Nasser Al Qudwa – the famed Palestinian political figure and a former leading figure in Fatah – is clear on what reaction was likely to the war on Gaza from one of the biggest names the movement has ever had.
Yasser Arafat would take up arms and head to Gaza to fight against Israel, seeking a revolution in Palestine, Al Qudwa told Al Majalla. And he should know. The late president, also known as Abu Ammar, was Al Qudwa’s uncle.
And the nephew has been seen by some commentators as a potential president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, perhaps a successor to the ageing Mahmoud Abbas, speculation addressed in this interview.
Arafat died on 11 November in 2004, making this time of year one when his leadership of the Palestinian cause is often remembered. Speaking in an exclusive interview a few days before the 19th anniversay of his uncle’s death, ther former Foreign Minister called the current international stance on Gaza a "scandal."
He pointed out that many countries in the West are closely aligned with Israel, and some are actively providing support to its war effort. He predicted the conflict will lead to three significant changes: Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure as Israel’s prime minister along with a restructuring of the present government, a change in Palestinian leadership and a new phase for Hamas.
Al Qudwa also emphasised that detailed discussion of the future was premature with fighting still going on. But said:
"A new Fatah must emerge, along with a new Hamas that actively participates in the new Palestinian government, operating independently of President Mahmoud Abbas if he remains in power. As for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), we should move forward with elections as soon as the Gaza Strip begins to recover."
What follows is an edited transcript of the interview, held on 8 November.
How can the war on Gaza, which has lasted for over a month now, be ended? And how can we emerge from this catastrophe?
“Regrettably, the prospect of a swift cessation of the conflict appears bleak, a conclusion drawn from the policies and actions that Israel is currently implementing. The actions taken by Israel do not appear to be solely aimed at targeting Hamas, as suggested by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Instead, it seems to be a sustained campaign affecting the entire Palestinian population, with a focus on Palestinian civilians. This pattern has recurred in previous conflicts, but the current conflict exhibits a higher level of violence, employing all available means of warfare within the arsenal of the Israeli occupying forces.”
How do you perceive the West’s stance regarding what is happening?
“It has become increasingly clear that despite the humanitarian efforts and neutral positions shown by various international actors sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, they may be unable to bring about an end to the conflict due to Israel's stance.
“This challenge is compounded by the unwavering alignment of numerous Western countries with Israel, with some actively providing support and endorsement. This development is deeply lamentable, as it appears to undermine the principles advocated by certain Western nations over many years.
“While it is possible that public opinion may exert pressure for a change in this stance within these countries, such a shift is likely to take time. There exists a stark contrast between the Israeli position and the near-unanimous Western support extended to Israel, with only a few exceptions. Despite the resilience of the Palestinian people, it is unfortunately anticipated that this conflict will persist for a longer duration than initially anticipated.”
What do you think about the Arab position?
“I would also like to highlight the failure of the Arab position in confronting what is currently happening.
“The initial Arab position was an unsuccessful one, which was evident in the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers, which was held at the Arab League Headquarters in Cairo. It was a weak and shaky stance. The Arab position subsequently began to improve significantly, but when the initial efforts falter, it usually takes some time for situations to evolve towards the intended outcome. We have not yet reached that stage.”
“In this regard, I want to emphasize that Arab countries must stand firmly against Israeli aggression and American-Israeli policies this time. This is not only in defense of the Palestinian cause or the Palestinian people alone but also to safeguard the standing of these Arab nations within the existing international framework.
“The ability of these Arab countries to assert their viewpoint – or at the very least, enforce respect for their perspective and key issues – must be clearly demonstrated. This is crucial, and I hope it happens, as it would be greatly beneficial on both the Palestinian and Arab levels.”