[This interview with Edward W. Said was conducted by Jadaliyya Co-Editor Mouin Rabbani in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in September 1994, one year after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accord. Said was among the first to publicly condemn the agreement, and denounced it as a capitulation by the Palestinian leadership to Israel and the United States. Oslo also led to a definitive repudiation by Said of PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat, ending a relationship that stretched back to the late 1960s. In this interview Said elaborates on his opposition to Oslo and the Palestinian Authority, expressing criticisms that at the time were often disparaged but have since been validated by reality.]
Mouin Rabbani: It has now been a year since the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DOP), or Oslo Accord, was signed in Washington. To what extent have your initial expectations about this agreement and its consequences been fulfilled?
Edward W. Said: Well, I wasn't very sanguine about the results, although I did think that there would be a more general Palestinian effort to rally around and make this terribly bad accord better, to improve the conditions, to change the context perhaps. But I've been very disillusioned, because not even that has happened. I think the Israelis correctly banked on Arafat's incompetence and the continued hold he seems to have on the Palestinian mind, which enables him to remain in Gaza and Jericho as a kind of local enforcer with extremely limited and dwindling power.
I've also been disappointed that the opposition to the DOP hasn't become more coherent. The DOP consolidated Israeli occupation with Palestinian acquiescence; it gave the Israelis sovereignty, control over water, security, external relations, and the veto power in everything of consequence occurring in the autonomous areas. Jerusalem, the settlements, and the roads remain in their hands, with no restrictions at all. People haven't tried to formulate an alternative. So what you have is four groups: quite a large group of silent and disappointed Palestinians, a second group of loyalists, a third group waiting around to see if things will get better for them, and, lastly, a group opposing the process and Arafat who can't seem to get it together. There haven't been any generalized meetings, and not more than a few general petitions have been signed. The result is a feeling of drift along with confusion and allaround pessimism.
I think what is most disappointing to most people is the fact that the money hasn't shown up. I had expected that. There were many promises made, but in the first long article I wrote, "The Morning After," I said that the whole notion of the place being flooded with dollars, projects, businessmen, and jobs for everyone was a fantasy. Because such arrangements in the past, in other parts of the world, have all proved illusory.
Rabbani: It seems that opposition to the DOP could basically take two directions: it could engage in a wide-ranging and broad national dialogue with the Palestinian leadership in an attempt to get it to change its program and implement reforms, or it could institutionalize itself as an opposition, probably with the more ambitious goal of removing the current leadership. Yet neither of these seem to be happening. As a member of this opposition, how would you like to see things proceed?
Said: Well, I think these two have happened, at least the first one has. Beginning in October 1993, I was involved with others in the diaspora – loyal nationalists, genuine Palestinian patriots – who were convinced that the DOP was a bad bargain but believed that it was all we could get and we now had to help Arafat proceed. I went along with that, and signed a couple of early petitions asking to reform the mechanisms of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], to bring in more competent people, to create institutions, and so on and so forth. And, alas, that stream of petitions – all of them useless – has continued.
Since then, I have taken the position, based upon the evidence I have gathered, that the leadership is obdurate and unreformable. They neither listen to each other – Arafat and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]
and Abu Alaa [Ahmad Qurai], to mention just three, are now no longer on speaking terms with each other – nor are they interested in listening to anyone else. They are simply interested in perpetuating their own positions and their own risible power.
I therefore think that the number one priority for the opposition ought to be a coherent program asking the PLO leaders to leave. They must be made to resign. I think noncooperation with them is the essential first step, just as the intifada was a form of noncooperation with the Israeli occupation authority. Remember that the West Bank town of Bayt Sahur refused to pay taxes to the Israeli authorities. That's what we need now. Because not only are we still fighting the Israeli occupation, but in fact we are fighting an enforcer of the occupation – namely the PLO – which has the distinction of being the first national liberation movement in history to sign an agreement to keep an occupying power in place. So I think the preeminent responsibility of every Palestinian is not to cooperate with an authority that is a surrogate to the Israeli occupation and an incompetent one at that.
The PLO's main concern is security. Arafat has not been able to clean the streets of Gaza, but he has been able to establish five intelligence services all spying on each other. I think it's an outrage. He closes newspapers, people are bullied into silence, and so on. And the net result is that the very disturbing circumstances of the occupation remain the same if not worse.
