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Interview Archives

Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Dimitri Diliani

With the People's Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Dimitri Diliani is involved in gathering over 400,000 (and growing) signatures of Palestinians and Israelis who support a set of principles for peace drafted by Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon. Dimitri is also the assistant of Dr. Nusseibeh, the president of Al Quds University and an outspoken peace advocate. Dimitri lives in Jerusalem and his family originally comes from the West part of the city. As a teenager, Dimitri participated in non-violent protest during the intifada that began in 1987. He finished his higher education in the United States.

  • Can we start by introducing yourself?

    My name is Dimitri Diliani. I was born and raised in Jerusalem. During the first intifada my parents forced me to go to America to study. I didn't want to go, but they made me go against my will in order to keep me away from what they considered to be "trouble." I got my BA and my MBA, and then returned home. I had been involved in activism before I went to America and I continued to be active while I was there. When I came back home I began working at the Jerusalem Open University.1 After two years, Dr. Sari Nusseibeh2 asked me to be the manager of his office. I left my position at the Institute for Modern Media3 and came to Dr. Sari's office. I am taking this year off from the university so that I can focus on the Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy. I'm one of the founders of the campaign. Of course Dr. Sari started the campaign. But as his assistant, I have been with him from the beginning. Dr. Sari likes to consult with many people, and I really believed in the idea from the start. I was a member of the founding committee, and we helped him with the process of getting the campaign off the ground. At the campaign's second conference, held on August 21st 2004, I was elected to be a member of the first Executive Council. Building on the recommendation of Dr. Sari and with the approval of the other members of the Council, I was then asked to serve as the manager of the campaign's Technical Office for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. What did you study in university? I got a BA in Biochemistry at Upsala College and an MBA in Finance from Fairleigh Dickenson University in New Jersey.

    • 1Has educational study centers in numerous Palestinian cities. One of the major aims of the Jerusalem Open University is to provide higher education services for the Palestinian population at-large in the West Bank and Gaza (Occupied Territories). In 2004, the student intake reached 40,501. See the University's website at http://www.qou.edu.
    • 2(1949-) Sari Nusseibeh is a professor and President of Al Quds University and former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in Jerusalem. Nusseibeh is considered a leading Palestinian intellectual and vocal advocate for a non-violent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He co-authored the People's Voice Initiative with former Israeli security head Ami Ayalon. See http://www.hashd.org
    • 3A part of Al-Quds University, the Institute of Modern Media was established in 1996. Its major objectives include raising the "technical level of Palestinian television productions" and supporting "cooperation between local independent television stations through program exchange and training." See http://www.alquds.edu/centers_institutes/imm

  • You said you were active before and while you were in the United States. In what way were you active?

