Leila Shahid, Ambassador of Palestine to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg, was at UCL today for a talk about “The Urgency in Palestine.” Last semester, we had the visit of Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, so this was a good chance to compare their narratives of the conflict.
To begin with, Mr. Taub was interrupted twice during his introduction by people who called him a “representative of a terrorist state” and highlighted the injustice in the inability of many Palestinians to use the platform he had been offered. You can see the chaos (and the audience’s giggles) on this video by the Editor London Tab. Taub reacted like a Diplomat, regretting that the two people who tried to boycott him preferred to leave the room over discussing during question time.
Shahid on the other side, was quite happily welcome. It was obvious she had the audience on her side, and this allowed her to be warmer and more genuine in her presentation. Taub was a genius of framing and sticking to talking points. Every difficult question that he got, he managed to turn on his favor. Though he wasn’t necessarily convincing. Shahid on her side was a champion of spontaneity and a very didactic speaker, but she lacked Taub’s articulation.
I thought her sharp and honest quotes spoke for themselves, so here is a selection of what she said:
On Israel and International Law
Nobody is above the law, but Israel has been treated as a country above the law. International law is what allows coexistence, and Israel is allowed to break it both because of Europe’s guilt in relation to the Holocaust and because of Britain’s involvement in the Mandate for Palestine. The best way to have peace is to restore these tools for coexistence.
On life in Palestine
There is an entire generation of Palestinians, everyone under 48, who doesn’t know what a life without military occupation is like. This affects every aspect of people’s lives. Palestinians want first and foremost equal rights and an end to an occupation that only produces frustration.
On Palestinian Statehood
When we demand a state, we do so with the borders of 1967, and we recognize Israel’s right to exist within those borders. This is less than a quarter of what the British Mandate of Palestine used to be. But Palestinians know a country’s greatness is not measured by its number of kilometers.
On the international community
The West’s hypocrisy when it comes to Palestine and other conflicts backlashes, and we are seeing this with attacks in the capitals of Europe. The responsibility of the international community is bigger than the Israeli. I can understand Israel after all they went through with the Holocaust. Of course you are scared. But the international community has no excuse for its behavior with regard to Palestine. It’s just shortsightedness.
What is stopping the negotiations is not Hamas. Hamas are against the occupation, but they are not radical islamists and they don’t have the delirium of the salafists. This means they can become a political force. I don’t like them, but they can be. The US is not an honest mediator; it is totally on Israel’s side. The strength of Israel is so uneven that the current negotiating scenario is useless for us.
And then, when asked about what can be done to avoid aid to Gaza being used “to build bombs,” her least articulate response and one that would have certainly received way more backlash in a context with less students and more journalists… Honestly, it was one of the worst euphemisms I have heard lately.
It’s not bombs. Rockets are tubes that they use for plumbing, filled with fertilizers. Most of them don’t harm anybody. I still don’t want them to be used, clearly. But governments or NGOs don’t finance bombs, because these are not bombs, they are tubes. The financing of military weapons occurs the other way around, with military support to Israel.