A couple of weeks ago, the day after the early empowerment agreement [the August 1994 Israel-PLO Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities] was signed, General Danny Rothschild [Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, COGAT] made a statement in which he said, "We're still the real power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." And when journalists then asked what Israel had given the Palestinians, he replied: "We've given them the right to deliver services to the residents." That's the real meaning of early empowerment, and the PLO cannot exercise even these extremely limited responsibilities effectively.
Rabbani: It's interesting that you consider the opposition's priority as in involving the Palestinian leadership rather than negating the DOP. Does this mean that you accept the DOP as an irreversible fact?
Said: Not necessarily. I just think that the Palestine National Authority (PNA), the agents on the Palestinian side in charge of keeping the agree ment in place, has occupied the place formerly reserved for the Israeli occupation authorities. People should refuse to cooperate with them, though selectively. It is possible, for example, to accept the notion that Palestinian education is in the hands of Palestinians. But insofar as the PNA is the security force that in a certain sense works for the Israelis,
arresting Palestinians because the Israelis say they should be arrested, as has happened several times in the last few weeks, these are things I don't think people should cooperate with. And by that I mean not just saying, "I won't cooperate," but trying to set up different kinds of councils, for example, where local needs are taken care of by the communities, which is exactly what happened during the [1987-1993] intifada. That's what I think the first priority should be.
The second thing is for the DOP to be modified. For this you need the diaspora, the vast majority of Palestinians who don't live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and whose rights have been denied. I think it's very important that they should be inserted in the process in some meaningful way, to urge questions like Jerusalem, the settlements, and the rights of return and repatriation and compensation. Let's not forget that the Palestinian struggle began in the diaspora. The people in Israel and the occupied territories have always been prisoners, and this hasn't changed. The solution therefore has to be partly initiated from outside.
And number three – very important – concerns reparations. One of the most shocking aspects of the accords is the fact that no provision is made for any kind of Israeli reparations. The Israelis not only completely destroyed Palestinian society in 1948, they also destroyed the economies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the last twentyseven years of occupation. Yet no reparations have been demanded of them. The Iraqis occupied Kuwait for a matter of weeks and they will be paying for what they did, financially, for a long time to come. The Israelis should be made to pay too. It's true that we're very weak, but since 1982 this leadership has not attempted to mobilize its people or the resources available to it. I mean, Nelson Mandela was in jail for twentyseven years and still he was able to remain steadfast in his devotion to certain principles. And through the African National Congress (ANC), which was completely exiled or underground, he was able to mount an international campaign, which is what turned the tide. We've never done that. And I think that's what we should do.
Rabbani: In light of what has transpired during the past year and your views on these events, how do you reconcile the apparent contradiction that for many years you were seen as a leading advocate for American recognition of the PLO, and of Yasir Arafat in particular, and that you are now among the most prominent critics of the PLO and Arafat?
Said: I felt that Arafat was genuinely a representative of Palestinian nationalism, far transcending his actual role as a human being. And so publicly, in the West, I was always supporting him as a way of supporting the Palestinian national idea. The PLO was our institution; I was defending it as something that represented us. I publicly defended Arafat insofar as he was attacked – which in the West was consistently the case – as the personification of the Palestinian national idea, but did not consider it my business to defend his person or methods when these were at issue.
As for my own relationship with Arafat and the Palestinian leadership, I never was a close advisor. I lived too far away from them, in more senses than one. I would see them when I would go to Beirut and then to Tunis, and before that to Amman, and these relations were always quite critical. I never tried to get anything from Arafat. What I was most interested in was trying to make him understand the nature of the West, and America in particular – about which he had absolutely no idea – and to try to convince him of some of the things I mentioned earlier, such as the need for a campaign, the need to organize it.
I also tried to get them not to focus so strongly on the administration. I lost in that, because in the end what they wanted was to get in bed with James Baker and George Bush. They thought that was their greatest achievement, that the secretary of state spoke to them. But before he spoke to them, he spoke to me. I saw Secretary of State [Cyrus] Vance in 1979. I had access to him. I had access to them all, living in America and knowing everybody as I do. I saw Secretary of State Shultz in 1988 with Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. We weren't instructed to see him by the PLO. What we told Shultz and then told Arafat – or rather what Abu-Lughod then told Arafat – made no impression on them at all.
My idea has always been that the Palestine question in the United States and in the West in general is an issue of the opposition, not of the establishment, and that we should work with our constituency. The leadership was never interested in that. As of the fall of 1989, when I did a long interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas, I have been publicly critical of their behavior.
