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Interview with Zalman Showal, Abdel Rahman

Aired April 14, 2002 - 09:19   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're getting reaction to Secretary of State Colin Powell's meeting today with Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, obviously.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: From the Israeli side, we have Zalman Showal, in Tel Aviv, he's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Foreign Policy Adviser, and we have Hassan Abdel Rahman joining us again from Washington. He is Chief Palestinian representative to the U.S. Thank you both for being with us.

Overall reaction to Secretary Powell's meeting with Yasser Arafat. Mr. Shawal, why don't we start with you?

DALMIN SHOWAL, SHARON FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Yes, well, look we don't know the exact results yet because nothing officially, of course, has been announced. I think that when Secretary Powell will meet with Prime Minister Sharon, he will know more and we hopefully will also know more.

It has been a long-ish meeting, and what is on the table assuredly on the table is not just a cease-fire, although that's also very difficult to achieve, but both America and Israel want Arafat to make a definite commitment to end the wave of terror; to end this whole procedure of terror and violence.

You know, just the other day, just on Friday, Yasser Arafat's own people -- a suicide bomber, or homicide bomber, as the White House now puts it -- exploded a bomb in a Jerusalem marketplace, killing 6 people including two Chinese foreign workers, wounding 65. So -- I -- one doesn't really know whether to weep or to laugh when Arafat says that he condemns terrorism when he sends his own people.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Shawal. I'm sorry, Mr. Rahman, I apologize.


O'BRIEN: We just want to get your initial reaction to the meeting...

RAHMAN: First of all, the meeting was a positive meeting. A useful meeting, as it has been described in the reports I have seen from our side -- people who participated in the meeting -- described the meeting as a good meeting. It's open, frank discussion between the two sides.

O'BRIEN: Do you have anything substantive that you can offer us?

RAHMAN: Well, let me say this: the onus today, to make things move, is leaving it on the Israeli side, to come up with a commitment for the implementation of resolutions of the Security Council 1402. Which, the President of the United States reiterated, and that is to cease, to hope the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian territories, and to withdraw Israel's troops. This is a commitment that was made by the Security Council; it's a commitment that was made by the President of the United States.

Israel defied, and continues to defy, the international whim and the whim of the President of the United States. Without a commitment from Israel to hold its invasion of the Palestinian territories, and would lower, in accordance with the Security Council resolution, it is very, very difficult to move forward on the other issues.

O'BRIEN: Well, I suppose the Israelis...

RAHMAN: But, the Palestinians...

O'BRIEN: I suppose the Israelis might say, without a commitment to stop the terrorism, the same thing is true.

RAHMAN: But, sir, there is a sequence here. And the sequence was voted on by the United States in the Security Council. It is difficult, if not impossible, when all of the Palestinian people are subjected to war crimes by the Israelis today, and I still believe that there is -- was -- a massacre committed by Israel in Jenin and in other areas, and that those practices of Israel are continuing. When you have all of your people under siege, deprived of their basic needs, you cannot expect the Palestinian people to -- because there's one side that is firing, and the other side is under fire. In this case, the Israelis are firing at the Palestinians. And therefore, Israel must institute (ph) the resolutions of the United Nations in order for us to move forward.

PHILLIPS: OK. Mr. Rahman, you bring up the issue now of war crimes. Let's move into the issue of the Israeli Supreme Court now, and if they -- it is being addressed, what happened in the Jenin refugee camp. Mr. Showal, let's talk about this. What do you hope to be accomplished, as the Israeli Supreme Court does address the situation of the refugee camp in Jenin, the burying of the dead, and what took place there, and the issue of was there or was there not a massacre?

SHOWAL: Obviously there was no massacre. Probably about 60-65 people were killed. The most of them five civilians, unfortunately a child, a woman...but all the rest were fighters, they were armed people. Which is also a tragedy. But this is part of the battle. We lost 23 soldiers in that very, very tough battle. The Palestinians wanted to make a propaganda issue out of it. Now the Supreme Court -- the Israeli Supreme Court -- has decided the bodies should be buried. But we have agreed that Red Cross, even Red Crescent -- I mean, the Muslim Red Cross organization, would be present, just to make it very clear there was no massacre. I'm sorry that Abdel Rahman, my friend, does not have this propaganda ploy any more. There was no -- absolutely no massacre -- it was a battle. In battle, people are being killed.

PHILLIPS: Well Mr. Showal, the question is raised though, why wasn't the Red Cross and the Red Crescent both allowed into the Jenin refugee camp? That stands as a fact.

SHOWAL: Well, they are going to be allowed into the camp now. We wanted, I mean, the army wanted to bury the people quicker. First of all, there was a danger of booby-traps, but the Supreme Court has stepped in. Which is another thing which the Palestinians should appreciate, that the Israeli Supreme Court is willing to listen to some of their complaints, and made a decision so nothing has happened for fear in between, but now that the bodies will be buried, all 60 of them, in the presence of Red Cross, in the presence of Red Crescent, as I said before, this should put an end, really, to this big lie which has been repeated time and time again about a massacre which didn't happen.

O'BRIEN: But Mr. Showal, the appearance here, at least, is that the Israelis have something to hide here. Would you concede that? it at least has the appearance of a cover-up.

