* We are not just numbers. Palestinians’ lives matter
+ Why many Nigerians ignorantly think Palestine, Israel crisis is Islam vs. Christianity
In this interview with Muslim News’ RASHEED ABUBAKAR held in the Embassy of the State of Palestine in Abuja, Palestinian Ambassador to Nigeria, Abdullah Abu Shawesh spoke on the catastrophic effects of the Israel’s brutal war on besieged Gaza – now in its 112th day (on Saturday, January 27) and has left at least 32,500 innocent Palestinians, majority children and women (about 70%) dead, while thousands are missing or feared dead under debris of bombed buildings. The envoy also exposes the full complicity of the US in the current Text Book Genocide.
MN: Let’s start with the ongoing Israeli aggression in Gaza. What’s the current state in terms of human casualty and humanitarian crisis?
Envoy: Wording has meaning, and it is my moral and legal duty to correct the terminology. It’s not “aggression in Gaza,” it’s a Textbook Genocide launched by the Israeli against the entire Palestinian people across the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
At the very beginning, I would like to stress that all of our statistical information comes from different UN agencies working on the ground and other NGOs, so it is very trustworthy information. It is also important to say that as long as the artillery bombardments and strikes continue nonstop, all this information does not reflect the full reality. We need time after the cannon barrels cool down to measure our losses that can be mathematically measured. This means that there are other intangible no measurable losses that can not be measured and should be documented for history.
So far, 65,000 tons of explosive materials have been dropped on Gaza, resulting in the death of 32,500 innocent Palestinians. The majority of the victims, 70%, are children and women, with nearly 7,000 still missing under the rubble.
Among the casualties are 337 medical rescue teams, 45 civil defenses, and 119 journalists. Additionally, 63,000 people have been injured, with 11,000 requiring urgent medical attention. There are also 10,000 cancer patients facing death due to lack of necessary treatment, and 400,000 people suffering from infectious diseases due to crowded shelters.
Furthermore, 99 medical staff have been arrested, and 2 million people (85% of the entire population) have been internally displaced, mainly in the south. Civilian infrastructure has also been heavily impacted, with 140 government buildings destroyed, 99 schools and universities partially or completely destroyed, and 161 mosques completely destroyed, with 253 partially destroyed.
Additionally, 70,000 housing units have been totally destroyed, and 290,000 have been partially destroyed and rendered uninhabitable.
Furthermore, 30 hospitals and 53 medical units are out of service, and 122 ambulances have been completely destroyed. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that only around 100 trucks of goods and products (human aid) are entering Gaza, compared to 500 trucks per day before the war, indicating an Israeli policy of starving the people of Gaza.
According to the UN, every single person is hungry. A quarter of the population is starving and struggling to find food and potable water. Famine is imminent. All children under five –somewhere around 335,000 – are at high risk of severe malnutrition as the risk of famine conditions continues to increase. A whole generation is now in danger of suffering from stunting.
All of the above is the tip of the iceberg. To document our massive losses, we need dozens of pages. These figures are still initial estimations, once the war comes to it end, we trust that the numbers and accurate figures will be even more horrific and shocking.
MN: We have read many analyses, especially in the Nigerian media, saying Hamas started the war by infiltrating Israel on October 7. Is this true?
Envoy: During our very long struggle, thousands of Palestinians were killed and many Israelis as well. We used to be invited by the Western media only when an Israeli was killed, not to be interviewed but to be interrogated. I would like to say it depends on how much they had been subjected to the brainwash so that they decided in advance that the history – if not the galaxy itself – started on Oct 7th. In this case, they did not want to remember just Friday, Oct 6, when half a dozen Palestinians were slain at the hands of Israeli soldiers. But as long as they are Palestinians, this means nothing and can’t make the news on the biased screens.
Since the beginning of 2023 until October 6, more than 150 Palestinians have been killed. One of them was Mohamad A. Tamimi, a two-and-a-half-year-old. Does his death make any news? Has anyone in Africa or around the globe heard about this tragedy? No one, for sure.
The United Nations Secretary-General, in his statement before the Security Council on October 24, said, “It is important to also recognise the attacks did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.”
This is the sound of logic and truth. Here, I would like to add that we, the Palestinians, have been suffering since November 2, 1917. On this exact day, the UK issued the despicable Balfour Declaration, in which they gifted our ancient homeland to European foreigners. When the UK assumed the mandate over Palestine by the League of Nations, it left no stone unturned to facilitate the immigration of foreigners to Palestine and turned a blind eye to their militarization.
