An unstoppable optimist for the Palestinian cause

Raja Eghbarieh in the offices of Proletären

The following article and interview of Raja Eghbarieh is republished from Proletären newspaper. The article, written by Marcus Jönsson, was translated to English by Samidoun Sweden. Eghbarieh is a former Palestinian political prisoner who recently spoke at public events in Sweden.

– I’m sad that all the Europeans who support Ukraine don’t care as much about the children of Palestine, Raja Eghbarieh of the Abna’a al-Balad organisation tells Proletären.

Last Thursday, the Israeli military attacked seven human rights and aid organisations in the West Bank. Israeli forces struck their offices in Ramallah, confiscated their belongings and shut them down.

Six of the organisations were labelled terrorists by Israel last autumn, accused without evidence of links with the terrorist-designated Marxist party PFLP, a decision even the Swedish government has objected to.

Just the day before the Israeli attack, Proletären meets Raja Eghbarieh from the organisation Abna’a al-Balad (Movement for the People of the Homeland), who is still involved in a trial with the same accusations.

The now retired teacher from the town of Umm al-Fahm, which lies within the 1948 borders, i.e. inside Israel, has spent several years under house arrest and in prison for his political activism, but this is the first time he has actually been prosecuted. Because of some comments on Facebook, where lawyers are arguing over the correct translation from Arabic to Hebrew.

– Israel has always used these methods, and now even more so. 20-30 years ago they used them against political leaders. But now they use military laws against any young person they think might take militant action, just because of something they wrote on Facebook, and put them under arrest.

When we meet, it’s less than two weeks since Israel’s last bloody attack on the Gaza Strip, where they struck at the armed group Islamic Jihad, and as usual didn’t care that women and children were also murdered. Raja Eghbarieh says the main purpose was for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who unlike other Israeli leaders has no military background, to show that he too is a tough man who can lead military operations.

– It was a war for the Israeli election campaign, says Raja Eghbarieh, and the Israelis achieved all their goals. They were the ones preparing for war. They moved Jews from southern Israel two or three days before, and they carried out their attack. They killed Islamic Jihad leaders, but also their children.

– I’m sad that all the Europeans and others who support Ukraine don’t care as much about the children of Palestine, he adds.

Raja Eghbarieh laments the lack of a united response from all Palestinians this time, unlike last summer when Palestinians inside Israel went on a general strike when Israel bombed Gaza indiscriminately.

– But there is unity. Throughout historic Palestine, we are under occupation, within the 1948 borders, in Gaza and in the West Bank. The entire Palestinian people are united in struggle – or the majority of the people, to be honest. For there are Palestinians who recognise Israel as a Jewish state and who hope for equality and democracy inside Israel.

A pure illusion, say Raja Eghbarieh and Abna’a al-Balad.

– We as a movement do not believe that an occupying apartheid state can create equality and democracy.

He says the Arab party that is even in the government, the United Arab List, did not say a word about the Israeli attack in Gaza.

For Abna’a al-Balad, which is essentially an organisation for strengthening both Palestinian identity and class consciousness for Palestinians inside Israel, it is obvious not to stand in the elections for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, which will be held on November 1. They refuse to normalize the Israeli state by standing for election.

– We boycott the elections and stand together with everyone in the world who fights against imperialism, Zionism and the reactionary Islamist forces in the Arab world. We are a Marxist and socialist left organisation. A liberation movement, because we are under occupation. All of Palestine is occupied.

Raja Egbarieh calls for more international solidarity with the Palestinians, at a time when several Arab states have normalised relations with Israel and the so-called international community turns a blind eye to Israel’s abuses.

The situation of the Palestinians may seem bleak and almost hopeless, but Raja Eghbarieh is not prepared to accept that.

– I’m an optimist, he says with a smile. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.