The ongoing violence between the Israelis and Palestinians can be resolved peacefully with the United States as a major Palestinian ally, Palestine Liberation Organization Ambassador to the United States Afif Safieh said yesterday in the Intercultural Center Auditorium.

Safieh, a self-proclaimed pragmatist and idealist, currently serves as the leader of the PLO office in Washington, D.C. Safieh is a Christian and has been outspoken in his desire for the resurrection of the Palestinian state.

In a speech sponsored by the Lecture Fund, International Relations Club and Center for Islamic Studies, Safieh recounted the status of the Palestinian people since Israel’s founding in 1948, described the obligations of Palestinians and Israelis alike in remedying the conflict and reminded the audience of the power of American idealism.

Safieh said that the “Nakbah,” the displacement of the Palestinian people since 1948, is the greatest catastrophe in human history.

“If I were a Jew or a Gypsy, the Holocaust would be the worst massacre in history. A Native American, the European colonization of North America. An African, slavery. And a Palestinian, which I am, the Nakbah,” Safieh said.

He said that the last 60 years have resulted in three great denials of the Palestinian people: the lack of a physical nation, Palestinian civil rights and international recognition of their suffering.

“Palestinians are not children of a lesser God,” he said. “They were the victims of the victims of Europe.”

Safieh recounted what he saw as the great injustices of the region, with 88 percent of Palestinians living below the poverty line.

However, he also shared his optimism for a peaceful solution to the violence and conflict that have been perpetuated throughout the last half-century.

“Nakbah is an ongoing process, and the Palestinian people are collectively in strife and danger,” Safieh said. “The international community must rise to our challenge and decide whether there is a people too many or a state missing. I do not believe history has yet made this choice, and I am confident that it will choose correctly.”

Safieh said that there are three dominant players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Palestine, Israel and the United States of America.

“To Palestinians, one should say to make a leap of faith in recognizing that a split society is detrimental to our goals, to do some soul searching and to engage in the domestic debate,” Safieh said.

He encouraged Hamas to cultivate pragmatism and to make a shift from violent resistance to popular nonviolence. Safieh said that his nation is condemned to resistance but that this circumstance can be used to mobilize society peacefully and force Israel to reduce its military efforts in the region.

“Independent figures who are willing to initiate and engage in a free, open and respectful debate are essential to Palestine’s political success,” Safieh said.

He said that he believes Jews understand the price that Palestinians have paid physically and intellectually as a result of the creation of Israel but nevertheless criticized Israeli expansion and lobbied for dialogue and cooperation.

“Peace comes not from territorial aggrandizement, but from regional acceptance; as such, our regional history must be revisited, revised and rewritten,” Safieh said.

He added that territory, not terrorism, has been the cause of the stumble and collapse of peace initiatives.

Safieh said that the United States played a fundamental role in facilitating the peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians. He lauded what he saw as a resurgence of American idealism, like that of the eras of Woodrow Wilson, Martin Luther King Jr. and the founding fathers.

“America is a fascinating society – a nation of nations in which one can preserve his or her identity and further his or her integration independently – and American idealism will be the remedy for Islamophobia and many of the other issues of our time,” he said.

He shared his belief that Palestine would be resurrected, joking that those who lived in Jerusalem have had some prior experiences with resurrection to reassure them. Safieh also said that Palestine offers the United States not the loss of a friend in Israel, but the opportunity for an additional friend. Safieh urged the audience to become aware that America is not committed to Israeli expansion and reminded politicians that it is no longer political suicide to be pro-Palestinian.

“It is high time for the international community to respect their commitments to Palestine,” Safieh concluded.

Editor’s Note- The article “PLO Ambassador: Long-Time Conflict Can Be Resolved” (THE HOYA, April 15, 2008, A5) misnamed the sponsors of the event, who were the Muslim Students Association, the Students for Justice in Palestine and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.