|Awad Abdel Fattah|
The following interview was conducted in Nazareth with Awad Abdel Fattah, secretary general of the National Democratic Assembly party. The NDA (Al-Tajamoa in Arabic, and Balad in Hebrew) is one of three parties in the Israeli parliament representing Israel’s Palestinian minority, which numbers 1.4 million and comprises nearly a fifth of the country’s population.
The NDA is best known for the activities of its former leader, Azmi Bishara, who was forced into exile in 2007 after Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, accused him of assisting Hizbullah during Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon. No proof has so far been forthcoming.
Although the NDA has three legislators in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, both the party and its former leader have faced a relentless campaign of intimidation and persecution from the Israeli security services over many years. There have also been efforts at each national election to have the party disqualified from running.
The election due this January is no exception: even at this early stage, petitions have been submitted to the Central Elections Committee from senior legislators to ban the party and two of its Knesset members, Haneen Zoubi and Jamal Zahalka.
The NDA’s chief point of friction with the Israeli establishment is over its campaign for “a state for all its citizens”, its demand that Israel be reformed into a liberal democracy. This has been classified as “subversive activity” by the Shin Bet.
This interview followed the recent publication by Abdel Fattah of a booklet in Arabic arguing both that the Palestinians inside Israel need to take a more central role in rebuilding the Palestinian national movement and that it is time for Palestinians to turn away from the illusions of the Oslo process and develop their thinking about a one-state solution.
****Your new booklet has caused some controversy. What led you to reconsider the position of Palestinians inside Israel in relation both to the Palestinian national movement and the two-state solution?
As far as I am aware, this is the first serious attempt to examine the role of the Palestinians in Israel as regards the national movement. Maybe it is not surprising that there is a degree of reluctance to confront this issue. We live in a complex relationship both to Israel and to the wider Palestinian people, and therefore historically we have tended to assume we should be led by the Palestinian national leadership rather than seek to have an active voice ourselves.
But changing political circumstances – the failures both of the Palestinian national leadership to remain united and clear-sighted and of Israel to engage in a meaningful peace process – make that an irresponsible position to maintain. More