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2010-03-31

Al Jazeera Chief Wadah Khanfar on Obama’s Expansion of the Afghan War, US Policy in the Middle East and the Role of Independent Voices in the Media

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As US and NATO forces are preparing to launch a major military offensive in the Afghan city of Kandahar this June, we speak with Wadah Khanfar, the Director General of Al Jazeera. "Bombing and killing will always increase the anger and frustration against the Americans, and it will always be in favor of the Taliban," says Khanfar. We also look at the US military’s history of targeting Al Jazeera’s reporters, including Sami al-Hajj, who was held at Guantánamo for over six years without charge. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: US and NATO forces are preparing to launch a second major military offensive in Afghanistan this June, this time in the city of Kandahar. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters attempts to remove the Taliban from Kandahar are already underway and that the military operation would last two months.

Meanwhile, a report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights claims over two-thirds of Afghans live in dire poverty. The report criticizes the international community for emphasizing security over development and also cites widespread corruption within Afghanistan, noting that the country has received $35 billion in aid since 2002.

Well, for a perspective on the war in Afghanistan that’s rarely heard in this country, I spoke to Wadah Khanfar, the director general of Al Jazeera, the international TV network headquartered in Qatar. We had a wide-ranging conversation last week about US policy in the Middle East and the role of independent voices in the media, but I began by asking him what he thinks of President Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

    WADAH KHANFAR: It is very sad. It’s very complicated. We don’t see how this kind of war will reach its destination, what kind of goal increasing, you know, military in Afghanistan will lead to.

    The time has come that the Americans — the administration, actually, departs completely from the old way of thinking. They should have different approach. They should have a dialogue with people, with entities, with groups, with movements in Afghanistan and in the rest of the Arab world. They should sit and talk to them.

    We in the Arab world are between — we are in a very sensitive period between two, you know, landmarks: the old, that doesn’t want to die, and the new, that doesn’t want to be born. You know, so Obama administration should embrace this transformation. They shouldn’t take side with one against the other. You know, it is not for the American interest that the administration take side with this government against the people or with this party against this party. I think we look at America as superpower, and we expect America to behave like a superpower, not, you know, supporting one single party.

    AMY GOODMAN: You were there when the US invaded?

    WADAH KHANFAR: When the US started the invasion, I was not there. But by the end — I mean, in December 2001, I arrived in Kabul, and I took over the operation there up to June 2004.

    AMY GOODMAN: And how do you think it compares, Afghanistan December 2001 to today?

    WADAH KHANFAR: You know, I can’t say. I haven’t come back to Afghanistan at that time. But definitely, the situation did not change much. Afghanistan is still going through a crisis. Taliban is still there. Taliban influence is growing. And they are, you know, I think — you know, they are there.

    And I think Taliban itself is changing, learning, developing. And this is why I say direct dialogue between the Americans and Taliban is necessary, because, eventually, they are there. And they represent, you know, certain kind of tribes, a certain kind of cultures. You cannot eliminate them, unless there is some kind of approach which is different from bombing people. Bombing and killing will always increase the anger and frustration against the Americans, and it will always be in favor of Taliban or in favor of any other movement in the Middle East. I think the best approach at this moment in time is to open a proper dialogue with those who have been fighting each other for long time.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you have a bureau in Afghanistan?

    WADAH KHANFAR: We do. We have — for always, actually, we have a bureau in Afghanistan.

    AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about it being bombed again? It was bombed once, is that right?

    WADAH KHANFAR: It was bombed during the war. By the end of the American war on Afghanistan, it was bombed by American jets.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what guarantees do you have that that won’t happen again?

    WADAH KHANFAR: I hope not, because I think the atmosphere at this moment in time — people understand Al Jazeera much better, and I don’t think that the American forces in Afghanistan or in Iraq, or wherever they are now, can do something like that, because it seems to me that there is developing proper understanding of Al Jazeera role and what Al Jazeera is all about.

    AMY GOODMAN: You’ve come to the United States now a few times since President Obama came into office. Why didn’t you come before?

