Geneva, 29 August - 7 September 1983
Based on these principles, the following persons were invited to attend the International Conference on the Question of Palestine that was held in Geneva from 29 August to 7 September 1983.
Allow me at the outset, Mr. President, to extend my congratulations on your unanimous election. My high respect also to Ambassador Massamba Sarré and Mrs. Lucille Mair for their devotion to the Palestinian cause.
I come from South-east Asia, where in the past the peoples have tasted the bitter experiences of colonialism. We all fought for our national independence. Some through peaceful means, others such as Viet Nam and Indonesia, through armed revolution.
We all love peace, but we all love freedom more. If freedom can be achieved through peaceful means, we are grateful for that. But if peaceful means fail, then we have to take up the challenge of armed struggle which is imposed upon us.
The road to freedom was not a free choice. Some of us could achieve it through peaceful negotiations around the conference tables. Others had to do it through the battlefield.
One thing we have learned from our struggle for independence, namely how precious national freedom is for all freedom-loving peoples, in particular for Asia and Africa.
Motivated by the fact that in the 1950s Asia and Africa were not yet totally free from colonialism, we initiated the Asian-African Conference in Bandung in 1955.
The main purpose was to mobilize the forces of the newly independent nations for the sake of those who were still suffering under colonialism and for the sake of world peace.
Consequently, the Bandung Conference declared its full support to all national liberation movements. Bandung stipulated that freedom and peace were interdependent.
With regard to the situation in the Middle East, Bandung declared its full support of the inalienable rights of the Arab people of Palestine, and called for the implementation of the United Nations resolution on Palestine and the achievement of a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question.
The great Mufti of Jerusalem, Al-haj Amin Al-husseini, and other freedom fighters were present in Bandung as observers. During the deliberations and exchanges of views, it became clear that Zionism was an aggressive movement and imperialistic in character. It became clear also that at stake was not the problem of Palestinian refugees who needed refuge or shelter, but that at stake was the lot of the Palestinian Nation, who was deprived of nationhood and statehood.
Long before Bandung the world witnessed the plight of the Palestinian people. When after the second World War, the process of decolonization took place in Asia and Africa, the reverse happened in Palestine. International Zionist forces from outside the area came to subjugate the Palestinians, by terrorizing and expelling them from their homeland.
Indeed, zionism is a new form and new manifestation of the old classical colonialism. In the words of the Bandung Conference this kind of colonialism is an evil which should speedily be brought to an end. A world with the evil of zionism is not a secure world, nor a peaceful world.
Reflecting on the deliberations of Bandung 28 years ago and projecting our view on the situation of today, we still face the very danger of international zionism.
Actually, this International Conference on the Question of Palestine is a conference aiming at the eradication of one of the basic causes which endanger world peace. Thus, basically this Conference is devoted to peace.
As Lucille Mair, our Secretary-General, pointed out in one of her press interviews, the focus of the Conference is on enhancing international consciousness on the issue of Palestine, and to seek more effective ways of achieving Palestinian rights in the interest of a peaceful settlement.
We are all convinced that the core of the conflict in the Middle East is the question of Palestine; and that both the question of Palestine and the Middle East problem form an indivisible whole and cannot be dealt with or resolved separately.
The Palestinians are not a new nation. From generation to generation the Palestinians have given birth to outstanding statesmen, scientists, traders, business leaders and men of culture.
Since Zionist terrorism they have produced heroic fighters for freedom and justice.
They have been massacred several times, the most barbaric was the massacre in Sabra and Shatila. Nevertheless the Palestinian spirit for freedom and justice could not be crushed. Like all freedom-fighters in the world, the Palestinian personality remains an innate, persistent characteristic that does not disappear from their spirit.
It is an undeniable fact, that all nations must have a homeland of their own. If they are denied a home, people become walking volcanoes. This is not rhetoric, but the reality and the truth.
This fundamental truth has been recognized by all the United Nations resolutions. It is also reflected in the Arab Peace Plan adopted at the Twelfth Arab Summit Conference at Fez in 1982, and which was subsequently endorsed by the Seventh Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries in New Delhi a few months ago.
But regretfully Israel with the backing of international zionism rejects all those constructive resolutions and the Arab Peace Plan
More worse, Israel applied since 1981 a "change in the rules of the game". This terminology of change in the rules of the game was used by the daily "Ha'aretz" of 19 July 1981.
