Exclusive interview of Palestine Ambassador to Bangladesh
Published : Friday, 9 October, 2020 at 12:00 AM Count : 379
What shows up in your mind when the name Palestine pops up?
Most would usually answer anything between - illegal occupation of an Arab state by a powerful ever expanding Zionist force - destruction, war, oppression to poverty. It is a seventy plus year old heartbreaking tale of an agonising occupied Arab country struggling for independence. We see it in a different way. We think of Palestine, as an iconic symbol of relentless and uncompromising struggle of five million people all set to shed blood for a just cause. A people that remains steadfast and committed in the face of extreme degree of brutality and growing oppression. As the world keeps changing fast under the 'New Normal', the Palestinian Cause seems to be facing even a bigger challenge. Following newer Palestinian territories annexed by Israel, the Whitehouse has now managed to successfully broker a couple of divisive diplomatic recognitions for Israel by dividing the Arab world. A fresh spate of land, air and sea blockade has been imposed over the Gaza strip. There also seems to be limited humanitarian concern for the growing number of Coronavirus infected persons in Palestine. To cut a long tragedy short, the often narrated hell in the hereafter revealed in the religious scriptures - has visibly manifested at a corner of the real world -and today's Palestine is that cursed corner. Palestine Ambassador to Bangladesh, His Excellency Yousuf Ramadan has shared valuable information and observations surrounding our bilateral ties, the Palestinian struggle and fast changing geopolitical equations within the Arab world. Our Assistant Editor, Shahriar Feroze has conducted the exclusive one-to-one interview for The Daily Observer. Today we have published the first part of the extensive interview.
Daily Observer: Bilateral ties between Bangladesh and The State of Palestine have usually been amiable and historically close, how do you evaluate it?
His Excellency Yousuf Ramadan: Relations between The State of Palestine and The Peoples Republic of Bangladesh are based on principles, more than mutual benefits. In the absence of direct trade facilities, we only have indirect trade with Bangladesh, and we mainly import RMG products.
Historically our ties dates back to as early as 1972, and it was strengthened during the OIC summit held at Pakistan's Lahore in 1974 following face-to-face meeting between Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Yasser Arafat. It is a special relationship that has continued even before the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had assumed power while the families of the two leaders also became close. Our late leader Yasser Arafat had visited Bangladesh as many as thirteen times.
Bangladesh has continually supported the Palestine people on its struggle for independence. In fact, it is a rare occasion in the history of the world when people from a different country take huge risk to participate in a struggle for independence of another country. It has happened in our case. Many Bangladeshis travelled from here to Lebanon, joined our forces and took part in combat operations against the enemy. You can well understand the depth of that sentiment where blood of Bangladeshis has also spilled with the Palestinians.
We have around 47 listed Bangladeshi martyrs who died while fighting with us against Israel. Unofficial and unregistered numbers of Bangladeshi fighters are even higher. When a human being decides to sacrifice his or her life, for the sake of another country's independence, the supreme sacrifice has an extraordinary value to our people. In fact, brave and active participation of Bangladeshi fighters has inspired many other Muslim countries to join in our struggle.
D O: How did you respond to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's renewed pledge to support the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people during her last UNGA speech?
H E Yousuf Ramadan: I was eagerly waiting to follow Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's UNGA speech long before it was delivered. In fact, I have been regularly following all international speeches of the Bangladesh Prime Minster since I first arrived in 2015. Every year the Bangladesh PM renews her pledge to support Palestine's legitimate cause, and her latest UNGA speech was no exception. Her support for Palestine's independence is not restricted within the UN, she has repeatedly support us on every international seminar, conference and forums.
On a broader level, her support and solidarity helps to establish our legitimate cause as a just cause to the rest of the world, inspiring others to support us. Remember, the Bangladesh PM's repeated assurance for our freedom is based on principle not mutual benefit. This is what makes our relationship a magnificent one. When the Bangladesh PM renews her support for our cause, it is special and more important than many other countries around us.
D O: Would you please analyse some of the long-term impacts of UAE and Bahrain's establishing of diplomatic ties with Israel? Do you think diplomatic recognition to Israel by the two Arab states will divide the Arab League and the OIC over Palestine?
H E Yousuf Ramadan: It is painful for us since the two countries are Arab and Muslim countries. We share the same language and belief with the UAE and Bahrain. These two countries were supposed to be a part of our first line of defence. There are many countries in the world to have established diplomatic ties with Israel. But when an Arab Muslim country, particularly not directly involved in a military conflict with Israel, recognises Israel, it is equivalent of a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause. Moreover, the two countries never had any form of disputes with Israel.
I would like to say a few words about the Arab League in this regard. Way back in 2002 the Arab League agreed to a proposal offered by His Majesty the late Saudi King Abdullah. The Saudi initiative later became the Arab initiative. All Arab countries including the 57 OIC Arab countries agreed to the initiative. The initiative clearly stated that Arab countries will establish diplomatic relations with Israel - only after Palestine becomes an independent and sovereign state based on the drawn border of 1967.
All Arab countries had acted accordingly for the past 18 years. Now the repercussions of breaking the consensus of the Arab initiative - so to give recognition to Israel means - that these two Arab states have recognised Israel not as a legitimate state , but as a legitimate occupying force. Needs be mentioned, since the very beginning of our struggle for independence, we have always been empowered by Arab countries.
Now it has turned the exact opposite, now it is Israel which is being empowered by Arab countries against Palestine. There will be no significant benefits for the two countries which have recognised Israel. I don't think so. That said - if Bahrain and UAE believe that Israel is willing to protect these two countries from Iran, they are mistaken. An occupying power as Israel will never come forward to protect an Arab Muslim country. However, Here I will say that the recent diplomatic recognition given to Israel by two Arab countries have actually strengthened our unity at home. That's how we respond to UAE and Bahrain's recognition of Israel.
I will be surprised if more Arab countries follow UAE and Bahrain's course of action. For the UAE, the country had backdoor diplomatic connections with Israel for the past 15 years. Informal channels of communication between the two countries and Israel were always active. The danger today is that many Arab countries have undercover communications with Israel. Simultaneously, a lot depends on the upcoming US elections. Under a new US President, I believe there will likely be no pressure on Arab countries to recognise Israel.
I must also include, the pressure for recognising Israel was evenly applied on UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Morocco and Oman. Though none of the country was ready to establish official ties with Israel, but Trump administration thought these Muslim countries should be ready to do so.
Sudan's caretaker government is not in a position to take such a strategic step. Also Sudan is a blacklisted country for harbouring terrorism. Another problem is its weak economy. Naturally, the Americans tried to play the black listing and economic aid cards in this regard but failed. Here the people of Sudan were the ultimate decision maker for which the country did not bow down to US pressure.
Same has been witnessed in Morocco's case. And the government there didn't go against the peoples will. Having good relations with Iran, Oman sat on the fence while taking a cautious move to stay away.
For other countries it was whatever the respective government decided based on their interest. The point here, any country can establish diplomatic ties with Israel, but the two Arab countries have undermined the Palestinian cause.
Needs a reminder that Israel is not a normal state born out of a normal process, it has been established by forcefully and illegally occupying the land of another country. It is the only state which does not abide by any of the Security Council or international laws.
Foremost there is no guarantee that the two Arab countries would draw benefits by establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. Additionally, there is a wider misperception about a common enemy of Arab countries. It is perceived that Iran is a common enemy of UAE, Bahrain and Israel. It is a completely wrong perception, even though some of the policy makers of these three countries prefer to act in this manner.
A militarily strong country as Israel doesn't need UAE and Bahrain in its conflict with Iran.
To be continued