THE PALESTINIAN DELEGATION OPENING STATEMENT TO THE MULTILATERAL TALKS

MOSCOW
JANUARY 28, 1992

To our gracious host, the government of the Republic of Russia.

The Palestinian delegation is here in Moscow to participate in this phase of the peace process as a people with a totality of identity and rights. In this emerging era of the affirmation of principles human rights, democracy, international legality and empowerment through cooperation and reconciliation within a universal vision of interpendence [sic] and joint development we claim a place for ourselves among the community of nations. On the basis of these principles, we aim to exercise our right to freedom, self-determination and statehood. From occupied Jerusalem, the heart and capital of Palestine, we bring a message of peace and affection to historic Moscow, the heart and capital of Russia, in a shared authentication of culture and identity. From the Palestinian to the Russian people, we convey a message of good will and friendship. To the co-sponsors and organizers, we convey our appreciation.

Distinguished ministers and colleagues;

The people of Palestine are striving to maintain the integrity of the peace process and to generate a dynamic for peace which can become self-perpetuating, driven by a lucid and compelling vision of peace and an unwavering commitment to justice. The Palestine Liberation Organization, in its historic peace initiative of November 1988, has charted a new course for the genuine and peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli (hence Arab-Israeli) conflict. It has constantly supported and advanced the cause of genuine peace based on international legitimacy and justice. Our participation in these multilateral negotiations is the direct outcome of its constructive efforts and resolve.

The Palestinian delegation to Moscow is truly representative and comprehensive, for it encompasses all of the occupied Palestinian land, including Jerusalem, as well as representation from the two-thirds of the Palestinian people in exile. Such representation is essential to the purposes of these multilateral negotiations which seek to address issues of regional import, permanent status proposals and concerns pertinent to the Palestinian people as a whole.

In Madrid, we stood before the world and offered a positive vision of the future based on mutuality, reciprocity and equality between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. We maintain this vision and we believe these principles are the basis of a new and better order in the Middle East.

Yet, between Madrid and Moscow falls a shadow which casts darkness on this assembly of nations in search of peace, prosperity, human dignity, and the wholeness of nature.

The skies over occupied Palestine are overcast and the Palestinian people are held captive, a collective hostage to Israeli political dictates and manipulation, and a human shield before the politics of dominance and aggression. Israel has voraciously devoured more of our land and water, encroaching on East Jerusalem, and evicting Palestinian families of Silwan from East Jerusalem, and evicting Palestinian families of Silwan from their homes. Peace itself is under siege. Our people’s intifada continues to present the challenge of the human will in its struggle for authenticity and human assertion in the face of brute force and state violence. it is the essence of a pledge of peace and dignity.

Since Madrid, Israel has expanded and escalated its illegal settlement activities, in an attempt to create a fait accompli and to superimpose a spurious and illegal Israeli grid and topography on a defenseless land and an ancient culture. Since Madrid, Israel has imposed prolonged and cruel curfews on our towns and legalizes settler vigilante violence against our vulnerable and unsuspecting families. Since Madrid, the Israeli army has carried out systematic nightly raids on Palestinian homes, dragging sleepy children and parents from their beds, beating them mercilessly and scattering their possessions. Many hundreds have been detained without charge or trial, and prison conditions have become studies in gratuitous cruelty.

The expulsion orders issued against twelve Palestinians this month complete a pattern of horror, whereby Palestinian lives and rights are devalued, Israeli morality distorted, and international legality flouted.

Despite our baptism by fire, we persist in our quest for peace. We have engaged in direct bilateral negotiations with our oppressors, and have brought them to meet us face to face as equals and as people who refuse to succumb to the forces of mutual dehumanization. We have been positive and forthcoming, offering concrete and democratic proposals capable of bridging the abyss between occupation and freedom. They have remained negative and have held back, prisoners of their occupier mentality of intimidation and coercion. To them, we say, as in the Holy Koran, "Walk not proudly in the land, for thou canst not cleave the earth, neither shall thou equal the mountains in stature." To them we say, relinquish that which is not yours, restore to us that which is ours, so that we can jointly enjoy the fruits of peace and of this earth.

