Krasny: This opening hour we are joined by Canadian-born, Stanford educated Palestinian Diana Buttu who is legal advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization on Peace Negotiations. She was legal counsel with the Canadian Department of Justice. She is here with us in studio. We welcome you to our program. Good morning.
Buttu: Good morning to you.
Krasny: I want to say by way of introduction that because we have already been flooded with a lot of emails on this that we have had in the past and doubtless will in the future spokespeople here in studio for one on one interviews that represent one side or the other in major conflicts and I know that there is a great deal of sensitivity and polarization to put it mildly on this subject. So just to make sure you understand the way we do things around here so we can get past that. I always assume that people do, but I need to say it. Peace process. To most people it looks pretty grim at this point. Desperately grim in fact.
Buttu: It certainly does. It is very grim in fact. Right now we're facing a humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories where there is more than 70% of the population unemployed. 50% of the population living below the poverty line and that is defined as less than $2 a day. 2,000 people have been killed or injured. Sorry 2,000 people have been killed that is 1% of the Palestinian population. We're facing a very grave humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition in children is now peaking at 30%. And this is the same rate as in sub-Saharan Africa. And all the while there is no party now that's trying to push any sort of peace negotiations or push the sides toward ending the conflict. Instead we've got the United States who's taking a very hands off approach to this conflict and basically allowed the Sharon government to do whatever it wants to do.
Krasny: the United States has said a provisional Palestinian state and get rid of Arafat. I mean that's essentially the position of the United States. In sum, really.
Buttu: It is. And in fact it's a way of telling the Palestinians You need to change yourselves dramatically. You need to humanize yourselves before we will even apply the law before we will even give you your freedom. And it's quite a perverse way of thinking and it certainly fosters the sense of abandonment that the Palestinians have felt now for the past 35 years, and more specifically over the past 2 years. Again a sense of the telling the parties that you're simply not good enough to have your freedom. You're simply not of the same humanity. And if you become of the same humanity then we'll think about giving you peace.
Krasny: One of the arguments that I keep hearing is that the only way we're going to get peace is if these two old implacable enemies are both removed somehow. I'm talking about Arafat and Sharon.
Buttu: I think that the only way we will have peace is if we begin to recognize that there is a law in place. And that the Palestinians are not beneath the law and that Israel is certainly not above the law. That's the only way that we'll be able to move forward. We've seen now over the last 35 years gross human rights violations of the Palestinians. We've also seen that settlements, Israel's colonies have gone unabated over the past 35 years. There are now 400,000 settlers living illegally in occupied Palestinian territories. These are the types of things that the United States, and not just the United States, the entire international community has failed to enforce and again fosters the sense of abandonment that the Palestinians are beneath the law and that Israel is above the law.
Krasny: It's curious how the settlements don't really come into the picture that much in American reportage; I mean Tom Friedman writes about them and there are a few columnists who do, but I read Ha'aretz from time to time and those who are critical of the Sharon government bring it up constantly. Settlements are a major part of this whole process. There's also with respect to peace I just noticed in the New York Times over the weekend Amil Yehiah the Interior Minister and Suleiman Farad the Finance Minister were actually given some plaudits from Israelis in terms of wanting to go forward with peace and they're both representatives of Arafat's, but the sense is that there's all this money first of all that's locked up. In terms of the humanitarian issues, you've got to unfreeze that money, I would imagine, and you've also got the problem of Palestinians, because of security reasons, not being able to get into Israel to work now.
Buttu: Absolutely. The money issue's one that is very rarely highlighted. Israel under the Oslo agreements was supposed to turn over money that was collected through taxes to the Palestinian Authority and to the Palestinians themselves and this money since November 2000 has not been turned over. This is the money that is used in order to build a sustainable economy. And we're talking now in the magnitude of billions of dollars that haven't been turned over to the Palestinians; simply been held up. No 3rd country has ever said to Israel to turn over the money. And it's really a question of basically a very weak party trying to negotiate with a very powerful party. At the same time because of the curfews, because of the closures because of all of the "extreme measures" that Israel has taken against the Palestinians. You're absolutely right there is no chance for Palestinians to work inside Israel. and not even inside Israel, work inside the occupied Palestinian territories
Krasny: what do you make over recent press reports that Arafat's personal worth is well over a billion dollars? What are we to make of that? I honestly don't know, which is why I asked the question. Where does it come from, for example?