    WADAH KHANFAR: It was difficult. You know, during the previous administration, Al Jazeera was accused of many accusations by Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowitz and others, who saw in Al Jazeera a threat to the American presence in the region, especially after our coverage of Afghanistan and our coverage of Iraq. We have heard a lot of accusations and misconceptions that were spread about Al Jazeera. It was — we had — I mean, here in the States, I mean, it was difficult for me to come and speak, because it seems to me that Al Jazeera was a scapegoat for a lot of failures that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. And this is why I think we wouldn’t —-

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, failures?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Everyone knows at this moment in time that the approach that the previous administration had to the war on Iraq and Afghanistan was full of mistakes and full of problems.

    And Al Jazeera was introducing another opinion from the region, from within the region, telling the world certain issues related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, which I think Western media didn’t want to hear -— or a lot of them, at least — and also politicians didn’t want to hear it. Now I can tell you, after all these years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Al Jazeera was right, and a lot of people were wrong, about the war, about the coverage of the war, and about issues that led to the coverage of war. You know, we were there. We were listing to the public, to the people, reporting from within Afghanistan and Iraq. We were telling a story from within the region. And others wanted certain kind of ideas to be spread, and they wanted to silence those who are giving an alternative view about the region.

    AMY GOODMAN: I remember interviewing you in Doha at Al Jazeera, and it was the time when the Daily Mirror had just released this Downing Street memo that allegedly revealed President Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair — it was April 2004 — of his desire to bomb Al Jazeera. Do you know if this was true?

    WADAH KHANFAR: I know it is true. Yes, it is. It was true. I think this discussion took place, and we have been assured by many, you know, parties — some of them were present in that meeting — that this discussion took place. But luckily, you know, some wise people in that meeting said it is — “How can you bomb a TV station? You are going to the Middle East to spread democracy, to bring democracy to the region, and now you are bombing the voice of democracy in the Arab world.” So the idea was dumped.

    AMY GOODMAN: Who prevailed upon President Bush?

    WADAH KHANFAR: You know, I think I don’t want to — because I have not been given the permission to — from the people who told me about the story, but I have been assured by, you know, people who were present in that meeting that this discussion took place. And the military and Mr. Colin Powell, you know, thought that this is a very bad idea, and therefore, they said no.

    AMY GOODMAN: So they didn’t bomb you in Doha, but —-

    WADAH KHANFAR: They bombed us in Kabul. They bombed us in Baghdad. And until today, we did not receive any justification or apology or investigation about bombing two of our bureaus and killing one of our journalists, our correspondent Tarek Ayoub, who was killed in Baghdad.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is Al Jazeera?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Voice for the voiceless. Al Jazeera is the opinion of other opinion, independent. Al Jazeera is diverse, reflection of the collective mind of the nations and cultures and civilizations that we report from and we report to, bridge of dialogue. This is what Al Jazeera is all about. Al Jazeera is a mission. Al Jazeera is the profession as the forefathers of this profession, you know, accepted it to be. As the people who have put, you know, their trust in media, we are faithful to our audience. We cannot be part of centers of power. We do not accept association of centers of power, neither commercial nor political. We would like to be independent, an independent voice that is very heavy. Heavy price that we are paying. It’s very complicated, very difficult. But at least what is great, that the audience that we report to, they love us.

    AMY GOODMAN: But your funding from the Qatar government?

    WADAH KHANFAR: That’s correct. And Qatar has realized that if they have to get good reward from sponsoring Al Jazeera, they have to take their hand off our newsroom. This is why there is a barrier between us and the Qatari foreign policy. We are not -— if we were so, the Arab audience would have seen us as another TV station. Many other TV stations are much more well-equipped. They have much better budget than us. But they have not been able to make this breakthrough within the society. Fifty-seven percent of the Arabs believe that Al Jazeera is the most credible source for information.

    AMY GOODMAN: What does “Al Jazeera” mean, actually, the words?

    WADAH KHANFAR: The word means “the peninsula,” you know, and it means also “the island,” “the peninsula.” And the word itself started describing — Qatar was a peninsula, of course, but also the Arabian Peninsula, where the heart of the Arab culture is, is a peninsula.

    AMY GOODMAN: And where do you broadcast?

    WADAH KHANFAR: We broadcast from Qatar for the Arabic and English channel, of course. And we have four broadcasting centers: Qatar, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington.

    AMY GOODMAN: And how many countries?