The new rules of the game were illustrated by the 500 people killed in the 1981 bombing raids in Beirut, the systematic intervention in what Defence Minister Ariel Sharon has called: "Israel's sphere of vital strategic
interests", such as the violation of Saudi air space and the bombing of a nuclear plant for peaceful purposes in Iraq.
The new rules of the game were also illustrated in the new policy of the occupied territories. The Golan Heights were annexed. Israeli military authorities fired on unarmed demonstrators, closed universities, ousted elected mayors and committed other brutalities.
In fact, those so-called new rules of the game were not totally new at all. It is the old game in the old spirit of aggressive zionism with the arrogance of power. If there is something new, then it is in the degree and in the intensity of the brutalities.
In the light of all, this, we have to ask ourselves: Where do we stand now in our search for peace and freedom? Peace for the Middle East? And freedom for the Palestinians?
First of all, before answering ourselves the question, we have to acknowledge that with the Arab Peace Plan a new chapter in the history of Arab-Israeli relations has been opened. Without renouncing her rights, our
Arab brothers initiated a bold imaginative plan to attain a just, durable and comprehensive solution.
Equally bold and imaginative was the response of the PLO which approved the formula of the Arab Peace Plan. This was stated by Mr. Farouk Qaddoumi in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia four months ago.
He said that in spite of the Zionist aggression in Lebanon, the PLO did not abandon its conciliatory stance, but, rather, responded to the Arab Peace Plan and approved its formula.
PLO's position did not result from weakness of from the acts of aggression committed against them but, rather, from the belief that justice is on their side.
Again, regretfully, the Zionists did not reply to the Arab Peace Plan in a positive fashion. Nor to the peace plan of President Reagan, based on the Camp David Agreement, in which Egypt's role could be a kind of bridge between the Arab Peace Plan and the American Peace Plan towards Arab-Israeli peace.
Instead, the Zionists still pursued their arrogant and aggressive policy. They expand their arms industry, for export and for their own use. Science in Israel has become more closely linked with warfare, and each
encourages the other. Advanced technology has been a military advantage for Israel in Lebanon last year, but not without limits.
The limits were the heroic spirit of the Palestinian freedom fighters and the Lebanese people.
Israel could attack the PLO again and again, but the prospects of the PLO's extirpation are slight. After each Israeli aggression the PLO acquired more experience in their defence. Moral and political support of the whole world is steadily increasing.
An exception to this is the attitude of the United States, which is always supporting Israel. This attitude creates a dilemma for America. America wants to reconcile two irreconcilable things: first, its friendship with an increasingly recalcitrant Israel and second, its lucrative ties with the Arab world.
This American dilemma, which is becoming worse because of the latest development in Lebanon and in Israel itself, will be also our dilemma, if we are not looking for wider horizons in our search for peace in the Middle East.
Those wider horizons should be connected with the role of the United Nations. We have to reconcile our individual stand with the United Nations. The United Nations role is essential and paramount, in particular the role of the Security Council with its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
In this context the Security Council should take the initiative to work out and implement all General Assembly resolutions and Security Council decisions, as has been recommended by the Kuala Lumpur Regional Conference, and so eloquently advocated by H.E. Tan Sri Ghazali, the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs, before this forum.
The two following principles are the prerequisites:
(a) First, the principle of the inadmissibility of acquisition of territories by force. Consequently all Israeli troops should forthwith be withdrawn from occupied territories, including Lebanon;
(b) Second, the principle of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, represented by the PLO, for statehood in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.
After these prerequisites have been met, the right of all States to secure an independent existence can be ensured on the basis of complete reciprocity.
In the meantime, this Conference should also mobilize the moral force of public opinion the world over, to enhance the international consciousness in the issue of Palestine.
All these suggestions would be effective only if we can overcome our differences. Therefore we should unite our viewpoint and standpoint. The way to peace is a hard and a long way. It demands courage and patience.
There is no shortcut on the road to peace. Shortcut means war. Those reactionary forces who are in favour of that shortcut, let them be reminded that the days of local and limited wars in the Middle East are over. And they should carry the blame of a new scourge of war upon mankind.