Thus we have earnestly sought to make the bilateral talks succeed despite Israeli intransigence and extremist statements and actions. We firmly believe that the accomplishments of the bilaterals will pave the way for the success of the multilateral talks insofar as the former address the root causes of instability and conflict. The success of the bilaterals is encapsulated in the basic essential requisite of Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories and a firm and conclusive end to the Israeli occupation. Without the proper political resolutions, regional cooperation cannot be initiated or maintained for the underlying conflicts will constantly undermine whatever regional agreements are concluded on the shaky premises of unresolved disputes and unjust conditions.

Before this august assembly we state: our claims and aspirations are modest and just. As you assess the regional environment, lend a thought to the tear gas choking our children and clinging to our streets and homes. Save our trees from uprooting by settler violence or army decree, for we have put a lot of ourselves into their nurturing. Deflect the bulldozer from our homes and let it not turn living environments into unseemly rubble. Restore our land to enable us to thrive with it and on it. Give us back our water so we can plant and revive our pastures and orchards.

AS you discuss water, remember our parched earth and dry wells, for 78% of what is ours is forbidden to us. As you carefully negotiate arms control, remember our thousands wounded and hundreds killed by army fire, and let the soldiers withdraw from our towns, villages and camps, for we are a civilian population. And do not forget that Israeli warplanes relentlessly rain terror on defenseless Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. While you wrestle with the nuclear horror in our midst, with Israel manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, think also of the weapons of individual destruction aimed at our children and people for the horror of murder is one, and all human lives are equal before God and humanity.

When you turn to economic development, cast a glance our way and note the deliberate deprivation of our people as the occupation pursues its policy of economic strangulation and regression. Restricted permits and licenses, exorbitant and illegal taxes, customs and fines, restrictions on exports, curfews and closed military areas, racist magnetic cards and green identity cards that ban our workers from their livelihoods all are manifestations of willful economic destruction.

When you speak of refugees, remember that dispossession and dispersion are particularly cruel and brutal violations of the collective humanity, history, culture and future of a whole people. Exile is a negation of home and homeland, a wrenching of the natural continuum of a nation, and a violent distortion of identity. A people cannot develop and flourish when it is severed and divided. The right of return is a just and legally binding right, guaranteed by the international community and its institutions. Nevertheless, despite exile and occupation, we remain whole the nation of Palestine and here we affirm this wholeness, and we are determined to exercise it in statehood.

In the words of Jesus: " As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine," so are we as a people. Severed from the stem and roots, we can neither bear fruit, nor survive. The PLO, representing the entire Palestinian people, is the stem through which the sap of life flows from the roots deeply embedded in our land and nourishes the branches of our people both under occupation and in exile. Jerusalem is the live-giving [sic] sun whose warmth and light give and preserve life. The organic analogy holds true, for many have paid with their lives preserving and protecting the living reality of Palestine and the Palestinians.

Thus we are empowered to thrive and to grow and to join this conference as one among equals not as a recipient of aims or as defenseless orphans. If this conference constructs a paradigm of disequilibrium, then it will incorporate within itself the elements of its own destruction. If it consecrates the discourse of disproportion, then its substance is as weak as its most deprived constituent. To this we say: "… give full measure, when you measure aught, and weigh with a just balance" (The Holy Koran). For what is in the balance here is not our material well-being alone, but the fate of human beings, the values which imbue life with quality and meaning, and the future of peace for humanity as a whole.

Our tormented region cannot be fragmented, nor can our concerns be treated as a set of discrete, isolated entities. One standard must be applied to all and aggression must never be rewarded. In this age of global interdependence, we make a plea for wholeness so that this may become an "epoch of expansion" not one of diminished concentration. Let us look outward beyond the narrow confines of self-interest and the convulusion [sic] of self-absorption, and reach out in magnanimity and confidence to encompass others in order to create commonality in variety.

The Palestinian people recognize that "the harvest is truly great, but the labourers are few." We have long labored to assert that in the fullness of time the harvest will be one of peace and prosperity which are common to all peoples. Such a global vision stems from a recognition of the fragile nature of life on this long-abused planet.

The Middle East must reclaim its role as the cradle and defender of civilization, and must not degenerate into a flashpoint of endless strife. A bridge with strong foundations must be built over the chasm that threatens the world with the depths of destruction.

We stand here today as builders, with a message of hope and promise. We pledge ourselves to the enormous tasks which lie ahead, undaunted by the magnitude of the challenge. The choice belongs to all of us: to determine whether the Middle East enters the new century under the shadow of continued violence and injustice or in the light of peace and progress.