The *FREE ARAB VOICE*
March 30, 2001
This special Land Day issue of the Free Arab Voice (FAV) includes:
1) An Exclusive FAV Interview with, Muhammad Asad Kana'aneh, the General
Secretary of the People of the Homeland Movement, Abnaa Alballad, of the
Palestinian Arabs of 1948.
2) A Brief History of the People of the Homeland Movement by Muhammad
3)The Story of Land Day for Children, by Nabila harb
1) An Exclusive FAV Interview with Muhammad Asad Kana'aneh, the General
Secretary of the People of the Homeland Movement
The People of the Homeland Movement, or Abnaa Alballad in Arabic, is a
genuine Palestinian Arab movement that operates mainly in the lands
occupied by Zionists in 1948. On this Day of the Land, March 30, 2001,
the Free Arab Voice is honored to present to its readers an exclusive
interview with Muhammad Asad Kanaaneh, otherwise known as Abu Asad, the
General Secretary of Abnaa Alballad Movement.
To his credit, Abu Asad may not be as popular in the Western and Zionist
media as the opportunistic Azmi Bshara who changes colors conveniently
with political weather depending on whether he is speaking before or
during the Intifada, and whether he is in Nazareth, Damascus, Tel Aviv,
or Washington D.C. Abu Asad, like the rest of Abnaa Alballad, has
always had only one voice, a genuine voice of the land that echoes off
the deep recesses of his convictions into the spaces between the lines
of the following interview.
This is a man who has often been to Zionist jails. He has had his two
legs broken in a chase during one arrest. He was in the front lines
during recent protests in support of the second Intifada in the Galilee
and the villages of the Triangle, and has recently been banned by
Zionist authorities from entering Ramallah once more. Yet Abu Asad
remains steadfast in his equivocation of the original positions of Abnaa
Alballad: NO to legitimizing Israel by running for the Knesset, YES to
the defense of the Arab identity of Palestine, all of Palestine, and YES
to the un-amended Palestinian National Charter.
It is with pride that The Free Arab Voice presents Abu Asad, the voice
of the People of the Homeland, to you today.
[This interview was conducted for the Free Arab Voice (FAV) by Ibrahim
FAV: Palestinian Arab activist Abu Asad Kanaaneh of the People of the
Homeland Movement, lets start with you. Who is Muhammad Asad Kanaaneh?
Abu Asad: Muhammad Kanaaneh is another Palestinian reeling under the
injustice and the oppression of the Zionist occupation. I come from the
town of Arabitil Batouf. I got my High School diploma from Arabeh, then
enrolled in Bier Sheba University in 1985. I had been with the People
of the Homeland Youth Organization since 1979, but during my sophomore
year in college, I was arrested on the charge of belonging to the PFLP.
FAV: Jail is a better school than college sometimes..
Abu Asad: I was sent to Shatta Jail for about a year and a half during
which time I learned much more than I could have probably learned from
ten years of college. Zionist intelligence agencies actually admit that
jails have graduated scores of cadres, leaders, and activists for the
Palestinian people. Jail has taught us steadfastedness, perseverance,
and adherence to principle first and foremost.
After that stretch I was jailed several times reaching a sum total of
six years of jail time approximately. Our first newborn, Asad, came
while I was serving a seven-month stint. But my daughters Hanin,
Fidaa, and Nidaa were all born while I was away on missions related to
political activism. Our last son, Hakim, was born while I was attending
a session of the Central Committee of the People of the Homeland
Movement. This is why I would like to say before we go any further that
even though my wife is not a street activist herself, she has borne more
of the burdens of activism than many, the least of which is putting up
with me of course : )
I am simply someone who upholds the justice of our cause. I live in the
land occupied in 1948, where we deal with the Zionists, and experience
friction and confrontation with them on daily basis. It is basically an
open conflict there that manifests itself in different forms. But in
spite of all of our difficult circumstances, I can say for myself at
least that I have enough faith, energy, and perseverance to continue
with my political activism and the role I play in it as part of the
Palestinian people. What I contribute, though, represents a small
fraction of the general effort of our people, and would not amount to
much compared for example to the contributions of a rock-throwing child
in the West Bank or Gaza.
The Israelization of the Palestinians of 1948
FAV: More power to you! The Palestinian people teem with committed
activists like you. However, your presence in the land occupied in 1948
has a very special property. The Palestinians in Lebanon, for example,
experienced repeated Zionist raids and several large-scale massacres.
The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been experiencing severe
Zionist oppression. But the Palestinians in the land occupied in 1948
have experienced, in addition to direct occupation and dislocation from
their land, attempts to dislocate their minds. I am speaking
specifically about attempts to Israelize the Palestinians of 1948,
i.e., attempts to Israelize their loyalty and value systems. We
noticed some of our brothers and sisters from 1948 calling themselves
Israelis, especially before the second Intifada. Would you please
comment on this issue in particular? How deep is the Israelization of
the Palestinians of 1948? Is it something superficial that people must
pretend to pay tribute to it in order to get by in their daily affairs,
or is it deeper than that? Are there really strata among Palestinians
in 1948 that feel Israeli in their allegiance and essence?
