A Palestinian Legislator
An Interview with Jihad Abu
Brit Tzedek's Deputy Director Aliza
Becker spoke with Palestinian Legislative Council member Jihad
Abu Zneid about her assessment of the present situation.
Abu Zneid is a Fatah council member from East Jerusalem and the
founder and director of the Women's Center of the Shuafat
Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem. We discussed the
critical issues facing the Palestinians including the political
separation of Gaza from the West Bank and the economy in
addition to the role of women.
We want to give a special thanks to
journalist and comedian Ray
Hanania for transcribing the interview for
How has the economic situation changed for
Palestinians on the West Bank since Fatah reassumed control over
the Palestinian Authority?
Recently, with the
change in government and its relations internationally, there
has been a resumption of pay for Palestinian Authority
employees. We received 60 percent of the past due salaries and
have received regular wages for the past two months. This has
fueled a great sense of hope today. At least for now.
People can see the possibility of improvement, but they feel
the world doesn't care. Most people want to avoid the bloodshed
and the violence that has marked the past. But they are the
|People can see
the possibility of improvement, but they feel the world
doesn’t care. |
Unemployment is very high and contributes to the rise of
religious extremists. If the economy improves, then it will mean
that their lives will improve, and then that leads to hope, and
that leads to a willingness to believe in the promise of the
peace process rather than today's reality. The majority of
Palestinians want peace.
Fayyad has given us some hope. People feel more secure
personally. They feel safer. They felt they were being punished
before by the Israelis for the failure of the peace process. The
rivalries surfaced in that. And that caused it to worsen. If you
were on one side of Palestinian politics, you were punished by
the other side.
Now that the police are being
restored, there is hope that our security will improve even
more. There is no reason to have any guns on the street outside
of the police. We can't have these militias and political groups
being armed. It is against our best interests.
How has the split
between Hamas and Fatah affected the peace
There is no peace
process right now, just talk. There is a real lack of trust in
the Israelis. The Arab governments have not stepped up and have
not proposed anything substantial or new ideas at all.
have peace between Palestinians and Israelis until we reunite
the Gaza Strip and the West
You can't have peace between Palestinians and Israelis until
we reunite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We have to bring
the Palestinians together for everyone’s benefit when it
comes to peace. It will not help bring peace to have the two
separated politically and as societies.
separation is just temporary, and I believe we will overcome the
differences. It cannot stay this way for long. Our families are
together, even if the land is divided. We are one body, in two
We want the Palestinian people to be
united again. We do not want them to be split.
As a Fatah party member, how do you view
Hamas is controlled from outside of the
territories, not from Palestine. Many of the Hamas activists,
though, are like us and we support them.
|We [Fatah] do not
agree with their [Hamas] politics and their repressive policies
against women and citizens, but we defend their right to speech
When the Hamas-Fatah rivalry erupted, there was this
misperception that Fatah was punishing the Hamas people. There
were some groups who tried to punish the Hamas leadership in the
West Bank, factions of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, for example.
But we defended the Hamas leaders. We would not allow them to
punish any Hamas leaders. We stood up to the militants and told
them no. They must not take the law into their own
Hamas spokesmen still tried to incite
violence by claiming that Fatah was seeking to avenge the
killings and destruction in the Gaza Strip, but that was not the
case. We protected the Hamas members in the West Bank because
they are Palestinians. We do not agree with their politics and
their repressive policies against women and citizens, but we
defend their right to speech and expression.
has a very strong presence in the West Bank. It is not just in
the Gaza Strip. But they have not asserted themselves as much
and there is a larger presence of Fatah loyalists in the West
Bank. So they are not seen as being as powerful as they are in
the West Bank. Hamas is there but they are underground in the
West Bank. Fatah controls the street but Hamas controls the
religion and religion is very powerful in our lives and Arab
Although Hamas is isolated internationally, they continue to
enjoy strong support in the Gaza Strip, but we [Fatah] do have
supporters there. There was a big Fatah protest recently.
Is Hamas the main proponent of Islamic extremism
in Palestinian society?
Hamas is only one
religious movement. There are many others. Hizb
ut-Tahrir staged a rally in Ramallah recently that drew
more than ten thousand people.
very high and contributes to the rise of religious
These groups have been very critical of Hamas because they
have viewed them as being too secular. And they are very,
extremely critical of the secular leaders and groups in our
society. They want an Islamic government.
only support the oppression of women, they even oppose women
praying in a mosque. In Gaza, women have no real voice because
of these movements.
What are the main challenges facing Palestinian
There is a major problem with honor
killings. Thirty-six women were killed in 2006. Domestic
violence, I think, is the number two issue we face. This
includes incest. And the third challenge is education, training
and teaching women.
The big problem for women is that we are not respected. The
men do not respect our rights as women. They respect us in a
moral way but not in terms of empowerment.
all obstacles by Jihad Abu Zneid. Common Ground News
Service. May 18, 2007.
with Jihad Abu Zneid, Member of the Palestinian Legislative
Council and President of the women's center of Shu'fat refugee
camp. Peace Times.
Back Caliphate over Politics by Carolynne Wheeler.
Telegraph (UK). August 27,
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