The following are excerpts from an interview with Egyptian-American author Nonie Darwish, founder of 'Arabs for Israel.' The interview aired on Al-Arabiya TV on March 23, 2007.
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Interviewer: "We mentioned at the beginning of the program that your father was a commander of the fedayeen in the Gaza Strip in the 50s. Your father is considered an Egyptian hero, but it has been said that you described him as a terrorist. Did you?"
Nonie Darwish: "Absolutely not, I don't understand how they could say such a thing. I admire my father. My father was a great man, and I love him because he had a great personality. He loved people, and people loved him. I love him not because he killed Jews, but because he was a great man. He is my role model."
"We have peace with Israel now. We should begin to view the Palestinian Arab cause in a different manner. For 58 years we have been fighting Israel, so how can we resolve this problem and put it behind us? Enough, we must resolve this problem, because it hinders the progress of the Arab peoples."
Interviewer: "You have been quoted as saying while visiting Israel: 'I have come to say that I forgive you for killing my father, and ask you to forgive us for the terrorism and killing on our part.' Did you say this?"
Nonie Darwish: "Absolutely, this is true. Forgiveness is the most important thing for reconciliation. We want reconciliation with Israel. I call upon the Muslims... The Islamic countries are beautiful countries. I love the Arabs, the Palestinians, and the Egyptians. They are my children – the beautiful Egyptian boys and girls – and their suffering and poverty in Egypt is difficult for me. But in order to resolve this problem, we must begin to view the Jews in a forgiving light. There must be forgiveness and justice, not just for the Palestinians, but for our enemies as well."
"My support for Israel does not mean I am against the Arabs. So please don't think that because I want peace with Israel, I don't want peace with the Arabs. I love my people very very much."
Interviewer: "Do you agree that as a rule, peoples whose lands have been occupied have the right to conduct resistance and to fight?"
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Nonie Darwish: "As Arab countries, we must grant Israel some security. From the days of Abd Al-Nasser until today, with Ahmadinejad in Iran, all they hear is that we want to throw Israel into the sea. All they hear are ugly things. Can you believe that we accused Israel of 9/11? In mosques in America, Egypt, and the Arab countries, they say that Israel was the cause of 9/11. It is wrong for the Muslims to say such things about Israel."
Interviewer: "What is your response to the recent discovery that 250 Egyptian POWs were killed by Israelis in the 1967 war?"
Nonie Darwish: "If we begin to calculate who killed whom, we will never finish. We will never put an end to this problem. We killed many of them. The fedayeen killed thousands, and they killed thousands. Both they and we are wrong. This must be over and done with. If we begin to calculate who killed whom, we will never finish. We will spend all our lives in jihad. We must stop this. Many Egyptian men were killed, including my father. Many women were widowed, and many children were orphaned – not only on our side, but among the Jews as well."
"I would be the first to demonstrate in front of the Israeli embassy, if I found that they committed violations against Arabs. We must be just and grant the Jews security. There are five million of them, and we are 1.2 [billion] Muslims. What are we afraid of – five million Jews? We must welcome them, so they can live in our midst."
"We must stop the terrorism in Israel, and we must not encourage Hamas to say it wants to annihilate Israel. Ahmadinejad is not even an Arab – what does he have to do with Israel? Is he acting this way in order to unify his people?"
"We must begin to want peace with Israel. I am familiar with what goes on in the Arab countries, and I'm sad to say that most of us want to annihilate Israel. We want to kill all the Israelis. This is wrong."
Interviewer: "Aren't you generalizing?"
Nonie Darwish: "This is how we were educated in the Arab countries."
Interviewer: "Aren't you generalizing when you say that we all want to annihilate Israel? Who says that we all want this? Can you mention a single person who said we want to annihilate all the Israelis?"
Nonie Darwish: "Gamal Abd Al-Nasser said this, Ahmadinejad wants this, and the Hamas Charter says that they want to annihilate Israel. When Israel sees that in all 22 Arab countries, the peoples say: 'We want to annihilate Israel' – they are afraid. We must give them some security, so that they can... They left Gaza – and then what happened? They began launching missiles at them from Gaza."
"I have lived in America for 28 years. I love America, and I love freedom. This country has given us a lot of freedom. I get really angry when I hear that some Muslims here curse America."
"To this moment, the Hamas Charter says that it wants the total destruction of Israel. This must be erased. Besides, Ahmadinejad is not even an Arab. Ahmadinejad must stop this. He has nothing to do with Israel or the Arabs. Ahmadinejad should resolve the problems of Iran, not of the Arabs."
"Do you know what they used to say in the mosques in Egypt? 'We want to go to the White House and turn it into the Islamic House. We want to cancel the American constitution.' They say: 'Death to America.' How can we come to this beautiful country and do such things? America is my country."
"We call upon the Arab countries to stop teaching hatred to the Arab children, and to stop teaching them to hate the Jews and the Christians."