Abu Asad: I met a Palestinian once who referred to a group of us as the
Arabs of Israel. That was such a provocation. I told him we are the
Arabs of Palestine, not Israel. He apologized, but I told him that I
was not asking him to apologize. I was asking him to KNOW who we really
are. He said: But they call themselves Israeli!. Unfortunately,
there are some who identify themselves as Israeli Arabs, or the Arabs
of Israel. But that is not due to really believing they are Israeli,
but to living for more than fifty years under an occupation that
subjected us to systematic Zionist programs seeking to void the
Palestinian Arab mind of 1948 of its Palestinian patriotism and Arab
This happens in a structured manner that is supervised by Zionist
intelligence services and other agencies. It occurs in our school
curricula, in our daily lives, at work, etc.. For example, about one
month and a half ago, my son brought me his English textbook to show me
a lesson in there about Netanyahus brother, the Zionist officer who was
killed in Entebe. The English textbook was teaching my child that this
was the martyr Netanyahu! My son, who is only in sixth grade, didnt
like it. He brought the English textbook over to tell me: look what
they are teaching us! If the young are taught that a Jewish hero
killed Palestinian terrorists at Entebe to liberate hostages , they may
be adversely affected if there is no patriotic guidance at home or by
political parties to the contrary. Of course, the story of Netanyahus
brother at Entebe is just one example. We learn about Jewish poets and
writers while we are never told about Palestinian and Arab poets and
writers. All that takes place according to set Zionist programs. There
are even alternative programs for times of crisis on how to deal with
the Palestinian Arabs of 1948.
Nevertheless, after the onset of the Intifada in October, Zionist
officials and analysts announced that all attempts to Israelize the
Palestinian Arabs of 1948 over more than fifty years of occupation have
simply failed. The role of the young in the recent Intifada is
especially significant in this regard. These youngsters grew up totally
under the occupation. They were supposed to be totally alienated from
their Palestinian Arab identity, totally indoctrinated into the myth of
belonging to Israel, but their performance in the Intifada was nothing
less than exceptional. In fact, most of the arrests and the bullets
targeted them. They have done us all proud.
FAV: ..so we may conclude that the Israelization of the Palestinian
Arabs of 1948 remained superficial, and failed to penetrate deeply into
their collective psyche, no?
Abu Asad: Exactly right. Attempts at Israelization in all its forms
could not erase the national identity of the Palestinian Arabs of 1948.
The most important proof of this is the Aqsa Intifada. For the first
time, the Palestinian Arabs of 1948 PARTICIPATED directly in the
Intifada, not in the way of solidarity, no! They were basically staging
their own Intifada. In the first Intifada, the Palestinian Arabs of
1948 merely sympathized with and supported the Intifada of the
Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. This time it was different :
) For eight or nine days, THERE WAS an Intifada in the land occupied
in 1948. During that time the so-called Israel was severed into
shreds. Inhabitants of Akka could not reach Safad. The colonists in
the Heights of the Galilee could not leave their houses. All roads
leading to those colonies were shut closed with burnt tires and barracks
manned by the youngsters of the Intifada. Of course, more than a dozen
of us martyred in the process, in addition to the hundreds who were
injured and the few hundred more arrested. Actually there were about
one thousand arrested. Some of those remain in jail until this very
The other quality of the second Intifada is that its the first to
spread over all of Palestine, since 1948. This Intifada spawned the
Galilee, the Triangle, the Naqab, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.
It even reached Palestinian communities in the diaspora, in Jordan,
Lebanon, Syria, and the rest of the Arab World. This Intifada
instigated a qualitative leap in the political consciousness of the
Palestinian Arabs of 1948. That leap placed Zionist experts in a
dilemma: all their studies on how to Israelize the Palestinian Arabs
of 1948 proved to be totally worthless. In fact, they have embarked
upon new studies and research plans now. For example, a well-known
Zionist social scientist, Sami Samuha, a specialist in Arab affairs, has
declared that all his previous research on the Palestinian Arabs of 1948
has been proven null and void.
Is Integration into Israel Possible?
FAV: Please allow me to play devils advocate. Suppose I tell you that
what happened does not necessarily prove that the Palestinian Arabs of
1948 have not been Israelized, but that they were simply seeking
equality within Israel, that they were exactly seeking to be
Israelized. Some of the politicians among the Palestinians of 1948 as
a matter of fact push the idea that it is only the racist practices of
the Israeli state against ITS Arab citizens, that created the schism,
the emotional distance, between the Israeli Arabs and their state,
Israel. These politicians argue that the Palestinian Arabs of
Israel want to be integrated into the colonists society as full
Israeli citizens, yet the obstacle here is not their lack of
willingness to do so, but the lack of willingness on the part of
Zionists to accept this Palestinian Arab as an Israeli. So maybe the
problem is not that the Palestinian Arab has maintained her/his identity
and patriotism against more than five decades of Israelization, but
that s/he is facing obstacles to such Israelization, namely, racism.
