with
more settlements being built, more land being confiscated, a state of siege
continuing, the closures continuing. They were never lifted. So people said
that this is the peace process? What do we need--you know, what is it like
when there is war? That's one thing.
And this sort of patronizing attitude that `we can do whatever we want to you
as Palestinians with impunity, without accountability or intervention.' So
people were saying, `What's the use of signing agreements if they're not
honored, if they're constantly modified, if the US constantly bails Israel out
and allows Israel to wreak havoc with the peace process?'
GROSS: What would it take, do you think, for Palestinians to go back to the
Ms. ASHRAWI: Well, right now we need a real period of taking stock, of
assessment. It's not that we're not going back to the negotiating table.
Israel has suspended the peace process and Israel in a sense has destroyed its
very substance, its very reality. To us it's not--unlike Israel and the US,
we're not interested in the process per se. It's not an objective. We're
interested in peace. That's our objective. The Americans seem to think that
so long as there's a process, everything's fine and Israel is free to do
whatever it wants provided people talk. That's not the issue. People may
talk for years, say the wrong things, achieve no results, reach no conclusions
or agreements. So we need to be able to intervene to change conditions on the
ground, not just talks.
GROSS: What's your reaction to the feeling that Yasser Arafat should have
done more, should be doing more to calm things down and stop the violence?
Ms. ASHRAWI: I think they have--it's a bit--I think they're a bit confused.
It's the Israelis who are the occupying power, the Israelis who are in control
of every aspect of our reality. It's the Israelis who are shooting to kill,
who have Apache helicopters and Cobra fighter gunships, and it's the Israelis
who use tanks against civilians and who use high-velocity bullets and live
ammunition with our children as target practice. That's where you issue
orders to unarm. You tell the occupation army that should be disciplined and
regimented to withdraw, not to continue the siege, not to shoot at children,
not to use live ammunition. That's where the violence is coming from.
It's not as if we're two separate states sort of fighting each other with two
armies. You have a besieged civilian population that is made subject to the
most useless type of military occupation, and then you tell the victims that
they have to sit back and die quietly and accept any kind of punitive measure
and accept the siege and accept the theft, the outright theft of their land
and their children and not to protest, otherwise they'll be called violent.
GROSS: I think a lot of people are wondering, a lot of Israelis and other
people around the world are wondering why are teen-agers, why are children
throwing rocks at armed military. It's an act of provocation when you throw
Ms. ASHRAWI: Act of provocation?
GROSS: Well, I mean, when you throw rocks at our military, you're gonna
expect them to do something.
Ms. ASHRAWI: Yeah, but your military is on your land. The military that's on
our land is an occupation army. We don't have weapons. We don't have an
army. I was part of the earlier intifada. I was part of the underground
leadership. And we came out, and we faced the army. We were entirely
unarmed. We were shot at. We were beaten up. We were imprisoned. We were
detained. And we faced this because it's our land and we want to be free.
Very simply, you never call a people who face the army of occupation as being
provocative and resist occupation.
Two, the official conventional wisdom of the American media--that's why I'm
very happy to be talking to you on NPR--has generally turned around and blamed
the victim, and not only that, but gave themselves the right to adopt the
Israeli version, not at a discourse, wholesale, without even critical thinking
or distance. And the worst part; the most horrific part is that they gave
themselves the right to rob us of our most common sense of decency and
humanity by accusing us of not having any feelings for our children; as though
we send our children out. In all places in the world, it's the younger
generation that comes out; that speaks out; that resists; that says, `This is
it. This is a popular revolt against oppression, against discrimination,
against injustice. We are making ourselves heard.' We are facing an
armed--the strongest army in the region; the fourth strongest army in the
Entirely unarmed (technical difficulties) we want to be free. And you let go
of us and leave our land. This is basically the message: freedom, dignity,
independence and the humanization of the Palestinians.
GROSS: At the latest round of peace talks before things fell apart, Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Barak had, in the last of the Israeli offers, offered to
give back more than 90 percent of...
Ms. ASHRAWI: Eighty-nine percent, actually, the offer.
GROSS: And that was seen in Israel as an offer that even went beyond what the
Israeli public was willing to stand behind and, you know, Barak was seen, by
Israeli standards, going pretty far in what he was offering. And that's where
things fell apart.
Ms. ASHRAWI: Yeah.
GROSS: Why did that have such a negative reaction among Palestinians when in
Israel it was seen as, you know, going further than was expected?
