by Charmaine Seitz of JMCC and Matthew Brubacher of BADIL Resource Center
Q: Who exactly told you that you have to go into the elections?
A: This was my idea.
Q: You are in the Jerusalem elections. Is that in all Jerusalem?
A: Yes, all of Jerusalem.
Have you had problems because you have gotten involved in this situation?
From the beginning, there were no problems. Since January, I asked the opinion of all the people in the Palestinian Authority, all the important people and the not so important people. None of them said that, "no." We decided that I am an Arab from 1948 and I have the right to enter the Knesset. Like Darawshe, Talib al Sane', and Dehamshe, Rafiq al Hajj Yehiyya because I have an Israeli nationality, and not that from the 1967 areas.
But Husseini told the newspapers that this is not good, that this is wrong what you are doing. Why?
The first person that I discussed this with was Feisal Husseini.
Now, because Husseini was the first one that you met with, what is your opinion of Husseini's rejection of you?
He said that it is not good because of the Israeli media. He doesn't want the Israelis to get the idea that the Palestinian Authority accepted that the Arabs can be in the Knesset. And also so that the Israelis won't say that Mussa Alian is a representative of the Authority. At the same time, people in the opposition will say that I am a representative for Olmert. Everyone says what they want. In relationship to the Sulta [Paletsinian Authority], they, including Faisal Husseini, have come out opposed to the elections. In the whole world, there are those against you and those for you. There is no one single line.
Are you frightened from this?
I am a believer. I am a man who prays. I went to the Hajj twice. I am not afraid of anyone accept God. If anything happens to me, it is something already written by God.
But you know, of course, that there has been a boycott for 31 years. This thing will change everything.
Yes, but until 1993, there was no connection between Israelis and Palestinians. It was forbidden, the communication between the two. But after 1993, with the Oslo agreement, at that time we accepted that there were two people. And in the agreement, it was contained that Jerusalem is one of the things that will be solved in the final status agreements. Israel and the Palestinian Authority confirmed that Jerusalem has a special status, like the West Bank. I announced and I wrote that I don't have any right to interfere politically in the status of Jerusalem.
But you said that they [the Israelis] took your land. Why don't you think that they will do the same thing again?
What can I do? I am just asking for my rights, my needs. It is nothing political. But after one hundred years, I am going to ask for the eight and an half dunams that they took from me. I can't forgive this. There is no law in the world that says that if I get my rights where I am living now that I must relinquish what was taken from me before by the occupation of my land. We have to differentiate between our daily life and my duty to my land. I say to the son of my son that in this street, for example, was our land, or where that school sits was our land.
In the last year, human rights organizations have written about how the Israeli government has confiscated 20,000 dunams and taken 600 Jerusalem ID cards. How can you do anything about this situation? They are still doing this.
I told you that I am not going to get involved in politics.
But if you run now, before the final status, you will change the politics.
I want to ask you a question. Who said this? Who said that if I want a cup here, that I have to give this land. Even if there are international laws, why must the garbage be related to the land? This has been our mistake for the last 50 years. The land -- they took it, they occupied it. But it does not mean if they forced me to give them my land, that I must I also give them my money tomorrow?
That's what they say.
That is wrong. That is the Israeli program, to take the land and to take our home, and to take our money and to put us out. This is my policy that if I have two and a half dunams or three, I will keep it and I ask for the rest, not to give it up. They want to take everything. Israel doesn't want anyone to be in the municipality.
We said that Israel has a program, how will you fight it?
I have to fight with the power that I have. With my policy, in my way. With the military, they got our land, with the economics, they got our money. They try to take the Arab money and to live by it. At the same time, they don't get any services. This is their program today. They take the arnona, but we don't get any services. The arnona is the smoke of the Arabs. They take our blood and sweat this way. Not just the land, but the efforts, the work that we do. The Israelis come and ask me for the arnona to pay the settlements for Gilo and Pizgat Zeev, to make their gardens. Is it not right? And the garbage that is in front of my house, they don't take it. Do I have to stay silent?
So what is your opinion? Is Jerusalem Arab or Jewish?
Arab Jerusalem is Arab land as the West Bank and must be returned to the Palestinians. This is political. Jerusalem has to be the capital of the future of the Palestinian state.
There are people who say that if you are you get involved with the municipality you are making the capital of Israel stronger?
This is not true. They can't say this. Everyone has their own opinion. You said there are people… I, too am people, and I have an opinion. I have my way of expressing what I feel. But we have to take the majority.
But 90 percent of Israelis believe that all of Jerusalem is Israeli?
No, one hundred percent believe this.
And because I am a Palestinian I say that all of Jerusalem is 100 percent for the Palestinians. Because I live here too. Ninety percent of the land of West Jerusalem is Palestinian and so I say that all of Jerusalem is Palestinian. But because today the position is controlled by military force, I have to be flexible, without admitting politically that Jerusalem is for the Palestinians. For fifty years, we the Arabs, because we are foolish, we have ignored the media. For fifty years, we have said with guns, we want to take it all or nothing. This is wrong. I think that if people have their services and homes, that like West Jerusalem, they will start to think about politics more, that they will start to ask for their land beyond the green line. But now they are just thinking about the waste that is around them and they forget their rights.
Have the Israelis bothered you about your candidacy?
Yes, they have said indirectly that I must be careful from the Sulta. And in the streets in Beit Hanina, there was graffiti written that I am a spy. My friends found them, and they said that they were paid to write this by Jews. Meretz went to the Fateh party and Anat Cohen asked them to write a leaflet requesting a boycott of the elections. Meretz is used to getting the Arab votes because they are the closest to them. Now there is an Arab list running, who will take their votes. On the other hand, there are Israeli parties like Likud who don't have parties, like the religious, who say that I am a representative of the Sulta.
We know that to be strong in politics, you have to have people behind you. Who is behind you?
God is behind me. Muhammad, when he came, no one was behind him. God told him to tell people that there is God. There was no one behind him. I am the same. There is no one behind me. I am a little strange from the others. I have no party, no government, no body behind me, and no volunteers behind me. Nobody has supported me financially or emotionally, to tell me to go ahead and support me in words.
By reading the newspaper and listening to the radio over the past 30 years, I saw that all the Arabs leaders, they each had one father or a government to tell them which way to go. I dream for myself that I will be able to speak a word from myself, without a person or party telling me what to say. I want to be free in myself. Jamal Abu Nasser, the president of Egypt, said that the freedom of speech is the introduction to democracy. The
sign of democracy is to speak from your heart.
I had proposals from people to follow what they wanted me to do, but I refused their money. I don't care for the money, I will pay for the ticket, I will do what I want to do, I will speak what I want to speak, without their influence. Just before you came, people called me asking if I wanted money, but I refused.
They were Arabs?
No, they are not part of a party. They want to help me. They are thinking that if I win, I will help them. Why did I refuse? Because I am afraid that tomorrow, I will owe them.
There is something else. Meretz, before they went to Fateh, even came to me, and asked me to join their list as the second in line. They already have four seats and so I would be guaranteed a seat in the government, without paying anything. But I said no, because then I will have to follow their line, when they vote, I will have to vote with them. Whatever they will say, I will have to do.
So what can you do by yourself?
I can be a warning bell in the house. If they are making plans, I can tell my family and the people what they are planning to do. I will tell everyone about the illegal things that they are doing against the Arabs. If they do something in silence, I can warn the Arabs to be careful. I have to be more than a member. Sometimes, one person can turn the government upside down, if he can use his power.