Meanwhile, they used to hang any Palestinian who had a single bullet or a rifle. This created an unbalanced situation where we found ourselves completely defenseless in front of the Jewish military gangs before 1948, which led to ethnic cleansing and the expulsion of us from our ancient land. We became refugees and lost 78% of Palestine.
In 1967, Israel, at 19 years old, succeeded in occupying the remaining 22% of Palestine, so we became refugees under the brutal Israeli military occupation. The expansion of Israeli settlements comes at the expense of our private land.
The segregation wall has already taken nearly 8% of the occupied West Bank. Israel is the only country in the world that legalizes post-mortem punishment by holding the bodies and remains of Palestinian detainees as bargaining chips for future negotiations. Have any of you heard about the tragic tragedy of Adnan Khader? search it on Google.
Since 1967, nearly three-quarters of a million Palestinians have been detained in Israeli military jails. It is common in Israel for Palestinian children to be tried before the military court and to be jailed for multiple years. The list of Israeli acts of humiliation, persecution, contempt, torture, ill treatment, oppression, insults, and so on is very long, but no one is counting. To make the story short, we have been suffering as Palestinians for 106 years and have been subjected to 104 October 7ths, but this does not make any difference at all.
Unless you want us to give our oppressors a standing ovation, using their own unique standards to analyze October 7 by completely isolating it from its historical background. It is the fanatic and Israeli-Western way of tackling this issue. We all should be rational enough to stand strong and say we need to tackle the roots of the problem (the unjust situation that we have faced for 106 years), not the symptoms. We need to address the source of the pain, not just prescribe another painkiller. I trust that if we all agree to be rational, then the last three and half month should be a heavy lesson for all to start a new phase on our collective and shared future.
MN: Many Nigerians think the war going on in Gaza is an Islam vs Christianity and Jewish war. Is this true
Envoy: Unfortunately, this is true for many people, both Muslims and Christians. This is due to many reasons. First, the internal social and political challenges everywhere in Africa have influenced how African Muslims and Christians view the Palestinian cause. Second, there is the long-standing and heavy Israeli-Western propaganda that people in Africa and many southern countries have been subjected to, as well as the strong and continuous historical brainwashing through dominant Western media outlets.
The vast majority of our African Christian brothers and sisters do not know that Bethlehem, the Nativity Church, the Holy Tomb, and many other prominent Christian places are purely Palestinian, and no one knows that many Palestinians are descendants of the 12 Apostles.
I have visited many Christian leaders and churches, and during my discussions with them, it was very shocking for many Christian brothers to learn that one of the most powerful Palestinian military resistance factions was founded and led by George Habash and Wadih Haddad, who were Palestinian Christians. This faction is called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and is still active today. The first person to smuggle military supplies to resistance movements was the late His Grace Hilarion Capucci.
When the Israelis expelled the Palestinians, they did not differentiate between our Christian and Muslim people. We were all subjected to ethnic cleansing and became refugees.
Not only this, we have nothing against the Jewish people and Judaism itself. Many decent Jewish voices stand strong behind us, such as Ilan Pappi, Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein, Antony Loewenstein, Bernie Sanders and Ofer Cassif, the Israeli Knesset member. The very long list of Jewish people who align themselves with our struggle is evidence of this.
My first ever political leader in the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation was Ilan Halevi, a Jewish man who also served as the political adviser for the minister at that time. Today, Uri Davis is a prominent elected member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.
Rabbi Moshe Hirsch was the leader of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta group in Jerusalem and an advisor of Jewish affairs to Yasser Arafat. He also served as a minister in the Palestinian government. Hirsch was described by the current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, as “the leader of the Palestinian Jews, who are part of the Palestinian state.”
We, the Palestinians, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims, are resisting the brutal Israeli occupation. Is it surprising to you to know that Jewish people are part of the Palestinian people and the revolutionary movement?
It is a proven fact that many of the Palestinian extended families are originally Jewish families, and even the Israelis know that.
MN: Why do you think the war has always been between Israel and Hamas govt in Gaza? Does that mean other places like West Bank is free from Israeli aggression?
Envoy: The war is a pure Israeli war against the entire Palestinian people everywhere. Before 1948, the Jewish military gangs conducted tens of massacres against the Palestinians, including Deir Yassin, Tantura, and many others.