    WADAH KHANFAR: We have sixty-five countries that we report from. But we are — our reach out is all over the world.

    AMY GOODMAN: When did Al Jazeera English start? I remember the conversations —-

    WADAH KHANFAR: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —- when I was in Doha.

    WADAH KHANFAR: Three-and-a-half years ago, we launched Al Jazeera English. And now we have reach out to about 190 million, unfortunately not in the States, because we have very limited, you know, reach out in Washington, DC, when we signed the deal with cable companies there, but not in the rest of the country.

    AMY GOODMAN: In Burlington, Vermont?

    WADAH KHANFAR: We have a small, you know, distribution limited to certain audience in certain areas. But until now, we couldn’t make breakthrough all over the country.

    AMY GOODMAN: So what’s the problem?

    WADAH KHANFAR: The problem — I think we are now talking to cable companies. And it seems to me there is a lot of issues related to the business, to the industry here. We are still trying to figure out how to go around it. And I think a lot of people think that it is complicated and difficult. I think that the presence of Al Jazeera or the presence of international news in the States is very important. America now is involved all over the world, especially in the Middle East, in the Arab world, in many conflicts. And their presence there is very obvious. So, to have the voice, like Al Jazeera, in this here, it means we are giving a space for decision makers to see different views and for the public also to see different opinion about what’s happening there. And in my opinion, that is a great opportunity, and it will enrich the knowledge of the Americans about the region.

AMY GOODMAN: Al Jazeera director general Wadah Khanfar. We’ll continue our interview with him after break.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We go back now to my interview with Wadah Khanfar, the director general of Al Jazeera, the Arabic and English-language network that is based in Qatar.

    AMY GOODMAN: How often do US government officials go on Al Jazeera, even though it is not broadcast here?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Very often. You know, I think we have just last — few weeks ago was Hillary Clinton on our show in Doha, Joe Biden. We hosted many other — Robert Gates and others, they go. I mean, I think with this kind of administration, we have started dialogue. I have met a lot of officials. We had a lot of discussion, including Mrs. Clinton when she came to Doha. And I think there is a prospect for, you know, not only dialogue, but also for proper understanding of the role of Al Jazeera in the Middle East.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is HR 2278, which is our own bill, legislation that was passed in December?

    WADAH KHANFAR: It is scary. It is something difficult to understand. It is — it contradicts what the Americans stand for, which is democracy and the freedom of expression. You know, this bill suggests that some satellite operators who put on certain channels in the Middle East, if they are — if these channels broadcast material that is viewed as anti-American, they will be classified as pro-terrorism, and then, you know, they will be listed officially by the government as, you know, terrorist organizations or pro-terrorist organizations.

    Now, who is going to judge this material that is aired on these satellites? What is the role of those who are going to, you know, operate, the operator — satellite operators? I think the best thing that has ever happened to the Arab world was to have satellite channels. These channels freed the Arab mind from the chains of propaganda that governments wanted the audience to see every day. So, to come and fight these channels and to come to fight these operators, it means, really, that we are going back to Dark Ages, going back in time. It is not possible. It will give the Americans very bad name in the region. People love free press, and they love independent channels.

    Yes, sometimes some of these channels might go a little bit off, you know, and they might really reflect the anger and the frustration that some people in the region have. But is the best approach is to go and take them off air, or the best approach is to have the discussion available to them and try to minimize this kind of hatred or this kind of anger that you could see on the screen? You know, I’m afraid that although the list of channels that were mentioned in this do not include Al Jazeera, so Al Jazeera is not part of this, so I can speak freely about it, but I can tell that, you know, who knows that tomorrow governments also in the region might not use this kind of opportunity for them in order to crack down on opposition? Because since 2001, a lot of Arab governments use the so-called war on terrorism to also settle their disputes with opposition in the region, with independent voices in the region. So it is a very sensitive matter, and I don’t think this bill should go through.

    AMY GOODMAN: Al Jazeera in Yemen, what’s happening?

