Q&A with Mustafa Barghouti

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Mustafa Barghouti will speak Thursday night at 7 pm in Barus and Holley 168. The Palestinian medical doctor and peace advocate came in second to Mahmoud Abbas in the 2005 elections for president of the Palestinian National Authority. On Wednesday evening, he spoke to The Brown Daily Herald.

The Herald: What will you be discussing in your talk?

Barghouti: First of all, I will make introduction to the situation in Palestine because I think people know very little about it, because the media here does not show much and I think there is a need to tell the narrative about the situation. And then I will speak about the rise in the power of non-violent struggle, and the importance of non-violence. Maybe I will speak about what others can learn from Palestinian struggle as well.

What do you say to Palestinians who feel so disenfranchised that they see violent uprisings as their only remaining option to protest Israeli occupation?

What is not very well known is that in most of the time — I cannot give a percentage — but if I might, I would say maybe more than 90 percent of the time of our history — in the last century — our struggle was non-violent. The problem is that the media does not show that. When there is something violent, they emphasize it.

And [the] second thing that people don’t know is that most of the time, the violence we have there is practiced by the Israeli Army. And third is that today practically the main form of struggle is non-violent resistance.

When, of course, you have people who have doubts, and who wonder whether this will be effective, due to the viciousness and the ferocity of the Israeli army — which attacks non-violent resistance with severe violence. And people raise questions. But I think what helps us make things clear is that we show that non-violence is really effective.

One way of guaranteeing that non-violence will remain the main form of struggle — or the only form of struggle — is that there is stronger international solidarity to achieve peace and justice.

Do you endorse a two-state solution?

I do, but I see a very big risk that this solution could disappear if Israel continues its policy of settlement building and of destroying the potential for a two-state solution. I am very worried. I don’t know where is the point at which we can say we’ve crossed the line and it’s irreversible. But I am extremely worried about what’s happening on the ground, and also about the lack of sufficient international pressure to push for a solution.

What do you think would be the correct path to a two-state solution?

For a Palestinian state to happen, they have to end occupation. We cannot have occupation and a state. It doesn’t work.

So what we need is the end of this military occupation, which lasted already for 43 years, and has become the longest occupation in modern history. And we need to negotiate the final status issues, which are the issues of Jerusalem, settlement, borders, security, water resources, etc. If there is a way, then that is the way.

But there can be no state if the wall remains. Or if settlement remains. Or if occupation remains. The only way to have a Palestinian state is to end occupation and allow Palestinian people to be free.

You know, I lived all my adult life under occupation. And we are deprived of every basic freedom that people usually have. The fact that Palestinian students cannot go to a university in Palestine that they want to go to and the fact that people in Gaza cannot come to the West Bank, the fact that I was born in Jerusalem, for instance, and like 95 percent of Palestinians I cannot go to the same city I was born in.

Why use the word “apartheid”? Is it really helpful to characterize Israeli occupation of Palestine with such a loaded word?

The answer is, it’s not helpful to have apartheid. The issue is not, “How do you describe it?” The issue is the reality. I can describe to you the situation. When you have a situation when Palestinians, for instance, are deprived of their own water, where Israel controls 85 percent of their water and allows a Palestinian citizen to use only 50 cubic meters of water per year, while it allows Israeli settlers to use 2,400. Forty-two times more than Palestinians, although the settlers are illegal by international law.

Israel makes 26 times more income than the Palestinians, and we are obliged to buy products from Israeli market prices because of imposed marketing. This, of course, creates terrible discrimination. We are even obliged to buy water and to pay for water and electricity, more than Israelis pay — double what Israelis play — although they make 26 times more income than us.

And the worst thing is the road segregation. I don’t know if you can imagine a situation where people are told the Palestinians can only use small, little roads, but the main roads are exclusive for Israelis. In our own land! This did not exist even during the worst time of segregation in the United States.

So, how do you describe this situation? When one side has all the privileges and the income and the control, and the other side is deprived and controlled by a system of checkpoints and a big, huge wall that prevents people from reaching schools and prevents even pregnant women from reaching the hospital to give birth in safety.

When you have such a discriminatory system, what do you call it? I searched for a very long time to find a different expression, but I couldn’t find anything but apartheid.

So you are right to say that the word “apartheid” is very stressful for the Israelis to hear. But I think they should be more stressed about the fact that it exists.


  1. Kelly

    articulate guy.

  2. ACK

    Amazing interview! Keep this kind of content coming…

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