How do you respond to that?
Abu Asad: Before responding to this question, it must be pointed out
that Israelization has operated along two tracks. The first is the
one we discussed above, i.e., Israelization through the Zionist
establishment. The second is Israelization through some of the legal
Arab political parties in Israel. We should return to that later to
complete the analysis.
FAV: Of course.
Abu Asad: Evidently there is some truth to what you said. However, the
nature, structure, and whole existence of the Zionist state, as a racist
colonialist expansionist entity based on a religious concept that
veneers the interests of imperialism in the Arab World, an entity which
expelled a whole people from their land to settle a group of invaders in
their place, implies that the ZIONISTS ARE INTRINSICALLY INCAPABLE of
absorbing another people within the society and institutions they
established in the land occupied in 1948. In other words, Zionist
society cannot accept us BECAUSE it is Zionist, and in a way thats good
for the cause. The state of Israel, until this moment, does not treat
us like citizens. It treats us like enemies. Zionist practices during
the latest Intifada are a most flagrant example of that attitude.
Subsequently we live in a racist society. This is evident in housing,
education, health, and so forth. Naturally the discrimination will
leave its prints on the inner psyche of Palestinian Arabs: there is an
alien community that refuses to treat us like equals! The experience of
living more than fifty years under these conditions is nothing trivial.
Neither can it be reduced to a statement by an Arab politician in
Israel claiming that we are a part of this state, a state which
practiced all the aforementioned discriminatory policies and which cut
us off completely from the rest of the Palestinian and Arab people. In
the sixties, for example, it was illegal for a Palestinian Arab to
listen to a speech by Jamal Abdul Nasser or to turn on the Voice of the
Arabs radio station transmitting from Cairo. There was always a state
of terror. People got arrested arbitrarily and summarily for any little
disturbance. Moreover, there was a contingent of agents and
infiltrators working among the Palestinian Arabs for the Zionists.
There were lots of reactionary and traditional village elders
[makhateer] working with the Zionists, as well as Arab political parties
that collaborate with Zionists. There were also political parties which
did not necessarily collaborate with Zionists in the security sense, but
which nevertheless co-opted the Palestinian Arabs of 1948 in the context
of a political vision not very different from Zionism, like that of
Raka7, the Israeli Communist Party.
FAV: Suppose by the force of some miracle, maybe through the so-called
Zionist left, that the Israeli state abandoned its racism. Would the
Palestinian Arabs then be willing to forsake their national and cultural
identity to become model Israeli citizens? The reason I ask this
question is that there are a lot of Palestinian Arab leaders and parties
in the land occupied in 1948, from those who enter the Knesset, to Azmi
Bshara, to Edward Said outside Palestine, who claim that the correct
strategy for our struggle should be based on winning over sections of
Zionist public opinion in order to gain equal citizenship rights for the
Palestinian Arabs of 1948, leading eventually to a change in the nature
of the Zionist state into a state for all its citizens, or a
bi-national state. Granted, Israel has been practicing terror and
discrimination against the Palestinian Arabs who hold its passport.
But suppose then through our own efforts or through the efforts of the
so-called Zionist leftists that Israel gave up on its racism, would
this bring the problems of the Palestinian Arabs of 1948 to an end?
Abu Asad: The assumption behind the question itself is wrong. Israel
cannot abandon its racism. IF ISRAEL ABANDONED ITS RACISM, IT WOULD
HAVE TO ABANDON ITS JEWISH NATURE, AND THEREFORE, THE CAUSE OF ITS WHOLE
EXISTENCE. Israel is a Jewish state. If it is not Jewish, it would
be no more. Hence, there is no such thing as a bi-national Israel, or
a state for all its citizens.
Of course there are those Arab politicians who make demagogical claims
about working through the Zionist system to change the nature of the
Zionist state. But such talk is essentially a form of deliberate
political deceit. The Zionist system is not built to self-destruct.
The talk of the possibility of such a change through the Zionist
political system of Israel, and the actual Palestinian Arab
participation in that system, serves only to co-opt the Arab masses and
to beautify the racist face of Israel before the world with a mask of
democracy and inclusiveness. I refuse to ASSUME that Israel will
somehow transform itself into an enlightened democratic state.
For coexistence to become possible in Palestine with the Jews AS A
RELIGIOUS SECT, the Palestinian people are required to make a historical
concession: the refugees have to return, AND THE LAND MUST BE RETURNED,
because PALESTINE IS AN ARAB LAND.
FAV: Where is the historical concession we are making here?
Abu Asad: ..to be willing to accept the Jews AS INDIVIDUAL Palestinian
citizens in a democratic Palestine after liberation, AFTER the
occupation and every trace of Zionism have been eradicated from our
What to Do with the Jews after Liberation?
