“It is an expression of colonial power”: an interview with the Palestianian ambassador to Sweden
On April 23, the Palestinian Ambassador in Sweden, Hala Husni Fariz, gave a lecture to UPF Lund about the past and the present of Palestine. The Perspective Webzine had the opportunity of having a talk with her before the event.
How would you describe the relationship between Palestine and Sweden?
Well, the relations have been very good, I have been here for seven years and the relations have always been developing. Of course, with the recognition of Palestine in 2014, we moved even another step forward in the development of the relations not just at a political level but also in other fields, like culture, trade, et cetera. And, sure, it is an ongoing situation, but Sweden and Palestine have a very constructive and frank relation which we respect, and we look forward to continuing.
We have been reading about women standing at the forefront against the Israeli troops. When did female political activism start emerging in Palestine?
Oh, a long time ago! Women had been participating in the very old times, in the 20s and in the 30s they were fighting and participating in the revolts against the British mandate and the Jewish groups that were there who were, by the way, fighting us, the Palestinians, and the British. And after that, of course, women were active in different phases, like when the struggles were in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as during the first Intifada. There was, I think, a little setback in the second Intifada because arms were used and so women were contributing in other areas, in some organizations, trying to help as they could. But definitely women were always involved. And right now, we have around 350 women imprisoned in Israeli jails, which are detaining also children!
In line with what you have just said, one of these female activists, Ahed Tamimi, is still kept in prison by the Israeli forces. She is only 16 years old. What are the Palestinian institutions doing to get her back home?
Let me start with a premise. Israel has been systematically arresting and harassing children. The settlers, who are very violent, do terrorist acts against Palestinian families and, of course, children. And there were terrible incidents two years ago, during which Israeli settlers burned a kid alive and then they went to a town in the North and they burned a whole family, only one of the kids survived. Ahed was resisting soldiers who came to her home and they had just one day before shot and injured her cousin. They shot him in the face whose half has been carved off by the bullets and he still need many surgeries and treatments.
Anyway, the soldiers went to Ahed’s house and they wanted her house, because it is on a hill, so it is elevated, and they wanted to make it a station there and shoot the kids of the village and who else was protesting. Ahed told them to go away, she and the soldiers went into an argument and then Ahed slapped one of the soldiers. We are not talking about a policeman or a civilian, we are talking about a soldier fully armed and I mention this because sometimes I read in the Swedish media that Israeli police has the rights to stop rebel riots. These are not riots, this is colonialism.
What Israel soldiers do is expression of colonial power, they walk equipped with arms in our streets, harassing our people, sniping our kids and our journalists. The courts which took our kids, Ahed included, are military one which is against international law and they do not follow due legal process, so the best thing that we can do- since we are under occupation- is to provide lawyers who can defend Palestinian prisoners. This does not mean that the harassments stopped. Ahed was harassed during interrogations, like many other kids, and there are videos showing how they are treated by Israeli soldiers. She was tortured psychologically, but she resisted, and she did not pledge guilty, because of course she is not guilty of anything. We as Palestinian institutions are trying to do what we can to get her and other prisoners back home. What happened is a whole shame, but Israeli settlers and soldiers are the occupiers and they can do what they want. They are exposed by human rights organizations who are documenting what the occupiers are doing against Palestinian civilians who are now demonstrating against Israel. The peaceful manifestations are a claim against the injustice that is going on for decades.
Yet, there are media portraying these manifestations as random confrontations, without acknowledging the true reasons behind…
They are not confrontations. Israeli snipers are shooting aid succours, kids, civilians, this is another proof of domination which Palestinians are fighting against with the aim of make their rights be heard.
Moving to the educational field, which are the biggest challenges that Palestinian students face who want to study abroad?
The availability or non-availability of scholarship. There is sometimes the problem of the residence and study permit, especially in the past few years with the increase of restrictions in migration policies around Europe.
What is the most important and urgent issue about the Israeli occupation that people need to know?
I think that people need to know that this occupation has become, legally speaking, a colonisation. There is a legal definition of occupation- for how long, under what situation-, and the Israeli one which started in 1967 does not fit this definition. Number of settlers in the West Bank is exceeding 600,000, which is the proof of the Israeli colonialization in our territory.
People need to know that there are laws against colonialism and that a country cannot be considered a democracy, like Israel considers itself and many European countries consider Israel, if then it imposes an apartheid regime in the occupied territories. There are more than 50 laws condemning Israeli colonialism and it is important to keep them in mind. This is our situation and not many people know that we have been living in an apartheid designed and put in act by Israel.