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My Confrontation with Mr. Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian AuthorityDr. Frank Romano for Salem-News.com
Tense times in Palestine between a top official, and an activist who states the truth...
(RAMALLAH) - I participated recently in the 'Welcome to Palestine' program headquartered in Bethlehem, the West Bank. On Thursday, April 19th, as part of the program, I was to travel with a group from the “Welcome to Palestine” program in order to confront Prime Minister Fayyad who had invited us to speak with him.
The night before we had all agreed that I would ask the three below questions and that I would not shake Mr. Fayyad’s hand notably due to the plight of other internationals who had come from different countries who were arrested at Ben Gurion Airport and were still in jail. We decided that I would confront him so that:
1) if the meeting were broadcasted, the media would not show that he had been favorable to our movement and
2) if it were ever televised and our fellow internationals still in jail saw it and our “amicable” relationship with him, as manifested by a hand shake, we would betray their fight against the arrest by the Israeli government and its collaborators, such as the Palestinian Authority, headed by M. Fayyad; he had not contested their arrests.
We also decided that I would act on my behalf and not in the name of the group because the internationals were concerned that the confrontation with M. Fayyad might lead to reprisals against the group (i.e. participants in the Welcome to Palestine program) by Mr. Fayyad and his government.
These are the questions I was to ask him:
- Why have neither you nor your government sufficiently supported non-violent movements in solidarity with Palestine, such as the 'Welcome to Palestine' program?
- Why have you not intervened on behalf of the internationals who tried to enter Palestine to help the Palestinian cause but were thrown in jail at Ben Gurion Airport?
- Why are you collaborating with Israel against your own people?
- We arrived at the place designated to meet M. Fayyad which was a community center in a town in the Jordan Valley where Mr. Fayyad was addressing the local citizen and listening to their requests and grievances, etc.
At the end of that meeting, a Palestinian who was with our group, entered into the conference room, while I waited outside, in order to speak to M. Fayyad and inform him we were waiting outside to speak to him.
I waited at the door with a photographer to record and make a video of the meeting in order to avoid the possibility that M. Fayyad may manipulate the media portraying our visit as an amicable meeting and not a confrontation in order to show his constituents that indeed he supported our cause, and other non-violent movements in solidarity with Palestine.
As soon as M. Fayyad exited the room I was at the door waiting for him. The Palestinian introduced me as a peace activist.
Mr. Fayyad tried to shake my hand. I responded by pulling my hand back, saying:
“I cannot shake your hand.” He was surprised, his eyebrows raised but he continued to look at me.
Then I asked the first question calmly:
His response, "We always support these groups..."
Since this was a lie, my voice began to rise, showing emotion.
"But you have done nothing for the international prisoners that are still in Israeli jails... and what about those on a hunger strike?"
Visibly angry, he tried to walk forward, saying:
"Well if you don’t want to shake my hand, I don’t want to speak with you."
I was now standing next to him as I asked the final question:
"Why are you collaborating with the State of Israel against your own people?"
He pushed my hand aside and walked forward leaving me behind. One of the internationals standing next to me accused me of being too aggressive and told me to shut up. I told him to do the same as he turned to Mr. Fayyad and did the unforgivable:
“I’m going to shake your hand”, and he shook his hand which was against our strategy.
Then a couple of other internationals took over the conversation as I walked through the crowd towards the bus, having said what I had to say and disgusted that the internationals now appearing to play Mr. Fayyad’s game, to almost side with him against me as well as shaking his hand in spite of we had agreed not to do that.
As I walked to the bus, several internationals came to me criticizing my efforts telling me that I was too emotional, too aggressive and that I now place the entire group in jeopardy. The one who shook Mr. Fayyad’s hand also criticized me and I responded,
"I already apologized that I was too aggressive, but what I said was true, whereas you did the unthinkable, you shook his hand so you have no right to criticize me."
Before totally leaving the crowd, the assistant of Mr. Fayyad, who introduced himself as Mr. Jamal Zakout, walked towards me. His face was red with anger:
“Who are you to come here to educate the Palestinians about our struggle that we’ve been engaged in for years against the occupation, you a foreigner. . .?"
I responded, "I admit I was too aggressive with Mr. Fayyad, but I have not come to education the Palestinians, but to fight alongside them..."
He responded, "But your aggressive manner put my boss, Mr. Fayyad, on the defensive and his reaction was inevitable, he no longer wanted to speak with you."