FAV: But isnt there a very small group of Israeli intellectuals, and
some tiny wings of the so-called Zionist left, who might really want to
change the nature of Israel? Cant we work with those or through them
to achieve that end? There are many Arab politicians and intellectuals
nowadays who say that we should win these people over and convince them
to coexist with us in peace and to GIVE US equal rights? Whats the
problem with that?
Abu Asad: There are simply no Zionist leaders within Israeli
political parties who simultaneously call themselves Zionist and work
for changing the intrinsic nature of the Israeli state. THERE IS
CONSENSUS over this matter throughout Zionist society. These are solid
red lines observed by all Zionists.
FAV: even the left?
Abu Asad: There is no real left in Zionist society. Leftism there
pertains to social issues WITHIN Zionist society only, but not
pertaining to the basic issues concerning us. There are no Zionist
leaders seeking to transform Zionist society radically. Their
differences on establishing a Palestinian state are illusionary too.
Such a state, if it were established on parts of the West Bank and Gaza,
would basically be an Israeli satellite state ruled by a reactionary
despotic regime, just like the rest of the regimes in the Arab World.
There are, nevertheless, a few revolutionary leftist groups that are
totally anti-Zionist, which deny Israels right to exist, because of
its COLONIAL past and present. They propose a democratic state
instead. But these form an extremely minute portion of the Jews of
FAV: Suppose this minute portion of the Jews won over large sections of
Israeli Jews. Would the democratic state in Palestine solve the
problem? What would its relationship be to its Arab environment? What
would be the national identity of that democratic state? Would it be
part of Europe, like Cyprus, or a part of Asia minor perhaps?
Abu Asad: Our and my position in The People of the Homeland Movement is
that Palestine cannot be anything but an Arab state. The democratic
state that we uphold is in no way contradictory to that. The programs
of equality within Israel and a state for all its citizens tackle
respectively individual and collective integration into Israel. But
the democratic state, our program, is the only one that makes room for
Palestine to take its natural place in the Arab World. The Palestinians
are Arabs and our identity is Arab, so it is only natural for the
democratic state to be Arab. Our program delineates as well our clear
commitment to achieving the political unity of the Arab Homeland. So
there is not a shred of doubt in our minds where Palestine will be in
that context. Arab unity is what we dream of. [The People of the
Homeland have for an emblem a map of the Arab World on all their
literature and on their website. See:
Regarding anti-Zionist Jews on the left, we maintain contact with those
who believe that the resolution of the conflict LIES IN THE INTEGRATION
OF THE JEWS IN THE UNITED ARAB HOMELAND. But these groups have their
FAV: Wait! There are anti-Zionist Jews who believe that the solution
lies in the integration of the Jews in a united Arab state?! Who are
some of those?
Abu Asad: There is Elie Aminoff and the group he works with, that calls
for withdrawal from Hebron. In Haifa, there is the Popular Committee
against Apartheid, which is made up mainly of Jews, and of which I am a
member. That group for example is extremely anti-Zionist. Of course,
some of these things seem a bit strange to our Palestinian brothers and
sisters living outside Palestine. They dont make sense because EVERY
JEW IN PALESTINE IS A COLONIZER indeed. Yet we have Jewish members in
the People of the Homeland Movement. However, these identify themselves
as Arabs who happen to be Jewish or born of Jewish parents, just like
Arabs born of Muslim or Christian parents.
FAV: Are you trying to tell me that Jew is not a national identity, but
a religious faith?
Abu Asad: The Jews dont have the prerequisites of a national identity.
They are a religious denomination.
FAV: The Zionist movement has placed the Jews in a great deal of danger
by bringing them over to OCCUPY Palestine and be part of imperialist
plans. The Palestinians only want their land and country back. They
should not have to delve into proposing solutions. Let those who
created the problem, the Zionists and the imperialist powers, solve the
problem of the Jews currently in Palestine. We should not even worry
about suggesting anything in this regard. We should only insist on the
liberation of our land. We shouldnt even worry if they have grown into
a nation in Palestine, or if they remained a religious denomination.
That is irrelevant actually. The issue is how do we get OUR land back.
What do you say to the Palestinians who argue that we are not
responsible for solving a problem that we did not create, and that we
should not get into the trap of posing solutions to begin with?
Abu Asad: I agree.
FAV: I know, I just wanted to point out that we should not be fooled by
the rhetoric of some leftists in the West who like to get generous with
other peoples money, or other peoples national rights in this case.
These ask us frequently to make concessions to prove ourselves to them.
They ask us to accept aggression, and the occupation of our land, but
they are not willing to take a stand against aggression and occupation
to prove themselves to us. Solving a problem we did not create is
something we shouldnt even discuss (setting aside the Jewish members of
the People of the Homeland). That should be our principled stand
The Second Track of Israelization:
FAV: But you are saying that the People of the Homeland are willing to
accept as equal citizens Arabs who happen to be Jewish, but not an
alleged Jewish nation?