Buttu: I don't know. I'm not entirely sure about it either. It's something that if he does have millions of dollars.
Krasny: not millions. billions. 1.3 billion is the number I saw
Buttu: if he does have 1.3 billion dollars, he's certainly not living a 1.3 billion dollar lifestyle He's entirely caged up into two rooms right now.
Krasny: You actually helped draft a statement against suicide bombings for chairman Arafat and the PA and you've denounced suicide bombings.
Krasny: there have been polls of Palestinians that show that even a majority of the population now seems to favor them and that seems to be a major stumbling block obviously to peace. What can be done about that. You can draft a statement, but the Israelis seem to be recognize the fact publicly that they don't want to separate or they can't separate Arafat from the suicide bombings? No matter how much you may feel he wants to be separated from them. The perception is in other words that he can't be. So how do we get past that? Can we get past that?
Buttu: you raise two very interesting questions. One in terms of the percentage of Palestinians who actually support suicide bombings, and the second, Arafat's role with respect to the suicide bombings. So I'll deal with the first one first. In terms of the percentages We're now in a situation where people have become completely polarized. You've got on the Palestinian side a high percentage of people who do support suicide bombings; And on the Israeli side you've got an equally high, if not higher, percentage of people who also support Sharon government and who support the tactics that the Sharon government has carried out against Palestinians, including assassinations, such as the type we just saw the other night in Gaza. At the same time if you poll these two communities about what they believe for the future. You've got an overwhelming majority, 70% on both sides, who believe in a two-state solution. So what it tells you is this. Because we're in such a time of crisis. The vision is not lost, but the anger is certainly peaking and getting higher. How do you bring that down. You bring that down by addressing what it is that's causing these numbers to be inflated in the first place. And for the Palestinians it's a sense that they are being annihilated. That they're being exterminated by Israel. They need to do everything in their power to ensure that they're not being annihilated. And a feeling that because they're being annihilated that we have to do everything in our power to ensure that we're not being annihilated. It's an extreme form of dealing with fear. Back in 1996 when there was a spate of suicide bombings, roughly three suicide bombings in 1996 which ended up bringing Netanyahu to power. Those suicide bombings were not supported whatsoever by the Palestinian population. In fact there was less than 10% support for them. And the reason that there was such low support for them was that the Palestinians actually saw that their freedom was going to come to bear. They saw that they were going to have their freedom within a few years and were not willing to do anything whatsoever to block the road to that. Nowadays people don't see that their freedom is coming and as I said because of that these very inflated numbers supporting suicide bombings.
Krasny: And the Israeli side says look what Barak put on the table, look what they offered and they turned it down. I mean you keep hearing that argument over and over again?
Buttu: Right and it's a very splendid mythology that Israel has allowed to proliferate now for close to two years. I hear these great phrases of 90%, 95% But the Barak government has never once explained to its population either the Israelis or the Palestinians what was precisely on the table. And the reason I left my great life in the Bay Area to go to Palestine was because of what happened at Camp David. I wanted to know the truth about Camp David, and what I ended up finding out was that the Palestinian state would have been not a state in any shape or form, but it would have been divided into four separate what I call Indian reservations or Bantustans. Completely controlled and surrounded by Israel. We would have had no borders, no airspace, no water resources. In effect we would have been allowed greater prison cells, but we wouldn't have been allowed out of prison.
Krasny: It stills strikes one though that the irreconcilability of some issues. I know you've worked on the refugee issue, for example, and it seems that Israel is just not going to allow Palestinians to return. They see it as a Jewish state and they want to preserve it as a Jewish state. You look at Jerusalem and you think "how can that ever be reconciled" How can that city ever be divided. Barak was at least putting on the table that East Jerusalem would have been Palestinian. In other words one despairs frankly, looking at … one of the things that I admire about you is that you have an optimism about peace and I have a great deal of respect for that. I don't mean to counter that. But you look at these things and they seem so far apart. they almost seem impossible.