    WADAH KHANFAR: You know, Yemen is very complicated, that situation in Yemen. There are three conflicts simultaneously taking place: in the north with the Houthis, in the south with the people in the south of Yemen, and with al-Qaeda. Al Jazeera is located there, and it is the TV station that report to the Yemenis about their situation. I think it is the local TV station for the Yemenis and for the rest of the world about Yemen. That angered the government. They confiscated our broadcasting equipment. And thanks to the Yemeni people who marched in the streets of Yemen and who objected to politicians; to independent, you know, journalists; to thousands of people who came to our office — and they supported us, and eventually the government brought back our equipment, brought back the equipment, and now, again, our bureau in Yemen is broadcasting.

    AMY GOODMAN: Are you experiencing situations like that in other parts of the world?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Almost weekly, unfortunately. We are living in a state of flux in the Middle East, transformation. Our governments have a lot of problems with the people. We have a lot of problems with the issues of democracy, the issues of human rights. So if you may broadcast a report that might anger this president or this prime minister or this intelligence agency, then you are off air in that country. Or you are — your reporter is questioned by the intelligence or put in jail, and so on. So, on a daily basis we have some kind of conflicts that are going. But this is nothing new. Al Jazeera is used to that. And that’s what made Al Jazeera unique. Had we been, you know, on good terms with governments and with authorities or centers of power, we would have been like any other broadcaster, without any taste, without any courage, without any kind of relation — proper, truthful relationship with the audience.

    AMY GOODMAN: You were the only international network in Gaza during the siege of Gaza. The Israeli government did not allow in other reporters.

    WADAH KHANFAR: Yeah, we have been in many hot spots, actually.

    AMY GOODMAN: In the actual assault.

    WADAH KHANFAR: Exactly, in the actual assault. We were in Gaza, and we have excellent teams reporting within Gaza and also from the Israeli side in Israel. And I think the best coverage ever done for a war was through Al Jazeera screen, both Arabic and English, whereby you are seeing two sides at the same time, and you are reflecting real time, live, the evidence of the war. It was something — I mean, for twenty-three years, definitely that was one of the best coverage ever done for a war.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Egyptian foreign minister says that Al Jazeera reflects the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    WADAH KHANFAR: Luckily, he didn’t say they reflect the ideology of al-Qaeda. You know, you can expect anything from our — unfortunately, from our ministers and from intelligence agencies in the region and from governments. They have been, for a long time, you know, criticizing Al Jazeera. One day we are pro-Saddam Hussein, the other day we are pro-al-Qaeda, the third day — and that is important — we are pro-Mossad and we are created by CIA. And officially, I can tell you that some intelligence agencies in the region requested from journalists and newspapers that they have say over to publish articles declaring Al Jazeera as enemy of the Arabs and Muslims because it has been created by the CIA and the Zionists, you know? Now, the same governments sometimes come out and if — in the West, they say, no, it is pro-Muslim Brotherhood or pro-al-Qaeda or pro-Saddam Hussein.

    There is nothing like that. Al Jazeera is a representation of, you know, diversity in the Arab world. In our newsroom, we have every single nationality, we have every single, you know, ideology, we have every single background. However, when it comes to the screen, we have one code of ethics and one code of conduct. All of us are proud of our commitment to our audience, and we will never betray them. We can never be, you know, an out — you know, we cannot be representing single view or ideology or party, or whatever like that. We cannot afford to do so. We are in a region that’s undergoing transformation. How could we be pro-Muslim Brotherhood or pro-Arab nationalists or pro-whoever, since the Arabs have not yet discovered what kind of path they’re going to go?

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al Jazeera, the entire network. Sami al-Hajj, held at Guantánamo for, what? Something like six years.

    WADAH KHANFAR: Six-and-a-half.

    AMY GOODMAN: Six-and-a-half years, your reporter.

    WADAH KHANFAR: Yeah.

    AMY GOODMAN: He said that when he was interrogated — hundreds of times he was interrogated — he was repeatedly asked about the leadership of Al Jazeera.

    WADAH KHANFAR: That’s correct. One hundred twenty-something times he was interrogated, and he was asked about the leadership of Al Jazeera. He was asked about some anchors and the presenters on Al Jazeera. And he was asked to cooperate with the intelligence in order to pass information about Al Jazeera. He was asked about links between Al Jazeera and al-Qaeda and many other issues like that. Repeatedly, over six-and-a-half years, he was put under this kind of pressure.

