A March 1, 2017 article in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar about PLO Ambassador to Iran Salah Al-Zawawi included excerpts of an interview with him focusing on the PLO-Iran relationship. Al-Zawawi also stressed in the interview that armed struggle using all means was a legitimate path to liberating Palestine "from the river to the sea."
It should be noted that on February 19, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that "the ambassador of the state of Palestine in Iran, Salah Al-Zawawi" would be part of the Palestinian delegation to the Sixth International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, held in Tehran on February 21, and that the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website also lists him as Palestine's ambassador to Iran.
Following are excerpts from the article, including statements by Al-Zawawi:
Salah Al-Zawawi at the the Sixth International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada (image: Tasnim, Iran, February 21, 2017)
"In February 1981, the late [Palestinian Authority (PA)] president Yasser Arafat appointed Salah Al-Zawawi as PLO envoy to Tehran, after the late Hani Al-Hassan retired and left for Beirut. Following the signing of the Oslo Accords between the PLO and the Zionist enemy, Iran refused to recognize the PA that was born of this agreement, and also rejected the replacement of Al-Zawawi and the appointment of a new ambassador. Thus, Al-Zawawi remained in office, and has spent the past 32 years of his life in Tehran.
"Al-Zawawi reminisced about the opening of the [PLO] embassy [in Tehran], which was attended by Abu 'Ammar [Arafat], [then-PLO ambassador to Tehran] Hani Al-Hassan, Ahmad Khomeini [son of the leader of the Iranian revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini], and former Iranian foreign minister Ebrahim Yazdi. During it, [he said], the Palestinian flag was raised over the former Israeli Embassy building. He expressed his pride in the fact that Arafat was the first official to visit Tehran, and added: 'After the victory of the Imam Khomeini's revolution, Arafat said: "Starting today, my front stretches from Tyre to Khorasan..." [Al-Zawawi added:] 'Palestine-Iran relations run deeper than any political differences the two sides face, and even after the PLO's recognition of Israel, ties between the two revolutions remain...'
"Underlining the [PLO-Iran] relations that have existed since time immemorial, Al-Zawawi said: 'Our relationship with the Imam Khomeini began back when he was still in exile. The Imam's revolution [i.e. Iran's Islamic Revolution] was based on two main foundations: Islam, and Palestine [including Jerusalem, which is], the first direction of prayer [for Muslims, and the location of] the third-most important mosque [Al-Aqsa]. Once the Imam Khomeini's revolution had triumphed, he said: Today Iran, and tomorrow Palestine, and added: Without restoring Palestine, Iran's independence will remain lacking as well.' Al-Zawawi added: 'The Imam [Khomeini] adopted our [Palestinian] revolution when he was in the [Iraqi] city of Al-Najaf, which is holy [to Shi'ites], and it was then also that he issued his historic fatwa regarding the transfer of zakat [alms] and one-fifth [of a person's income] to the Palestinian fighters who risk their lives.'
"Al-Zawawi speaks lovingly of Khomeini, saying: 'The Imam would see in his mind's eye the future of Palestine, and he declared the last Friday of Ramadan to be International Qods [Jerusalem] Day, [because] he could see what [ordinary] people do not see.' [Al-Zawawi continues:] 'I look at the dark days we live in now: the Zionist enemy is attempting to swallow up the West Bank, annex Jerusalem, and see it as the capital of the Zionist entity. This is in addition to [the Zionists] stepping up settlement construction and allowing [themselves] to harm Al-Aqsa mosque.'
"The Palestinian ambassador likes repeating the history of [Palestinian-Iranian] ties even prior to the victory of the Islamic Revolution [in Iran]. He stresses that most Iranian commanders were trained at Fatah camps in Lebanon, that some of them died as martyrs fighting alongside Palestinian fighters and are still on the list of Palestinian martyr families, and that [Fatah] continues to pay allowances to their families in Iran.