Buttu: Well they do seem far apart, unless we start looking for creative solutions to some problems that seem intractable. For instance. Rather than… Israel proposed to annex territory into the state of Israel Palestinian territory into the state of Israel would be to simply accommodate settlers that have been living there illegally for the past 35 years. And what we've said is hold on. It doesn't have to be so stark. It doesn't have to be so black and white. We can do creative ideas perhaps if people feel very strongly about living in the occupied Palestinian territories, make them into Palestinian citizens. There's nothing antithetical to our sense of nationalism that prohibits Jewish citizens of Palestine. Another option is to give them incentives to move back into Israel They were incentived to move out of Israel in the first place. We can give them incentives to move back into Israel. Creative ways of dealing with it. On the issue of Jerusalem You can also have an open city in which in order to get into the city you need a passport, but while you're in the city you don't need a passport and again to get out of the city you need a passport. It could be one city which serves as two capitals for two separate nations. Joint economic cooperation and joint security patrols. Joint municipal arrangements. There are creative ways of doing it and not just looking at the intractable.
Krasny: One of the reasons I suppose you look at the intractable often is the notion that many Israelis have is that the Palestinians want and feel they deserve to have the state of Israel. That the state of Israel ought not to be a Jewish state. It ought to be either a Palestinian state or essentially have Palestinian hegemony by numbers and democratic means.
Buttu: well again, this is an idea that is certainly beginning to create a lot more momentum or gain a lot more momentum in the occupied Palestinian territories and it's not….let me be very clear. It's not to seek the destruction of Israel and it's certainly not to seek the destruction of the Jewish people. It's in fact the opposite. There have been Jewish citizens of Palestine before the state of Israel was established. And what people are now looking at. You know if we're not going to get equal statehood, which is becoming very, very clear. We simply want to have equal citizenship. And I don't see anything wrong with demanding equal citizenship.
Krasny: How is it for a woman doing the kind of work that you're doing? I'm sure you're asked this question quite frequently. But the notion in the Middle East, and Hanan Ashrawi notwithstanding and other Palestinian leaders that it's difficult.
Buttu: Actually it hasn't been difficult at all. I was expecting it to be difficult, but it's been more enlightening than it has been difficult. The people with whom I work have been very open and very receptive. This is a nation that seeks to be a democratic one and it seeks to be a secular one so there's nothing opposed to having a woman who is very vocal talk about peace and about the current situation now.
Krasny: Getting back to a question I raised before about Arafat and whether or not he can remove himself from being identified with suicide bombing. From the Israeli standpoint there's an umbilicus there that ties him somehow with suicide bombing in their mind whether or not that's justified or not and it seems to have influenced obviously our president. The question is how much are Hamas and the Islamic Jihad really separate from Yassir Arafat?
Buttu: Well they're very separate. In fact neither Hamas nor Jihad are part of the PLO nor part of the Palestinian Authority. In fact they had an open boycott of the elections back in 1996 so they're certainly not part of any one of the governments. These are opposition groups. They're opposed to Arafats rule and they're certainly opposed to…
Krasny: So the perception that Arafat controls them is a wrong one?
Buttu: It's absolutely wrong and in fact what Israel has done time and again is they've shown you don't need any proof you only need to restate the claim over and over again and suddenly by restating the claim it becomes true. We've asked them specifically for information for documents for any documents that they have linking Arafat to suicide bombings and every document that they bring up and they cart up and they show has never once demonstrated any clear link between Arafat and suicide bombings. It would be absolutely asinine for Arafat on the one hand to condemn and denounce suicide bombings and on the other hand support them. It's done absolutely nothing to support his rule in fact it's done the very opposite. People are now very much opposed to him.
Krasny: Though there has been this perception of him talking one way publicly and another way privately. One way to the west and another way to his fellow travelers so to speak. Or those who are on his political side
Buttu: Yeah, again there's a sense that if he says it in Arabic and if he says it on such and such a time and such and such a date then perhaps we'll believe him and then we does say it on that time and on that day in Arabic then people will turn around and say "sorry. we don't believe you".