And during the summer of 1991, when I was involved in the run-up to the Madrid Conference, trying to define a Palestinian strategy for dealing with the conference and exactly what we wanted from the Americans, I finally realized that all they wanted was acceptance. They weren't interested in fighting, in being equal, they just wanted the white man to say they were okay. That's all. I was astonished. That's when I broke with them, and now I have no relationship with them at all. I refuse to talk to them. It's hopeless. This leadership is what Frantz Fanon used to call "Black Skin, White Masks." They're desperate to be white. That's not what our struggle is about. But even before this break, my relations with them were always critical. Cordial, but critical.
Rabbani: I wonder if you could expand upon another theme you've ad dressed in your writings since the signing of the DOP, namely, what you term the "discipline of detail" and your view that the Palestinian leadership lacks this discipline.
Said: What I mean by the "discipline of detail" is best illustrated by a small story. In the negotiations that [in 1993-1994] went from Oslo to Cairo, all – literally all – of the facts, documents, figures, and even the maps that were used were produced by the Israelis. The PLO has been unable to produce one item of information that is not derived from an Israeli source. And this is about our land! This is what I mean by the discipline of detail. If you're going to negotiate with your enemy – and Israel is our enemy – you need maps that you yourself make. We need a strategy on the ground, above all for Jerusalem, which the Israelis have been taking bit by bit. Their historical motto was "Another Acre, Another Goat." Historically, the Palestinians have never produced a counterstrategy.
In Jerusalem there's a Dutch geographer, Jan de Jong, who has documented what they've been doing and what their plan is. It's there for everybody to see. Yet the Palestinian leadership has never responded to it at all. The settlements are growing and, along with their road network, have largely been built with Palestinian labor. We've never formulated a strategy for preventing Palestinian labor participation in the expropriation of our own land.
And above all, in the years that I've known this leadership, they've never had the vision, or the seriousness, to develop a systematic strategy in which each detail is an organic part of the whole. The way you develop a real strategy is by gathering around you people who are willing – not for money but out of dedication – to devote themselves to the idea of liberation. But this leadership is not interested in liberation, which requires effort and the discipline of detail, where even a square inch actually liberated is much more important than getting general principles like the DOP signed in Washington. We will need an entire generation to be trained in what is effectively a modern struggle.
I refuse that my fate as a Palestinian should be that of nineteenth century Africans or Native American where the white man gives the chief a few trinkets and says, "Okay, now you're the leader, but we're the real power here." We have to feel that we are equal, that we can fight them on technical and scientific grounds, that we know what we are talking about – that we have discovered the information that we have for ourselves.
Last summer there was talk of two hundred [Palestinian] technical committees in the West Bank and Gaza studying issues like refugees and water and land and so on, but no results have appeared. We have only one decision maker, namely Mr. Arafat, and he's a man of no education, he cannot read a foreign language, he's distracted, and he is governing an entire nation of six million people who have the leading doctors and lawyers and engineers and intellectuals in the Middle East, and the highest rate of university graduates in the region. It's a disgrace.
Arafat says that we have confidence in [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin. But the fact of the matter is that the situation has gotten worse since the DOP was signed. The Israelis are out not only to take everything from us – they already did that – but to humiliate us in the full sense of the word. What's so outrageous about the period since the signing of the DOP is that Rabin and his gang, who have remained essentially unchanged, are being billed as men of peace and vision and courage and all the rest of it even while they continue to apply the policies they always had based on notions of the Palestinians as an inferior people.
The implementation of this accord in a sense embodies this idea insofar as it makes us dependent on them – we are to have no authority, they retain all real power, they know better. Even the people with whom they signed the agreement, like Arafat, are humiliated – he is being searched in Gaza. The Palestinian negotiators are unable to get from the Israelis even the right to pass from Gaza to Jericho, a distance of ninety miles. And this leadership has gone along with it, because it's sort of Abu-'Arab, you know, "It doesn't matter." But all of these things matter very much.
It's as if they are snowed by this agreement, where the only thing the Israelis conceded is that the PLO is the representative of the Palestinian people. And Arafat was received in the White House. But today in
America, the PLO is still considered a terrorist organization. We still haven't gotten a cent from the United States. Just for moving a few troops around in Gaza so that Arafat could come in on 1 July [1994, the date of Arafat’s post-Oslo return to the Gaza Strip], the Americans added $180 million to the aid budget for Israel. We got nothing. There's this idea that we have to accept what's given us, which I don't understand at all.