And if that shortcut will be imposed upon all freedom-loving peoples, let those imposters and warmongers be reminded also to the indomitable spirit of freedom fighters all over the world, that they love peace, but that they love freedom more.
Let me first submit my identity card: I am an Israeli. I consider myself a patriotic Israeli. As a member of the underground and later as a soldier in the Israeli army, I fought for the creation of Israel. Indeed, it was the battle-fields of the war of 1948 that I first came to grips with the Palestinian question, and I have been involved in it ever since. As an Israeli patriot, I believe that the future and security of my country depended on peace. I believe that there can be no peace in our region, without the Palestinians. I believe that there can be no peace with the Palestinians without recognizing the PLO. I therefore believe that Israel and the PLO must recognize each other, and that direct contact between our two peoples is a precondition to any peace. What peace? Two thousand years ago, a famous Jewish Rabbi was called upon to define Judaism in one sentence. He said "Don't do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you." I would paraphrase this and say "I demand for the Palestinian people exactly the same as I demand for my own people." I want to live in a nation and State of our own, with our own flag, our own passport and the right to choose our own Government, good. bad or very bad. I believe the Palestinians have the right to live in a national State of their own, under their own flag and with their own passport, and have the right to choose their own Government, hopefully good.
Mr. Chairman, where do we stand now?
Let me tell you a short story. Three years ago, I listened in the Knesset to a speech by Mr. Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Agriculture in charge of new settlements. Some of my friends and I interrupted his speech in order to protest against this policy and suddenly he burst out laughing. He said "I shall tell you why I laugh. While you are sitting here in the Knesset, and shout, new ground is broken by the bulldozers in the West Bank, a new stretch of road is being built, new houses spring up."
Mr. Chairman, while we are sitting here in this meeting, on this sunny September afternoon in Geneva, the bulldozers are working in the West Bank, new settlements spring up, new roads are being laid. I am addressing you, with a desperate sense of urgency. Facts are being created on the ground.
What can be done? This is the real, the only question. We seem to be enclosed by a vicious circle. This was very apparent in most of the speeches made in this Conference. Everybody knows what is wrong and describes it, some in extreme terms, some in a more moderate style. But very few ways for changing the situation have been advanced. What can be done? Economic sanctions? They will not help, they will only make the Israelis rally behind an even more extreme Government. Military action? Israel has unquestioned military superiority. A change in the attitude of the United States of America? One has to be a very optimistic optimist to believe in that. Condemn? Protest?
I do believe that there is one point, and one point only, where this vicious circle can be broken. And that is, Israeli public opinion. Israel is a democracy, he who changes public opinion in Israel, changes government policy, indeed, changes the Government itself.
What is Israeli public opinion? Let me try to define it in very schematic, even simplistic, terms, as far as it concerns the Palestinian question. There is one minority in Israel which believes that the West Bank and Gaza should remain forever in Israeli hands, even if the price is eternal war, because that is the word of God. Indeed, many Israelis do not believe in God, but do believe that God promised us this land. Nothing will change this outlook of the people who govern Israel today.
On the other side you have another minority, smaller and less powerful, but important and significant, which sincerely believes in peace. This is the part of Israel which demonstrated after the terrible massacre in Sabra and Shatila. Four hundred thousand people came out in a unique moral demonstration. That would be equivalent to 600,000 Swiss in one place in Geneva, to 4 million Egyptians in Liberation Square in Cairo and to 25 million Americans in one demonstration in Washington, D.C.
Between these two minorities, there is a great majority of the Israeli people who waiver between the two extremes. Why do they rally behind the Government of Begin/Shamir? Why do they support extreme policies, extreme annexationist policies? For a very simple reason. They have been brought to believe that peace is impossible. That even if you give back the West Bank and Gaza, and even if the Palestinian State comes into being, there will be no peace, no solution, no security. Rather, the new Palestinian State will become a base for attack on Israel, 25 km. from my home on the seashore of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, there is no lack of Palestinian and Arab statements which can be used to strengthen these fears, such as the Palestinian Charter, statements saying that the creation of a Palestinian State is only a first step towards another solution, etc. The selective use of these statements disregarding any others can go a long way in convincing decent and peace-loving people in Israel that the peace we propose presents terrible dangers.
We have to convince the Israeli public that this solution - namely the creation of a Palestinian national State in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem, living side by side with the State of Israel in its pre-1967 borders, with its capital in West Jerusalem - is the final settlement of the problem, the basis for a permanent peace.