Krasny: He did say in Arabic that he wanted to raise the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem didn't he
Buttu: Yeah absolutely and it's something that I agree with too. I agree that the capital should be Jerusalem. Does that mean that I'm going to be a suicide bomber? Absolutely not. But it does mean that I have political convictions that East Jerusalem should be our capital.
Krasny: Reading Nabil Al Khalib who is a Palestinian journalist and says that the Gaza strike will create another ten or twenty people for Hamas willing to blow themselves up. Would you agree with that?
Buttu: It will certainly create a number of people who will be angry and may very well carry out suicide bombings. I hope they don't. but it's certainly. I was there I was in Gaza at the time when the F16 dropped a one ton bomb on this crowded civilian area. And there's nothing that can describe exactly what that feeling is like and what the site the following day looked like. And the anger that was certainly felt by these people. And more than the anger, the sense of abandonment. The international community has simply walked away. It's turned its back towards us and has left us to die.
Krasny: There seems to be great sympathy though in Europe for example particularly towards the Palestinian cause, doesn't there?
Buttu: There's certainly sympathy, but it's a question of what is it they're actually going to do to translate that sympathy into something concrete? We've seen now well over 120 checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories. Not a single one has been removed from European pressure. More starkly things such as settlement products. These are products that are illegal in Europe. They should not be getting free trade status. And Europe has agreements with Israel on these very products. They're not willing to enforce their agreements. No country is willing to expend the political capital to take on a very strong pro-Israel lobby that has taken over at least this country. And it fosters a sense of abandonment on the part of the Palestinians.
A Caller named Jan from Mill Valley: is upset about "occupation and brutal oppression" of Palestinians by Israel, aided and abetted by $14 million in U.S. tax dollars daily. Israel rejects every opportunity for peace such as Rogers plan in 1970 "you withdraw to the 1967 borders and we'll guarantee your security" that was turned down by Golda Meir. Questions: if Israel was negotiating in good faith in Oslo why did they continue to build the settlements if people thought they would withdraw them. Why did the Israelis steal all the Palestinian records including the land deeds? "I understand they did that when they invaded Lebanon in 1982."
Buttu: Thank you Jan very much I really do appreciate your support. In response to your questions number one vis-a-vis the settlements you're absolutely right. The number of settlers from the year 1993 to 2000 actually doubled. It went from 200,000 to 400,000 and it was a rate of increase that was absolutely unprecedented in the 26 years before the start of the peace process. There is nothing greater. There is no greater way to demonstrate to Palestinians that you're not interested in peace than the settlements. The settlements alone showed the Palestinians that Israel was simply wasn't interested in peace. It was as though the Palestinians and Israelis were negotiating over a pizza. And while we were negotiating Israel was continually eating that pizza. Again its inexplicable what it does highlight is where was the international community? Specifically where was U.S. during this time to actually stop the settlement, the colony construction? Nobody was doing anything at that time. We were simply told that it's all right, it's okay it will eventually be returned to Palestine. But as we've seen particularly over this year, nothing has returned to Palestine, to the Palestinian state. In fact it's been the opposite while everybody this year is focused on violence there have been thirty new settlements established under Ariel Sharon. 957 new housing units established under Ariel Sharon.
Krasny: What about her point about land deeds. This is not something that has really been made public.
Buttu: Absolutely. Jan also highlights a very important issue that during the siege of Ramallah at the end of March beginning of April one of the things that the Israeli army did was go in our ministries and destroy all of our records. Things such as education records dating back to 1965 all of them have been stolen. But more importantly and statistics from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics were stolen But more importantly were the land records. These were records that were housed in various offices. Just establishing Palestinian claims to land inside Israel. All stolen.