Rabbani: In your initial reaction to the DOP you did say that Israeli recognition of the PLO was not something to be underestimated. But current views seem to be that the PLO is more about symbols than substance.
Said: Totally. Do you know what they were negotiating the last night before the signing of the 4 May [1994 Gaza-Jericho] Agreement, according to the British press and according to a friend who was there? Whether Arafat could put his likeness on the postage stamps! That's what's of interest to him. And a friend of mine who was on the PLO Executive Committee at the time told me that during the negotiations in Oslo between chief Palestinian negotiator Abu Alaa and the Israelis, Arafat only took interest in those sections that had to do with him. So it's all about symbols over substance. It's a disgrace that we should accept such nonsense. He arrived in Jericho with an Israeli helicopter guarding him. Imagine how Palestinian prisoners must have felt seeing the "Maximum Leader" escorted by their jailers. That's the situation we're in. And that's why I think that Arafat, if he had any decency, if he had any backbone – and the same goes for all those leaders and negotiators that surround him who had a hand in this appalling process – would say, "This is all we can do." In my opinion, we need a referendum.
Rabbani: The whole issue of democracy has been pushed to the forefront during the last year. It does seem that a key element of any program of reforms, particularly now that the PLO is for all intents and purposes centered in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), is to hold elections and referenda there. At the same time, don't you feel that elections in the OPT, even if they were free, fair, and fully democratic, would further marginalize Palestinian communities in exile?
Said: That's perfectly right. I think there's been a vast exaggeration of the importance of "free and open" elections. First of all, I don't think there can be, under the present circumstances, constitutively, free and open elections at all, because there is an Israeli occupation army, and a Palestine National Authority whose power and authority derives from the Israeli occupation, and also because the only permitted alternatives are Arafat and the PLO on the one hand or the Israeli occupation authorities on the other.
So I'm not one of these American-style liberal Palestinians proliferating now in America and elsewhere who heap all the responsibility and blame on Arafat for denying democracy. I mean, Arafat is not part of any democratic set-up. He is mandated by the Israelis to enforce what they call their security, and therefore you can't have democratic elections in any meaningful sense of the term.
And second, as you said, unless the exercise is accompanied by the enfranchisement of the diaspora Palestinians then it further marginalizes them. I completely agree. So that's why I keep talking about the need for a census, for assemblies constituted by Palestinians no matter where they are, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, inside Israel, in Lebanon, and elsewhere. And I'm surprised this hasn't happened. And until there's some sense in which the Palestinians constitute themselves as a political body, you can never have democracy. You can't have democracy legislated from above by decree. That's kind of a parody of the whole thing. So, I've never spoken about elections as the panacea or the answer to the problem. There are elections in Syria, Iraq, Egypt. They are described as democratic and open, in which anybody can vote, and so on and so forth. But what do they mean? What is needed is a culture of democracy, not just a few democratic pretenses suddenly appearing that are supposed to solve all our problems.
Rabbani: Concerning the Palestinian exile communities, there seems to be an increasing hostility to the Palestinian presence in several host countries on the part of either the government, sections of the population, or both. How do you view this challenge?
Said: One of the achievements of the PLO in the decades prior to the DOP was a unity of the Palestinian people, by which I mean that we think of ourselves as one people, whether we live in Nazareth, or Nablus, or Beirut, or New York. Now this sense is dissipated, and Palestinian communities that are relatively unprotected, like in Lebanon, are now open to the hostility of the host governments, which in a sense can't be blamed. Lebanon is a precarious republic, as it has been called, and to try to enfranchise and give citizenship to 400,000 Palestinians is unimaginable for them. In Jordan, there's the problem of dual citizenship, of Palestinians carrying Jordanian passports.
With the Oslo agreement, the PLO suddenly stopped this process of mobilizing and attracting Palestinians to a new concept, which has to be based on the gradual repatriation of Palestinians, and, second of all, pressing for modifications in the Israeli "Law of Return." These things can be done, not easily, but at least they're talking points, part of the negotiation. The Israelis are masters at making past oppressors pay for
what they did to them. They got over $40 billion in reparations from the Germans. They're in absolutely no position, moral or otherwise, to tell us to forget about the past and apologize for what we did to them, and that we are the ones who should pay the price.
