Translated by, Saed Bannoura, IMEMC
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative said that the Initiative is not a new faction but it came to create the widest National Coalition, with a new modern spirit which supports the people instead of containing them.
The following interview was conducted by Palestine News Network Website;
PNN: Did the Initiative represent the third stream which was suggested since ten years ago; does it exceed the crises which the Palestinian Factions and Movements face?
Bargouthi: The Initiative was formed by four Palestinian figures; Dr. Haidar Abdul-Shafi, Mr. Ibrahim Al-Daqqag, Late Dr. Edward Sa√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęid, and me, but those who formed the statement of the Initiative were five hundred persons from several Palestinian territories including national figures in the Palestinian society.
The Initiative is a Political √É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚ā¨Ňď Social √É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚ā¨Ňď National movement which aims to help the Palestinian achieve their rights of liberty and freedom, is it the third stream, I would say yes it is.
In the Palestinian territories there are two main streams; Fatah and the P. A, and Hamas and the Islamic faction, while there is a huge silent majority, we call it silent because its not part of the decision making process, the only was to enable it to have an effective role is lections, free and democratic elections, we are not alone, and we welcome negotiations with all factions, national and social movements, and national figures who are ready to observe themselves as part of the third stream.
PNN: You said that you are a Democratic Coalition, do you have your own political program and rules taking in consideration that Initiative are always threatens by internal divisions?
Bargouthi: The Initiative is not a coalition yet, it seeks to be so, it is a movement, and it has its political agenda and internal means and vision, but at the same time it does not have an ideological formula.
PNN: Does this mean that it is a secular movement?
Bargouthi: I can√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt call it a secular movement, it is a democratic, social movement which welcomes everybody, there are religious members in the movement, and we all agree to establish a democratic Palestine.
The movement also includes left-wingers, and liberals, people with secular attitudes and thoughts and people who are in between; just normal people, not with the right or left wing, but they all agree on one program, now we are working and discussing our Internal Program in order to approve it.
I think that the movement was established in order to push a democratic coalition forwards, I believe the a democratic coalition did not exist because there was no movement which pushed forward towards forming a coalition based on a solid ground, the democratic coalition, I believe, is close, as close as the elections are.
The Initiative is a new experience with a variety of new experiences and innovations, and as I have said, it might a movement which combines the social and political aspects in one clear vision, which does not only limit itself in the National Issue, even if its our main issue, but it extends to the health and educational needs of the residents, and all aspects of running their daily life, unemployment√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬¶
Such movements around the world achieved prominent successes, like Brazil and other countries, we do not want to create a new faction, people are tired with factions, and this is why we called it Initiative.
PNN: What makes the Initiative different than other factions?
Bargouthi: We aren√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt limiting ourselves to the initiatives, if we want to participate in the Elections, we will not only support people who are members of the Initiative, we will support every descent and clean person, we will support any person who is independent from the main two divisions; the P.A and Hamas, we will support anyone who is ready to serve his people and country.
Sadly, Palestinian factions are now working in order to serve themselves and not the Palestinian cause; we want to return the movements to their origins in representing the people, and not containing them.
I believe we will achieve the needed support, because we represent the people and their issues, we do not work for this person or that, we are working in order to represent those who are sided, those who are put aside and defeated by movement which are trying to cancel their essential role, we want to support those who feel that they are deprived from education and work, those who are against corruption in all of its forms.
Our goal is not to add a news faction or movement to the other factions, with all respect to them, our goal is to create a new spirit and style of Palestinian Political work.
PNN: You always talk about a Unified Leadership, but this leadership includes all factions and movements which were not able to aid the people, it could not even impalement its own programs.
Bargouthi: Definitely, the only way to choose a leadership is elections, the elections should not only be conducted by Palestinians in the county, and every Palestinian should participate.
We demand presidential and municipal elections in Palestine, members of the Palestinian parliament should be the representatives in the National Council, no one of them should ever be appointed, they should be chosen and elected, then there should be elections for the Palestinians in Diaspora, they will be our representatives abroad, by this way we can build and parliament for the State, and a National Council which represents all the Palestinians.
A unified leadership is not an alternate solution, it is a temporal solution we suggested in order to achieve a unified committee which does not only include the Palestinian factions but also representatives of the civil society, this committee should supervise the elections.
The second aim of the leadership is that until the elections are over, there have to be a unified leadership.
When he suggested this idea several factions and movement were surprised, but they are all with a unity between the movements including Hamas, which did not even talk about it for a long period, but this is a normal issue, statistics and studies revealed that 95-96% of the Palestinians support a unified leadership, therefore the movement will support what the people approve.
A unified leadership is needed to make discussions and political decisions and the steadfastness of the Palestinians positions and struggle.
An example of this is while all movements agree on the necessity of the political agenda which stresses on establishing a Palestinian Independent State, in the occupied territories, since 1967, including Jerusalem, and the right of return of the Palestinian refugee, we were faced with the Geneva Agreement which means giving up the right of return, and giving away more than 85 of east Jerusalem, and above all giving away sovereignty over land and air.
This agreement also means that Israel can remain in military camps for ten years, which can√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt be removed without an Israeli concession.