Krasny: [reading e-mail questions]: "As someone who is in contact with Palestinian leadership do you feel they want peace to create a state for themselves or so they can have room to arm and organize for an effort to drive the Israelis out of the region for good." Another one along these lines: "Your guest makes it simple. Palestinians are good and completely virtuous. Israelis completely evil. What should Israelis do about terrorist attacks? Arafat is either impotent by choice or by fact. Admittedly the Israelis make some mistakes but their actions are consistently a response to Palestinian terrorist attacks. Regarding the 'Barak Myth' does your guest include Dennis Ross and other American officials as among those who are perpetuating the "myth"? Is that part of a perceived worldwide conspiracy against the Palestinians? "
Buttu: Let me start out by saying its not a worldwide conspiracy against the Palestinians its actually a proven fact. Dennis Ross is of course included in that list of people. This is a man who made it his career. A 13 year career to try to bring peace to the area and he failed miserably. And the reason he failed was because he wasn't willing to enforce the law. That's all we asked him to do. We didn't ask him to be a peacemaker. We simply asked him to be an enforcer of the law.
Krasny: A lot of angry emails, here, Diana. One says he's not going to give another penny to PBS or KQED. I'm not certain why. But essentially says that we're calling terrorism terrorism only when Americans are the targets, and I don't know that that's necessarily the case. Talk about this anger that you've encountered in your role representing the PLO. Obviously it's been pretty strong and polarizing.
Buttu: It has been very strong, and it's actually quite interesting to me because often times people just have a visceral reaction when they hear the word Palestinian. But if they knew exactly what it is that I do then they would have a bit of a different reaction. Part of the reason that I left the Bay Area and went to Palestine was because of what happened at Camp David. I wanted to learn a little more. Another thing that I did do was realize that it was both the world and more importantly the Israeli public really wasn't aware of what happened at Camp David. So I set about with a co-worker starting an outreach program in which I go to Israeli homes, literally, and talk to Israelis both about what happened at Camp David and in the period of Oslo and how is it that we move forward. And for me in spite of the fact that it's been two years of living under very brutal occupation I continue to do it because I believe at the end of the day that peace is not a piece of paper. That the only way you can have a peace agreement is between people. And that's what I try to do is to reach out to people.
Krasny: Actually when I was in the Middle East I found that when you talk to people you heard something quite different which you often do in this country in terms of attitudes towards peace and possibilities of getting along. Individual neighbors did get along. Or on borders and so forth and that I suppose can kindle at least some sense of hope.
Buttu: Absolutely, because at the end of the day I think that the people themselves really want to move forward and they want this to be entirely over with. And I can tell you that a large number of Israelis with whom I speak are not in favor of what's going on and certainly don't support the occupation. And this is what I try to empower them to know that there are Palestinians as well who I know who they get a sort of monolithic image of them and I want them to understand that we are not a monolithic people that there are various people out there who have different opinions and who are really trying to work hard for peace
Krasny: Are there Palestinians in significant number who outwardly condemn or have condemned the suicide bombings in the way that Israel now in its press is going after the Sharon government and condemning the hell out of them over this pinpoint bombing that resulted in civilian deaths?
Buttu: Yeah there are there are a growing number of Palestinians who are talking about suicide bombings and outwardly condemning them. And we recently saw a letter that was signed by 54 intellectuals in the papers. We had editorials from the Arabic newspapers also condemning the bombings, the suicide bombings. But I think it would be a mistake to try to equate the two peoples. And I'm often quite flattered when I do get that sort of equation. People view me as an equal and I'm really quite flattered by that. But at the end of the day Palestinians and Israelis are not equal. One party is living under occupation and the other party's free. And so its very natural to have the free party be more vocal about what's going on against the people who are oppressed.
Caller: The largely incoherent caller closed with "the good people of this world should push the politicians aside and bring both sides together for peace"
Krasny: what about that? Is there at least a possibility for a grassroots movement moving through both Israel and Palestine creating a momentum for peace?
Buttu: There is that right now. There is a great movement both on the Palestinian side of the Green Line and the Israeli side of the Green Line to have these grassroots movements to try to foster peace. We see a couple of movements working together now talking about ending the occupation, etc. But these movements need support and the only way that they can and will be supported is if we get governments behind them. Let me make it very clear Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and it's an occupation that's gone on illegally for the past 35 years. It's not going to end tomorrow unless we get the governments to actually begin to enforce the law and to demonstrate that no country is above the law and that no people are below the law.
Krasny: So you really want to use international law here where it needs to be used and has not been used
Caller: Asks "How many Palestinians are there?"