There has to be a collective effort. And what I don't understand, and what I find deeply disturbing, is why we have been unable in the year since the signing of the DOP even to set up a forum in the diaspora. So the problem of the diaspora is a problem of leadership, or the absence of leadership; the notion that, to most people, the problem appears to be solved, coupled with a sense of desperation and confusion, with the poorest and the underprivileged – the large majority – in the worst possible position.
Now, I think that what is happening in the PLO itself, from what I've been able to gather, is that there is now a dispute between Arafat, who is confined by the terms of this agreement mainly to the Gaza Strip, and the PLO in Tunis. Faruq Qaddumi, the head of the PLO political department and the senior PLO official in Tunis, seems to be advancing the thesis that Arafat can occupy himself with the PNA in the West Bank and Gaza Strip according to the terms laid down by the Israelis – he has no choice – but that this does not commit the rest of the PLO, with its offices and embassies and few remaining institutions and, above all, its capital. His argument is that we should be able to use what's left of the PLO to remobilize and to advance the process that had begun already in the late 1960s. There may be some hope there.
Rabbani: Some of your critics have faulted your position on the DOP for failing to offer alternatives. I know you have addressed this point in your writings, but could you expand on it here, both with regard to alternatives prior to the signing of the agreement and alternatives today, a year later?
Said: There were alternatives all along, including Camp David. I was one of the many, certainly including the PLO leadership, who said, "We won't have any part in it." The question that I need to have asked of Arafat and company after the DOP is, "Why have you turned down all these other alternatives, about which we all know, only to take this one?" That's where the principle of accountability comes in. These people have never been made accountable for their actions, which have led to one disaster after another. Actually, this question about alternatives should not be asked of me, but of them. That's point one.
The second point is, I'm not a politician. I don't know how to suddenly create a new leadership and so on and so forth. These are issues that concern a community, not just individuals sitting on a chair somewhere saying, "Well, this is what should happen." I've never believed that. But what I'm really concerned about is the need to raise the level of participation to enable people to feel they are doing something to advance the cause of our people. And I would say that maybe 80 percent of Palestinians today, whether in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, inside Israel, or abroad, don't feel a sense of participation, but feel excluded. But the only way not to be excluded is to speak out and take part in what's going on.
One way of participating is in projects in the occupied territories, including self-help projects financed from abroad that will build institutions. But most of the projects that I've heard about are not infrastructural. For example, take the Builders for Peace chaired by Vice President Al Gore, which includes a lot of Arab and Palestinian businessmen as well as Jewish businessmen. What are they going to build? They are going to build a hotel. They are going to build a water-bottling plant. They are going to build more tourist facilities. There is talk of an airport in Gaza. Is that really what is needed, or should we not be more concerned about rebuilding houses, rebuilding parts of Jerusalem or being involved in the building of parts of Jerusalem that are still available for public projects? We have not been able to finance one public project in Jerusalem by private Palestinian money committed to a national cause. There's a health problem in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, there's an education problem, there are sanitation problems. Those are the issues that need to be addressed. But I don't think it's going to be done by some "Maximum Leader" who comes up and says, "Let's do this and let's do that." As I understand it, it has to be something generated by the people themselves.
Rabbani: Your generation was very much present at the inception of the contemporary Palestinian national movement and, even more so, during its rise to international prominence in the period after 1967. l'm wondering how, more than a quarter of a century later, you see the ambitions, aspirations, and ideals that initially motivated you. Did you ever think you would be in the position you are in today?
Said: No. I tell you, my major insight into the period of the last twentyfive or thirty years has been that we have still not been able to – well, let me put it this way. The successes are obvious: the institutions, the PLO, the sense of national consciousness, and so on and so forth. The failures we've just been talking about.
But one of the things that haunts me is that, like most of the Arabs – and this may be a cultural thing – we've only been able to think in terms of survival, steadfastness, sumud. We haven't turned the corner to think in terms of actually winning, which is quite a different thing. To stay in one place, in order not to lose what one has – that's very important and to a certain degree we've done that. We've remained a Palestinian people despite all the deprivations and the pressures and the Declaration of Principles and so on. There is a Palestinian national consciousness which is there. But we haven't been able to find a mechanism or a method or a politics for converting dispossession into repossession, for converting defeat and loss, which is really the history of the last forty five years, into something resembling an actual victory.