Ms. ASHRAWI: Well, because, first of all, we went to the peace process to
get back 22 percent of Palestine, that was occupied in 1967. And because a
Palestinian state is an essential requirement for peace, it has to be viable,
it has to be democratic, it has to have its own territorial integrity. So
here we get Barak going to Camp David, saying, `Well, we'll give you'--and
`we'll give you' in a very patronizing--`about 89 percent of your land,
between 88 and 90 percent. We will maintain settlements. We will annex three
blocks of your land settlement blocks. We will keep Israeli settlers in
Palestine. We will keep Jerusalem but we will give you administrative
responsibility.' Typical of white man's burden, recolonization attitude.
`We know what's good for you. What we're giving you, we're giving you in a
And they couldn't understand and perhaps they're not ready for it. Maybe even
Israeli public opinion is not ready--that we have given them an historical
opportunity for peace and for legitimacy on the basis of a two-state solution.
As they continue to bless that divide, if they continue to want to acquire
land, we're not going to disappear as a people.
GROSS: As a result of the peace process falling apart, Israeli Prime
Minister Barak looks like he will either form a coalition government with
Ariel Sharon, who is opposed to the peace process...
Ms. ASHRAWI: Oh, yeah.
GROSS: ...or the Barak government will likely dissolve when the parliament
Ms. ASHRAWI: Yeah.
GROSS: ...and be replaced by a conservative government that is likely to be
opposed to the peace process. How do you feel about the likelihood that
there'll either be a coalition government with Sharon in it or a conservative
government that is anti-peace process? Do you think that that will make
things more difficult for your cause?
Ms. ASHRAWI: Of course, it'll make things more difficult for us. Barak has
already put the peace process on hold. He's already shelling and killing
Palestinians, his army is doing this, to prove to the right wing that they can
be just as hawkish and as bloodthirsty as the right. And this, to me, is
extremely painful and ironic that any government in Israel tries to gain its
credentials by killing more Palestinians than the previous government to show
that they have a strong hand--and to show that they're powerful militaristic
GROSS: So do you think that you're no worse off with a government that was,
say, led by Netanyahu, who's opposed to the peace process, or a coalition
government with Sharon than you'd be with Barak's government?
Ms. ASHRAWI: Well, there's one difference. I think the Likud, the right wing,
is subject to some kind of international scrutiny while the Barak and his
people have never been held accountable. They have the A-priority blessings
of the world as though they can be guilty of no sin and no evil. The right
wing is scrutinized more carefully than Barak and his government. They do not
have a sort of forgiveness ahead of time for everything that they've done or
might do. That's one.
But two, of course, in a sense, it will bring out into the open the essential
policies of what's been happening on the ground. Of course, it will make
peace that much more difficult. But peace has not been easy and we've paid a
very heavy price for this process and for the interim phase. So it means we
will be continuing to pay that price as Palestinians. The American Congress
once again will adopt more resolutions against the Palestinians. The
(unintelligible) administrations will deal with the process and not with
reality. And we will be locked into this dance macabre and I call that, the
fatal embrace. We must not continue this.
GROSS: Hanan Ashrawi, thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. ASHRAWI: You're most welcome. My pleasure.
GROSS: Hanan Ashrawi is the former spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation
to the Middle East peace talks. She's the founder of the Palestinian
Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.
Coming up, Israeli's former negotiator with the Palestinians, Uri Savir. This
is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Uri Savir talks about the crisis in the Middle East
TERRY GROSS, host:
We end today's show on the crisis in the Middle East peace process with Uri
Savir. He was the first Israeli official to negotiate with the PLO. He
was Israel's representative at the secret peace talks in Oslo that led to the
peace agreement and remained Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians
until 1996. We caught him in Israel. He says the peace process can still be
saved. I asked him how.
Mr. URI SAVIR (Director General, Peres Center for Peace): It must be clear to
both leaders, but definitely also to Mr. Arafat, that you cannot have a peace
process and a consensus within your society at the same time. Arafat, who is
much more in the nation building process than us, must confront his own
opposition and say, `This is the road I decided to take with my partners
(unintelligible) in Paris. This is the road I'm going to stick to. It may
cost us some compromises. But we have a deal that is better than anything
that balance can give us.' And basically confront a large opposition. And
the same is true for Prime Minister Barak. I think that he has to oppose the
opposition to peace here which has unfortunately grown very much. And Mr.