How do we convince? First of all, by making it absolutely clear that the two principles - that the principle of the right of the Palestinians to a State of their own and the principle of the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security - are twin principles, indivisibly united, the two sides of the same coin. Let there be no equivocation about it. Let this absolute linkage be made clear in every statement, including the one which shall come out of this Conference.
Mr. Chairman, we have listened to excellent statements by Chairman Yasser Arafat and Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO Foreign Minister. They were well balanced, clear to those who are used to reading political texts; but they were not the kind of statements that can move people, ordinary people, to change their minds.
What we need are deeds, gestures, that ordinary people can see and hear and be impressed by. When Chairman Arafat invited me during the battle of Beirut to cross the front line and meet with him, it was a deed. When he received the delegation of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace earlier this year, and when we published a joint communiqué simultaneously in Tunis and Tel Aviv, that was a deed. When he met us here, on Friday, after his moving speech, and expressed his solidarity with the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace by embracing us publicly, this is a deed. Many many more in many different forms are needed. To mention just one important example, the speedy solution of the question of the exchange of prisoners of war would have a strong impact on Israeli public opinion.
Can this opinion be changed? Let me tell you another story. Once after I made a speech in the Knesset very much like this, Mr. Begin stood up to reply and said "You know that out of 120 members of the Knesset, 110 are against every word you said." I answered "Mr. Prime Minister, I know this, and I would be impressed by this, if I did not remember that one week before a visit of President Sadat in the Knesset, 110 out of 120 members objected to giving back an inch of the Sinai." One dramatic gesture, which shook Israeli public opinion to its very depths was enough to change an impossibility to a political fact. This then is the value of the dialogue. An open and public dialogue between patriotic Israeli peace forces and the PLO is an absolute necessity, because it will show people that Israelis and Palestinians can talk with each other, that enemies can become friends, that there is a real possibility for co-existence in our country. On both sides, the enemy has been turned into a devil, demonology has taken the place of rational politics. We have to de-demonize each other if we want to convince people that peace is possible and worth a heavy price. Of course, courage is needed. Indeed, there is no more dangerous profession in the Middle East than the profession of peace-making. Let me remember here the great Palestinian patriot and peace-maker, Said Hamami, with whom I opened the dialogue in 1974. He was assassinated by Arab extremists in 1974. Let me remember that most beautiful Palestinian leader, Issam Sartawi, my friend and my brother, murdered by Arab gunmen this year. Let me also mention Emil Grunzweig, an Israeli peace activist, murdered in Jerusalem by a hand grenade thrown by Jewish terrorists at a peace demonstration.
This is one of the main facts in the Middle East: There is an absolute and automatic co-operation by the refusal front on both sides, between the Begins and the Abu-Mussas. Every act by Mr. Sharon re-enforces those on the Arab side who wish to destroy any chance for peace and compromise, and any act by an Arab extremist provides ammunition for the forces of war and annexation in Israel. What is still missing, even at this Conference, is a clear, public, open co-operation between the forces of peace on both sides.
I believe that this Conference could help to institutionalize the dialogue. Let the Conference call for an intensification of the dialogue. Let it create a permanent framework to facilitate the dialogue and widen it.
In the battle for peace, we, the peace forces in Israel, and the Palestinian peace forces are the frontline soldiers of peace. Give us the tools and we shall do the job.
Early in my life, I have come to realize that we, the Israelis and the Palestinians, live in the same country, and that our destinies are intertwined for better, for worse. We can live together or we can die together. Let our common love for our country be a base for a life together, each one under his own flag and with his own national identity. Nearly a hundred years ago, the founder of modern zionism, Theodore Herzl, wrote in his diary after the first Zionist Congress, which was held in Basle, Switzerland, "In Basle I founded the Jewish State." Let this great Conference conduct its business and draft its resolutions in such a manner that it will be said in the future: In Geneva there was founded the Palestinian State." And quoting Herzl again, "If you want it, it will be no fairy tale."