    When I was fourteen years old I joined a political organization called the Palestinian Communist Party, which later became the People's Party. But when I went to America I started to see things differently. I began to see the shortcomings of Marxism and the limits of its applicability to our situation. Beyond that, I myself didn't want to dedicate myself to working for the goals of Marxism. The only reason I had joined the party in the first place was that it was the only party at that time that called for popular, nonviolent revolution. That is the belief that I grew up with, even before I came here and started working with Dr. Sari Nusseibeh. Of course, I had heard a lot about Dr. Sari Nusseibeh as a leading figure in the first intifada and as a leading Palestinian intellectual. I read many of his articles, even when I was a child. And that's how I came to adopt the principles of nonviolence and popular work. When I was in America, my activism was limited to attending lectures, participating in raising awareness, and working to promote peace and the principle of two states for two nations. I went to the US in 1990. In 1994, the Oslo process began and gave us all a push. I decided to finish my studies and come back here in order to contribute to building my homeland. When I returned, I was shocked by the reality that I discovered. The Palestinian revolution had turned into institutions of government, but I didn't think that transformation had happened in the right way. There were so many problems: management problems, financial problems, political problems. The collective vision had become blurred. There began to be internal squabbles over positions and influence that we never even knew existed. Maybe that kind of infighting had existed in Lebanon or Tunisia or Jordan.1 For us, for the generation that was 12 and 14 years old during the first intifada, our leaders outside were like gods. When a leaflet was published, we looked at it as if it were coming from heaven and we followed it word-for-word. If there was a strike, then everyone went on strike. There was no doubt that the call would be observed. When the political organizations gave instructions to write slogans on the walls, we did it. When there were instructions to hold a march in the streets, we participated. We never questioned why or how. But when our leadership came back, we saw many practices that we didn't like. I'm not talking about the top leaders, but about the second or third-tier leaders. I'm talking about people whose names we had never heard of before. That's why a lot of us decided to keep our distance from politics. Some people decided to work in civil society. They figured that they could best start the process of state-building by contributing to civil work and the building of various institutions. The Jerusalem Open University has special significance for me. The effort to establish the university began in the thirties, but it didn't take on its current form until much later. It was established in 1984, and it acquired a Board of Trusties a few years later. But it only became the institution that it is today after Dr. Sari Nusseibeh took charge in 1995. When I came back to the country in 1998, I became convinced that this institution provides a great service to the country. I decided to get involved because I saw it as a kind of work that was national, but not political. Working with Dr. Sari opened my eyes to many things. It convinced me that I had been wrong when I decided to stay away from politics out of fear of corruption. I came to realize that my impressions had been incorrect. Most of our people are not corrupt. Most are patriots working for the good of the country. Yes, it's true that there is corruption. But we often exaggerate its extent. Besides, if all the people who are against corruption simply withdraw from public life, then corruption will spread and spread. If we leave, then those who are corrupt will be free to do whatever they please. That's why I decided to work for Dr. Sari on the Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy. It represents the convictions on which I was raised. These are principles with which I've agreed for years - before I knew there was something called this campaign, and even before the campaign was established. I agree with the principles of the campaign and I think that many others do, too. The campaign offers a grassroots framework for people to unite their efforts to find a solution and build a state. The campaign lays out its solution in the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement,2 which consists of six points. In addition, it outlines a vision for the state. In just one year and a few months, the campaign has been able to gather the signatures of 150,000 Palestinians. This is a completely unprecedented event. Nothing like this has ever happed in Palestine or any other Arab country. On the Israeli side, Ami Ayalon is overseeing a parallel campaign. They use a different technique, and to date they have been able to gather 241,000 signatures. So all together, the Palestinians and the Israelis have collected about 400,000 names. These are all people who agree on one, clear solution.

    • 1Following the June War or Six-Day War of 1967, the PLO and other Palestinian organizations increasingly shifted their base of (guerilla) operations to Jordan. Regarded as a threat by King Hussein, armed Palestinian organizations as well as many Palestinian civilians were given a bloody dismissal by the Jordanian military in September of 1970, in what has become known as Black September. The PLO and other organizations shifted their base of operations to Lebanon. However, in the midst of the Civil War in Lebanon (1975-1990) and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon (1982), many Palestinian organizations were forced to set up their organizations and operations elsewhere. The PLO and Yasser Arafat, who was expelled from Lebanon, went to Tunis, Tunisia. Arafat and the PLO returned to the West Bank and Gaza (The Occupied Territories) following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
    • 2For a text of the six-point statement of principles see Mifkad or Hashd.

  • So you started working with Sari Nusseibeh because you liked the work of the University?

