Speech of Mr. Fritz Edlinger, Secretary General of the Society for Austro-Arab Relations as representative of the Non-Governmental Movement at the UN-Palestine-Solidarity-Meeting, Vienna Dec. 29th 2013
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start with a personal remark: I was indeed very honored and pleased to receive the invitation some time ago to address this important and distinguished meeting again, despite the fact that is my fourth time within the last 10 years and - as somebody who is directly involved in the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular since almost 40 years – I was uncertain what to say.
After so many years, after so many negotiations and so called „peace processes“, I really have the feeling, that everything has been already said. I was and still am hesitant to keep repeating those same phrases, those same accusations over and over again. Indeed the basic problem of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is not the lack of reasonable and acceptable suggestions for a peaceful, fair and viable solution; the basic problem is that one party - namely Israel - lacks the proper will of implementation.
For 65 years Israel has been aggressively working on the implementation of the Zionist Dream of „Eretz Israel“, regardless of international law and human rights. Although the legal situation is clear, the international community of states, which created the State of Israel by adopting resolution nr. 181, is in fact helpless vis-à-vis this brutal policy of expulsion and dispossession against another nation, the Palestinian.
This unique situation in modern history was and still is possible due to the absolute and unconditional political, military and financial support by the United States of America but also due to the ambivalent and undetermined position of other major players, among them – sorry to say so - Europe.
These are the basic facts and – unfortunately – for many years, for many decades, I haven’t seen any changes to the better.
These were the reasons for my reluctance to address this meeting again.
Nevertheless, in the end I took the decision to come and address you, mainly because of one reason: to take up a clear position and to speak out the truth.
Many things have been already said today, many facts have been mentioned, which I totally agree with. I don’t want to repeat the misery of the Palestinian People living under Israeli control in the Westbank, Gaza and Jerusalem, while being confronted every day with acts of oppression, expropriation and even continuous expulsion by the Israeli occupation forces. Although almost all Palestinians living in Palestine are victims of Israeli violations in equal measure, I would like to mention one special case, which does not only concern Palestinians but all Moslems, even Christians, in the whole world. I mean the situation in Jerusalem/Al Quds. Israel occupied the Eastern part of the city in 1967 and made it – in flagrant violation of international law – the so called United Capital of Israel in 1980. Since 1967 Israel is trying to reduce the number of Palestinian inhabitants by all means. One very brutal and cynical method is the cancellation of the resident-permits, very often for members of families living in Al Quds since centuries. The total number of Palestinians expelled from their homes by seeing their residence-permits cancelled amount to more than 14.000 since 1967, most of them Moslems but also some Christians.
I came back from a visit to Jerusalem a few days ago and I can say that the pressure on Palestinians in Al Quds is extremely strong and Israelis are doing everything in their power in order to make life for Palestinians as complicated and dangerous as possible. Although the legal situation is crystal- clear, many observers and experts, even some Palestinians, tend to believe that the battle on Jerusalem/Al Quds is lost already.
The situation of the people living in Gaza is even more alarming; they are completely isolated and locked-in. It is indeed not exaggerated to call Gaza a prison for its almost 2 million inhabitants. A few days ago I met the UNRWA-field-director for Gaza and he told me, that the UNRWA was forced to stop almost all construction projects due to severe cut of imports from Israel. Moreover, Gaza is seriously affected by the events in Egypt, after the destruction of many tunnels, providing Gaza with all kind of essential materials. I am sure, that all of you are aware of the dramatic energy crisis, which stopped the operation of most of the water and sewerage facilities. It is really shocking and absolutely not acceptable to see toddlers and small children walking through main streets in Gaza, flooded by sewerage. While the Israeli „games“ are very well known to people in Gaza; now, since a couple of months, they are also affected negatively by the internal conflicts in Egypt. This is – at least for people like me – hard to understand and I would like to call upon the Egyptian authorities to reopen the borders to Gaza again. It's neither fair nor correct to let the whole population in Gaza, most of them have been refugees for decades, pay the price for political differences and conflicts.
There is indeed the risk that Palestinians will find themselves among the main victims of the Arab Spring and its aftermath. The events in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, even in Lebanon, are annoying and alarming. Many people have been killed and injured and I really see the danger that in the end the Palestinian people will find themselves caught between two (or even more) stools. I am not naive and I know about the complicated and controversial political situation in the Middle East, but it is absolutely inacceptable, that conflicts between „brothers“ are carried out at the expense of Palestinian refugees fighting for survival.
Furthermore I see the risk, that the struggle of the Palestinian People for self-determination and independence is losing ground and support and that Palestinians might become one of the main victims of the internal developments of the „Arab Nation“. As somebody, who is representing a worldwide network of civil society organizations doing their utmost to support the Palestinians, I appeal to the Islamic world in general and to the Arabs in particular to close ranks and – together with the many peaceloving nations in the world - to strengthen their support for the Palestinian People in their just struggle against Israeli dispossession and occupation.