Ehab-Lotayef

Kourosh Ziabari – Fars News Agency: As the Israeli regime continues its campaign of mass killing and terror in the besieged Gaza Strip, more conscious people across the world feel the necessity to condemn it in strong terms.

Canadian-Egyptian Activist Ehab Lotayef believes that what Israel is doing is terrorism “in the full meaning of the word” and that the Western powers and their reactionary Arab allies in the region have remained silent and indifferent to the plight of the people of Gaza because they are immensely afraid of the influence of the Israeli lobby.

“The world has to change first for Israel to change the way it responds. As long as Zionist lobbies remain so powerful and unchallenged and world leaders remain complicit and unprincipled, Israel will be able to ignore international law and human rights,” said Ehab Lotayef in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

Ehab Lotayef is an organizer and spokesperson of Gaza’s Ark and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. He is an Electrical Engineer working at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He is also a poet and writer and has published several literary and political works.

Ehab was onboard the boat “Tahrir” when it attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in November 2011. Along with other activists he was attacked and kidnapped in International waters by the Israeli navy. They were detained for a week before being deported.

On the recent Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip and its killing of hundreds of innocent Gazans in the holy month of Ramadan, FNA spoke to Mr. Lotayef and asked him to present his viewpoints regarding the international reactions to the Israeli atrocities and the legality of its military operations in the beleaguered coastal sliver. What follows is the text of the interview.

Q: How does Israel justify its blockade of the Gaza Strip that has ceaselessly existed since 2007 and has created an all-out humanitarian catastrophe there? The international community is silent and inactive on the plight of the Palestinian people and the mass killing of the citizens of Gaza. What’s your take on that?

A: The siege is illegal and unjustifiable. It is collective punishment of a civilian population. The only reason it continues to exist is the world’s complicity and silence. Israel’s reasoning that it is for security reasons is a lie and any logical analysis would reach that conclusion.

Q: The UN Human Rights Council and the International Committee of the Red Cross consider the blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by the Israeli regime illegal. Isn’t this conviction sufficient to force Israel into lifting the blockade and aborting its racially-driven policies?

A: Unfortunately the answer is the same. Powerful Zionist lobbies in many western countries intimidate, pressure or corrupt politicians so they cannot speak against Israel. And whoever does is branded an anti-Semite and is, in most cases, marginalized. Thus governments, to different extents, either echo Israel’s lies or stay silent.

Q: Gaza is under fire these days, and new reports of civilian casualties emerge every few hours. How is the current humanitarian situation in Gaza? I have read that the hospitals do not currently have the capacity to host the injured. Many hospitals have already been targeted by the Israeli rockets and destroyed either partially or completely. How is the current status of health and medical services to hundreds of wounded and injured Palestinians in the Gaza Strip?

A: Not only is there shortage of medical facilities, resources and supplies, on top of that Israel is bombing the hospitals themselves. The healthcare system has been collapsing for years. It is really a miracle that the health situation in Gaza – and I am not talking about these days of Israeli attacks only – is not much worse.

Q: Some human rights organizations have said that Israel, while attacking the Gaza Strip from air, sea and ground, is also committing numerous human rights violations and war crimes, including torturing or getting coerced confessions from the illegally arrested children and youths in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. How do you analyze that?

A: Let me be clear. I believe Israel practices terrorism in the full meaning of the word. Let’s look at the West Bank where the Israeli army arrests people by the thousands without charges for indefinite periods, detains civilians of all ages at will, demolishes homes, etc. etc. The goal here is to terrorize Palestinians so they give up any notion of fighting for their rights.

Q: Do you think that the US officials will finally find the courage to break the conventions and criticize the inhumane campaign of killing and carnage in the Gaza Strip against the innocent civilians, or will continue defending Israel’s “right to exist” while the IDF continues firing rockets on the people of Palestine every hour and minute?

A: Unfortunately no. I think that the grasp of the Zionist lobby on the US politicians is too strong for what is happening in Gaza to break it. It happened before in 2008-9 and the US didn’t do much. It happened to a lesser extent in 2012, and if it wasn’t for the existence of a democratic government in Egypt then, it would have gotten worse. The situation in the US needs to fundamentally change before the US government can take “fair” positions with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Q: What’s your viewpoint on the silence of the Arab states of the region on the new wave of violence playing out in the Gaza Strip? The extremist Jihadi and Salafist scholars had occasionally issued “fatwas” or religious decrees, demanding the Muslims around the world to join the fighting in Syria against the government of President Assad. Why don’t they issue fatwas and call on the Muslims to join their brethren in the Gaza Strip in their resistance against the Israeli oppression?

A: The Arab and Muslim regimes are client regimes and dictatorships in the most part. The West makes sure the ones who aren’t, are faced with too many problems, internal and external, that render them ineffective – at least most of them. As for Fatwas demanding from people to fight for Palestine, I am sure they exist, but I don’t think that will change the balance of power in any way.

Q: In a recent statement, the PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas has said that Israel, through launching attacks on the Gaza Strip, is trying to defend its illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. Do you think that Israel will finally yield to international pressures and stop the settlement constructions or will thumb its nose at the world and keep up with the project?

A: The world has to change first for Israel to change the way it responds. As long as Zionist lobbies remain so powerful and unchallenged and world leaders remain complicit and unprincipled, Israel will be able to ignore international law and human rights.

Q: Will the UN Security Council finally pass a resolution to obligate Israel to end its lethal attacks against the Gaza Strip, or adopt a passive policy of silence and inattention under the pressure by the United States and other veto-yielding powers?

A: We may see a UNSC resolution. If we do, it will most probably be a very weak one. And weak or strong, at the end it will not be worth the paper, or hard drive, it is written on, like many others Israel just ignored over the years.

This interview was originally published by Fars News Agency.