Abu Asad: Yes. There is no discrepancy between the two propositions.
The Jews can live as equal citizens in the united Arab homeland, just
like they used to in the old days, in Andalusia and elsewhere. Actually
in a meeting that took place in Jerusalem with a group of anti-Zionist
Jews to discuss the latest Intifada, one of the leftists present accused
me of national chauvinism. He said that I wanted a national state,
which contradicts the spirit of progressiveness and true democracy,
according to him. I told him that I AM A PALESTINIAN ARAB BEFORE BEING
PROGRESSIVE. I told him that the land called Palestine is part of the
Arab Homeland. If you want me to make concessions so we may coexist, I
am prepared to accept you, as a member of the Jewish denomination, as an
equal citizen who is well integrated into Arab society.
Maintaining relations with these leftist anti-Zionist groups is actually
like walking in a minefield. Sometimes we discover they have Zionist
roots. Sometimes they are totally manufactured by intelligence services
to influence and infiltrate Palestinian groups like the People of the
Homeland and others. But maintaining relations with such groups is part
of our work inside the land occupied in 1948, where we pose the program
of the democratic state forcefully before all. Needless to say, we have
to do these things under the special properties of our existence in the
land occupied in 1948. *But these special conditions should not become
a license, as they have become for some, to make concessions on
principle and Palestinian constants.* Certain limits and red lines must
be observed. Special conditions dont mean recognizing Israels right
to exist, and they dont mean pledging allegiance to the state of
Israel, as each and every Knesset member has to do. Arab Knesset
members, for example, have to pledge to defend the security and
integrity of Israel the moment they enter the Knesset. That is the
second track of Israelization we discussed at the onset.
Israelization here takes place through Palestinian Arab figures in the
land occupied in 1948. Identity and patriotism are thus diluted and
transformed into mere rhetorical flowers to decorate their electoral
platforms. These people know what they are doing. Azmi Bshara, Raka7,
the National Democratic Tajjamou3, and all the parties that take part in
the parliamentary elections are examples of the effort to Israelize
the Palestinian Arabs of 1948. This amounts to a process of
normalization with Israel and Zionism. When Palestinian Arabs vote
for that parliament, they GRANT IT LEGITIMACY. Opposing normalization
with Zionists, indeed opposing Zionism itself, requires that Palestinian
Arabs boycott the elections of the Knesset.
Israelization then is something that can be practiced by Arabs
deliberately under the banner of integration into Israeli society.
Thats what Edward Said and Azmi Bshara are working for. The role these
Arab figures and parties play is one of the most dangerous channels for
the Israelization of the Palestinian Arabs of 1948. Fortunately
though, the programs of these parties and figures failed miserably.
Their supporters were in the forefront of the activities of the Intifada
in October [with or without their leaders]. The Intifada was not
restricted to one group, one area, or one religious sect. Everybody
took part. What remains lacking, however, is the leadership of the
Palestinian Arabs. Hence the need for an organization that possesses a
clear vision and the appropriate resources to lead the change that
emerged after the Intifada and to prevent the process of Israelization
from gaining ground again.
FAV: what is the nature of the relationship between the People of the
Homeland and Azmi Bshara? He was affiliated with your group at some
point, wasnt he?
Abu Asad: Azmi Bshara was never ever a member of the People of the
FAV: But many people think he was at some point affiliated with the Land
Movement, that preceded the People of the Homeland Movement?
Abu Asad: Azmi Bshara was always a member of Raka7, the Israeli
Communist Party. He was one of the student activists of that party.
His holy mission in Israeli universities was to confront the Arab
nationalist elements and the People of the Homeland Movement. Under
leftist rhetoric, he pushed the ideas of coexistence, realism, and the
art of the possible.
FAV: Many people though argue that Azmi Bshara is an Arab nationalist.
He even has the photograph of Jamal Abdul Nasser hanging from the wall
of his office..
Abu Asad: Maintaining the Palestinian Arab identity is not a slogan or a
photograph. It unfolds in ones positions on the issues and in
particular political practices. The Zionist existence in Palestine is a
horn piercing the body of the Arab World. The Arabs can never be united
until that existence is removed. How can one be truly for Arab unity
who tolerates Israels right to exist?! Azmi Bshara, on the other
hand, seeks to embellish Israels democratic image before the world
through his participation in the Knesset. He seeks to confirm the right
of Israel (not Palestine) to exist allegedly by turning it into a
state for all its citizens, through granting legitimacy to and working
within Israeli institutions.
FAV: You say Azmi Bshara calls for coexistence with Zionists, but after
the Intifada spread into the lands occupied in 1948, and after the fall
of martyrs there, he spoke against coexistence. Isnt that something?
