‘We have been occupied for 40 years, we have the right to resist’, Farouq Khaddoumi, told a public meeting in London on Monday evening.
The Head of the PLO Political Department who is also Foreign Minister of Palestine and Secretary General of Fatah, outlined the march of the Palestinians for self-determination before an audience of over 400 at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road.
The meeting was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) with the Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding (CAABU) and the Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK (APC).
‘The Palestinians have sought peace but Israel does not want peace,’ Khaddoumi said.
He said that in 1991, US president George Bush Snr had ‘proposed a solution’ and the ‘PLO saw a glimmer of light for stability and peace’ but ‘as negotiations progressed obstacles surfaced’.
Khaddoumi said UN resolutions called for ‘withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967’ but ‘Israel even refused to offer a declaration of intent.’
With the Oslo agreement ‘the US and Russia would not guarantee the agreement would be implemented’.
Khaddoumi said he was opposed to the 1993 Oslo agreement which allowed the PLO to return on condition it accepted the state of Israel and entered into peace talks.
During the years that followed Israel ‘continued confiscating land and building illegal settlements’.
He stressed: ‘The settlements are spikes if not landmines on the road to peace.’
He added: ‘The settlement policy around Jerusalem is in violation of all norms.’
Khaddoumi underlined: ‘The basic condition for peace is resolving the plight of Palestinian refugees, their destiny and future must be addressed.
‘The right to return is inalienable, is sacred.’
He continued: ‘Our people had high hopes in the peace process.
‘The failure to achieve our independence gave rise to frustration.’
He warned that Israel’s ‘unilateral measures will not lead to peace, it will lead to a new way of violence’.
He concluded that ‘peace can only be achieved through agreement signed by both sides’.
During questions from the floor Khaddoumi was asked how can there be a peaceful solution when rockets are fired into Israel.
He replied defiantly: ‘we will continue with rockets.
‘While our country is occupied, we will continue resistance by rockets and others.
‘Why do you ask about rockets when the Palestinians have been under occupation for 40 years?’
In answer to a further question he replied: ‘Why do you ask Hamas to recognise Israel?
‘Hamas is a national government. The PLO recognises Israel.
‘Our charter says the Palestinian (National) Authority will not have responsibility in the sphere of foreign relations.
‘Why do you ask Hamas to recognise Israel, they should not.
‘Israel should return the thousands of prisoners they are holding behind bars.’
Referring to the ‘final solution in Camp David in 2000’ Khaddoumi said Israel ‘wanted to dump the refugees’ and ‘Chairman Arafat did not accept that’.
Arafat ‘gave them five days more but Israel does not want peace’.
Khaddoumi explained: ‘First of all Israel destroyed our economy. It destroyed our industry – destroyed our airport.
‘We will continue our resistance.
‘We know we will defeat them.
‘After the Lebanese-Israeli war they are weakened.’
Asked about Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s meetings with Israeli prime minister Olmert and US secretary of State Rice, Khaddoumi said: ‘Rice is playing cards.
‘She says she is giving money to train some of our people.’
On the question of ending EU sanctions, he added: ‘The problem is the US and Israel, the US gives money for arms to Israel.’
He said: ‘If European countries want peace, they have to not only make resolutions.
‘We need action, action speaks louder. Stop making excuses about money.’
In any case, he added: ‘We will continue resistance.
‘The small state of Israel won’t stop us.
‘There are 350 million Arabs. Balfour was a mistake.’
Asked about the situation of the captured Israeli soldier, Khaddoumi stressed: ‘There is no link between the capture of the Israeli soldier and the British journalist.
‘We are doing our best. Alan Johnston was helping the Palestinians, therefore we are keen to see him released.’
Asked about a boycott campaign being proposed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Khaddoumi welcomed a ‘boycott to hit Israeli arrogance’.
He urged: ‘Countries should impose sanctions.
‘France – they have to do,it and tell the Israeli “stop it”, not just give us resolutions.
The PLO chief said: ‘The establishment of the state of Palestine is the best way of securing safety for all.’
Referring to Germany, he again stressed: ‘We need the Europeans, not only to stand and support the Palestinian people and put pressure on Israel, we need action.’
Asked if resistance was the correct way forward, he replied: ‘We are dealing with this aggression daily. Palestine and the Golan Heights are occupied.
‘With resistance we defeated the Israelis in Lebanon, without resistance we could not.
‘If you want peace, peace means on equal footing.
‘The United Nations says people have the right to fight occupation, imperialists.
‘In 1949, the UN said the Palestinians have the right to return to their homes.
‘What happened – nothing happened.
‘We are doing our best but don’t ask us to give up.
‘It is important that the Palestinian people continue their struggle.
‘The US occupied Iraq and they will leave – they will be defeated.’
Earlier, Rajab Chamlakh from the Association of the Palestinian Community, told the meeting: ‘The Palestinian people have a long history of welcoming our guests.
‘It is not our nature to harm people who come to us.
‘Kidnapping Alan Johnston does not help the Palestinian people.
‘I urge the kidnappers to release him immediately.
‘Alan came to Gaza and became a voice for the suffering of the Palestinian people.
‘He does not deserve to be treated this way.
‘We Palestinians know about kidnapping. We have suffered one of the biggest armed robberies and kidnap for forty years.
‘We ask that Alan be released immediately.’
Palestinian general delegate to the UK, Dr Manuel Hassassian said: ‘I have just come back from the occupied territories.
‘The situation has become graver than before.
‘We can’t see a two-state solution. What we see is Bantustanisation. Poverty and unemployment is increasing.
‘The conspiracy against us is to stop the right of return but let me tell them it is the pillar of resistance.
‘Israel wants peace and the land – they can’t have both.’
Turning to situation of the BBC journalist, Dr Hassassian assured: ‘Alan Johnston is in safe hands.
‘The Palestinian government and president are working in unison for his release.
‘We apologise for the way he has been treated but the gift of returning Alan Johnston is coming very soon.’