    At first I worked in the Modern Media Center in the university. At that time, in 1998 we were in a period of state-building. We were dreaming of a state in the year of 2000. The Media Center is still a part of the university, but it had more influence outside the university at that time than it does today. I found that the Center offered me a way to have a voice. It gave me a forum for speaking my mind, which might be considered liberal. So I looked at it as a place where I could have an impact. After all, work in the media can be more effective than work in a Ministry. I worked at the Center, and things were going well there. And then Dr. Sari came to me and asked me to manage his office at the university. With time Dr. Sari came to be in charge of the Jerusalem file,1 and then he decided to leave the Jerusalem file. He began working with the Israeli Left, and then the campaign got started. And that's how I found myself doing political work. As I became more involved in this work, I came to a big realization. I realized that we Palestinians have enormous potential. As Palestinians, our problem is that the majority of people are silent. Most people do not belong to any party, and they're not making their voices heard. They need to live, like all people around the world need to live. The question is: what do those people want? First of all, they want their dignity. There is no such thing as dignity when you live under occupation. They also want freedom. They want to move forward in their lives and they want to build a better future for their children. This is what any person anywhere in the world needs, not just us. Of course, there are other matters that are important for improving Palestinians' quality of life, like scientific progress and economic development. And all of this must be in the framework of an independent state, because an independent state is the right of any human being. All people have the right to be free from occupation. Through my work with Dr. Sari I discovered that this is what the majority of people want, but we don't hear their voices. This majority does not oppose Oslo or support Oslo. No, the real picture is much bigger than this. The real picture is that people support one thing: they want to live with dignity and freedom in their own independent state. This is what they want. You can put it in the framework of Oslo, you can put it in the framework of Sharm El-Sheikh,2 or you can put it in any framework you want. It doesn't matter. The point is that people want to see results. I discovered another thing, as well. If you look at past peace agreements or proposals for peace and reconciliation, you'll see that they are not even known by the names of the people that made them. Take Camp David. Oslo. Sharm El-Sheikh. Camp David II. Or there are agreements that bear names like "Tenet"3 or "Mitchell."4 None of these names are Palestinian or even Arab. Except for Sharm El-Sheikh, perhaps, which was only a security arrangement. So you find yourself thinking, where are the ordinary people? Why don't they speak their minds? The doctors and the bakers and the teachers and the scientists... why don't they voice what they want? That is how the campaign got started. The Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy was created to give people a chance to say what they want. This is the first time in Palestinian history that people have been given a chance to say what they want; to say what they think the solution should be. We show them the petition's six points, and if they like it, they sign. We were able to gather 150,000 signatures in one year and a few months. First, this is an unprecedented success. Second, we have not only been able to reflect the voices of the people, but we've also shown that their voices in no way contradict the Palestinian national aim of achieving statehood.

    • 1Refers to Nusseibeh's role as senior PLO representative in Jerusalem.
    • 2Refers to the agreement signed on September 4, 1999 signed by PLO President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. For a text of the agreement seewww.palestine-un.org
    • 3Refers to the Tenet Plan, a cease-fire and security plan signed by security organizations of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The plan went into effect in June of 2001 but not need lead to the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians as the plan had hoped. For a text of the Tenet Plan, see: http://www.mideastweb.org/tenet.htm.
    • 4Refers to the fact-finding commission led by former US Sen. George Mitchell in 2001.

  • You said that you were formerly a member of the Communist Party that is now known as the People's Party and left after you went to the States. Was that the reason for this change or did something happen that made you think differently?

    First of all I wasn't involved in the Communist Party because I believed in the principles of Marxism. I was only 12 or 13 years old, and I didn't even have a full grasp of Marxism. I understood what I was able to understand at that young age, but I only had a vague idea about Marx and Lenin and so on. When I went to America, however, I started reading and understanding more. I came to see that economic freedom is the foundation of democracy. For example, if I'm not free to work in the field in which I want to work, how can I be a free person? This is just one small application of the concept. Also, I came to see that the world is heading in the direction of globalization and open markets. When Palestine becomes a State, it will be very small and have very limited resources. It would be impossible for it to survive if it had a communist system, or even a socialist system. This doesn't mean that communism has no positive qualities. It has many positive qualities. But we need to find a middle ground between capitalism, which is the regime that rules the world we live in, and communism. We can borrow something from socialism, such as the principles of workers rights, protecting the poor, etc. We can use these principles as we should build our state. The choice isn't black or white, we have other options. But globalization is coming, whether we like it or not, so we must go along with the open market. We can't try to hide and reject globalization. We can't say that globalization is an American invention and that we reject it because it's American. We should try to adjust to the system that has become global.

  • When you talk about the capitalism that is "ruling the world," do you mean anything specifically?