SHOWAL: No, not at all. Not at all. We don't have anything to hide. We are defending ourselves. We are defending ourselves against, as President Bush said, not martyrs: murderers. But we didn't think that to leave the bodies lying in the field, lying in the open, was a very helpful thing. We thought it was the humane thing to bury them. OK, others thought differently -- the Supreme Court stepped in. We -- of course, we accepted the Supreme Court decision. Israel is a state based on the rule of law. But to try to rehash this thing time and time again, I think enough is enough.

PHILLIPS: How did the bodies, though, were not allowed to be buried... The Red Cross and The Red Crescent were not allowed to come in and help the wounded. In addition to the media. The media was not allowed in the camp.

SHOWAL: My dear lady, this is a battle. The media were not allowed to get into the caves in Afghanistan when the Americans were bombing. This is a war. This is not some sort of play-acting. This is a war. I could imagine what the media would have said if some journalist would have been killed in cross fire. We don't want that.

PHILLIPS: Of course. None of us wants that. That's why we wear bullet-proof vests, and we try to cover the territories when allowed in there...Mr. Rahman, go ahead.

RAHMAN: First of all, those are not caves. Jenin is not a cave. A refugee camp is not a cave. This is the home of 14,000 people. It is a city where there are tens of thousands of people living. Second, Mr. Showal said that there was a battle. There was an invasion. There were helicopters used. There were tanks used against civilian quarters against homes of people. Bulldozers bulldozed homes over its inhabitants. Mr. Showal is really perpetuating a lie when he says there is 65 people killed, only. Mr. Kittery (ph) who is the commander of the Israeli army, yesterday said we acknowledge there were hundreds of Palestinians killed. This was quoted on the Israeli Army Radio. Now you come here to tell us 65 people.

Why did not you allow the international community to observe what was going on in the refugee camp. Why you did not allow -- you do not allow even today -- aides to reach hospitals in the city of Raeblia (ph), Nablus, Ramallah, etc., etc. Why do you have to not electricity from hospitals? Why do you have to interrupt telephone communication by destroying poles -- telephone poles? Why do you have to do these things?

O'BRIEN: All right. I think...

RAHMAN: Why do you have do so many things?

O'BRIEN: Mr. Rahman, we've got the idea, we've got the idea of the question. Let's let Mr. Showal respond.

RAHMAN: Let me just -- one other sentence. This is not a war against terrorism. This is a colonial war. You are occupying other people illegally, under international law. You are occupying the Palestinian territories. And the Palestinian people are defending themselves. It is not Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan, when bin Laden attacked the United States, the United States was not occupying...

O'BRIEN: Now wait a minute. Mr. Rahman, let me just, before we send it over to Mr. Showal -- in defending yourselves, are you justifying the acts of terrorism. Is that what you're saying?

RAHMAN: No! I am not. No. What I am saying -- there is two different issues here. It is the right of any people who fall under full military occupation to defend themselves. That is different from suicide bombing. But to defend your home in Jenin, you are not a terrorist when you are invaded by an Israeli tank.

I am sure that if any of your neighbors attacked you in the United States, every one of you will defend themselves and fight back. So why are the Palestinians people have to not -- do not have the right to defend themselves when the Israeli tanks roll into the streets of Ramallah and Jenin?

O'BRIEN: Mr. Showal, lots to respond to there. Go ahead.

SHOWAL: Well, you know, Mr. Abdul Rahman is making out as if Yasser Aarafat is Mother Teresa...

RAHMAN: No, I'm not...

SHOWAL: We have been exposed to a terrorist offensive -- I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't interrupt you -- the last 20 odd months. We are defending ourselves. Israeli is today the main front in the fight of the civilized world against terrorism. Instead of trying to bring up all these arguments, Mr. Rahman, tell your leader, stop this. Let's get back to the negotiating table. People are being killed on both sides, but you are committing acts of terror -- the Jerusalem marketplace is not a place where you fight battles, it's where you kill innocent women and children and people.

Stop this! Let's get to the negotiating table. Political settlements can be achieved if you decide terrorism is not the right way to do it. That is all I am saying. Our people are being killed, your people are being killed. We are defending ourselves, you think you are defending yourselves. We are willing to come to negotiate. You have so far told us we shall only negotiate with suicide bombers, or as President Bush has said -- homicide bombers. Enough already. Let's stop this.

O'BRIEN: All right. I think that is probably where we are going to have to stop this interview. I appreciate this, gentlemen -- did you want to say one more point briefly, Mr. Rahman?

RAHMAN: Thank you. Yes, want to say that we want to negotiate, but Mr. Showal did not address the basic issue, and that is 36 years of illegal military occupation which included also, in addition to stealing Palestinian dignity, they steal Palestinian land by moving Jewish settlers there. Move your Jewish settlers from the Palestinian territories. Get your armies out, and I assure you that we will have peace between your state and our state.

We want that, we are committed to that and I promise you that once Israel withdraws from the West Bank and Gaza and allows the Palestinian states to come to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we will have peace between our two peoples, because we cannot have peace while your tanks and your army and your settlers are occupying our land.

PHILLIPS: Hasam Abdel Rahman and Zalman Showal, both of you, thank you so much. Mr. Showal, you mentioned you wanted us to make the point that we must understand it is a difficult situation and we don't discount that at all. We completely understand that. We thank both of you for coming on and sharing both sides.

RAHMAN: Thank you.




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