The Taste of Victory and the Ray of Hope

Speech delivered by MK Azmi Bishara on 5 June 2000 in Umm al-Fahem; as published in Fasl al-Maqal on 9 June 2000 - The Taste of Victory and the Ray of Hope

Speech delivered by MK Azmi Bishara on 5 June 2000 in Umm al-Fahem; as published in Fasl al-Maqal on 9 June 2000.

For the first time since the tragic June, we savor the taste of victory and try to glimpse the ray of hope in the Arab situation that arose following June 1967. The truth is that if we learned the lessons from the Nakba, there would not have been the 1967 war and defeat. We believed that the Arab regimes were established on the basis of the lessons of the Nakba, but it became evident in reality that the basic lessons and the dealings of the Arab nations with Israel and the Zionist existence were not learned and digested despite the fact that the period between 1948-1967 is a cherished time for us and for Arab nationalists.

I am not saying that the most recent events in Lebanon and unconditional withdrawal have exceeded the issue of the Nakba and 1967 defeat. Here we have a minuscule example in the weakest Arab country, we have to exploit and extract the lessons in depth and not the superficial results. Most importantly, we have to look profoundly at the example that Hezbollah and the resistance offered. The clarity in aim and aspiration in realizing victory and making the necessary arrangements to face the occupation, armed parties that fought a war without subjecting the whole country to a war.

It was necessary to find the right balance, the desire for armed resistance without subjecting Lebanon to what it cannot cope with. More importantly, dealing with the abilities and energies of the people without discrimination, while exploiting all the contradictions of the occupation and attempting to make the resistance a unified national issue in the Arab world without being subjected to the inconsistency within.

What characterizes the 1982 war is that it is a war that is not agreed upon in Israel, the opposition took advantage of every person killed in Lebanon to contest the government and inflate the number of dead to make the government appear at fault.

Resistance such as Hezbollah realizes it cannot defeat Israel militarily or overcome its military arsenal, what the resistance can do is render flagrant losses to Israel and its soldiers and restrict the strength of the other side by perseverance. If Israel were free, it would have burnt Lebanon, but the behavior and wisdom of the resistance prevented that from happening.

The resistance was wise in this realm and thought how it could provide the other side with no justification and use of all its strength. And in order not to lose its case, knew when and where to strike.

The resistance had clarity in objective, perseverance, stubbornness, and realism until it achieved its aim. Talk and discussion inside Israel regarding the one-sided withdrawal was not just talk between the opposition and the coalition parties, Israel had two options, either to leave Lebanon as part of a comprehensive agreement with Lebanon and Syria, or to leave unconditionally, defeated and insulted. The withdrawal did not take place elegantly.

The Lebanese resistance, who invested its energy in the battle, has the right to devote its energy politically and morally. In gang warfare standards, this is victory, Hezbollah triumphed and we savored the taste of victory for the first time in 33 years. These are the rules of the game in Lebanon; Israel did not respect the law and international resolutions and did not consult anyone when it invaded Lebanon. Therefore, why should it leave Lebanon under the cover of a peace agreement? Israel has been defeated and is trying to suppress its defeat with international legitimacy. If we don’t understand the Lebanese resistance’s behavior after the battle, then we don’t comprehend the true meaning despite declarations from some. The important matter is the example the resistance gave after the victory and the concepts of rule of law and respect for the state, issues not previously stated in the Arab world, and as it appears, we the Palestinians are a long way from perceiving this case.

There is a difference between the rules of the game against the occupation and the rules of unity for a nation under the rule of law. Some citizens may have committed crimes or treason for which they should be judged by the law, and as long as the battle has ended, there is no longer conflict, only the law.

When we examine the Arab World, we currently see encouraging signs in one point despite the feeling of despair. This glimmer of hope is the start in the reduction of the cultural gap. This is our basic struggle with the Zionist movements. We have to comprehend the deep meaning in the important and determining battle in the Arab-Israeli struggle.

In this situation, in the next two months, we expect the American and Israeli pressure on the Palestinian leadership and people to increase especially in September, and whoever expects a settlement of the Palestinian case in September is mistaken and has in actuality convinced himself/herself inwardly of the Israeli conditions. There can be no just solutions with the proposed current power balances and Israeli preconditions.

Ehud Barak is offering a new model for the Palestinian State, and America is adopting this stance and throwing the ball into the Palestinian playground. The American Administration is saying, here is Barak willing to recognize your state and you have to relinquish the settlements, Jerusalem and the refugees. What we are witnessing today is equivalent to the scenario that they are trying to impose on the Palestinians. Israel accepts the concept of a state within the borders set by Israel, the easiest state that can be acknowledged as a state is one bordered on all sides by Israel.

Under these circumstances, all possibilities for steadfastness in the face of Israel and America must be planned for. The intention is not just the declaration of a Palestinian State; the question is how to declare the State, for escalation and the crisis?

The second question is do we have the criteria to undertake the struggle and persevere?