    Capitalism is not perfect, but it is the best of the available bad systems. Both communism and capitalism are bad systems, but capitalism is better. Communism is impossible, anyway. The reality is that it's simply not possible to establish a genuinely communist regime. Regardless, the issue of communism is not even on the table anymore, neither here nor anywhere else. We're living now in a unipolar world that operates on the principle of economic competition and the free market. If you don't go along with it, you're going to be left in the dust. We've already fallen behind plenty because of the occupation. The last thing we need is more reasons to fall behind! Besides, the nature of the Palestinian society makes it difficult to accept communism. Because of all of these reasons, I decided that communism was not an ideology that I could continue to support. So when I returned home from America, I resigned from the Communist Party. Also, one of the party's major ideas, the principle of a popular, mass-based struggle, was adopted by the PLO and Fatah during the first intifada. That was the most important principle; the idea that all people should be involved in the national struggle. Not one person coming and carrying out an attack or doing this or that... I don't want to go into the details on all of this now. The crux is that I prefer popular struggle, as was the case in the first intifada. I believe that this is the way that we can achieve something, as we did during the first intifada. The first intifada succeeded in getting our rights acknowledged. It led to the conferences in Madrid and Oslo. Regardless of whether you see Oslo as a positive or a negative thing, just getting to the point of Oslo was a great achievement. It was an achievement that was the fruit of the Palestinian people's efforts during the first intifada. The Palestinian people paid for it and earned it. That is exactly the opposite of what is happening now in the second intifada. This shouldn't even been called an intifada. It's not an intifada, but rather a war that is being waged against us. We call it an intifada, but that's incorrect. They are shooting at us with missiles and airplanes. The people are not engaged in a revolt. They are unhappy, angry, and hurt. If you compare the period between 1987 and 1992 to the period that we are currently living, you'll understand why they've led to different outcomes.

  • Can you tell me more about the Campaign?

    The Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy is a Palestinian political current founded on the principle that decision-making should be bottom-up, not top-down. Its approach is revolutionary. It comprises the core of the Palestinian public, and it does not carry the name of some European city. It is nonviolent and grassroots. Its leaders are people who are out there in the field; people who spent a lot of time in prison, but came to adopt a commitment to nonviolence. They are people who have maintained their credibility with the public, and now their first goal is gathering signatures for the "Nusseibeh-Ayalon" Agreement. After the search for a solution, their second goal is to develop a clear vision for our state: what it will look like, how it will meet the demands of the modern era, and how it will protect the rights of its citizens. Because this campaign springs from the heart of the Palestinian public, from the villages and refugee camps, it represents the core of democracy. It is the work of an organization whose mission is clear: to give the ordinary Palestinian an opportunity to speak up and voice his opinion. No one ever came and asked me for my opinion on the Oslo Accord. No one asked me what I thought about what happened in Madrid or at Camp David. And I don't think they came and asked you, or asked Abu Mohammad, the baker around the corner. This campaign, in contrast, gives you the chance to say what you think. You can say whether you are for it or against it. You can agree to sign the petition and get involved in promoting it, or you can say "no thanks."

  • Who started the Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy?

    The project was founded by Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, the current president of the campaign. The campaign is comprised of several sub-units. Let me tell you about its structure. There are sites throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A site may consist of one village, or of half a village, or of two villages put together. It depends on the size of the population in the area. Every site holds a conference, a kind of congress, in which it elects a committee to represent that location. This local committee is responsible for a number of things, such as collecting signatures or overseeing media coverage. All the committees in a given region then come together to elect people to represent them in their District Council. The District Council then elects members to join the Executive Office for that region. The Executive Office elects members from the Office and from the District Council, and these representatives make up the General Congress. The General Congress elects members to join the Executive Council. This Council consists of 51 members, 12 of whom are from Gaza and 39 from the West Bank. The Council also elects someone to serve as its President. We are also working on establishing a permanent office that will elect working committees and a technical office. The Office of the Executive Council is the main decision-maker for the campaign.

  • Do you have partners that do the same work on the Israeli side or is your work limited within the Palestinian society?

