IMRA interviewed Marwan Barghouti the head of Fatah West Bank in English, on May 17, 1998. Barghouti is also a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

IMRA: Before the “Nakba” march last Thursday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) expected at least a million people to participate. Why do you think the turnout was so much lower?

Barghouti: I think that there were more people than were expected. In all the centers of the cities in the West Bank and Gaza – Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, there were very big demonstrations. huge numbers. This despite the boycott by the Islamic Movement and Hamas of the marches.

IMRA: So the reports by the press of around 20,000 people in Nablus were incorrect?

Barghouti: More than 60,000 in Nablus. It was the largest one. And there were also in Hebron, Ramallah and Jenin. Under the difficult circumstances in the peace process and under the suffering of the economic situation I think it was a huge success.

IMRA: Also on Friday only 20,000 people came to the Al Aksa Mosque while in the past over a hundred thousand have come to the Mosque on a Friday. Were these reports also wrong?

Barghouti: You know that the people from the West Bank and Gaza cannot reach Jerusalem. I was there. I was in all the streets in the city and there were more than 2,000 Israeli soldiers and policemen there. They reoccupied the city. It was like the first moment that they occupied the city. It reminded us of the 5th of June 1967. This is the situation.

IMRA: What does it mean at the rallies when models of settlements are blown up. What is the message supposed to be?

Barghouti: That means that the people are very angry about the enlargement of settlements and the building of settlements. This is an important thing in the view of the Palestinian people. They feel that this thing is putting their future at risk. And this is a dangerous thing that the Palestinians are facing. So this is to encourage the people to resist the settlement policy.

IMRA: So blowing up models of settlements is in order to encourage people to resist the settlements.

Barghouti: Yes. And I think that we have the legitimacy to resist the settlement policy.

IMRA: To blow up settlements?

Barghouti: To fight, to resist the settlements.

IMRA: So that would include blowing them up.

Barghouti: Everything. Because the settlement policy is terrorism. We have the right to fight against the terrorism.

IMRA: Two weeks ago Yasser Arafat met with a group visiting from the United States and he is reported to have said at that meeting that he would be willing to consider Abu Dis as the Jerusalem capital. What do you think of that.

Barghouti: No. No. I think anybody who is saying that is a traitor.

IMRA: Is this just positioning or if the only way Arafat can make peace is by doing this then if he did It Arafat would be a traitor.

Barghouti: This is not acceptable for any Palestinian or Arab and I think that the issue of Jerusalem is the core of the peace process in the Middle East. If the Israelis accept everything except Jerusalem then the peace process will collapse.

What is the meaning of a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital? It would mean having a state composed of some village here and there and refugee camps. The soul of the Palestinian state will be Jerusalem.

IMRA: When you say ‘Jerusalem’ you mean all of Jerusalem beyond the 1967 line?

Barghouti: Yes, yes. Of course.

IMRA; There is no compromise on that.

Barghouti: Yes. Of course. I don’t think that we have to make compromise after this. I prefer to live without peace and continue to fight without accepting a compromise on Jerusalem.

IMRA; If the PA had Al Aksa Mosque and other areas in eastern Jerusalem but not all of eastern Jerusalem?

Barghouti: Eastern Jerusalem is not just Al Aksa.

I am not a religious man. Jerusalem for me is the important thing as a Palestinian. It is the title of Palestine. And also from a geographical point of view it is very important, for example, for the South and North of the West Bank. Jerusalem united the Palestinians over history. It is the symbol of the Palestinian people.

IMRA: So even if you got part of Jerusalem but had to compromise on other parts that wouldn’t be enough? It would blow it up?

Barghouti: Why do we have to do this compromise?

We did the historical compromise when we accepted two states for the two peoples in historical Palestine. According to UN resolution Palestine is to be two states with more than 60% Palestinian and the Israelis by force took more than 77% and now they want to partition the remaining 23% – this is the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. I don’t think that this would be justice – peace. Maybe it would last 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. But finally it will collapse.

IMRA: Would Arafat also be traitor if he did something along the lines of Beilin-Mazen regarding settlements. That the large settlement blocs would remain under Israeli control?

Barghouti: I have full confidence in Mr. Arafat that he will refuse this. Any Palestinian who accepts a compromise on the pre- 67 War borders would bring a disaster for the Palestinians. I don’t like to use this word but regarding Jerusalem it is very clear that anybody who accepts will be a traitor from the standpoint of the Palestinians.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645