Palestinian Lawmaker Pushes Nonviolence In Gaza Israel rejected a truce Wednesday in its five-day offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The current violence erupted after a six-month cease-fire brokered by Egypt expired last week. Mustafa Barghouti, an independent lawmaker in the West Bank city of Ramallah, says Palestinians believe nonviolence is the best way to pursue their struggle.
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Palestinian Lawmaker Pushes Nonviolence In Gaza

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Palestinian Lawmaker Pushes Nonviolence In Gaza

Palestinian Lawmaker Pushes Nonviolence In Gaza

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Now, let's get a perspective on the fighting from Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. He is an independent Palestinian lawmaker in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and he finished second in the 2005 Palestinian presidential election. He's on the line. Welcome to the program, sir.

Dr. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI (Palestinian National Initiative, Ramallah): Thank you.

INSKEEP: I'd like to understand how this latest round started because there was a ceasefire in Gaza for months. It expired, as you know, and then Hamas began firing rockets into Israel knowing there might be a harsh Israeli response. Why did Hamas do that?

Dr. BARGHOUTI: No, sir. I think this is - what you just described is the Israeli narrative, and it's not correct. There was a cease-fire, which we worked very hard to have because we believe that nonviolence is a much better way of our struggle. And there was a cease-fire, which was supposed to stay for six months. And after the fourth month, the Israeli army started to strike Gaza, including, of course, assassination of people in the West Bank. And we've been warning that such attacks will provoke definitely a reaction.

So, in reality, I think Ehud Barak, the defense minister of Israel, orchestrated and planned this situation. He kept attacking Gaza till he got a reaction, and then he claimed that he's attacking Gaza because he had a reaction. So, the Israeli side is the one that in reality broke the truce.

INSKEEP: I'd like to come back to something you said. You said a nonviolent effort to deal with this. And that's something that you, Dr. Barghouti, have been quite prominent in advocating - a nonviolent response to the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. But I'd like to ask you, do you believe that Hamas endorses your view of nonviolence?

Dr. BARGHOUTI: I don't think they endorse it, but they are ready to deal with it. And the proof to that is that so far they have accepted three times a truce that was long enough. And I don't think that the attacks on Gaza are weakening Hamas. On the contrary, they're strengthening Hamas and public opinion. And more than that, these are not attacks on Hamas, they are attacks on civilian population. That's why we had five sisters all killed in one attack. And yesterday, two other sisters were also killed by Israeli strikes. The civilian population is the one that is attacked today, not Hamas.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you about something else you said because you suggested that Israel's trying to crush Palestinians. I'm sure if an Israeli spokesperson were here - and in fact, elsewhere in the program, we're speaking to the Israeli ambassador - if an Israeli were here they would say they're trying to crush Hamas. Are you suggesting that this is uniting Palestinians behind Hamas?

Dr. BARGHOUTI: No, I'm not saying that. This is uniting Palestinians behind the people of Gaza, because Palestinians cannot accept this war crime, like many human beings all over the world. Because what is happening is not only disproportionate in terms of use of force, it's a criminal act. When you put population under siege for two years, without food, without electricity, without fuel, without medications, and you paralyze the hospitals and then you strike them with 60, F-16 jet fighters in one strike killing up to now 389 people and injuring more than 1,700 - mostly civilians.

These are not attacks on military targets. Of course there will be so many casualties. What I'm trying to say here is that people cannot lose their humanity and accept this bloodbath from which the Israeli politicians are benefiting for their political campaign. And I think that this Israeli government is subjecting the lives of Israelis also to danger because there will be reactions, and of course there will be Israeli victims. Who is benefiting from this violence and this war? It's only the Israeli politicians who are fighting for seats during elections.

INSKEEP: And I'm glad you mentioned elections because, of course, there is a campaign underway in Israel. There will be an election. There's a new government coming in the United States in a few weeks. I wonder if you see a possibility of a very different situation a few weeks or months from now.

Dr. BARGHOUTI: With this kind of extremism it's very difficult to expect that. But one more important issue. The Israelis claim that the bad guys are Hamas, and the good guys is Mr. Abbas in Palestine.

INSKEEP: Mahmoud Abbas, the president.

Doctor BARGHOUTI: I would like to ask you a question. During the last year, when they had negotiations with President Abbas, why couldn't they solve the problem? Why did Israel insist to continue settlement building in the West Bank at a rate that is 38 times more than before Annapolis? We had 521 military checkpoints in the West Bank, which is under Abbas' control before Annapolis process. Today, we have 699. They are building a wall that is imposing on the ground an apartheid system.

So, practically, the Israelis are also weakening Abbas that they claim is a good guy. Who is the good Palestinian, then? There is none for the Israelis. Unless - let's go back to the roots of the problem. This violence, this war, even the whole presence of Hamas, is an outcome, is a symptom of a disease. And that disease, the cause of that disease, is occupation, which has been there for 41 years, and Israel still insists not to end it.

INSKEEP: Mustafa Barghouti is an independent Palestinian lawmaker in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Thanks very much for speaking with us, sir.

Doctor BARGHOUTI: Thank you. Thank you, sir.

INSKEEP: It's Morning Edition from NPR News.

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