Buttu: About 3.5 milion inside the occupied Palestinian territories. Another 3.5 million outside
Caller: follows up: "Earlier you said that 2,000 people had been killed and that was 1% of the population. So it's a little bit lower than 1%, isn't it?"
Buttu: Sorry I meant to say that 1% of the population has been killed or injured. We've had 28,000 people injured and 2,000 people killed
Caller: same caller continues: "Second point I'd like you to clarify if you could, you said that the U.S. hasn't given the Palestinians their freedom. and I don't think it is up to us to give it to them. Don't know how someone could think that is."
Buttu: Thanks for the question. In fact it is up to the U.S. The U.S. claims that it is the defender of the free world and that it promotes freedom and democracy around the world. The way that the U.S. could give the Palestinians their freedom is by simply telling Israel "enough is enough it's time to end your military occupation. And it's time to end the denial of freedom to the Palestinians. They could do this by simple measures, such as stopping the $14 million a day that is given to Israel. Money that's given to Israel to finance the very weapons that were used just the other day to bomb a crowded civilian area, killing 10 children. They could do it by saying to Israel Stop your colonization, Stop the settlements. There are many, many ways that the US could do it, but sadly it hasn't done it and it simply begins to foster a sense of abandonment.
Krasny: You want more of American citizen support and more American citizen pressure on the government and so forth. What about the kind of thing you read about Palestinian kids being taught and really being schooled in hatred for Jews, for Israelis and so forth. And that seems to be of great concern both in Israel as well as just in terms of any kind of brokerage of peace. The argument has been made in other words that a whole generation is being raised to hate Israel. Even more than previous generations if that's possible
Buttu: Yeah, that's an interesting argument And I often ask people where did you hear about all of that? Where did you see the so-called Palestinian textbooks? And it dates back, it goes back to a person who's a settler. He's part of a settler organization and they're opposed to peace. So what we did was we actually asked people to take a look at Palestinian textbooks. We invited the United Nations, we invited some professors from the United States. And what they decided or what they came up with, these are their conclusions. Completely independent -- Was that the Palestinian textbooks (and these textbooks only came out in Sep. 2000 by the way) were by far better than any Israeli textbook. And there was even a professor…
Krasny: better in terms of lack of bigotry?
Buttu: precisely. You know in an Israeli textbook you don't hear anything about the destroyed villages. Of which my parents are from one of them. You don't read anything about Palestinian history or culture. Whereas in Palestinian textbook you see very explicitly that there is a Jewish connection to the holy land. It says it very explicitly. There is a professor by the name of Nathan Brown and I would encourage everybody to read his report. Nathan Brown is a professor at George Washington University. He's a Jewish professor who came to Israel Palestine. And did a study on Palestinian textbooks. His is the only independent research done on Palestinian textbooks and again He says these textbooks are certainly better than any textbook in the region and goes very, very far to commend them.
Krasny: So when we're reading about these textbooks and we're reading about anti-… it's funny to use the word anti-Semitic about Palestinians who are a Semitic people just like the Jewish people, but anti-Jewish stuff that's resurrected from Europe and the Nazis in Palestine and so forth do you think that a good deal of this is hyperbole in the press… or a falsification even?
Buttu: I do, because often times if you gets something that looks credible it is very easy to buy into it and follow it. And I challenge people to go beyond the mythologies and to look at what is actually happening on the ground. That's not to say that things are perfect, at all. Often times people will say to me that the Palestinian textbooks, as good as they are, they don't say far reaching things about accepting Israel as a Jewish state. And they don't. They don't. And the reason is, because a Palestinian child, you know I could teach a child the best thing in the world about a textbook. But at the end of the day if the only Israelis that they're seeing are soldiers and settlers that's a much more powerful lesson that they're learning.
Caller: suggests intervention, suicide prevention for those contemplating suicide
Buttu: It's a very, very good question. I think that the best way to end suicide bombings is to take away the very reason why they're carrying them out. This is not some sort of genetic predisposition that Palestinians have to blowing themselves up.
Caller: persists and suggests counseling for the suicidal ones.