    You know, and he spoke that — I mean, Al Jazeera hosted Sami many times, you know, on the screen, and he told his story. Unfortunately, the story of Sami al-Hajj, until now, is not settled. You know, this man spent six-and-a-half years, then he was released. There is no apology for him. There is no investigation why he was arrested, why he was taken from Afghanistan. A cameraman working for Al Jazeera, and we had informed the American army at that time about all our operations in Afghanistan and in Iraq. But both were bombed, in Afghanistan and Iraq. So we have a lot of doubts about what has happened.

    And until now, the issue of Sami, the issue of Tarek Ayoub, who was killed in Baghdad, and the issue of bombing of our bureaus, and so on and so forth, can never be put to rest, unless we receive either proper investigation on how and who did this and then an apology about what has been done.

    AMY GOODMAN: Have you spoken to the Obama administration about this?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Yes, we did. We did.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did you speak to the Bush administration?

    WADAH KHANFAR: No. During the Bush administration, as I said, we were lucky that we were not bombed in Doha, you know? But again, we used to raise it always. We used to speak about it whenever there is an official visiting Al Jazeera or publicly. We always used to demand this kind of apology or this kind of investigation.

    AMY GOODMAN: Has President Obama appeared on Al Jazeera for an interview?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Not yet.

    AMY GOODMAN: What has he said? Have you requested?

    WADAH KHANFAR: We have brought a request, and we have been told that it is on the table, but when appropriate time comes, he will appear.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was his — the effect of his speech in Cairo?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Fantastic. The effect of his speech was magnificent. Everyone was, I think — you know, our audience in the Arab world was very happy to hear what he has said there in Cairo. Now, maybe later on, when events start to unfold, people — you know, people start feeling that there is no, maybe, delivery. Maybe there are many other issues that should be addressed. The region is still going through huge tumult. The issue between the Palestinians and the Israelis and the peace process has not been resumed. You know, there are many difficulties. But the speech, per se, that night, when he delivered that speech, it was received very well, very well in the Arab world.

    AMY GOODMAN: BBC tried to launch an Arabic network before Al Jazeera, before Al Jazeera began, isn’t that right?

    WADAH KHANFAR: In 1995, and they had to close down after a few months.

    AMY GOODMAN: In fact, many people went over to Al Jazeera — is that right? — when you began.

    WADAH KHANFAR: Most of our journalists and editors, and technical crews, actually, came from BBC.

    AMY GOODMAN: So why do you think they couldn’t do it, and you could?

    WADAH KHANFAR: You know, frankly speaking, the BBC at that time had to depend on governments, as well, in the Arab world, financially, and to depend on them on distribution. Al Jazeera broke away from that. And Al Jazeera had independent, you know, distribution through satellite, and at the same time did not depend on political alliance with any government. And that is important.

    Yes, you may argue that Qatar is. Yes, true. But Qatar, again, is a small country in the region, and Qatar does not have, you know, that ambition of controlling Al Jazeera in order to be their voice. Had they done so, we would have lost, as I said, you know. But this is why we succeeded. We succeeded because we maintained our independence. Whoever got upset and angry from us, that didn’t reflect on our screen.

    AMY GOODMAN: How do you compare to CNN, to Fox?

    WADAH KHANFAR: We report from within. We respect the margin more than the center, frankly speaking. We are not a TV station that only concentrate on those who are always under light. We are not a TV station for celebrities and for grand politicians and superstars. We are a TV station for the ordinary person. The normal people, ordinary people in the Arab world sees Al Jazeera as their voice. They look at Al Jazeera as their own. They own Al Jazeera. You know, when there is something wrong on Al Jazeera, I feel that the audience would like to, you know, crush us, because they feel that it’s owned, as if we are, on their behalf, running this TV station. You know, so that is important. And for me, as a director general, sometimes I feel — I know it by when I’m walking in the airport or traveling or going to a restaurant, everyone’s coming, giving me lectures and advices about what should be done and how should we do it. But I love it, because it means that the people think that Al Jazeera is theirs. So we are centered around the people, the human being, not about centers of power.

    AMY GOODMAN: How do you compare to other Arab media and Arabic-language media?