    The work on the Israeli side is limited to collecting signatures for the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement. What is the relationship between the Palestinian and the Israeli parts of the project? First of all, most of the Palestinians in charge in the campaign are members of Fatah. We don't have exact statistics, but I would estimate that some 75-80% are affiliated with Fatah. Fatah is the backbone of the Palestinian struggle, and it was the first to make peace. It leads the PLO, which remains the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. These are the cadres for our campaign; the ones with the capacity to make peace. On the Israeli side, we did not try to target the Left of the political spectrum, which might represent 20-25% of the Israeli public. Nor did we go to the far Right of the political spectrum, which represents some 25-30%. Rather, we have directed our message at the 45-50% of society in the middle. Sometimes these people vote Labor, sometimes Likud, and sometimes Shinui. This 45-50% of the Israeli public is our target audience. It is well known that we Palestinians have an enormous influence on Israeli public opinion with regard to the government's policies towards the Palestinians. So if we work at it, we can play a role in convincing the Israeli mainstream to support the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative. And this is what we're trying to do. Ami Ayalon is focusing his work on the Right and middle-Right, although there are representatives from all political parties working with him. If we can get these people on our side, then the Left will automatically follow. The left-wing is already on board. It agrees with and supports this initiative. The reason we haven't focused on reaching the Israeli Left is that it is limited in scope. The Left has lost its credibility among the Israelis. So we are focusing on the Israeli mainstream. If you can make peace with the mainstream, the Left will follow. It is also important for Israelis to understand why Ayalon did not choose a Palestinian partner from a Leftist party. He is working with Dr. Sari Nusseibeh because he is a well-known Palestinian figure. He is known for his relations with Fatah, for his strong character, and for his credibility with the public. People know that he's not corrupt, that he's honest with people, and that he has a clear vision. These are things that the Palestinian public needs. This is why we have chosen to work together. We didn't join forces because we know each other and are great friends. Our relationship is just fine, but we're working together because it serves our common goals. We are the ones who are able to bring about change. The Israeli Left is not capable of making change, at least not in the near future, not for another five or even ten years. Change will come from the Right and middle-Right. And if they are able to bring about a positive change, then the Left wing will follow. This way we guarantee the largest number of people to support our work. In other words, the key to finding a solution is the following: first, the Palestinian public's attitude and activities affect Israeli public opinion. Second, Israeli public opinion directly influences the decisions of the Israeli government, which rules us and occupies us. So the truth of the matter is that the key to the solution is in our hands. It is not easy to tell people under occupation that the key to solution is in their hands. That is not easy at all. But our past experience proves that this is the case. Perhaps no one can influence the Israeli public more than Palestinians can. And the Israeli government reflects the attitudes of the Israeli public because Israel is a democracy for its citizens, especially its Jewish citizens. The Palestinian citizens of Israel also have rights, but these rights are not equal to that of Jewish citizens. But this is another topic, and we don't need to get into that now.

  • When did the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative start, and what is it about?

    The idea of the campaign was born after a meeting between Dr. Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon. The idea at the heart of the Agreement is the principle of two states for two peoples. Palestinians have a clear national goal: the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Likewise for the Israelis, the Zionist Movement is founded upon the goal of establishing a national home for the Jewish people. The ironic thing is that the two objectives are consistent. The Palestinians agree to have their state along the 1967 border. Israel cannot be a Jewish national home if it continues to have four million Palestinian Arabs living inside it.1 In other words, Israel cannot continue to occupy us. How can Israel be a Jewish state with 3.5 million Palestinians and 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel? The Jewish population of Israel is only 5 or 5.5 million.2 It is impossible for it to be a Jewish state with this enormous non-Jewish population. So it is in Israelis' interest to agree to a kind of separation. They have their country and we have ours. And this is precisely our national goal, as Palestinians. So, in principle, there is agreement on a two-state solution. However, if this solution is not implemented, and if the building of the racist separation wall continues and Israel continues to carry out the policies that it is carrying out now, then the establishment of a Palestinian State will no longer be possible. These practices will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State, and the only other option will be the creation of a bi-national state. There will be no other solution. I mean, there might be other solutions, such as the creation of city-states or something of that sort. But if a two-state solution is not implemented, Palestinians are going to call for a bi-national state. Continuing to live under occupation is not an option: if we cannot get a state, then at least give us rights as citizens in your state. If this happens, however, then neither the national Palestinian objective nor the Zionist dream will be achieved. So it is in everyone's interest to establish two states for two nations.

    • 1According to the Israeli Government, 1.5 million people of Israel's population are non-Jews and defined collectively as Arab citizens of Israel. See http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Facts+About+Israel/People/SOCIETY-+Minority+Communities.htm. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the population of the West Bank is roughly 2.3 million people (not including Jewish settlers) and 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip (not including Jewish settlers). See http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html.
    • 2The CIA World Fact places the population of Israel at 6.2 million, which includes the settler population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights (Occupied Territories). See http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/is.html.

  • So you gather signatures in favor of the two-state solution?

