June 23, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3942

Nabil Sha'th: We Will Not Recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish People

June 23, 2011
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 3942

In two interviews, with the Arab Israeli weekly Kul Al-Arab[1] and the Jerusalem-based daily Al-Quds,[2] Nabil Sha'th, Fatah Central Committee member and international relations commissioner, said that the Palestinians would not accept a peace plan with two states for two peoples that included recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Rather, he said, they would only accept a definition of Israel as the state of the "Israeli people" – which would include Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Sha'th stated that unlike the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, which had harmed the Palestinian people, the Palestinians' plans to appeal to the U.N. for recognition of a Palestinian state would not harm Israel. He added that the Palestinians preferred the French peace initiative to that of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sha'th expressed support for initiatives for organizing a million unarmed Palestinians to mass along Israel's borders as part of the Palestinian popular struggle. He stressed that he was working toward returning the Palestinian refugees to all of Palestine, and that the primary task of the Arab Israelis was to protect Palestine againast Judaization.

Following are excerpts from the two articles:

The Jewish Gangs Exiled More Than 750,000 Palestinians in 1948

In his interview with Al-Quds, Nabil Sha'ath defended the Palestinians' plans to appeal to the U.N. for recognition of a Palestinian state: "It is strange that we are being pressured not to appeal to the U.N., as if we were turning to the mafia or to the Taliban. We are going to the heart of international legitimacy, the U.N., to request the fulfillment of Resolution No. 181, by virtue of which Israel was recognized and which mandated the [creation] of a Palestinian state in accordance with the Partition Plan. Moreover, we are not demanding half of historic Palestine as the Partition Plan dictates, but a state on the 1967 borders. Is this so much [to ask]? Is this a unilateral step?...

"The establishment of Israel was declared unilaterally, with no negotiations with us, the owners of the soil and the land. Then the Nakba occurred, and the Jewish gangs exiled more than 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. Despite this, the U.N. recognized the State of Israel in accordance with the Partition Plan, without taking into consideration the rights of the Palestinian people, [including its right] to establish its own state on its occupied land."

We Want a Solution Involving the Right of Return

Regarding the French peace initiative for two states for two peoples, Sha'th told Al-Quds: "We agree to two states for two peoples: a state for the Palestinian people and a state for the Israeli people – for its Muslims, Christians, and Jews – because we as Palestinians demand a Palestinian state for Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans. We have not demanded an Islamic state like [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu insists on a Jewish state."

In response to Kul Al-Arab's question "Do you still believe in two states for two peoples?" Sha'th said: "We do not recognize anything called the state of the Jewish people. We are prepared to recognize the State of Israel, if they say that the Israeli people includes those Muslim and Christian residents who are the true owners of the land. But we do not agree to [two states] for two peoples, which means that Israel belongs to the Jewish people. [Israel must] belong to everyone who lives there, and first and foremost to its original inhabitants. We have never agreed, and never will agree, under any circumstances, to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

"To begin with, we rejected the Partition Plan, and they [the Jews] implemented it only in terms of what concerned them. If they want to implement the plan [as it is written], we will reconsider [our] position and ask for 44 percent of Palestine, rather than 22 percent – in which case all of the Jezreel Valley will be part of Palestinian territory.

"There is a chance for two states: a Palestinian state and a non-Jewish State of Israel. We want a solution that will ensure the rights of the refugees and protect the rights of those Palestinians who live in Israel, since protecting their rights is part of our strategy. The discussion of one state is altogether impossible."

"I Am Full of Love and Appreciation for Sheikh Raed Salah"

Asked what he saw as the role of the Arab parties in Israel, and whether he felt they were obligated to work in service of the Palestinian cause, Sha'th told Kul Al-Arab: "No Palestinian can separate himself from his main cause. The top priority should be protecting the Palestinian oak tree planted in the heart of Palestine... Standing up to the Jewishness of the country is your main function. You [Arab Israelis] have rights, and it is only fitting that these parties devote time to this main cause."