In this stage, we are witnessing the beginning of important determining days for imparting the Palestinian cause locally and internationally. The question is what will the role of the Arab minority within Israel in this struggle be? Is it the stance of an observer or will we stand beside our brothers and add to their steadfastness and strengthen them. Are we as an Arab minority in its current situation able to play this role?

The Palestinian flag is not a competitive fashion issue. The question is important from a national aspect, not for the media. If a Palestinian state is established, the relationship will not be between two countries, but a relationship of one nation.

Azmi Bishara then ended his speech with some questions for the Arabs in Israel:

Are we Arabs within Israel able to present an example similar to the one in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Are we democratic? Have we built our institutions for self-administration? What is requested from us is not giving advice and being proud of the democracy that we did not create, but the Jews did.

As an Arab minority we have to be a model as a national movement and political parties able to administer the Arab community in Israel. We have to affirm that our struggle with Israel centers on land, areas of influence, political prisoners and education. We have to prepare for ourselves an agenda to work with, each in his/her location.

Speech delivered by MK Azmi Bishara on 10 June 2001 in Kardaha, Syria at a memorial service marking the first anniversary of President Hafez al-Asad's death.

His Excellency President Dr. Bashar al-Asad
His Excellency President Lahud
His Excellency Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Ladies and Gentlemen

I came here with a poem by Shawqi in mind written while Damascus was burning with the fire of [French] occupation. I came here with the image of a devastated Damascus in 1925 as reflective of the situation throughout Palestine today. And just like Syria, every place in Palestine that has been destroyed by the American-Israeli war machine, will rise up as an Arab lair. And just like the young men of al-Sham [Syria], who resisted the occupier's tanks with their bare hands and chests, your brethren in the wounded homeland celebrate one bride after another facing the rising sun and the promise of a better future. Should Sisyphus of Palestine continue his absurd struggle with the curse of destiny, after it [destiny] was smashed by stones thrown at the occupier?

Should we curse the curse and continue for another round, or do we seek victory? Do we love Palestine or the Palestinian cause? We want to win, and we want to build a modern and happy Palestinian society in a free homeland, and since this is what we seek, we must identify the factors needed to achieve this victory. So why do we discover every time we try to identify the factors of steadfastness, popular resistance, strong will, and even the informing of the uninformed, that the Arab factor remains absent when it is present, and present only in its absence?

It has been said that the Palestine Question is the essence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but it seems to me that we ought to assume that the essence of the Palestinian question is the Arab-Israeli conflict. This, at least, is what we ought to assume in order to continue the struggle against an Israeli occupation government that is in the throes of political preparation for a wide military confrontation; a government that has no political program that offers the hope of dialogue, not even unfair solutions that might justify dealing with it.

[Ahmad Shawqi's Poem]

Today we commemorate a year since President Asad's passing. Memory, as you know, is selective. Every collective memory includes collective forgetfulness. But before forgetfulness seizes the parts of our memory it so chooses, I choose to recall that all enemies and friends of the great late Hafez al-Asad admitted, during his lifetime, that he was a persistent and stubborn adherent to rationality in politics and reason in the face of ignorance; a political sphere which is not divided between irrationality that appears radical on the one hand, and surrender that appears rational on the other hand. Such duality leads to neither socio-economic nor political achievement.

The struggle is for modernization and liberation, and the confrontation with the occupation requires the challenge of modernity, and there is no contradiction between modernity and authenticity; the relationship between the two is of a dialectical unity within one identity—our Arab identity. Modernity is feared only by those who are unable to defend authenticity. Modernity is enlightenment and the use of rational judgment with regard to nature and society; it is people’s sovereignty based on a social contract among free individuals.

Mr. President, as we suffer, we observe with much anticipation your commendable efforts for economic modernization and administrative reform, which we consider, truly, and not metaphorically, a national [Arab] task. Our bleeding hearts are with you as we witness your attempts to coordinate the scattered Arab positions. Over there, in the Land where we chose to remain and resist; where we encounter our opposite in everything, where continuity with our people is blockaded and the blockade continues on our people, where our youth chant the Arab dream, but in reality yearn for an Arab position.

It is no longer possible to continue, Mr. President, without enlarging the realm between the possibility of a full-scale war and the impossibility of surrender. The Sharon government is distinguished by the fact that it came into power after the victory of the Lebanese resistance which benefited from the enlarged realm that Syria has continuously fostered between accepting Israeli dictates regarding a so-called comprehensive and enduring peace, and the military option. This space nourished the determination and heroic persistence of the leadership and membership of the Lebanese resistance. But following the victory of this resistance, and following the Geneva summit and the failure of Camp David, an Israeli government came into power determined to shrink the realm of resistance, by putting forth an ultimatum: either accept Israel's dictates, or face full-scale war. Thus, it is not possible to continue with a third way—that of resistance—without expanding this realm once again so that the people can struggle and resist. Nor is it possible to expand this realm without a unified and internationally effective Arab political position. This is precisely the time for such a stance.

Thank you.