    We're not gathering signature on the basis of a two-state solution. We gather signatures on the basis of the Palestinian national interest. The Zionist dream is not our concern. What concerns me, for example, is the future of the kids growing up in refugee camps today. I want them to have the chance to grow up in a state where they can flourish and improve their lives. I want a country that will be able to contribute to humanity in general and to the well-being of its citizens in particular. This is what I care about. I'm not losing sleep over the Zionist dream. On the contrary, as a Palestinian, I have suffered because of the Zionist dream. But the situation that we are living in today forces me to think with my mind and not with my emotions. And this is what brings me to the goal of two states for two peoples.

  • And why should Israelis sign this petition? What's in it for them?

    Israelis also want to be rid of us. It's not as if the occupation loves us and cannot live without us. Most Israelis just want to be rid of us. So you think when they give you a state they will be "rid of you"? We're not talking about them "giving" us a state. We're talking about them returning the land that they occupied. No one gives anybody anything. They return the territory occupied in 1967, and in exchange, they have the Jewish Israeli state that they've always dreamed of. They have the state established on the lands of 1948, which we recognized in Oslo. The nature of the relations between these two states can be determined later, because there are many different forms that might take. Some people say that the states should be completely separate. Some say there should be economic cooperation between them. Others say the borders should be open for humanitarian and religious reasons. For example, let's say I'm a Palestinian citizen of the Palestinian state, but my family used to live in West Jerusalem. Because of this connection, perhaps I want to live in the State of Israel, while also keeping my Palestinian passport and identity, and being a part of the Palestinian political system. Similarly, there might be a Jewish man from Tel Aviv who wants to live in Nablus for religious reasons. He could remain an Israeli citizen, but would also have the right to live as a resident of Nablus. He would have permission only to reside in Nablus, just as I would have permission to reside in Jaffa. So there are many different theories and proposals. Some say it's better to establish city-states, such as the state of Ramallah, the state of Tel Aviv, and the state of Nazareth, that will be connected in a federation. Other people say, no way, we want two completely separate states. But the important thing is that you need to establish two states before you can determine what kind of relationship to establish between them. Regardless, the nature of the relationship between the states is for the people to decide. Israelis might not want to see us anymore, and we might not even want to see them. It is up to the people to decide what they want.

  • What kind of relationship between the two states do you personally prefer, theoretically?

    Personally, what I want is two states: one Palestinian and one Israeli. This does not represent the position of the campaign, however. The campaign talks about establishing two states, but it doesn't set forth a position on the nature of the relations between them. My personal opinion is that there should be two states. People should have the right to freedom of movement across the borders, as well as the right to reside wherever they want. For example, let's say I'm a refugee from Jaffa. I would be a Palestinian citizen, but because of my emotional attachment to Jaffa, I could ask the Israelis for permission to live there. But I would still vote in the Palestinian state and pay taxes to a Palestinian state, etc. And if an Israeli wanted to live in Nablus or Gaza, simply because he felt a connection to these places, then he could ask the Palestinians for permission to live there. This is my vision for the distant future, however, and I don't expect to see it in my lifetime. Maybe it could happen after 50, 70, or even 100 years. What I personally believe should happen now is total separation: the establishment of a Palestinian State completely free of settlements and the army and the return of Palestinian refugees to the Palestinian State. This is purely my opinion, and it in no way represents the position of the campaign. As it stands now, all of the anger, pain, and foolishness on both sides prevent us from achieving this vision. Perhaps in the future it will be possible. So now, what I support is separation. Now what we need is two states for two nations. Later, after a long time, we can settle the other matters.

  • What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

    There is a huge amount of work to be done. I see a solution in the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Initiative, in what we call "the Goal Plan." That's why I feel a personal responsibility, which keeps me going. I am not a bank employee who goes home at two or three o'clock. My job demands that I am always working. Everywhere I go, I'm working. Whatever I do, I'm working. And this is a source of personal satisfaction for me. We encounter other challenges, as well. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Initiative is all about. There are people who criticize it without even having read it. The lack of financial support also presents challenges. There are many projects and activities that we would like to do, but we cannot because we don't have the resources. First and foremost, however, it is the Occupation that presents us with the greatest challenge. For example, we planned a demonstration in Qalqilia in July, but the army closed the city. The army established eight layers of military checkpoints to prevent the people from coming and participating in a peaceful demonstration. In the end about 1,500 Palestinians were able to reach the city and take part in the demonstration, which was one of the largest demonstrations to take place in Qalqilia for years.

