Friday, August 04, 2006
Khalid Amayreh: Interview with Ghassan al-Khatib
31 July, 2006
Former Palestinian Authority (PA) official Ghassan al Khatib has warned that Israel’s present genocidal campaign against the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples, along with the conspicuous impotence of most Arab regimes was pushing Arab masses to the edge.
Khatib said he thought that this time, in light of the graphic gruesome images of the latest Israeli massacres in Lebanon, especially the Qana-II massacre, Arab and Muslim masses were reaching the ultimate limit of their patience with their corrupt, despotic and impotent regimes.
Khalid Amayreh spoke with Dr. Khatib Monday, 31 July.
Question: We’ve noticed following the latest massacre at the village of Qana in South Lebanon that Arab masses are so angry with their regimes because of their impotence vis-à-vis Israel and utter subservience to the United States, Israel’s guardian-ally. Is this frustration transient in nature or going to have long-lasting effects?
Khatib: I don’t believe it will be transient. Today, there is a collective realization among Arabs in this region that the present situation in the Arab world is unbearable and can’t continue as it is. The latest Israeli massacres and wanton killings and destruction in Lebanon and Palestine have seriously exacerbated the indignation of Arab masses toward Israel, the United States and especially toward Arab regimes which are totally impotent vis-à-vis Israel but unbelievably potent when it comes to suppressing the masses and denying them human rights and political liberties.
Question: Well, but Israel has been perpetrating massacres, even uglier massacres, for ages, so what makes you think that this time is going to be different in terms of the Arab peoples’ reactions?
Khatib: We have to realize that the Arab regimes are not only impotent and powerless to stop Israel from slaughtering Palestinian and Lebanese children. The regimes, I would say most of them, have also failed to stem the tide of poverty and unemployment. And politically, they have completely failed to achieve their declared goals. This makes me think that the masses will rise up sooner or later. In short, the present situation in most Arab countries is simply untenable. And, indeed, Israel’s criminal behavior and America’s brazen and enthusiastic embrace of Israel, will exacerbate this untenable situation even further.
Question: Yes, but pro-American regimes in the Arab world are quite despotic and authoritarian and are unlikely to allow peaceful expressions of dissent that might lead up to a possible regime change?
Khatib: This is true, but I think the masses have reached the limit of their patience. If the regimes continue to ignore the feelings of the masses, explosions will occur, and I mean it literally and metaphorically.
Question: Are you suggesting that a wave of violence might take place in the region in the foreseeable future?
Khatib: Well, I hope that nothing of this sort will be done against innocent civilians. These things are detrimental to our cause and generally counterproductive. However, things happen not necessarily because they are desired, but rather because they are inevitable.
Question: Do you think that we are about to witness the formation of two axes in the region, the Iranian-Syrian axis, which also encompasses the resistance groups such as Hamas, and the Egyptian-Saudi-Jordanian axis, which is to be backed by the United States?
Khatib: I don’t think that even pro-American regimes would be able to adopt serious hostile stands against Syria and Iran and especially against the resistance. Such a stand would be seriously opposed and rejected by the masses in these countries. We saw recently how some Arab regimes, which had blamed Hizbullah and Hamas for provoking Israel, were eventually forced under public opinion pressure to back down and reassert, at least publicly, their anti-Israeli posture.
Question: How do you think the current showdown between Hizbullah and Israel will affect the Palestinian situation?
Khatib: There is no doubt that there is a moral and psychological relationship between what is happening in Palestine and what is happening in Lebanon. Having said that, I believe that there is a real distinction between the two cases. The Palestinian case is very unique and is subject to the dynamism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestine and its people are under the Israeli military occupation and the Palestinian resistance has inherently Palestinian reasons that justify its existence and continuity.
Question: And what will be the war’s effect on the PA and the Hamas-led government?
Khatib: I think that the very existence of the Palestinian Authority in the classical sense is receding and diminishing. Indeed, there is not much of an authority these days because of what Israel has done. Israel has destroyed the substance of the PA and what has been left is a few symbols without sovereignty, without authority and without immunity.
Question: What do you mean by that?
Khatib: The PA had three main functions: Political, which is nearly non-existent; security, which in the West Bank is in Israel’s hands and in the Gaza Strip is in the militias hands. As for the service sector, there is a growing dependence on foreign donors to keep the health and probably education sectors afloat. In other words, we don’t exaggerate if we say that we are moving toward a certain form of an international mandate under the Israeli control.
Question: And what are the Palestinians doing to resist this trend?
Khatib: PA president is trying to resist this, but he can’t do much. And there are no genuine political initiatives in the offing. Which really will keep the overall situation here incendiary.