One Democratic Secular State for all its citizens in Israel and Palestine


Posted January 2, 2014 at 7:34 pm

“There should not be negotiations between someone in jail and those who jail him”

Interview with Ahmad Qatamesh

Ahmad Qatamesh was recently released from prison in Israel. He was not released as part of one of US busybody Kerry’s deals intended to build PA leader Abbas’s popular credibility. He was released after pressure led by Amnesty International which had named him a Prisoner of Conscience. He had spent six years in the 1990s as the longest held “administrative detainee” without charge or trial, simply for being politically active with the socialist and secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Then he was picked up again in 2011 and held for another two and a half years, again in Administrative Detention, again without charge or trial. His political writings and teaching included his book “Approach to the Single Democratic State”. Having spent 17 years avoiding capture, and a total of  nine years in confinement, his writing is hard to come by. However, in September 1998 he gave a lengthy interview to Fadia Issam Rafidie for Free Arab Voice. A short version was published, and from it we select some extracts which we think remain relevant and valuable more than 15 years later.

Rafidie started by asking how things had changed for the Palestinian people since his imprisonment six years before, in 1992

Madrid-Oslo happened and their impacts were drastic on the whole society. They cannot be reduced to the fact that the Palestinian Authority is in ‘charge’ of 4% of the West Bank and Gaza. Our people were psychologically affected. Before Oslo, the Palestinian people used to have an agenda and a common slogan of liberation; now we have no agenda and no slogan. 

Our resistance is dispersed now and they have been swallowed up in the environments of their Diaspora, a very different environment from that which the older generation grew up in when they were united toward common goals. We used to say the more you put pressure on the enemy, the greater your likelihood of succeeding. Now many people see negotiations as the way to bring us our rights. People are waiting to see what will come of Oslo, looking passively and thinking that the future will MAGICALLY bring them something.

On his arbitrary arrest, prison protests and release

When they arrested me 6 years ago, they tried to give the impression that I was the leader of the PFLP at that time so that they could show off their dominance over the PFLP, so that the media could inflate the ‘capture.’ Now, after they released me, they tried to give the impression that they have struck a deal with the PFLP through me.

In prison, we forced them to deal with us as administrative detainees. We had our own legal agency advocating for our release. The detainees confronted the military occupation with acts of protest for one year through hunger strikes, demonstrations, burning the blankets on which we slept, singing slogans, writing on the walls. Then we boycotted the appeals courts because we were not getting anywhere through them. When they called our names at their sacred roll-call to be counted, we simply did not answer.  As a result, they twice fired tear gas on us. They threw 240 tear gas canisters at us during that confrontation.

We succeeded in forcing the issue of our detention onto the Israeli streets. Four hundred “Israeli” intellectuals signed a petition calling for our release. Amnesty International did a report on us with pictures and interviews. B’tselem wrote another very detailed report about our situation. So our issue was put on the table and people could not deny or ignore it. People inside the “Israeli” justice system started questioning the legality of detaining us.  But even if they discussed our situation, it was not in their hands. It was in the hands of the government.

After some years, Knesset members visited

They used to request, “Ahmed, write a letter to the Israelis saying that you are against violence!” Their other idea was to not mention Oslo (since they knew I rejected it) or asked that I At Least Call For A Two-State Solution.  I told them, are you asking me to write what I believe, or what you want me to write for the “Israeli” public?

My jailers claimed that my past is violent and my future will be violent.  In interrogation, they said they would stop interrogation if I agreed to leave the country for two years, but I refused. I told them I have no plan to leave the country and I am not involved in any kind of violence as an individual.  If I have a relationship with violence, then try me based on that evidence.

The only thing they charged me with was writing.   I told them you’re the ones who committed violence against me!

I refused to be a spokesman for the PFLP so they could not try to convince me to take conciliatory positions. They wanted me to give them a statement that I was against military operations and violence. My answer was that this is a big issue relevant to the international laws of what constitutes violence and what constitute terrorism and whether our right to struggle is this or that. This is not for me to decide. The international community should decide if our struggle is terrorism or freedom-fighting.

I will not condemn anything my people do to rid themselves of occupation. Do not expect me to condemn any guerrilla warfare against you by my people. As far as I am concerned, I did not commmit violence against you but I will not condemn my people if they did. 

I said, if you want to make deals with the PFLP, either go to Damascus or the PFLP’s office in Ramallah. Do not come to me. There should not be negotiations between someone in jail and those who jail him.  How could this uneven relationship be termed negotiations?!

A group of “Israeli” intellectuals who had influence defended us not as a matter of principle but because they did not want the democratic ‘face’ of “Israel” to be blemished. I say to them, IF YOU WERE TRULY DEMOCRATIC YOU WOULD NOT BE OCCUPYING OUR LAND IN THE FIRST PLACE.  Occupation and democracy are not compatible: the only reason they imprisoned us was to suppress our activity and prevent us from continuing the struggle.

How should the popular resistance relate to the PA?

There should be another philosophy instead of just depending on America. If we are to present an alternative, it should be a clear one. It should be a different vision from their vision. We should not allow the Palestinian Authority to contain us and prevent us from having our own identity.  Any group willing to discuss an alternative to Oslo would be beneficial to engage in. What is needed now is not political unity that we used to raise as a slogan in the past; we should be asking for people’s unity.

What can those in the diaspora do for the struggle?

There are certain issues that are still in common between those on the inside and those living outside. We have a battle: they are trying to get us to forget about our identity. We should attack this battle jointly.

Since people are in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and elsewhere, our enemy is trying to make this division permanent. If they succeed in tackling us as shoe-boxed Palestinians, it will be easier for them to overcome us. If they try to tackle us as one people, they will fail. Regardless where our people are, they believe in One People And One Common Cause and this is what unites them and makes them work together.











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