Arafat has not helped the situation in his deed and in his words. So see,
really the rescue, is first of all, in a strategic decision to confront
The second step, with the halt of the violence also, there needs to be an
immediate dialogue. Now I was also big believer in direct bilateral
negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. I know that many believe in
enlarging now the umbrella and to bring in the United States and Russia and
the Security Council and the G7 and what have you. This was the problem with
the process in the last five years--four years. In contrast to the years
where I was involved where we negotiated directly, we also built trust. And
the trust is now lacking and there's no way that the third side can create
that trust. Therefore the leaders have to meet, negotiators have to meet,
security people have to meet and rescue the security situation force, avoid
terrorism that would be catastrophic, in the interest of Iran and others, and
negotiate from the point where negotiations have stopped. At Camp David, we
were not so far from a really historical agreement.
GROSS: I'm gonna ask you this because you helped to negotiate the Oslo peace
accord. Do you think that the Israelis and the Palestinians have each upheld
their part of the bargain?
Mr. SAVIR: No. Many of the articles were not implemented. But until a
month ago, most of the things that were not upheld were somehow done in
agreement. The Palestinians will find you 100, 200 reasons for frustrations
and as to why violence broke out. And I'm not judging now these frustrations,
although I certainly could and tell you what the Israeli frustrations are. I
think those who feel frustrated and who are legitimizing violence, even if
they understand it, make an historical mistake because there's no way the
Palestinians are going to find the future that I hope for them that they
obviously deserve, which is a future of freedom, of an independent state, of a
viable state, unless they're going to convince Israeli public opinion of their
What they're doing right now is losing credibility by the day. So some may
say on the Palestinian side this is injust and they blame us until their face
is blue. This won't help. Israel knows how to create nation building against
all odds. And we don't--neither of us lives in a fair world. And so you can
either complain about each other or do the wise thing, and the wise thing is
to call for the end of violence and to call for negotiations and to understand
for the Palestinians, that Israel is there to stay and that only by convincing
Israel and Israelis will there be, not only a Palestinian state, but also a
state that may be different from their neighbors in the Arab world and move
hopefully towards democracy where frustrations can be...
GROSS: Are you saying that...
Mr. SAVIR: ...expressed in a different way.
GROSS: Are you saying that you think it's counterproductive to look at the
past and to even look at the events that have led to this current crisis and
Mr. SAVIR: We don't have time for that right now. We can do it later. I
tell you, we've all made mistakes but I think fundamentally there's a much
deeper problem. We need in this peace process, to put much greater emphasis
on what is called to the peace building, which is to create much more
cooperation between former enemies, to develop social-economic policies where
the peace dividends don't fall only to the elite and to the rich and to the
politicians. But go from the bottom up so people see that they have something
to gain out of peace. And there needs to be a global effort by where
you--there is funding, not just for security and aid, for which we have tens
of billions of dollars, but there's no direct funding to peace. And direct
funding to peace to me means funding of cooperative projects on a very large
scale. And only if people feel involved in the peace process will peace be
sustainable. And we will not have these violent eruptions. If it's in South
Africa, Bosnia, or now in the Middle East.
GROSS: Are you concerned that your own government might not want to continue
peace talks if Barak is voted out of government and a hard-liner comes in or
if Barak forms a coalition government with Ariel Sharon?
Mr. SAVIR: I'm totally opposed to a coalition government and I'm still a
member of Knesset and have announced together with a political partner of
mine, member of Knesset, Dalia Rabin the daughter of late Prime Minister
Rabin, that we would very probably leave the coalition if the Likud joins
because it really will make the peace process very difficult. And we're
obviously taking political risk. But I would like to at the same time see
Palestinians to take similar kind of risks and are telling Yasser Arafat to
put an end to this and to begin negotiations.
Look, at the end of the day, we'll be back at the table with the same
proposals, with the same compromise. And what I do hope for and I'm trying to
work for through my own contacts with the Palestinian Authority is that we'll
not have to bury too many dead on both sides, that is almost the only open
question. And I also think that there has been too much propaganda war and
everybody now is climbing on trees and accusing each other. So what if I
convince you that my case is more right or Hanan Ashrawi convinces you that
her case is more right? At the end we should convince each other how to
co-exist here because both of us are here to stay and both of us are who we
are and will not change.
GROSS: Uri Savir, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. SAVIR: Thank you very much.
GROSS: Uri Savir was Israel's representative at the 1993 secret peace talks
in Oslo that led to the peace agreement. He spoke to us from Israel.
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