    WADAH KHANFAR: You know, number one, of course, Al Jazeera now is above 57 percent rating in the Arab world, as far as the news are concerned. We have other channels who have come up with similar style sometimes with Al Jazeera. But I always argue that political relationship between governments and TV stations do ruin credibility of TV stations. So this is — I think more and more independent voices should appear on television.

    AMY GOODMAN: How are you going to make Al Jazeera English in the United States happen?

    WADAH KHANFAR: Approach number one is try to get people to watch Al Jazeera English all over the country. Second, we would like to make, you know, our operation in Washington much more around the country, so we would like to have bureaus in many other states, where we could be in touch not only with Washington but with people in the States and reflect that in our broadcasting in Arabic and English. And we would like, as well, to listen to the people, what do they demand from Al Jazeera, because, you know, our news is very — it’s established now for thirteen years. We have certain kind of code of ethics and conduct. We have a spirit of Al Jazeera. We have theory of reporting news. It has succeeded in the Arab world. And whoever I met in Washington, he loves Al Jazeera. From politicians to think tanks to ordinary people, people love Al Jazeera. And they love Al Jazeera because we have news. We have news there. And we do not excite.

    I was watching some of the talk shows during the last few years here — few days here, some of the news channels. And I didn’t like the idea that, as far as the news is concerned, people are only taking one side of the story. We do not do that. We have the opinion and the other opinion. I think people would like to see a TV station that reports news as it is and enable them to have knowledge and then to decide for themselves what kind of philosophy or ideology or party or whatever they want to support.

    AMY GOODMAN: What got you, Wadah Khanfar, into the position you are today? What is your background? Why were you interested? How did you come to Al Jazeera?

    WADAH KHANFAR: I started actually from an academic background. I was doing my Master’s degree, post-graduate studies, in South Africa about Africa. You know, I started as an engineer. I migrated to philosophy and international politics. And I did my studies about African — Africa democracy and democratization in Africa, taking Kenya as a model. And then, while I was doing so in 1996 in South Africa, Al Jazeera was established. So they requested me to be an analyst on African affairs. And the first few interviews and calls were about Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, whatever the case at that time. Then slowly they said, “Why don’t you start reporting for us?” And I started reporting for Al Jazeera from Africa, from about thirty countries, whenever there is a crisis, up to 2001. In 2001, I went to Afghanistan to cover the war.

    AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born, Wadah Khanfar?

    WADAH KHANFAR: I was born in Jenin, Palestine, West Bank.

    AMY GOODMAN: And did you grow up there?

    WADAH KHANFAR: I did, actually. You know, after I finished my matric degree in Palestine, I left to Jordan to study engineering in the University of Jordan.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of the latest developments in the conflict there? So you’re here in the United States and in Washington when the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with President Obama in Washington.

    WADAH KHANFAR: It is becoming much more complicated than before. I mean, I think the scene at this moment in time is fragmented. There is no proper prospect for dialogue. Even when we speak about peace process, it seems to me that the process has become the target of the peace. Just, I mean, everyone is interested to put people together. The idea is, we need peace in the region, not only process. The process is not the target; the target is peace.

    And in order to do so, there are — there is a great American role to be played there. And there is very clear message that should go to the parties in the region telling them this is what should happen. The idea of proximity negotiations will not lead us anywhere. You know, everyone has his own calculations, and it seems to me that everyone is not interested in going ahead with this whole issue of peace; everyone is interested to show off that he is sitting and talking and taking pictures in front of the cameras. That is not going to lead us anywhere. That will increase, actually, the problem. Every year, we go through a much worse situation than before. And someone has to come and say, “Look, I’m going to quit from this madness. This is the proposal, and this is how I’m going to arrange it,” and to push, really, and to lead the international community in order to implement it.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you see the US doing that?

    WADAH KHANFAR: They have to do it. You know, it is the mother of all problems in the region. This is why the Americans have been suffering in their relationship with the Arab world. This is why there’s a lot of anger and frustration in the Arab street. The issue of Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the center of all conflicts. It’s not Iraq, and it is not Afghanistan. Unless this issue is resolved, you know, there will be a very difficult relationship between the Arabs and Muslims, on one hand, and the Americans, on the other hand.

AMY GOODMAN: Wadah Khanfar, the director general of Al Jazeera.

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