Yasser Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah
Yasser Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah

ON Saturday 15th November, the 26th anniversary of the Palestinian ‘declaration of independence’, and 10th Anniversary of the death of Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, President Mahmud Abbas delivered a speech at the Presidency in Ramallah.

President Abbas said: ‘Sisters, brothers in the homeland and the diaspora, on such a day 26 years ago and at the peak of the first intifada, the intifada of the children of stones, which amazed the world by the ability of the Palestinian people to remain steadfast and to devise methods and tools to resist the occupation, the Palestine National Council convened in Algeria, the fraternal Arab country of the 1.5 million martyrs, and crowned its work with a historic document read by the symbol leader, martyr Abu-Ammar (Yasir Arafat).

‘It is the declaration of independence document, which included what can be considered a foundation for the constitution of a democratic, parliamentary system based on the principle of full equality in rights and preserving religious and political beliefs, the dignity of man, freedom of opinion, the majority caring for the rights of the minority, and the minority respecting the decisions of the majority.

‘In the declaration of independence document, we stressed the principle of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, and that we are part of our Arab nation.

‘We are committed to the charter of its League. We are also part of this world. We oblige ourselves and we are committed to the UN Charter.

‘The state we seek is one that is peace-loving and committed to the principle of peaceful coexistence and working with all countries and peoples to achieve a just and comprehensive peace, based on justice and respect of rights.

‘O sons of our great people, the one who reads the declaration of independence document today, which was approved unanimously by the members of the National Council in the presence of the historic leaders of its organisations and factions, will see that our language has not changed and that our constants are still ending the occupation, establishing the state, and a just and agreed-on solution to the question of refugees.

‘The fifteenth of November 1988 is an important stop on the long road we are still pursuing to achieve our objective of an independent, sovereign, and free state, with Jerusalem as its capital, as a material reality on the ground.

‘On this path, we made, on 29 November 2012, the historic achievement for our people of the recognition by the overwhelming majority of world nations of a Palestinian state on the entire Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

‘We are still struggling with the occupation, which we know has all the elements of material power. However, we have the power of right and the will of steadfastness on the land.

‘Every day, we are winning growing support on the international level, while condemnation and rejection of the expansionist and settlement policies of the Israeli Government are increasing.

‘What happened in Jerusalem in the recent period has shown the failure of the Israeli policy, which is seeking to change the features of Jerusalem quickly through successive raids of the Jerusalem Noble Sanctuary by fanatics and the attempts that seek to divide the sanctuary in time and place.

‘We have warned them and we continue to warn them that their policies could cause a religious war, which we do not want because it will ignite a fire that will not be extinguished everywhere.

‘Sisters, brothers: Let us seek inspiration from this occasion about the importance of maintaining our national unity and rejection of the division and of factional policies.

‘Greeting to you, Palestinians who are stationed in Jerusalem, and greeting to our people in the West Bank and the beloved Gaza Strip.

‘Greeting to the Palestinians in the diaspora, who have Palestine in your hearts. Palestine is waiting for your return.

‘Greeting to our Arab and Islamic nation, which has always stood with Palestine and its people and sanctities.

‘Glory and immortality to our righteous martyrs and greeting to the valiant women and men prisoners and speedy recovery to the wounded.

‘Victory is coming, God willing. God’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you,’ President Abbas concluded.

• Palestinian youth from Bilin ambushed an Israeli military jeep and drove it into a ditch overnight during a raid in the Ramallah-area village on Sunday.

Members of Bilin local committee said three Israeli military jeeps raided the village at 1.30am and broke into the home of mayor Basil Mansour who was not at home. The soldiers left a message threatening tough measures against the village if youths continue to target Israel’s separation wall.

Clashes broke out following the raid, with Israeli forces firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Before the incursion, several youths had dug a ditch in a dirt road in the village and covered it in plastic.

During the raid, several youths distracted one of the jeeps and got it to follow them over the hole and fall into the ditch. Seven military vehicles arrived in the area to help pull the jeep out.

Elsewhere, Israel blocked Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from entering the country to access the Gaza Strip, but denied on Monday it had imposed a lifelong ban on the outspoken medic.

‘He has been banned from entering Israel,’ said foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson, categorically denying media reports that Gilbert had been blocked from entering Gaza.

Access to the Gaza Strip, – under an Israeli blockade since 2006 – is possible only through the Erez crossing from Israel, or the Rafah terminal on the Egyptian border.

But Rafah has been blocked by Cairo since a deadly suicide bombing in the northern Sinai on October 24, leaving Erez as the only point of entry to the Palestinian territory.

The trauma specialist – who has worked in the Palestinian territories for three decades – accused Israeli authorities of backtracking on Norway to reconsider the ban.

‘They have a little trouble explaining if I’m banned from Gaza or Israel,’ Gilbert said, adding that he was allowed into Israel in October but denied entry to Gaza by Israeli soldiers and later informed that the ban was ‘infinite’.

‘They keep changing explanations all the time, so I think they are fairly pressurised by the reaction from the Norwegian government and from the international outcry over denying entry to a medical doctor just because he’s criticising Israel.’

Gilbert was one of two dozen European doctors who signed a letter published in The Lancet in July, several weeks into a deadly 50-day Israeli attack on Gaza’s tiny coastal strip. The letter described Israel’s Gaza bombardment as a ‘crime against humanity’.

The war, claimed the lives of around 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said Gilbert was a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character who uses his medical status to attack Israel.

Gilbert replied that Israel was trying to cover up the effects of its ongoing blockade of Gaza and to stifle criticism. ‘I am a medical doctor who speaks up about the conditions of the Palestinian people which is my duty as a doctor,’ he said. This is not about me, they don’t want the world to see what’s going on.

‘If they feel threatened or attacked by the facts on the ground – the numbers of killed and injured civilians, the lack of water and supplies due to the siege, the bombing of hospitals and ambulances – then change that, don’t kill the messenger,’ he said.

Hirschson, at the Israeli foreign ministry, denied the ban was a punitive measure, saying it was ‘exclusively a result of security considerations’. He did not explain further.

Gilbert, who works at the University Hospital of North Norway’s Clinic of Emergency Medicine, also volunteered in Gaza City’s Shifa hospital during the 22-day war over New Year 2009 in which more than 1,440 Palestinians were killed.

Last week, Israel said it would not cooperate with a United Nations inquiry into this summer’s confrontation with Hamas, accusing it of ‘obsessive hostility against Israel’.