Rayhan Uddin & Mohamed Hassan
Middle East Eye / July 6, 2023
Palestine ambassador to UK says Palestinians must rethink strategy, while slamming western coverage following Jenin raid.
Palestine’s ambassador to the UK has said that the Palestinian leadership needs to reassess its relationship with Israel and its allies and rethink its strategy following the failure of negotiations and the pursuit of international justice.
Husam Zomlot, a diplomat representing the Palestinian Authority (PA), made the comments during an interview on Middle East Eye’s “The Big Picture” podcast on Wednesday, just hours after Israel concluded a large-scale operation in Jenin that killed 12 people.
Zomlot said Palestinians needed to unite against one “common enemy”, the Israeli occupation, amid question marks over the legitimacy of the PA and its ability to protect the people it represents.
Israel’s two-day raid on the Jenin refugee camp involved the use of drones, Apache attack helicopters, and ground forces, including army bulldozers, and was described as one of the worst assaults in the West Bank in two decades.
Asked what levers the PA had over security in its own territories in the occupied West Bank, Zomlot suggested it had little control due to Israeli actions.
“You cannot control your security when you have an occupying army, invading your cities at will at any time and regularly all the time,” he said.
“You cannot control security when there is an Israeli government that is set on undermining the [PA] and not only undermining it in the security sense, but even financially,” he added, referring to Israel withholding PA funds over payments to the families of prisoners.
He said that the Oslo peace agreement of the 1990s did not result in any rolling back of the occupation and that the building of illegal Israeli settlements had instead “quadrupled”.
“Therefore [there is] no way the current situation can provide what the Palestinian people deserve and demand, which is protection,” Zomlot said.
He added that the PA “belonged to the Palestinian people”, and that if they decided it needed to “reform or redefine”, then that would take place.
‘Anger and frustration’
On Wednesday, Palestinian mourners expelled PA leaders who were present at the funeral procession held for the victims of the Jenin offensive.
Many felt let down by the institution for its inaction during the raid. Mourners called them “traitors” and said their actions were “shameful”.
Hours before the funeral procession, crowds of Palestinians also gathered outside the PA’s headquarters in Jenin to protest, with some pelting the building with stones.
“There is, especially among the youth, a lack of hope and a lack of a sense of possibilities,” said Zomlot. “There is hopelessness… and severe anger and frustration.”
But he added that while people were angry, “they realize that the only way forward is that we come together”
“We have one common enemy. And one conflict only that is with the occupier. And every one of us understands that while we have many disagreements, in the end, our focus has to only be there.”
Palestinian cities have witnessed an uptick in armed resistance against Israeli targets in recent months, including from groups such as the Jenin Brigades and Nablus’s Lion’s Den.
Asked whether the PA supported armed resistance, Zomlot alluded to the Palestinian security apparatus’ own historical involvement in armed struggle and its legitimacy under international law.
“Armed resistance was the strategy of the Palestine National Movement of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah for a long time,” he said. “And armed resistance against a belligerent military occupation as per international law is legitimate.”
He said that during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, it was the Palestinian security apparatus that confronted Israel’s army and that in recent months, local leaders of Fatah and PA security officials had been killed by Israel.
“Israel does not distinguish between factions. Its bullets don’t have a chip to distinguish,” he said.
He went on to say that following a period of resistance, Palestinian leaders in the late 1980s and early 90s engaged in internationally administered negotiations striving towards a two-state solution.
But he said that despite many attempts to make that work, there were no longer any negotiations or ways to enforce international accountability.
Pressed on what needed to change, he said: “We need to reassess the whole relationship with Israel and some key allies of Israel.
“The Palestinian people and leadership have tried every trick to reach a peaceful settlement to this via American mediations.”
He added that it was time to rethink and “come up with a new strategy that our people, our region, and the world would accept and that would deliver us our legitimate rights”.
He also stressed the “need” for elections but said that they could not be conducted without the participation of 350,000 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.
Zomlot slams western media
Elsewhere in the interview, Zomlot slammed western media for what he described as its “role” in the Palestinian plight.
“The international mainstream media directly plays a role in… the oppression of the Palestinian people because they are actively engaged in distorting facts,” he said.
He said that he had spent two days this week speaking to the media following Israel’s raid on Jenin, but that the media had performed “very poorly”.
“These journalists invite you with a mindset of ‘we got you’. They just want to get you. They don’t want to understand the real situation,” he said. “I don’t feel that there is real objectivity or neutrality when it comes to their questions.”
He cited the fact that he was repeatedly asked about a car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian that wounded eight people on the second day of the raid, rather than Israel “wreaking havoc destroying an entire refugee camp”.
Rayhan Uddin is a Middle East Eye journalist based in London
Mohamed Hassan is an Award-winning journalist and published author from Egypt and New Zealand currently based in London