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Middle East - interview

International complicity helps Israeli "war crimes" in Gaza, says Barghouti

by Tony Cross

Article published on the 2009-01-15 Latest update 2009-01-26 10:04 TU

Mustapha Barghouti(Photo: RFI)

Mustapha Barghouti
(Photo: RFI)

The Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Press Centre on Thursday is due to the international media’s “silence” over Israel’s violation of the “basic principles of the free press”, says former Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti. Barghouti, who stood for the presidency against Mahmud Abbas, says that the Palestinian President’s credibility is “the lowest ever” because he blamed Hamas for the Israeli offensive.

Interview: Mustafa Barghouti

16/01/2009 by Tony Cross

Israel’s ban on journalists entering Gaza has met “no serious protests” from international organisations, says Barghouti.

The latest attack is “because of the complicity of the international community and especially the complicity of the international media worldwide,” he says. “The time has come to stop treating Israel as if it’s above international law.”

Israel stopped reporters entering Gaza because it “is trying to hide the truth”, he says.

“They’re trying to hide the fact that this is not a war on an army, it’s a criminal war against a civilian population with a totally disproportionate power between the two sides and with the use of prohibited equipment and prohibited weapons.”

Barghouti considers it proved that Israel is using white phosphorous in Gaza.

“It’s not ‘alleged’ when you can see it on TV, so clear, and you see the results of it, burns on people’s faces.”

Despite Israeli army denials, the US-based group Human Rights Watch believes that the chemical is being used. It says that its use in densely-populated areas violates international legal requirements to avoid civilian injury and loss of life, although international law allows its use as cover for troop movements and as a shield against guided missiles.

Barghouti claims that other, unknown chemicals are being put inside munitions, saying that they “seem to burn the whole tissue to the bone”.

“The only thing that is not burnt by these chemicals is the bone .... Doctors called me and said that when we find somebody with an internal injury we open it and we cannot do anything because this is not a bleeding we can stop. It’s a burn that goes on and on and on till the patient dies.”

European countries must end military purchases from Israel because it is “a war criminal country”, he says.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s statements that Hamas rocket attacks provoked the Israeli offensive was “a very big mistake”, says Barghouti, adding, “And he’s paying for it.”

“His credibility is very low today. It’s the lowest ever and I don’t know if he will regain any credibility after what he has done.”

Admitting that the divisions in the Palestinian camp are “very damaging”, Barghouti insists that there is also “very serious internal transformation”. Abbas’s Fatah, along with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), is likely to be “the biggest loser from this war”.

The lack of internal democracy means that “most of the Palestinian forces that are struggling for Palestinian rights are outside the PLO now and most forces inside the PLO have become a bureaucracy, feeding on the Palestinian Authority”.

But Barghouti has hopes for the Palestinians' future.

Forces that are “not Hamas and not Fatah” are “working very hard to find a way to go back to national unity and that’s what we need”.