Deputy Head of Mission of the State of Palestine, Nader K. Alturk, discusses Israeli atrocities, the fourth ceasefire, and hopes of freedom for Palestine
The News on Sunday (TNS): What is the current situation In Palestine? Please elaborate on the clashes in Sheikh Jarrah and the Al Aqsa mosque?
Nader K Alturk: The issue’s roots extend back to 1950s, when housing units were built for twenty-eight Palestinian refugee families who were forcibly displaced in 1948. The Jordanian government, in cooperation with UNRWA, decided to help them build these homes. The Zionist organisations now seek to evacuate those homes and evict five hundred Palestinians, with the support of the Israeli government, in hopes of housing Zionist settlers.
After the escalation and repeated incursions by the Israeli army into the Al Aqsa Masjid, preventing worshipers from praying in it, the clashes between Palestinian citizens and the Israeli army expanded to include all neighbourhoods of the occupied city of Al Quds. This received significant attention from the local and international media. Israel decided to attack Gaza Strip to divert attention from what is happening in Al Quds from the displacement of the residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood to enabling settlers to achieve their illegal goals. While the world is occupied observing Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip, which have so far left over two-thirty martyred and more than nineteen hundred wounded. The attacks have destroyed thousands of homes, roads and international media offices.
The Israeli police have blocked the entrances and exits of Sheikh Jarrah to prevent anyone from coming in or leaving. This blockade has prevented media from seeing the actual operations being conducted inside Sheikh Jarrah by the Zionists and the Israeli government.
Israel attacked Gaza with more than 170 aircraft of different kinds, including F16 and F35 supported with drones to attack innocent civilians and children.
TNS: Some people have described the clashes as a conflict between Palestine and Israel. Others have said that the atrocities committed by Israel are nothing short of genocide in an apartheid system. Which description is more accurate in your view?
Alturk: The atrocities committed by Israel are no less than genocide. The martyrs and wounded are innocent civilians, and the number of children martyred has exceeded eighty. Moreover, advanced Israeli aircraft have destroyed many homes, causing the annihilation of more than twelve families in Gaza City.
The targetting of innocent civilians, residential buildings and press offices, the destruction of streets, roads and infrastructure, and the use of internationally prohibited weapons are all war crimes. The international community must punish Israel and demand that it bear the reconstruction costs and compensate the affected families. We hope the countries that supply weapons to Israel, especially the USA and the United Kingdom, stop because their weapons are being used against Palestinian children and innocent civilians, which violates international laws, and human rights principles. We would like to see a robust and active campaign to stop the blind support for Israel’s criminal actions taking away its power.
This is the fourth such attack by Israel. The first happened 2008, the second in 2012, and the third in 2014. It only shows Israel’s disregard for international humanitarian laws.
TNS: Washington recently blocked a UNSCs statement that condemned Israel’s military action and called for a ceasefire. How has the UN response been compared to what was expected of an intergovernmental organisation that aims to maintain international peace and security?
Alturk: This is not the first time that the United States of America has used their veto. It has used it over forty-three times to support Israel in violating international law and the rights of the Palestinian people. The US support has increased Israel’s arrogance and injustice towards the Palestinian people because it protects them from punishment.
This American policy weakens the United Nations and prevents it from exercising its role and functions for which it was established. The abuse of its veto is inconsistent with its role as a permanent member of the Security Council, which aims to maintain security and world peace.
TNS: What is Palestine’s response to statements supporting Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ by countries such as the United States, Canada and the European Union?
The international community must punish Israel and demand that it bear the reconstruction costs and compensate the affected families. We hope the countries that supply weapons to Israel, especially the USA and the United Kingdom, stop because their weapons are being used against Palestinian children and innocent civilians, which violates international laws, and human rights principles.
Alturk: The State of Palestine affirmed that the war crimes practiced by Israel could not be viewed as self-defence. Targeting civilians, killing children and women, destroying homes and other infrastructures, including schools and hospitals, is not consistent with the principle of self-defence.
On the other hand, the Palestinian people under occupation have the full right to defend themselves and resist the occupation to protect their freedom.
We need to keep in mind that the international laws were established to protect the lives of the oppressed and to uphold peace, justice and equality in the world.
TNS: Other countries and organisations worldwide have spoken in support of Palestine and strongly condemned Israel’s actions. What more, in your opinion, should they do to support the State of Palestine?
Alturk: First of all, we appreciate the strong support by Pakistan and all Islamic and Arab countries for the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights. This support increases our strength and determination to continue our legitimate struggle to establish an independent Palestinian state with Al Quds as its capital and the return of Palestinian refugees displaced from their homeland since 1948.
We hope that Islamic nations and those who support peace and human rights would pressure the Israelis and their supporters to abide by international humanitarian laws.
Many popular initiatives have boycotted Israel economically, financially, and culturally, which may later develop into their governments’ position.
The Palestinian people are looking for international society to see Israel as a divisive regime. Palestinian people ask the USA and other countries to stop arming Israel with weapons used for killing children and civilians and end or freeze Israel’s UN membership. It has continuously ignored the UN charter, resolutions, international law and human rights principles.
TNS: Pakistan has explicitly supported Palestine from the beginning. What is your take on Pakistan’s response to the situation, and what more is expected of the country?
Alturk: Even before its independence, Pakistan supported Palestine. It has taken one of the strongest positions in support of the Palestinian people and their just cause. It began with Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jawhar and constantly grew stronger. We appreciate our brotherly Pakistani people, HE the President, HE the Prime Minister, HE the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the government, and all Pakistani political parties for their support, which gives more power and strength to our cause.
A few days ago, the Pakistani parliament voted unanimously on a resolution to support the Palestinian people. Last week HE the Minister of Foreign Affairs left his busy schedule to stand with Palestine by joining his brothers, the foreign ministers of Palestine, Turkey and Tunisia, to go together to the United Nations. After the US had thwarted several attempts to reach a position against Israelis criminal actions in Gaza, Masjid Al Aqsa and Jerusalem.
Last Friday, Pakistani people, leaders, and civil society marched in all of Pakistan’s main streets in a show of solidarity with Palestine. We thank all of you. Once Palestine is free inshallah, we will pray in Al Aqsa Masjid together.
TNS: What does the ceasefire mean for Palestine? Please comment on the attack by Israeli police forces on Palestinians hours after the ceasefire was announced.
Alturk: First of all, I would like to thank His Excellency the Egyptian President, the Egyptian government and the brotherly Egyptian people for their strong efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and stop the criminal Israeli attacks against Palestinian people.
I want to clarify that this is the fourth ceasefire agreement since 2009. It comes as a respite. A time to breathe, heal wounds, clean up traces of attacks, rebuild and prepare for the fifth and sixth Israeli attacks sooner or later.
A ceasefire is not the solution. The final solution will only be achieved by getting justice and dignity for the Palestinian people by holding Israel accountable for its crimes against innocent civilians. The end of Zionist occupation of Palestine, establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their properties and homes from which they were evicted/transferred in 1948, and compensating them for long years of torment according to UN Resolution 194 is the only solution.
The Israeli attack a few hours after the ceasefire in Gaza is a clear signal that the solution has not been found yet.
The interviewer is a staff member