That is what haunts me – why we've been unable to do that. Why we can't think collectively in the same terms that a very successful Palestinian businessman can; he creates a company and reaps the profits and creates something that lasts. Or like a Palestinian intellectual when he or she does research and produces an important book. That's something reclaimed, something substantiated. But nationally, all our institutions, almost without exception, have a half-life of about ten years, and then they die and we start all over again. We reinvent the wheel and start from scratch. So the question is why we're satisfied with persistence and steadfastness, and not concerned enough with actually defining something, the sort of thinking that produced the slogan "Another Acre, Another Goat." There's very little of that.
Rabbani: The discipline of detail?
Said: The discipline of detail. I don't know why it's missing. It's not missing in the personal lives of many of us, but collectively it's not there. Our leaders embody the kind of defeatism and passivity that led one of them to tell me after Oslo that we had to accept the fact that all we will get from Israel is what Israel gives, that otherwise we can have nothing. Why? What happened to our will? What happened to our purpose? They are never factored into the equation.
An example that haunts me, again, is when I went to South Africa in 1991 shortly after Mandela was released – I think I was the first Palestinian to go there – and I saw Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. And I said to them, "How did this happen? You were terrorists, exiles, and prisoners." And they said: "Number one, we never let go of our principles. We never changed what we were fighting for. Number two, we focused on the international dimension, because our international success in delegitimizing apartheid gave hope to the people inside to continue the struggle." In contrast, we are nothing now but an international laughingstock. How do most Palestinians feel when they see Arafat strutting around pretending that he's the leader of something when he works under the thumb of the Israeli military authorities? You need a qualitative change of consciousness where you move from simply trying to be there to trying to liberate and move and win. That's what I think has been the failure of my generation.
Rabbani: If you compare the Palestinian experience with that of South Africa, the ANC began with a program committed to the establishment of a unitary, nonracial, democratic state, and in the course of its struggle was prepared to make any compromise or concession provided it did not undermine that ultimate goal ....
Said: In other words, they were strategically very firm and tactically very flexible. We're exactly the opposite.
Rabbani: And on that basis critics could say that you were one of the most prominent advocates of a negotiated compromise with Israel on the basis of a two-state solution, whereby 78 percent of Palestine would be permanently conceded to Israel and the possibility of a unitary, secular state precluded. Couldn't they see a contradiction in your present opposition to a solution they would contend is the logical consequence of what you supported in the past?
Said: I've just collected my political writings in a volume, and I think the record is quite clear. I've always been very consistent. First of all, I never said anything about simply accepting X percentage of land; I talked about fighting for it.
Second, I've always believed that neither side had a military option. So essentially, for all kinds of structural, international, ideological, and cultural reasons, it's a kind of stalemate, and the only way you can go forward is to negotiate a political agreement between the two sides. But I've always specified that it has to be an agreement between two sides with equal claims as far as rights are concerned, so that if we lost land in 1948, that doesn't mean we lost the claims to repatriation for those Palestinians who would want to go back. We still don't even know how many Palestinians from 1948 want to go back. We've never bothered to find this out, among other things. And certainly compensation. I've never believed in giving that up. If we lost it, then it has to be paid for by the Israelis.
And, third, I certainly had no conception other than of two states with equal rights for the citizens of both states where, let's say, there were free-flowing borders. I was for a Palestinian sovereignty and an Israeli sovereignty that were necessarily in interaction with each other, and in the end would perhaps create a situation like the cantons of Switzerland. And this is in a certain sense part of the notion of equality and, let's say, shared sovereignty. So I really haven't changed my views. I still believe in the concept of a unitary state, but you can't impose that on your opponent, which is what the early PLO formulation involved – telling them that this is what they have to have. I believe in democratic choice, which means that if the Israelis want their own form of what is in my opinion a deformed nationalism, imbued with the kind of religion that is going to be very problematic for them in the years to come – there's a kind of standing civil war now in Israel between religious and secular forces – but if that is what they want, then let them have it. But we should also be entitled to make a choice for ourselves.
The question of land is a question of realism, and negotiations, and of claims that can be settled retrospectively. If I lost my family's property in Talbiyya I should be allowed to claim it back as my own and at the very least to claim compensation for my loss. The curious thing is that the house I was born in, my family's house, is now the [radical Christian Zionist] International Christian Embassy, given to them by the Israeli state. What right does the Israeli state have to dispose of Palestinian property in that way? This leadership that we have never even raised the issue. So I don't think I've changed. I think they've changed. But I'll never change.
[This interview was previously published in the Journal of Palestine Studies.]