Buttu: You're absolutely right. But at the end of the day some of them will do it unless we actually assess why it is that these people are carrying these out. And it's not happening in a political vacuum. It's happening in light of a political conflict. One that's gone on for 35 years. In which Palestinians have been denied everything from their freedom to move to their right to live, to people have seen their homes demolished. Their loved ones brutally assassinated. And the only way that the bombings themselves will end is if we begin to finally address this conflict and allow the Palestinians to live in freedom.
Caller: concludes: "that day must come and in the meantime if we can head off any suicides it will be a positive step"
Caller: Is concerned that while Arafat condemns suicide bombings, he doesn't do anything to stop them, Arafat doesn't arrest any of the militants. Hamas is allowed to operate in the open.When Arafat makes an effort to rein in the militants Israel will back off its occupation.
Buttu: You raise a very interesting point. I'm not sure if you knew this, but between the years 1997 to the year 2000 there wasn't a single Israeli who died of a suicide bombing. Not a single one. And yet throughout that period, again if you follow the same logic well if there are no suicide bombings then the occupation will end, the occupation intensified during that period, it didn't actually end.
Krasny: That was the Intifidah, though?
Buttu: No that was 1997 during the period of the peace process
Krasny: You're right. Speaking on this order. Here is someone who calls you the spin doctor for the PLO. She comments that Israel is at fault for continuous funding of settlements. While I strongly disagree with the settlements, I wonder what is her spin regarding the funding of terrorist cells that target civilians by PA. It has been shown that the PA has been involved with large-scale arms smuggling and funding of mass-murder by way of suicide bombings on Israeli civilians inside of Israel. Bombs do not self-assemble, neither do arms fire without bullets. How is it that the PA which controls the flow of arms to terrorist cells believe that arming and directing terrorism helps cause peace?
Buttu: It's also a very good question that is raised. And again there has never been any documentation to show that there is a link between Arafat and terrorism. A link between Arafat and these arms. It is one that is a specious argument…
Krasny: You mean all those arms that came from Iran or are believed to have come from Iran, no link to Arafat?
Buttu: But this is just it. Arafat ended up saying to the U.S. administration that he as a leader of the Palestinian people would take the blame for it. But he specifically said and this was accepted by Colin Powell. He had no personal knowledge that this was actually going on. But it raises a broader issue. On that I don't think that people quite understand. And that's the landscape, the geopolitical landscape of the Palestinian occupied territories. The PA is only control of 17.2% of the occupied Palestinian territories. That's it. And these 17.2% is divided into 13 separate areas, completely non-contigous. And basically if you have a suicide bomber coming from outside of these areas we have absolutely no control over them whatsoever. No control under Oslo, no legal control over them period. So it's basically like saying to the police in San Francisco that you are responsible for everything that goes on in Los Angeles even though you can't actually get to Los Angeles. This is the situation that we're faced with on the ground right now.
Caller, who is sympathetic to Buttu. No comments from Krasny or Buttu other than "thank you"
Caller: doesn't appreciate or approve of Sharon, settlements. Takes issue with earlier comment that during the Mandate Jews were welcome in Palestine. There was always tension. Mentions Hebron massacre of 1920s, which was against civilians and ended a community that had been there for hundreds of years. "While Israel has to do a number of things so there can be peace, so do Palestinians. What can the Palestinians do after all this history of antagonism, rejection and denial to get Israel to trust them?"
Buttu: Well I think that at the end of the day what needs to be done is not necessarily trust between peoples, because at this point there has been a lot of mistrust. I think we have to begin to look beyond what is it that we want for our common future. You referred to Palestine back before the creation of the State of Israel And yes I agree that there were certainly things that had gone on what in many cases what had gone on in Hebron was absolutely deplorable. But again, it was happening not in the context of Arab vs. Jew or Palestinian vs. Jew. It was happening in the context of trying to establish dominant rights over a nation. And what my view is, is that when we begin to view each other as an equal in status and in being. That's when we'll be able to have a lasting peace agreement. But to try to establish a power relationship over the other person is what the very recipe for disaster.