Therefore, the Geneva Agreement is an official deviation from the Palestinian standards, and here we have to wonder how can officials in the Central Committee of the PLO, and P.A ministers participate in this agreement without any statement against it form the PLO, isn√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt this a double standard issue!
Another example from a different nature is that when the International Court sessions concerning the Wall were held, and in critical stages while Israel was hardly working to prove that the Wall is being erected for security reasons, a bombing was carried out, and Israel found it opportunity to prove its claims, fortunately they couldn√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt as a result of the intensive Palestinian efforts, but this issue should teach us that any activity either political or military should not be conducted separately far away from the unified leadership, the world is confused now, some of the countries are supportive to the Palestinian cause, and we always demand them to take positions and boycott Israel, but at the same time we find officials willing to deal with Sharon and his plan, in the same time which Sharon declares that he will not negotiation with us, and will continue his unilateral steps.
Therefore, the unified leadership is needed today; we have to have one tongue which speaks in our name, one position, double standards in our political speeches is heavily used against us.
This is how the idea emerged; the unified leadership resembles a temporary procedure until the Palestinians decide in free elections.
PNN: Does this lead us to the reality of the political crises, which looks to be blocked, how can we over come it, and free ourselves from this dark tunnel?
Bargouthi: Yes, it is true, there is a clear crisis, the political regime does not fulfill the needs of the Palestinian struggle, a unified leadership could rescue us for the Israeli political blackmail, I think the Palestinians need a leadership more than they need an authority, we should not give Israel the chance to blackmail us.
Unfortunately the authority became a new burden over the Palestinians who are continually suffering the occupation and military aggression.
The only way to overcome the crises is free elections, elections in Palestine and among the Palestinians living around the world, reform means giving the chance to choose and participate.
Palestinians wherever they are should participate in choosing their leaders, leader who have the public support are strong in negotiations because they have a wide public support of the Palestinians, and therefore nobody can blackmail them.
Concerning reforms, its doesn√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt only mean changing faces, it means changing the means and enforcing the law, but unfortunately in the current situation there is no seriousness in this issue.
Several officials in the P.A behave as if they are over the law, how can you explain the fact that some P. A officials did not register for the elections yet? Why isn√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt the government encouraging the people to register? Elections aren√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt enough without respecting the law.
PNN: since we are talking about reforms, do we also talk about corruption files submitted by the Legislative Council?
Bargouthi: That√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs correct; these files should be widely opened, but this is not enough, we also have a week Judicial System, and there are continuous efforts to keep it this way and bar it from being strong and independent from the Executive Authority.
The situation now has an odd formula, filled with a variety of political standards, and dominant power, in addition to attempts to impose incomplete democracy, I believe that the current situation emerged of two important facts; first did not achieve independence yet, we are in a process of liberation, therefore no power can control this variety, second, we are a nation which have been subjected to wars and situations of conflict more than any other Arab nation.
But the Palestinians are willing and intensively working to achieve a real democratic regime.
As for corruption, it is not enough to remove it, we should remove the things which created it, and fight the employing people in certain facilities because they have a relative in the P.A, or even barring one resident from being transferred for medication abroad, while allowing another and covering his high expenses just because he have a relative who is an official in the P.A, in addition to the absence of a clear plan of financing the political movements.
PNN: You are the Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, and participate in the meetings of the leadership, and the executive committee, do u present in these meetings what u have just presented in this interview?
Bargouthi: Of course, there are many issues which are presented openly, in the last meeting there has been a strong discussion about the elections, many want to change the law of elections, and registration procedures, and without these frank and clear ideas we wouldn√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt have continued the registration process.
Lost of residents mix between the idea of participating in the meetings of the Palestinian Leadership, which in my opinion, are for consultation since it does not make decisions, but is has importance in positions and critical standards to protect the national unity, and the actual participation in the authority, those meeting are to guarantee unity more than anything else, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Initiative are part of those meetings, those meetings manages to close gaps which could have led to divisions among the Palestinians, they helped in protecting the National Unity; participating in the meetings does not necessarily mean participating in the authority, despite of the meeting we are still apposing the authority.
PNN: Since you are one of the pioneers in the NGO√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs, how do you evaluate the work of the NGO√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs lately, concerning there work and actions?
Bargouthi: True, the NGO√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs increased in the last years; there are nearly two thousands institutions. The variety is good, despite the fact that the civil society needs more than institutions, it needs Unions, public societies and institutions, political movements, all of these aspects form the formula which is not found in the authority,
My opinion, we can√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt generalize the acts of these institutions, every institution should be questioned according to its acts, you can√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt compare between them, some of these institutions have wide public support, and wide public work, like the Medical Relief Association, or public institutions which are also working in the field, you can√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt compare them with those institutions which has limited region of work.
Variety is important and useful, comparing to Africa the number is still small, there are more than 865 institutions there, in France 1 million, in Sweden each resident is a member in three institutions, but despite of all that you can√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt treat them with the same criteria.
Anyhow, anyone who wants to work in the NGO field should ask if his institution works for the benefit of the public, if it is not, then what use is it for, what√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs the need for it, institutions should work in accordance with the development and the public needs, and not according to external decisions, especially that we are experiencing attempts by foreign organizations which are trying to control us and write our own agenda.