Abu Asad: I dont think he spoke against coexistence. He is certainly a
smart man who knows how to change colors with the changes in the popular
mood on the street. I read articles by him in the early nineties in
which he criticized the PLO saying: how could a revolution, a liberation
movement, be funded by imperialism?! He used to criticize Arafat then,
and the revolution that turned authority. Later on when he became a
member of the Knesset, his interests required him to build ties with
Arafats Authority, so he did, and began to defend it. He might have
disagreements with that Authority on minor details. However, he is
basically for the formula of having a mini-Palestinian state next to
Israel. This is as well the position of the Israeli Communist Party
and all the other Arab parties participating in the Knesset. The People
of the Homeland, on the other hand, dont think thats a real option.
We think that the democratic state in all of historical Palestine is.
Blank Ticket, Total Recognition
In the recent elections for prime minister (which Sharon won), Azmi
Bshara was the first to suggest that Palestinian Arabs vote with a blank
ticket, meaning a ticket with no names on it. The significance of such
a ticket is that it grants legitimacy to the electoral machine, while
voicing dislike for both candidates. No to Barak, No to Sharon, Yes for
the Israeli system! Thats basically what the blank ticket implies.
It grants legitimacy to the institution of killers and criminals. Plus,
it provides a cover for those who want to vote for Barak or Sharon but
would like the Arab boycott of the elections to end to be able to do
it. Of course when he saw, later on, that the popular mood was
vehemently against voting even with a blank ticket, he declared himself
in favor of the boycott. But he did not take part in any of the
activities that call for the boycott. He used to send delegates and
activists from the National Democratic Tajjamou3 instead. In fact, in
a house lecture organized in the village of Fasoutah, near the Lebanese
border, where Azmi Bshara was the speaker he called for voting with a
blank ticket. Some of our supporters there tried to point out the
dangers inherent in such an approach in the midst of the Intifada, but
he chastised them ferociously. On the other hand, he did not reproach
those present who were arguing for the need to re-elect Barak, the
killer of our people.
FAV: When did that gathering at Fasoutah take place?
Abu Asad: About three weeks before the elections approximately, around
the twentieth of January. Look, there are also the minutes of the
meeting of the central council of the National Democratic Tajjamou3,
which Azmi Bshara heads, that was devoted to the question of whether or
not to boycott the upcoming election for Israeli prime minister. In
that meeting, he argued that the best method for political expression in
this election was a blank ticket, not a boycott. If we want to discuss
Azmi Bshara as a phenomenon, as someone who claims adherence to Arab
nationalist convictions while participating in the Israeli Knesset,
where each and every member has to swear allegiance to the integrity and
security of Israel, I would say that many people in the Arab World
have been fooled by this ideologue who preaches coexistence and
acceptance of Israel. He sells the idea of a changed Israel but
ends up justifying the acceptance of the real thing.
FAV: Its amazing the Center for Arab Unity Studies has adopted him.
They invite him to lecture. They publish his books, and celebrate his
Abu Asad: Indeed! Azmi Bsharas phenomenon is one of the most dangerous
in the land occupied in 1948, because he pretends to be a Palestinian
patriot and an Arab nationalist. He pretends to be a supporter of Jamal
Abdul Nasser, but I dont know exactly what he embraces in Nasserism.
He said once on Al Jazeera TV station that Jamal Abdul Nasser was
somewhat na´ve and that he (Azmi) doesnt regurgitate Nasserism. The
truth of the matter is that this politician knows that affiliation with
the Arab identity touches a sensitive cord with the Palestinian Arabs of
1948, so he plays it on the highest pitch. He knew how to pick the
right moment to wave this Arabist flag. But we know this guy. In an
exhaustive interview in Haartz, Azmi Bshara claimed that there exists a
possibility for a historical reconciliation between Zionism, on one
hand, and Arab nationalism on the other hand. He claimed that Zionism
today was an enlightened one that could be modernized after it has
crossed the phase of initial occupation. He considers that part of the
process of globalization in this part of the world. But is the
occupation over yet?!
Azmi Bshara is opposed to all radical movements in the Arab World. In
1996, he wrote an article against a military operation by the PFLP in
Surda. A former Marxist who turned virulently anti-Marxist, he said it
was an operation by a marginal group seeking to find a place for itself
in the ongoing peace process.
FAV: So how do we explain Dr. George Habashs support for Azmi Bshara?
I heard that he opened many doors for him.
Abu Asad: Azmi Bshara is using his meetings with El Hakim, and all the
other Palestinian figures who enjoy a certain measure of credibility
with the Palestinian people, to endow his positions with a sheath of
legitimacy and consensus. We have a great deal of respect for Dr.
George Habash. Thats why we urged him to appreciate Azmi Bsharas role
in the Israelization of the Palestinian Arabs of 1948. After he was
elected Israeli MP, he voted for the Hebron Agreement. Need I say
2) The People of the Homeland Movement: A Brief History of Abnaa
Albalad, by Abu Asad, Muhammad Asad Kanaahneh, the General Secretary of
the People of the Homeland. Website:
The People of the Homeland Movement is the political heir to the Arab
nationalist Land Movement that was established in the fifties after the
Nasserite revolution in Egypt, and that was outlawed and dissolved in
the early sixties by Zionist authorities. Its leaders were arrested en
masse and sent to jail or banished outside the country. Some of those
are Saleh Baranci, Mansur Kardoush, Habib Qahwaji, and Sabri Jiries (who
retracted all his former positions later on).