  • Did you ever have doubts that you are on the right track?

    I always have doubts. I have doubts about everything. But until now, my doubts about this initiative are far less than my doubts about every other proposal out there. As far as I'm concerned, this is the initiative in which I have the fewest doubts and in which I have the most certainty.

  • Did your involvement in this work change your way of life?

    No, this work hasn't changed my life. Except perhaps that I work longer hours, which my fiancée doesn't appreciate. Also, I gained weight because I don't have time to go to the gym anymore. But beyond that, working on the campaign hasn't really affected my life. I haven't received any threats from anyone or anything of that sort, although some of my colleagues did when we first began. Some of those involved in founding the campaign were harassed in their jobs in different ways. But now the campaign is much stronger and has won the support of many on the street. It has such a strong presence on the Palestinian political scene that it is no longer easy for people to hassle us as they once did. So, as individuals, those involved with the campaign have paid a high price. I feel fortunate because I didn't pay any personal price. But some of the people who represent the real backbone of this work, people who are more important than I am because they are the ones out there in the field, did suffer negative consequences due to their participation. Some people lost their jobs, and other people faced such difficulties in their workplaces that they were forced to choose between keeping their jobs and continuing to be active in the campaign. There are still people who oppose us, but it is no longer easy for people to deal with us in that way. At this point, we have a political presence, a large staff, an institutional structure, a clear vision, and popular support. So it is difficult for people to harass us in that direct, face-to-face way that they did in the beginning. People might oppose us in other ways, but not as they did before. I believe with all my heart that the Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy is the last hope to realize the Palestinian national project. I am completely convinced that it is our last hope. No other proposal currently present on the Palestinian political scene can lead to the achievement of the clear goal of Palestinian statehood. The Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy offers an unambiguous vision. It lays out its principles; one, two, three. No one else offers such a clear vision. There are those who say that we'll accomplish our goals through negotiations. OK, we know that negotiations offer the only way, but how do we get negotiations going? How are we going to influence Israeli public opinion? How are we going to inspire our people to build civil society? How are we going to raise their awareness about equality, democracy, and human rights, as necessary to empower them to join in this struggle? I'm 100% convinced - OK, 99% convinced - that the Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy represents Palestinians' last hope for achieving our national goal: the establishment of a state along the 1967 borders.

  • You told me earlier that your parents forced you to go to the United States?

    I had wanted to go to Russia to study political science. The people in the party encouraged me to do so, but when I was 17 years old, my family forced me to go to the United States. They made me study something very far from politics. They didn't even want me to study anything connected with the liberal arts. I didn't want to study bio-chemistry, but they forced me to. Once I got there, I discovered many things. My knowledge and understanding expanded, and my eyes opened to a new world. I had been to the US previously for short visits, but that had not been sufficient for me to formulate an idea about the true nature of things. Being in America gave me the opportunity to read, discover, and think. It gave me a chance to see things from the outside, and to make my own decisions far from pressure from other people. And that's how I concluded that the People's Party was not the way that I could contribute to the dream of achieving Palestinians' national goals. So I followed my own path, not the path of any particular party or political movement.

  • Did your resignation from the Communist Party surprise your family or yourself?

    My family did not want me to be involved in any political party in the first place, because they wanted to protect me. After all, they had sent me abroad because they were fearful for me. That was their only reason for sending me outside the country. I resigned from the party, but I don't think my family even found out until two or three years later. That was my own business, not theirs. What about now? What do they think of your current work? My family supports my current work 100%. They have a lot of respect for Dr. Sari Nusseibeh. They are very aware politically, and they know that what Dr. Sari says is realistic. They know that if I continue under the guidance of Dr. Sari, then I'm on the right path: a path that is realistic, and that has the potential to achieve results. They know that the organization that Dr. Sari is building is democratic, transparent, and has all the qualities that a good organization should have. But in the end, my work is not really their business, anyway. It doesn't matter whether they like it or not. I don't tell my father where he should work, so he doesn't tell me where I should work, either.

  • What do your friends think?