Discussing the Islamic movement in Israel and the charges that it promotes extremism, Sha'th told the weekly: "I am full of love and appreciation for [Islamic Movement in Israel northern branch leader] Sheikh Raed Salah, and especially his role in Jerusalem. He is a virtuous man and a warrior."

The French Peace Initiative Is Preferable to That of the U.S.

In his interview with Al-Quds, Sha'th discussed the Western attempts at renewing the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, saying: "Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu torpedoed the French initiative in coordination with the American administration... We consider the French plan preferable to Obama's initiative, as it entails four important elements. Firstly, it stresses stopping the settlements, while Obama's plan does not mention the settlements. Secondly, the French initiative discusses a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders without regard to Israel's demographic and security needs. Thirdly, the French initiative proposes a solution of two states for two peoples. And finally, it specifies that a resolution to the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees must be arrived at within the same year [that the negotiations are held]."

We Have No Desire to Return to the Armed Struggle – But No One Can Keep Us From Majdal Shams or Bil'in

Asked about his thoughts on the possible effectiveness of sending Palestinians from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt to mass along the borders of Palestine, Sha'th told Kul Al-Arab: "The question of a peaceful march to the borders... is part of our popular activity. We are committed to peaceful activity; we do not want to return to armed conflict with Israel, but no one can tell us, 'Don't go to Majdal Shams or Bil'in,' or 'Don't boycott Israeli goods.' No, the occupation will not go on riding on our backs. We are confronting the Israeli occupation through nonviolent methods."

Asked whether he approved of initiatives proposing that Palestinians and their supporters erect camps on the borders of occupied Palestine, he said: "Let them do whatever they want. It is acceptable to us as long as it is not characterized by violence. But Lebanese and Syrian sovereignty must be respected... It is lawful for a million Palestinians from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria bearing nothing but olive branches, to remain for a lengthy period on Palestine's borders; it is part of our people's struggle."

The Armed Struggle and the Oslo Accords Benefited Us – But Did Not Liberate Palestine

Asked by Kul Al-Arab whether the Oslo Accords had been a mistake, Sha'ath replied: "If the criterion is whether or not [a thing] liberates Palestine, then Oslo is a mistake, the armed struggle is a mistake, the popular struggle is a mistake, and so is the international activity – since none of these have liberated Palestine.

"Without a doubt, the armed struggle turned our cause from a matter of refugees in need of aid from UNRWA to a matter of rights, homeland, and statehood. They [i.e. the Israelis] didn't discuss a [Palestinian] state until we entered the homeland [from Tunisia, following the Oslo Accords]. [Prior to that,] they would speak of [our] right to self determination, but thanks to Oslo, we restored 250,000 refugees to their homeland, we established state institutions, and we achieved international recognition for the first time. Today, there are 116 states in the world, including China, India, Russia, and Brazil, that recognize the state of Palestine. Oslo benefited us."

"I See Myself Returning to Jaffa – Why Shouldn't I?"

Kul Al-Arab asked Sha'th, "You are a refugee, originally from Safed. You moved to Jaffa when you were five, and were exiled from there when you were nine. Will you return to your hometown?"

Sha'ath answered: "I am a native of Safed, and I lived in Jaffa for four years, four years which I will never forget. I long for Jaffa. I visited our home there, in the Al-Nuzha [neighborhood] near Dr. Al-Dajani's hospital, next to the Al-'Amriya School where my father was principal.

"I see myself returning to Jaffa; why shouldn't I? But I feel that it is my current duty to work for the sake of all of Palestine. My heart has love for Gaza, Jerusalem, and Jaffa, and whether I am in Ramallah or in Gaza, I will work for the sake of Jaffa, Jerusalem, and all of Palestine."


[1] Kul Al-Arab (Israel), June 10, 2011.

[2] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), June 13, 2011.

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