Krasny: We're getting a lot of email in support of you, by the way, I wanted to mention too, and thank you, those of you who understand why a program like this is important. This [email] is from Alex: it's not about Israel vs. Palestinians. It's about the whole Arab/Moslem world vs. Israel. It's that simple. Question for Diana (just to give you a flavor of some of the countervailing views): Over the last 70 years the Palestinians have rejected every peace plan that was offered to them: Peel Commission '36 UN Resolution in '47. Offer of territories for peace 1968 and Barak at Camp David and Taba. Moreover they did not reciprocate with a peace plan of their own. They only rejected the offers. I'll get a response from you on that. Larry from Los Gatos writes that the non-Jewish neighbors of the Middle East have lost four wars to Israel in the last 48 years. Perhaps they should surrender and sue for peace as any other beaten foe would do. The US. is in Germany and Japan 57 years after their defeat. Who exempted the Arabs from the eternal law that the victor sets the terms? It's clear that the Arabs are willing to fight to the last Palestinian.
Buttu: Well, thank you. In terms of the issue of the entire Arab world. You know it's a very interesting one because let's remember that just about three months ago in March the entire Arab world, we're talking 22 countries here, extended its hand in peace to Israel. What they said is, withdraw completely from all of the territories that you occupied in 1967, allow the Palestinians to live in freedom, and you will have not only peace but normalized relations with the Arab world. This is an absolutely spectacular offer. And what Israel turned around and did, was the very next day, it invaded cities inside the occupied Palestinian territories. And it forcibly evicted me from my home because of that.
Krasny: Has there ever been a peace movement within the territories, or is there now. You call yourself a peace technician. Again my respect goes out to you for that role. But I'm talking about like a non-violent Gandhi movement or something along those lines as opposed to suicide bombings.
Buttu: There is. There is a very, very strong non-violent movement inside the occupied Palestinian territories. But they face two problems. The first problem is that nobody hears about them. And the reason that nobody hears about them is there is only one journalist. Only one western journalist located in the Occupied Palestinian territories. She happens to be Israeli. Her name is Amira Hass. A fabulous, fabulous woman. She is the only journalist who is based in the occupied Palestinian territories. The rest are based inside Israel or inside or in West Jerusalem. So they don't get a lot of coverage. The second thing is that every time they go out and resist non-violently they are met with violent responses by the Israeli army. So, for instance, you see these people who try to do very simple things like reconstruct a road that the Israeli army has dug up. They're often shot at. Many times injured. I've personally have been shot at with tear gas, with stun grenades, with sound grenades, with live bullets. So this is the type of work that although I am part of this movement that tries to do this. It's very often and actually always met with violent resistance.
Caller: An Israeli-American, who has been first-hand witness to suicide bombings feels that a lot of people getting involved in the [Palestinian] cause and not giving a fair view to Israel
Buttu: Well, I think in order to understand why suicide bombings are happening What I try to do is talk about why they're happening and simply because I try to talk about why they're happening I'm often accused of rationalizing them. Which is not something that I intend to do. In fact it is the opposite. Simply because somebody talks rationally about them doesn't mean that they try to rationalize them. What I do try to do is to explain why they're happening. So that we can move beyond them and so that we can understand that there's a link between Israel's lack of security and the Palestinian's lack of freedom. And we need to address both sides of that equation.
Krasny: What about Yassir Arafat's connection to the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigade? This has been made by the west too, that is that there is a connection.
Buttu: Yeah, in fact too the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade is an offshoot it's a splinter group from Fatah that is the group that President Arafat is the head of. But again this is a splinter group. This is a radical minority group that doesn't represent the interests of the Palestinian people whatsoever. It's the equivalent of saying that the bombings that used to happen to abortion clinics were for the most part carried out by Republicans but I think any Republican would be shocked and appalled to say that they were part of the Republican party
Krasny: because Republicans are against abortion?
Krasny: I see
Krasny: and once again since there's been a flood of e-mails I need to reiterate again as I did at the beginning of the program that it does sort of come out in the wash when you're dealing with something as polarized as this that when there's an Israeli peace negotiator in town or a diplomat chances are you'll hear him here or her here on Forum as well and we like to think that we are equitable in that respect and I believe we are.
transcribed by Stefan Sharkansky