Following are excerpts from a TV debate with Oslo-based Palestinian author Dr. Ahmad Abu Matar and former head of the Arab Writers Union 'Ali 'Oqla 'Orsan, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on July 22, 2008:
Ahmad Abu Matar: Where are all the masses with regard to the Alexandretta province, which was occupied 80 years ago?! When the Turkish-Syrian border was demarcated a few years ago, any mention of the occupied Alexandretta province was erased from the Syrian curricula – from elementary school to university.
They have forgotten all about occupied Al-Ahwaz, the Alexandretta province, and about Sabta and Malila. Who is against normalization? The resistance and Hamas, you say? Examine that shameful paradox – several months ago, Hamas would launch "decorative" missiles, and would accuse the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas of oppressing resistance fighters. Now, for the past two or three months, Hamas has given normalization a cute nickname - tahdiya - which sounds slightly nicer than "normalization," and it began to arrest people who launched missiles. What is this paradox?
'Ali 'Oqla 'Orsan: A people that participates in a campaign of the scale of the Arab-Zionist conflict and whose land is occupied cannot open a second front in Alexandretta or anywhere else. This does not mean that it has forgotten its rights, but that it would be crazy to open several fronts simultaneously all over the world. We learned this lesson painfully in 1967, when our army fought both in the south and in the north. We must not live in delusions.
Ahmad Abu Matar: My colleague, Dr. 'Ali 'Oqla 'Orsan, said, regarding the question of why we have forgotten Alexandretta, that it is all a question of priorities. To be honest, I do not understand these priorities. Alexandretta was occupied in 1936, and we have forgotten about it, and Al-Ahwaz was occupied in 1925, and we have forgotten about it. Palestine was occupied in 1948 – so what are the priorities? Do you want to liberate the first region to fall, or the last? If you want to start with the last region – go ahead and issue just one statement about the UAE islands occupied by Iran. This proves that there is a defect in the thinking of the anti-normalization committees.