    Most of my friends, the ones I grew up with, belong to far left-wing parties, like the Popular Front or the Democratic Front. They don't agree with what I'm doing, but at the same time they can't offer an alternative of their own. I've come to an understanding with them that, until they come up with a proposal of their own, they should at the very least not oppose mine. With time, they've come to give me a kind of private support, although, as members of the opposition, they won't announce it. We continue to talk about these issues nearly daily. But until now, I can say that I cannot understand what exactly they are opposing. I simply cannot understand how they can be against something when they have no alternative to it. For me, this is a question of responsibility. If you have a sense of national responsibility, and you don't like Plan A, then give me Plan B. If you cannot come up with an alternative, then arguing with you is a useless waste of time. This is a political issue, not a personal one. If you represent A and I represent B, then we're talking about A and B. But if you represent A and I don't represent anything, then I can't just say "no, no, no." That is why the Palestinian left wing has become so weak. They have no clear, realistic proposal to offer. And this is a very negative thing. It is important that Palestinian politics comprises a diversity of voices. It is very important to have strong, effective left-wing parties, because this ensures the presence of a variety of perspectives. Diversity is essential for building a state, for a healthy society, and for development and progress. The weakness of the Palestinian left is alarming. Granted, I strongly disagree with the Palestinian left. But at the same time, I hope that they become stronger and more active. I want their voices to be heard, for the sake of political pluralism.

  • Where do you, as a campaign, consider yourselves politically, Right or Left?

    Our campaign is not a party, but a political current. For a number of reasons, however, most of our members happen to be affiliated with Fatah. In the first place, most Palestinians consider themselves to be members of Fatah, just like most people support peace and the establishment of a state. Fatah is the most realistic party in the Palestinian scene. Our campaign is also realistic, so it is only natural that most of the members of the campaign are from Fatah. Secondly, there are also members of the Popular Front and other parties who support the campaign. It is a political current open to all, and anyone is welcome to join regardless of the party to which they belong, or even if they do not belong to any party. The campaign reflects the desires of the public. It represents the voices of people that are not being heard, the voices of the silent majority. It represents the mainstream.

  • Why did you not rely on your leadership to solve the conflict, why did you take it upon yourself to do it?

    The leadership is supposed to lead the process of searching for a solution to the conflict, but in practice it is not actually doing so. We respect the right of the Palestinian people to choose their leadership, and nothing that we do runs counter to this right. Our current leadership is 100% legitimate and we support it 100%. What we are doing is helping to pave the way for the realization of a solution. That way, when the time comes for a solution, the elected leadership, represented by President Yasser Arafat,1 will be able to take the steps that it must take in order to achieve a solution. We present what we have to the people, but in the end we are in no way offering an alternative to the leadership. We never will claim to be such an alternative, because we believe in the democratic right of the people to choose their leaders. We voted for Arafat. If there is another election, I will personally vote for him again. This isn't the issue. We are only helping to help the leadership make the right decisions when the time comes to solve the conflict, establish a state, and put an end to the bloodshed and destruction.

    • 1Interview was conducted before Yasser Arafat passed away.

  • Why do you think previous peace agreements have failed?

    First and foremost, the previous peace agreements failed because none of them ever stated a clear objective. They never stated where they would lead us in the end. Oslo said that there would be a transitional phase, but no one knew the final destination. Then came the Road Map. That road can take you to many different places because it had no clear endpoint. That's why the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Initiative puts forth what we call "the Goal Plan." This goal plan can be used in conjunction with the Road Map or other agreements. There have been other short-term agreements as well, but none has indicated where they are leading. The Road Map starts with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, and then it leads to one stage and another stage and yet another stage. But then what? We hold a conference? No, this won't work. An agreement must tell us from the beginning where we are going. If we want to go from point A to point B, we want to know how we're going to get there. We cannot simply leave it to circumstance. We're not only talking about statehood. We're talking about the future of our nation, the future of our children. We need to know where we're headed.

  • Did you have to give up anything to be involved in this work?

    I've given up my time, which is very precious for me. I've also given up personal things. But I am completely committed to this work, so I don't think of this as a high price to pay. For me, even the personal time lost is a small price to pay for the opportunity to be involved in this valuable work.

  • What do you consider a small success?

    Success will come in stages. The first stage will be when the majority of people agree with the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement. The second will come, after the people have accepted it, when the Palestinian leadership also approves it. The third will be when the Israeli government, in agreement with the Palestinian government, implements the Agreement. And finally, success will be complete when the Palestinian State is established; when Palestinian society achieves its vision for a state.