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Friday, November 7, 2003 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: "Bush is a Dangerous...
2003-11-07

"The Violations of Human Rights by the Israeli Army is Unprecedented"–Mustafa Barghouti Discusses the Occupation of Palestine

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As a UN committee monitoring human rights abuses of Palestinians concludes that the situation in the Occupied Territories was the worst ever last year we speak with renowned Palestinian Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative. [Includes transcript]

Click here to read to full transcript A 10-year-old Palestinian boy and three militants were killed in the Gaza Strip today. In separate incidents, the boy was killed by an Israeli tank shell while three other Palestinians were killed in clashes with IDF troops.

This comes as a UN committee monitoring human rights abuses of Palestinians has concluded after 35 years of investigations that the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank was the worst ever last year.

The Chairman of the Special Committee Investigating Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories, Ambassador Chitambaranathan Mahendran of Sri Lanka, told Inter Press Service that Palestinians did not only see their freedom of movement and residence severely restricted through curfews, road closures and checkpoints, but also their economic, social and cultural rights were harshly violated and undermined.

The committee, which has never been permitted to enter the occupied territories, has been forced to hold sittings in Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

Mahendran also said construction of the wall also violates various provisions of international law and entails other illegal activities, such as confiscation of land and demolition of houses.

This weekend tens of thousands of people will mobilize for the International Day Against the Wall. The day declared by the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign in Palestine is gathering major momentum as cities across Europe, Canada, the US, Latin America, and Australia are joining in solidarity with the popular Palestinian mobilization that is to take place on November 9, the date of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN We are joined today by Mustafa Barghouti. He is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, President of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee. Welcome to Democracy Now!.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Thank you. Good to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN It is good to have you on. We had spoken to you on January 3, 2002, so it was more than a year ago. At that time, Israeli police had arrested you, released you on the edge of east Jerusalem, you were rearrested by the army, severely beaten, first on the street and then in a car and they fractured your knee. You had just finished a news conference at the time where you were speaking out against the effects of current Israeli policies and the health of the Palestinian population. What has happened in the intervening year, the condition?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: One thing to mention here is that my press conference at that time was done jointly with European parliamentarians and we were trying to advocate nonviolent struggle and the Israeli violent reaction was clearly a response to that.

AMY GOODMAN That’s right. We actually also had Louis Morgantini of the Italian member of the European parliament who was with you when you were arrested.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Yes. She was beaten and thrown on the ground when they were trying to beat me. The situation during the last year has become much, much worse. The situation is undescribable. I’m here in the United States to try to bring to people the knowledge of what is going on because I think regards less of what people think, they’re all entitled to knowing the truth and the truth is that the violations of human rights by Israeli army in the occupied territories is unprecedented. We have now a situation where all the population, the whole country and maybe, to my knowledge, this is the first time in the history of human beings, people are prevented from using roads and streets totally for more than two years. A trip that usually takes 45 minutes to travel from one place to another, could take up to nine hours and you have to change the car 11 times because each time you reach a checkpoint, you have to change a car. People cannot travel, people can not work, people can not receive health care. We’ve lost 52 — We had 52 women obliged to give birth at checkpoints. The last one of them was two days ago. A woman was in — in — having birth. She was in terrible pain. They approached the checkpoint with her husband in Jenin area the army did not let them pass and they called an ambulance. The ambulance was standing 10 meters from that woman and the army wouldn’t let her cross. She was kept there until she gave birth at the checkpoint and then she was not even allowed, after giving birth, to cross to see the ambulance. She had to return back to her village. The ambulance was also not allowed to reach her in her village. This is an example of terrible atrocities that is practiced. We’re talking about 482 checkpoints that are cutting the country into 300 clusters of prison-like entities. And then we have this new problem, of course, of the wall that is being constructed, which we call the new Israeli-Berlin Wall or the apartheid wall. It is — they call it a fence, but it is not a fence at all. It is three times longer than the Berlin wall was and two times higher. It is 18 to 12 meters high. It is going to be about 1,000 kilometers and this wall is making so many communities, villages, and cities and towns something like ghettoes. You know, the other day I was watching this film The Pianist and as much as I sympathized with what I was seeing, the suffering of the people in Warsaw, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, my God, this is Qalqilya. That is a city in the north surrounded now completely by the wall.

AMY GOODMAN You’re talking about the comparison to the Warsaw ghetto?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Yes. I think what Israel is doing now in the West Bank is the creation of new ghettos and this, unfortunately, this confirms what later was Said used to say, they made us the victims of the victims. Qalqilya is a city that is 46,000 people, surrounded now by a wall from all directions with one gate, which is eight meters width. And the gate has a key and the soldiers have the key. And they shut all the gates every night at 6:00 p.m. and they open it at 6:00 in the morning and sometimes they decide to shut off the city for several days, like has happened last month. So, imagine a whole city with a gate surrounded by the wall. You know, the people of Qalqilya called me the other day and said, "You know, we don’t see the sunset anymore because the wall is high enough to prevent us from seeing the sun set." This is leading to the destruction of the continuity of the country and destruction of farms and agriculture. 42% of Palestinian agriculture has also already been destroyed by the building of this wall.

AMY GOODMAN We’re talking to Mustafa Barghouti. November 9 has been declared the anti-apartheid wall by the anti-apartheid wall campaign and Palestine committee as a day of protest. People in Europe, Canada, U.S., Latin America, Australia, are gathering. What are people going to be doing?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: People will demonstrate all over the world and I’m so happy to see such an amount of demonstrations also in the United States. This gives us a lot of hope that people eventually will see the truth and be on the side of justice. And people will demonstrate under the slogan that "This Wall Must Also Fall". It is the 9 of November. It is the date when the Berlin wall was put down and it is a day where the world will be reminded that a much worse wall has been built in the occupied territories by the Israeli army against the against the Palestinian people. It will be a day that people will remember, that the whole population, the Palestinian population, has been practically jailed and imprisoned and deprived of its freedom and liberty for so many years and that this place has the longest occupation in modern history, 36 years of occupation.

AMY GOODMAN Mustafa Barghouti, I want to thank you for being with us. Secretary-general of the Palestinian national initiative. Thank you.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Thank you.

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