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Palestinian Perspective: 'Young People Are Demanding Their Freedom'
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Palestinian Perspective: 'Young People Are Demanding Their Freedom'

Middle East

Palestinian Perspective: 'Young People Are Demanding Their Freedom'

Palestinian Perspective: 'Young People Are Demanding Their Freedom'
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Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian physician and general secretary of the Palestine National Initiative, talks with NPR's Michel Martin about continued violence in the Middle East.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We start the program today by continuing to follow the ongoing violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories that began several weeks ago. It's a fast-moving story. Just today, an attack on an Israeli bus station added to the carnage. It's part of a wave of stabbings and other attacks in which nine Israelis have been killed by Palestinians and dozens wounded. More than 40 Palestinians, including attackers, have been killed, and scores have been injured in the violence over the past five weeks.

Yesterday, we spoke with two parents - one Israeli and one Palestinian - who both lost children in previous episodes of violence. Today, we wanted to hear perspectives from two government officials, and we do need to note that both conversations have been edited for time. In a minute, we'll hear from Mark Regev, Israel's incoming ambassador to the United Kingdom. He's a longtime top aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

First, though, we have Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. He is a medical doctor and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and he joined us recently via Skype from the West Bank. And I started by asking him what he thinks triggered this latest wave of violence.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: The reason why this whole thing started is very simple. It's the same problem that initiated the first intifada and the second intifada. It is the continuing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories.

MARTIN: The Israelis obviously have a very different perspective on this. They think that this was started by misinformation about Israeli intentions about the Al-Aqsa Mosque and how is to be managed, and you just disagree with that. You just think that's just not true.

BARGHOUTI: Of course. I'm telling you not only my Palestinian perspective, but what I lived through during my whole life. We've been under Israeli military occupation for 48 years. I've seen people revolting and then turning to negotiations one time after the other. We had the first intifada, then we had Oslo Agreement. And people have great hopes that the negotiations would lead to resolution, and after 22 years of negotiations, all we've got is more annexation of land, more settlers. Young people are without future. They are feeling hopeless. They're suffering from unemployment. That's because our economy's suffocating under the Israeli military pressure.

MARTIN: What is your role as a leader at a time like this? Do you find this acceptable - this level of carnage that is being experienced by the Palestinians? What's your role been in this?

BARGHOUTI: My role has been to advocate nonviolence. For the last 20 years, we've conducted nonviolent resistance in the form of the demonstrations and the form of boycott, following the best models and examples of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. They responded to us with severe violence. The problem today is that the international community - and especially the United States, in my opinion - has failed to respect international law and tell Israel enough is enough, and you cannot be imperative to international law.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, I just wanted to clarify just one question. I know that you spoke specifically about the very long stem of this - and occupation, specifically. But is there anything else you wanted to add about this particular form that these clashes are taking now? Some people argue that it's social media, and some people argue that this is really leaderless. I don't know. I'm just interested in your take on that.

BARGHOUTI: Sometimes there are certain analyses that are unfortunately - I'm sorry to use the word - that are very superficial. When the Arab Spring happened, some analysts said it's because of social media. No, social media is just an instrument. It's because of injustice. It's because of oppression. It's because people - young people - did not have hope. It's because of the fact that these younger generations need a better future. That's why they revolted, and even - wherever the Arab Spring didn't work, it will come back again. I am sure.

The same thing applies here. When Mr. Netanyahu says we are seeing Palestinians demonstrating because of incitement, he reminds me of Mubarak in Egypt. He reminds me of all dictators in the world who refused to see the fact that oppression is the thing that is moving people to revolt. Please understand. I want the American people to understand that we, the Palestinians, are not terrorist. We're normal people who want to live normally like you do and peace not only for us, but for Israelis, as well.

MARTIN: I understand. Not taking anything away from what you just said, and I apologize, but why knives? Why knives?

BARGHOUTI: This is - this is - these knives are individuals who are very frustrated, who are very angry. I would say it's the same reason why you see gunmen in the United States going into a school and shooting children. It's insane. It's unacceptable, but there are reasons why these things happen. And these are individual, unrelated cases. The majority of what's happening here are popular mass demonstrations with young people demanding their freedom. We don't want more young people to go in that direction that you spoke about. We want them to believe that the world accepts their struggle and that they can have a free state one day, and they can have a future one day.

MARTIN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is a medical doctor. He's a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. We reached him via Skype on the West Bank. Dr. Barghouti, thank you for speaking with us.

BARGHOUTI: Thank you.

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