The establishment of the state of Israel came at the expense of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and the killing of thousands of them. Israel also launched the 6-day war and occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, among others. Israel attacked Lebanon in 1982 and expelled the Palestinian Liberation Organization after a fierce war. Hamas was established in 1987, 20 years after the Israeli occupation. If we were to review the last 106 years, we would need tens of pages to record the diary of the Israeli open-ended war against the Palestinian people.
Resisting foreign occupation is a fundamental human right deeply entrenched in every human heart. We, the Palestinians, have resisted and continue to resist the brutal and prolonged Israeli occupation using different means and measures, all of which are legal and legitimate.
In the West Bank, where Hamas is not active at all, the Israeli war has been continuing for a very long time, with the official occupation army. The criminal settler gangs and thugs responsible for the deaths of 7 innocent Palestinians in the last three months.
Israel fully controls every aspect of our lives in the West Bank. In 2023 alone, Israelis killed more than 500 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank (OWB). In the OWB, there are more than 230 illegal settlements inhabited by nearly 800,000 settlers, which has turned it into enclaves, or you can call it Swiss cheese.
To make the story short, it’s not only Gaza under fire; Israelis are monitoring everything in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, through their rifle’s crosshairs with very flexible index fingers on the trigger.
MN: Do you or your country still consider US a mediator in bringing peace to the crisis in Palestine and the entire Middle East, knowing full well they’re the same ones supplying weapons to Israel?
Envoy: The icon Nelson Mandela taught us a very important lesson, “our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of this country towards our struggle.” This means that we judge the USA according to their position towards our cause, which is a very just cause. Also, we do not take a negative position towards anyone in advance; we articulate our political positions based on the others’ political position towards our struggle. This principle is so important to start answering your question.
We have extensive experience with both former and current US administrations, and when I review their positions throughout history, it is no secret that the US used to be the Iron Dome of the Israeli Occupation. Despite all the lip service and rhetoric, the US has spared no effort to prevent Israel from being held accountable for its actions and has backed all of its war crimes and crimes against humanity.
I am not here to take you back to very long history to prove the already established facts. However, as we are currently facing a Textbook Genocide in Palestine, it is worth reviewing the role of the US over the last three and half months only, as a very clear indicator of the full complicity of the USA in the current Textbook Genocide.
Since the beginning of the latest Israeli escalation, President Biden has shown sympathy, empathy, and full political support to Israel without any limitations. Mr. Biden himself, in the very first days, tweeted and adopted the same exact false claims made by Israel, such as raping a woman, beheading babies, and burning alive festival celebrators, which have not been proven at all. This led the White House to retract his tweet after a few hours of posting it, but it was too late as it had already provoked high anger against the Palestinian community in the US. This anger resulted in the stabbing of six-year-old Wael Alfayomi 26 times. In addition, the community is currently feeling a wide sense of fear and a lack of safety.
The Secretary of State, Mr. Blinken, in his first visit to Israel, declared, I am here not only in my capacity as Secretary of State, but as a Jew, which means that his religious background is a key factor in his approach to the Palestinian-Israeli question.
Mr. Blinken has conducted five visits to the Middle East so far, and in none of them did he call for a ceasefire. Contradicting this, the US still believes and has declared that a ceasefire will not benefit the Gazans and there is no need for a ceasefire.
The USA military chain of supply of different military equipment and means does not stop providing the Israeli professional and well-trained soldiers with many needed slaughtering means. Some media reports talk about 230 cargo airplanes and 30 ships that arrived in Israel from October 7 to the end of last year, carrying different types of explosive materials. Surely, these deadly equipment is the main source of killing nearly 30,000 innocent Palestinians, in addition to the mass destruction and razing of Gaza.
We should remember that the USA sent its aircraft carrier on the very first days to support Israeli military activities. This sent a clear message to the region that they should not try to stop Israel’s steps by any means.
The Textbook Genocide has been brought to the Security Council for discussion three times during the last three months. The first two times, the USA vetoed the proposed resolutions for humanitarian ceasefire, essentially giving the green light to Israel to continue the carnage on the ground.
For the second time, last December, the Biden administration approved an emergency weapons sale. The State Department said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had informed Congress that he had made a second emergency determination covering a $147.5 million sale for equipment, including fuses, charges, and primers, that are needed to make the 155 mm shells that Israel has already purchased function. In addition, there is an abundance of evidence to suggest that the USA is an essential part of the problem, not the solution.