"[Al-Zawawi continues:] 'The Iranian ideological compass is linked to Palestine, so that wherever you go in Iran, you will find a street or monument named for Palestine. In the holiest site for [Shi'ite] Islam, that is, the seat of the [Eighth Shi'ite] Imam Ali Al-Ridha in Mashhad, there is a large courtyard, the Al-Quds Courtyard, that features a model of the Dome of the Rock, and after every prayer the Iranians chant anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans...'
"The Palestinian ambassador was careful to mention anything [that the Palestinians have] in common with Iran, saying: 'We are facing a U.S.-run Western plan, which will not end except through combat and jihad, carried out by all means. The regime here was established on the basis of Islam and the Shi'ite sect, and we as a movement connect to it in the martyrdom aspects of Karbala and Hussein. The Imam Hussein's rebellion is a fundamental matter in the Shi'ite conscience, and the principle of the victory of the bloody sword underlines that the few can also triumph [over the many], and that those with few weapons can defeat those with an abundance of them...'
"[Al-Zawawi], one of the most veteran Palestinian diplomats, does not deny [that there are Palestinian] disagreements with Iran, but [explains that] 'every side has to understand the other side's tendencies, and we must fight to liberate Palestine. For our people in the 1948 territories [meaning Israeli Arabs], a different kind of fighting is needed than the kind needed for the people of the West Bank, and the West Bank requires a different kind of fighting than Gaza. [Additionally,] there is the diplomatic struggle.' He added: 'Certainly, everyone should fight in their own way, from carrying out stabbing and vehicular attacks to launching rockets. That is how we will liberate Palestine from the river to the sea... Some [types of?] jihad aredictated by geography, and everyone should contribute from where they are, using the means at their disposal and in accordance with their various situations. All means of combat are legitimate in order to realize Allah's promise for liberation: From [the traditional dance] Dabke to armed struggle.'
"Providing a political analysis of what is happening with the Palestinian cause today, Al-Zawawi said: 'We are not facing an ordinary enemy, or a small-scale plan. Rather, we are fighting the most dangerous international plan, especially after the U.S. adopted the [idea the Palestinians must recognize Israel as] a Jewish state. The U.S. transitioned from one phase to the next, fully aware of what its next step will be, and we were deceived.' He added: 'The ethnic and sectarian conflicts taking place today – their purpose is to take over and dismantle the region's resources and spark wars among the Arabs in order to distance them from Palestine – [all this] promotes the establishment of Greater Israel.'
"The Palestinian ambassador no longer believes in the Oslo Accords. Moreover, he says: 'When the PLO signed the agreement, a Palestinian state was supposed to be established in the West Bank and Gaza in 1999, but it did not happen.' Eighteen years have passed since then, and therefore Al-Zawawi determines that Israel and the U.S. will not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. He said decisively: 'Oslo is bankrupt. U.S. President Donald Trump is the Zionist face of this enterprise. Additionally, the futility of dialogue with the enemy is now becoming clear.'
"For the Palestinian ambassador, the internal [i.e. intra-Palestinian] division adds fuel to the fire: 'Can you believe how divided we are and how we are unable to unite[?] I do not accept any excuses whatsoever [for this] from the factions.' He added: 'At this time, we have no choice but to unite because the enemy is taking advantage of our division to Judaize Palestine, which is slipping away before our very eyes.'
"As for the Sixth Conference to Support the Palestinian Intifada, he believes that it expresses Iran's commitment to the Palestinians: 'The belief of fellowship [between us and the Iranians] is known to all. [The Iranians] are the bearers of the black standard, who leave Khorasan for Jerusalem.' He added: 'If we see the conference as a political and media phenomenon, then it has achieved what it was expected to achieve under these harsh conditions, when everyone seeks to eliminate the Palestinian cause. The conference gave us a chance for dialogue amongst ourselves. Furthermore, it was attended by heads of parliament from Arab countries and around the world, who discussed the next phase of the Palestinian struggle.'"