Transcript speech, Arjan El Fassed, New York, 7 April 2001
"They stripped me of everything; Except a heart, a conscience
and a tongue", these are the words written down by famous
Palestinian poet Tawfiq Zeyad.
Today, we are here to break the silence and to show our hearts,
our conscience and our tongues. Nothing will be able to shake
our will to return home.
For Palestinians, the search for home is a struggle. A struggle
against injustice inflicted upon Palestine and its native Arab
population. Home is not a map, nor a birth certificate. It is,
as Mahmud Darwish wrote: "your life and your cause bound up
together". It is the essence of being a Palestinian.
Today, we must face the tragic fact that Palestinians are still
not free. The life of a Palestinian is still sadly crippled by
the chains of eviction, occupation and discrimination.
Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty
and property. It has perpetuated a system of racial
discrimination and inequality. It has systematically detained
and tortured thousands of Palestinians, and it has waged a war
against a civilian population.
Even when the world spoke of peace, the brutal occupation
remained in place. It continues to kill and maim, it continues
to oppress and exploit.
How many more Palestinians need to be killed before the world
opens its eyes?
How many more Palestinians need to suffer this horrendous price
If cruelty is individual, then silence is collective.
Fifty-three years ago, 12-year old Fahimi Zeidan lived with her
family in the Palestinian village Deir Yasin. On the 9th of
April 1948, Zionist forces entered her home, ordered Fahimi's
family to line up against the wall and started shooting.
Fahimi, two sisters and brother were saved because they could
hide behind their parents. But all the others against the wall
were killed: her father, mother, grandfather and grandmother,
uncles and aunts and some of their children.
Unfortunately, this cruelty against Palestinian children has not
On the night of the third of October, six months ago, 18 months
Sarah Hassan was shot in her head with live ammunition by an
Israeli settler and died in her mother's arms.
The next day, Israeli soldiers had no mercy with 9-year old
Mohammad Abu A'asi in Gaza, neither were they threatened by him.
They shot him dead from behind.
Ten days later, an Israeli soldier who was posted in a
watchtower at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem did not prevent his
finger from touching the trigger of his M16 killing 14-year old
Mo'ayyad al-Jowareesh at close range, as he walked beneath the
tower on his way to school. He was shot in his head.
Why is Palestinian childhood being confiscated? Didn't they take
enough of our past and present? Haven't we yet lost too much to
take from us the very childhood and future of our children?
More and more of the world is being sucked into a desolate moral
vacuum. This is a space devoid of the most basic human values.
A space in which children are killed and maimed. A space in
which children are starved and exposed to extreme brutality.
Such unregulated terror and violence speak of deliberate
cruelty. There are few further depths to which humanity can
There is a willing sadism on the part of the occupier, a
perversity filtered down through their commanding officers,
Israeli war criminals in a war cabinet.
Every day the occupation produces crimes against humanity and
dignity. Therefore, do not listen to anyone who says that you
must give up the struggle against occupation, apartheid and
It is only those who support apartheid and oppression who can
argue that the Israeli government should be rewarded for the
small steps it has taken since Oslo was signed.
Today, we are here because you took the humane decision that you
could not ignore the inhumanity represented by the Israeli
The reward the Palestinians of this world seek, is the end of
occupation and apartheid and to finally return home. That
prospect will only become reality as a result of struggle,
including the struggle represented by international pressure.
All of us must therefore refuse to be demobilised.
"Be the change you want to see in this world", as Mohatma Ghandi
once said. You are allies in a common struggle to bring freedom,
return and peace to Palestine.
Starting with the return of exiles from the African National
Congress (ANC) to post-apartheid South Africa, millions of
refugees from Kosovo and Bosnia returned to their homes. The
same international standards must apply to all refugees
regardless of their national, social, religious or ethnic
When does the world comes to see that those who have been driven
out by aggression or fear, just want to return home? When does
the world comes to see that Palestinians are equal human beings
who just want to continue their daily lives and that of their
children on the lands that are owned by their parents and
It is our responsibility towards the children in Shatila and
Dheishe, Balata and Yarmouk, Jabalya and Baq'a, to defend these
rights. They should have the freedom to find their happiness at
Let us continue to march forward together, on our way back home,
and to finally taste the sweetness of liberation and freedom.
Political power is more fragile than we think. Ordinary people
can be intimidated for a time, can be fooled for a time, but
they have a deep-down common sense, and sooner or later they
find a way to challenge the power that oppresses them.
People are not naturally violent or cruel or greedy. Small,
individual acts, when multiplied can transform this situation.
It will be a proud day for all humanity when we are able to say
that occupation is no more, that apartheid is no more, that
discrimination and ethnic cleansing are no more.
Today is not the only day we make our voices heard, we will
continue to make our voices heard until the day we are allowed
back to our homes.
After the end of apartheid in South Africa, today, it's our turn
to do the surprising.
Let me close with the words of Tawfiq Zeyad:
"You people of boundless tragedy;
Let me storm the seven heavens;
For I am your son, your offspring;
In heart, conscience and tongue"
We owe it to our ancestors and our children. We will return