Ideologically, the Land Movement formed the polar opposite of the
Israeli Communist Party, Raka7, which deemed the creation of Israel
the realization of the right of self-determination for the Jewish people
in Palestine. While the Land Movement became illegal under Israeli
law, Raka7 was given a free hand to operate amongst the Palestinian
Arabs of 1948. The clampdown of the Zionist authorities and the
ideological confrontation with Raka7 weakened the Land Movement and
disconnected it from its popular base.
Many years later, attempts to re-establish the Land Movement under a
different name did not bear fruit. In 1969, the People of the Homeland
Movement was established out of independent groups in the town of Um el
Fahim. These groups emphasized the idea that the Palestinian Arabs of
1948 belong to the Palestinian people and the Arab nation, not to
Israel. The movement branched out later into the Galilee. In the
mid-seventies, the Patriotic Progressive Movement was formed among
Palestinian Arab students at Israeli universities. After the events
of Land Day in 1976, the student leaders of the Patriotic Progressive
Movement gave the People of the Homeland Movement a huge push with their
energy and enthusiasm and became its arm in the student movement. For
many years, this Arab nationalist student group succeeded in gaining the
majority of offices in student associations elections in Israeli
universities. In the seventies, the leaders of the People of the
Homeland Movement were re-arrested after a famous press conference in
which they announced that the Palestinian Arabs of 1948 are part and
parcel of the Palestinian people. Many of the leaders of the People of
the Homeland Movement and the Patriotic Progressive Movement were placed
under compulsory sojourn.
In 1984, a branch of the People of the Homeland Movement that was
connected to Yasser Arafat tried to drag us into the game of entering
Israeli parliamentary elections, thus legitimizing the Zionist
system. When this group failed, it tried to instigate an organizational
split within the ranks of the movement. That splinter group has
disintegrated today, mainly because one cannot fit a genuine Palestinian
Arab identity or movement into an Israeli political program whose
final objectives hinge upon entering the Knesset. After 1984, the
People of the Homeland Movement settled the issue of its ideological
identity by adapting Marxism CREATIVELY to Arab circumstances. We are
leftist and Arab nationalist simultaneously. That is the main
ideological current in our movement.
In the early nineties, a state of defeat prevailed in the Arab World as
a result of the aggression against Iraq, the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the Madrid Conference, Oslo, and Wadi Arabah. All leftist and
progressive nationalist forces were adversely affected by this state of
defeatism. The People of the Homeland Movement was one of the first
groups to be affected as such by the political frustration and retreat
of the times due to our peculiar situation under the occupation.
In the mid-nineties, there was a deliberate plan by some of the leaders
of the People of the Homeland to drag us again into the game of entering
the Israeli elections and of legitimizing the Zionist entity. They
argued that entering the Knesset would bring us tens of thousands of
dollars monthly and would provide us with a forum to air our views.
They said it would give us the opportunity to build branch offices and
gain access to the masses and the world. Due to the general state of
collapse, these leaders tried to affect our membership with such
arguments that are derived mainly from financial and opportunistic
considerations. In 1995, these considerations were especially
influential. The leadership of the People of the Homeland got us into a
broad coalition with other groups that seek to enter the Knesset. That
coalition became later the National Democratic Tajjamou3, now led by
Those of us who disagreed called for a general conference for the
movement. The leadership resisted. Eventually the leadership of the
movement agreed to the conference after a petition to the effect signed
by two thirds of the membership. In that conference in 1995 in Um el
Fahm, those of us who held steadfastedly to the original positions of
our movement argued that entering the Knesset would make us lose our
soul, and would make the movement lose its cause for existence. A
compromise solution was reached at that conference which left
participation in the parliamentary elections up to the members
themselves, on the condition that the People of the Homeland Movement
would not officially take part in any elections. In fact, agreeing to
that compromise solution to save the unity of the movement, ours and
that of the Palestinian Arabs of 1948 in general, was one of the biggest
political mistakes we ever made. We have confessed to that publicly
The leadership went ahead with its plans anyways and agreed to register
the National Democratic Tajjamou3 as an official Israeli party. They
joined the fray of parliamentary elections under its umbrella. Azmi
Bshara made it to parliament as a result.
In fact, it was the People of the Homeland who established the National
Democratic Tajjamou3 to coalesce the Palestinian Arabs of 1948 during a
rough political phase, but it turned into a pony to ride into the
Knesset. It was not supposed to be a parliamentary coalition. It was
supposed to have a revolutionary program. But the effort was hijacked.