I replied, "Again I admit my voice was too loud, but, please take into account the context, my situation..."
He tried to interrupt me but I insisted. . .
"Just about a couple weeks ago, I helped organize the Land Day protest at Qalandia Checkpoint, the Israeli soldiers shot tear gas and rubber bullets at us, at will..." (see link below)
He responded, "Yes, agreed, we respect you for that..." But I insisted on finishing my sentence so I interrupted him.
"I also risked bodily injury for freedom here, so Palestinians could return to their lands, against the occupation. It is my struggle..."
Now I saw Mr. Zakout looking at me with different eyes, "OK, my brother, I respect your activities and the fact you are speaking with me calmly."
We were then interrupted by a group of internationals headed by a Frenchman who yelled at me ordering me to join them in the bus and to leave with them immediately. I responded that he cannot order me to do anything and go ahead take off without me, and that I’ll walk to Bethlehem if I have to.
The Frenchman and the other internationals turned their backs and headed toward the buses.
I turned back to Mr. Zakout. Smiling he said:
"Listen, I see you are capable of speaking calmly and you are faithful to our cause so I invite you to come to our offices in Ramallah to continue this conversation with me and possibly with Mr. Fayyad and we’ll see what we can do with your movement, together. OK?"
I responded with an OK and I gave him my card and he wrote down his personal cell phone number on a card and handed it to me.
I then headed to the bus. But I didn’t expect the welcome party!!
I went to the smaller of the two buses that had driven me to this location. Before I could enter, a female international with a squeaky voice handed me my overcoat and told me that the driver would not drive the bus if I remained a passenger because...
I climbed the steps to a cold reception as most of the internationals ignored me. I heard a lot of chattering behind me and noticed that the bus driver was not in his seat. Then a representative of the group came to me and said that the driver refused to drive the group back to Bethlehem if I remained a passenger. She looked to the internationals seated and got no response. Then she turned to me and suggested that I get off the bus and seek a taxi that could eventually take me directly to Bethlehem or to Jericho where I could find a taxi that could take me to Bethlehem. The two Palestinians in the group verbally denounced that idea. Then she began discussing what to do with me with the internationals.
After five minutes I got up, grabbing my trench coat and book bag saying, "OK, agreed, I apologize for being overly aggressive, but I completely support the contents of what I said and I was faithful to our agreement. One should not be afraid of speaking his mind, even if the message is loud. So, I have more faith in others than you, especially Palestinians that I might meet in the streets, good bye!"
I left the bus and headed down the street. I heard shouts in back of me, some shouted for me to stop and return. I continued walking without turning around.
Finally, a Palestinian caught up with me and put his arm around me saying, "Look brother, if you go I go with you. So f---the PA, I agree with you. Come back because I convinced the driver to take you as a passenger, that you did not insult the prime minister..."
I returned with him and took my seat in the small bus which returned me to Bethlehem without incident. I then returned to the Deheisheh Refugee Camp where I had been staying.
Learn more about Dr. Frank Romano, read these Salem-News.com articles
Dr. Frank Romano is the author of STORM OVER MOROCCO, autobiographical narrative about following spiritual path while living with extremist religious sect. You can purchase the book at: amazon.com Storm Over Morocco
Learn more by visiting: frankromano-lt.com
Storm Over Morocco: http://www.soundauthors.com Frank Romano's Storm Over Morocco
Frank Romano earned a PhD at University of Paris I, Panthéon Sorbonne, and a JD at Golden Gate University, Faculty of Law, San Francisco. He is a Maître de conférences (assistant tenured professor) at the University of Paris Oueste in the Anglo-American Literature and Civilization Department, an adjunct professor at Golden Gate University, Faculty of Law and a member of the California and Marseille Bars. At present, he teaches law, literature, history and philosophy of law at the University of Paris Oueste and practices law in France and in the United States. The author actively organizes and participates in interfaith events involving Jews, Moslems and Christians in Israel and Palestine. Dr. Romano has also authored a book entitled Storm Over Morocco, published by World Audience, Inc., Globalization of Antitrust Policies (Mondialisation des politiques de concurrence), published by L’Harmattan in French, Love and Terror in the Middle East and a book of poems entitled Crossing Over. He has written many articles published in Europe and in the United States where he is often invited to speak at conferences. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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