My reading of the record of this Committee leaves the firm impression that two States Members of the United Nations, acting in concert, have been mainly responsible for frustrating the execution of the Committee's recommendations. They have not once refuted either the facts submitted by the Committee or the principles on which the Committee has worked. The two-stage obstruction has been predicated on strategy or tactics. The obstructionist States have repeatedly argued that Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 or the Camp David framework, or both - if, indeed the two are as consistent as their champions claim - are the only practical bases for a peaceful settlement of the old conflict. The lapse of 15 years for the one formulation and of five years for the other, without anything resembling a "just and enduring peace", suggests users of this rationale must know an uncommon definition of "practical".
In the context of the 1956 Suez War, President Eisenhower said, "Peace is not the absence of war, but the establishment of justice". Those who invoke resolutions 242 and 338, or the Camp David framework or even the Reagan proposals of last September as reasons for obstructing this Committee's recommendations cannot point to even the minimal "absence of war" in the Eisenhower formulation. When strategic and tactical arguments are repeatedly offered as reasons for opposing new initiatives, it is difficult to avoid the suspicion these arguments barely conceal fundamental differences of policy and principles. It is not my purpose here to detail the well-known inadequacies of the celebrated resolutions or the Camp David formula or the Reagan propositions.
On 29 September 1977, Jimmy Carter was contemplating how to revive the stalled international Geneva conference. He was not yet entangled in the amorphous and porous Camp David formula. Still unencumbered by that negotiated confusion, he declared that if the PLO would accept resolution 242, modified to declare Palestinian interests exceeded the original reference to them as "refugees", the United States "would begin to meet with and to work with the PLO". 2/ The statement was ambiguous. But it was an advance over earlier United States positions.
The United Nations resolutions on Palestine which this Committee declares it honours - and which the Chairman of the PLO has said are honoured - now include recognition of the Palestinian people's "inalienable rights". The politically moral turpitude, the cynical diplomacies of great Powers, the flouting of international law have all combined to frustrate the implementation of these rights. But the resolutions have established a norm which says the Palestinians are "a people". They may no longer be regarded as fragmented enclaves of refugees, to be either abused or as objects of patronizing benevolences of hand-outs or demeaning asylum in patrimonies other than their own. This Committee's efforts to have these resolutions implemented, it seems to me, are entirely consistent with Carter's September 1977 statement, although this seems no longer to be the position of the present American Administration.
This Carter position appears to have remained viable for no more than 10 days. But that was time enough for the United States and the Soviet Union to issue their joint statement of 1 October 1977. For the first time, that moderately hopeful instrument put the imprimatur of the United States to a document calling for "insuring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people". “Legitimate rights" were not defined and "self-determination" was not mentioned. But recognition of "rights” and designation of the Palestinians as a “people” together with abandonment of formulas for humanitarian hand-outs to “refugees” were significant.
If most of the world missed these language subtleties the ever alert word-processors in Jerusalem definitely did not. Their microchips projected on the screen of their programmed computer a command to Moshe Dayan reminiscent of the familiar divine order to the biblical patriarch, Abraham, "Get thee up from thy country and jet to New York" for the purpose, as Joseph Harsch of The Christian Science Monitor put it, (6 October 1977, p. 27), to see:
The Zionist State's role as super-salesman for United States weaponry to Governments whose dedication to human rights and social justice might offend more liberal Americans is, apparently, better known in Israel than in the United States. One whistle-blower" among Israel's liberal, academic community is Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, a member of Haifa University's faculty. In a New York Times op ed article on 6 January 1983, the Israeli academic said, Americans hear a good deal about Israel's partnership in providing:
The establishmentarian, ideological Zionists never intended to respect the Balfour Declaration's stipulated safeguards of the rights of Palestine's indigenous people and the nationality integrity of Jews who rejected Zionist nationalism. Neither of the great democratic Powers most directly responsible for the resulting tragedy ever exercised the political courage to require such compliance. Given Zionist commitment to its vision, the ineptitude and inadequacy of Arab public information and the dereliction of these great Powers, the way was clear for the establishment of a State which would enact this "Jewish people", "basic" or "fundamental" legislation and hold that it transcended the rights of the Palestinians and also ignored the protests and rejections of anti-Zionist Jews. To put a corpus of such laws in place it was necessary to displace substantial numbers of Palestinians and then construct an electoral system in which the remaining Palestinian minority, if they voted at all, could choose only among Zionist parties.
Ian Lustick, an American Zionist scholar, observes that Israel's Arab minority is more than 10 per cent of the population but :