This led us to leave the National Democratic Tajjamou3, especially after
Azmi Bshara voted for the Hebron Agreement. Disagreements arose again
with groups that embrace the parliamentary path to political change,
through the institutions of the Zionist system. We practically pulled
out of the National Democratic Tajjomou3 in 1997. A conference was held
for the People of the Homeland Movement in January 17, 1998, which
officially set us outside the National Democratic Tajjamou3. Those in
the People of the Homeland Movement who embraced the path of
parliamentary change through the Zionist establishment, however,
remained in the National Democratic Tajjamou3 with Azmi Bshara. In
fact, while we had agreed to joining the Tajjamou3 and to a compromise
solution on participating in the Knesset in order to preserve the unity
of the People of the Homeland, events proved that such a strategy only
led to splitting our Movement.
Nevertheless, ever since we left the Tajjamou3, we have grown stronger,
not just because the opportunistic elements have been weeded out, but
also in our organization and popular outreach. Ever since we reclaimed
the original radical soul of the movement that was under siege by the
defeatism of the early and mid-nineties, we were rejuvenated. An
attempt in 1999 to license the People of the Homeland as an official
Israeli political party, and to renegotiate an electoral coalition
with other Arab groups, including the Tajjamou3, was foiled by the
majority of the membership. The attempt was orchestrated by former
People of the Homeland leader Raja Ighbariyah and a very small clique
around him. These were the sponsors of the compromise solution between
us and those who wanted to join the parliamentary game. When we left
the National Democratic Tajjamou3 in 1997, they left with us, but they
brought the mentality of Azmi Bshara with them.
In August 8, 1999, we held a conference for the People of the Homeland
Movement in which we rehabilitated ourselves through self-criticism. We
had issued a statement before that, in May, 1999, reviewing our
experience of entering the National Democratic Tajjamou3 and the
concessions we had made to preserve the unity of the People of the
Homeland Movement and to rebuild the Arab movement in general at the
expense of principle. We declared that we have made a mistake, but that
were back on the right course. Our attempt to preserve the unity of
our movement yielded exactly the opposite results. Our attempt to
rebuild the Arab movement in general in the lands occupied in 1948 at
the expense of principle delivered that movement to an opportunistic
leadership. We concluded that our original principled stances on
boycotting the parliamentary elections in Israel completely, on the
right of Israel to exist, and on Palestinian constants were the
correct positions that we should have stuck with. We vowed that the
mistake of entering anything like the National Democratic Tajjamou3 will
never be repeated again. In fact, many people appreciated the practice
of self-criticism and the effort to learn from ones mistakes that are
not so prevalent amongst Arab political parties in general.
Since the conference of 1999, the People of the Homeland has rebuilt its
branches in many Arab cities and villages. Furthermore, the People of
the Homeland have now a significant arm in the student movement. In
Bier Sheba University, we won four seats on the student council. In
Tel Aviv University, we won two seats on the student council. In Haifa
University, we have one seat on the student council. In Jerusalem
University, we expect to make gains in the coming elections. On Land
Day in the year 2000, our student groups had the primary role in the
demonstrations that took place on that occasion.
In the recent Intifada in October, People of the Homeland activists and
supporters went down hand in hand with the rest of the Palestinian Arabs
in the land occupied in 1948 to resist Zionist aggression on our towns
and villages. Needless to say, the recent Intifada was not the work of
any one group or organization. It was the Intifada of all of our
people. But we had a crucial role in it, which is the reason why we
received so many applications by activists and regular people wanting to
join our movement. Furthermore, the Intifada demonstrated to many the
soundness of our positions: THERE CAN BE NO EQUALITY AS LONG AS ISRAEL
EXISTS. It wasnt only the Zionist army, police, and border guards that
participated in the oppression of the Intifada. Even the Israeli
phone (Basic), electricity, and ambulance companies participated in the
oppression of the Intifada. Fire control and the milk company (Tnova)
participated in the oppression of the Intifada. For example, Tnova,
which supplies Arab towns and villages with milk and diary products, cut
off all deliveries, and there was no milk for Arab children for a
while. The electricity company refused to fix power lines that went
down and the phone company refused to fix phone lines. Fire control
refused to put out a fire in between Arabeh and Sakhnin. When we called
them to tell them about the fire, they responded: Burn in hell!. You
could see thousands of guys trying to put out the fire into the night to
prevent it from spreading into the Arab villages. Israeli ambulances
refused to enter Arab towns and villages to pick up the wounded. The
only Ambulance company to transport the wounded to hospitals is owned by
Palestinian Arabs. They offered their services free of charge, and
took heavy losses for it. It is only appropriate that Hayat Ambulance
Company be saluted here for its contributions.
In conclusion, the People of the Homeland Movement and the Palestinian
Arabs of 1948 in general consider themselves an integral part of the
Palestinian people and the Arab nation. There is an urgent need today
to maintain ties between the Palestinians in 1948, the Palestinians in
the West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinians in the diaspora in order to
communicate and discuss ways to improve our work. We uphold the justice
of our cause and believe in the truth of our convictions. As long as
Palestine is occupied, our struggle must continue.
3) The Story of Land Day for Children, by Nabila harb
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