Mr. Blinken in his latest visit to the area talks about the possible return of Gazans to their homes in the north, but he intentionally forgets to mention that their homes have already been leveled and the entire landscape has been completely changed. So, if these civilians are not forcibly removed, they will find nothing to support their basic needs for a dignified life as humans, and they might voluntarily leave the destroyed Gaza.
Mr. Blinken said in his press release with King Abdullah, “Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow. They cannot, they must not be pressed to leave Gaza.” The question is, when will he put pressure on Israel to create conditions that allow for this?
One month ago, before the UN General Assembly, a resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire was voted against by the USA. The USA has historically voted against the resolution for Palestinian right to self-determination, which is a basic human right.
The USA aligned itself with the Israeli Occupation in refusing South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel in the ICJ, claiming that it is a baseless claim.
All of the aforementioned declared moves are just the tip of the iceberg. The question is, what about the other classified steps which are surely more dangerous?
To write about the USA’s policies related to the Palestinian question, we would need tens of researchers. In general, any rational political commentator can easily say that there is no difference between the Israeli occupation and the USA. With that being said, we can confidently state that the USA has not been and will not be an honest mediator.
MN: What is your expectations from the Nigerian government regarding the visit of Blinken?
Envoy: Any high-ranking visit, such as the one you referred to, usually has an agenda prepared in advance. If you mean related to the Palestinian question, I am not entirely sure if the Palestinian question will be one of the agenda items for discussion, so I should be very cautious.
However, Nigeria, with its heavy political weight around the world and among African countries, and as long as we all believe that no one is safe until everyone is safe, in addition to Nigeria being a member of the committee that came out of the Arab Islamic summit convened in Saudi Arabia, this may have motivated Nigerian political leaders to raise and discuss the current situation with Mr. Blinken.
MN: How do you think Palestinians and Israelis can live together in peace without war? Do you think it’s possible?
Envoy: Starting with the second part, yes, it is very possible to live together in peace and security. Similarly, the Jewish people used to live in Palestine and all other Arab countries as a key component of the societies, which was more of a safe haven than in Europe.
Regarding how it’s also very simple and has a dual responsibility, one on the Israeli side and the other on the international community’s side.
On the Israeli side: Once they acknowledge that we are the indigenous people, the ancient and legitimate owner of the land of historic Palestine as clearly stated in the first book of the ancient testimony (the Torah) Genesis.
When the Israeli acknowledge that they conducted a mass ethnic cleansing in 1948 that lifted the majority of the Palestinian people refuges living in the diaspora.
When Israel accepts the implementation of the GA resolution 181 and 194, as well as the many other UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.
When they accept and acknowledge the Palestinian right of self-determination, the basic human right.
When Israel changes its education system and stops promoting the incitement and humiliation of the Palestinians.
When they start punishing the killers of innocent Palestinian people instead of treating them as heroes so that they become political leaders.
When Israel review and cancel all of its laws that strengthen the Jewish supremacy.
When they accept the implementation of international laws, not their own jungle law, and drop their guiding principle that if you cannot solve it by military power, solve it by more military power.
From the international community’s side:
To make it very short and consisted, when the international community stops treating Israel as the grumpy, spoiled teenager and also stops the hypocrisy and double standards.
MN: There have been proposals on a two-state solution as a way for both to live together, why do you think it’s not achievable?
Envoy: We did not invent the wheel; the two-state solution is enshrined in UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which is the official birth certificate for twin states. One of them has already been established, which is the State of Israel, and the other has been waiting for 75 years and has not yet been born, which is the State of Palestine. Resolution 181, or the two-state birth certificate, is not a new invention at all, but rather the absence of international will made it an incomplete birth process.
Since the first day of its existence, the newly born state of Israel has not stopped putting obstacles to the two-state solution by refusing to implement the UNGA 181 and 194 resolutions. To add insult to injury, in 1967 they occupied the remaining part of the historical land of Palestine. Among many other challenges, the expansion of existing settlements and the construction of new ones is one of the most significant obstacles to the peace process. Settlements and the state of Palestine cannot coexist. The two-state solution, by default, means dismantling and evacuating the Israeli settlements, which is a grave violation of international law. Even the blindly unshakable and unequivocally western countries who is supporting Israeli align themselves with the international law on the settlements issue.
The chance to embody the two-state solution on the ground is deteriorating day by day due to the irreversible facts that Israel has created and entrenched on the ground
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