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A Talk with Stanley Cohen

 Saturday 17 November 2007, 08:26 PM


After his fiery  speech in the morning session of Al Quds International Forum, where he fiercely attacked the American administration, and depicted Israel as an illegal states, Stanley Cohen, a New York-based attorney and human rights activist, shared with us his views on the Western media, Al Quds, and the possible solutions of the Palestinian cause.
Q: What do you expect from this conference?
A: I'd hope that, from this conference, people from throughout the world will go back to their communities, go back to their homes, with the renewed spirit of solidarity, and to work in their communities to build a stronger movement and a more assertive movement to address a problem that requires lots of resistance from lots of people. So, to the degree the conference has brought together people and has introduced and made new friends and identified issues and concerns, it is good; a very good conference.
Q: There was a lot of talk in the last session about the media bias in the United States and the other Western countries; and the faulty coverage of what is going on in Palestine – how can this be changed or countered?
A: I'm not sure it can be countered. I think the Western media has an agenda. I think it is driven by political, economic and, to some degree, religious-lobby factors. The bottom line is, I think, it is maybe a waste of time to try to change the bias of Western media.
Q: Are you suggesting that it is a hopeless case?
A: No I don’t think it is hopeless at all. What I am suggesting is that with the march of time; history marches on. The media will be forced to deal with reality and truth as the reality of the Palestinian state approaches. Media has a tendency: Sooner or later it can be dragged into reality and truth. I'm not sure if it is necessary to try to refocus the biased Western media. The reality of it is that history will move the media; it has no choice.
Q; Given this, what role should the supports or sympathizers of the Palestinian Cause pursue in order to change the perception of what is going on?
A: To struggle; to work; to resist; to build. Westerners don’t have to tell Palestinians how to resist. Westerners don’t have to educate the Palestinians about how to fight back. Westerners don’t have Palestinians to educate about the need to build movements and to resist in a variety of ways. Palestinians have been resisting for 60 years in a variety of ways, and they will continue to do it; sooner or later it will prove successful.
Q: Because of the current unipolar international system which revolves around United States, we feel obliged that we have to play according to the rules of the United States…
A: I don’t know if the 10-year-old boy who throws a stone at a tank feels he is obligated to play any role dictated by the United States. The United States as an empire, as a monolithic superpower, is fading; I am convinced about it. As the world grows smaller, as people become more educated, and as people develop new technologies, the ability of the United States as a monolithic entity to control the aspirations, the policies, and the direction of the rest of the world is fading; that is a given. We have a military force that has a 35-year-old average age of men. We have national guards that are with bad leg and knees. We are starched to far. We have 40 million Americans at home with no health insurance. We have an educational system that is collapsing. As a superpower, the United States' days are numbered. As an American, it is a trouble thing; I don’t see that with a sense of pride. But I don’t recognize the right of any nation to be a super power. We are members of a world community; each community has its strengths and weaknesses, its good sides and bad sides, and we have to deal with each other as people. So, the answer of how long can the United States hold on is self-evident—not very long
Q: So you advise the Palestinians to continue to struggle?
A: There is a variety of Palestinian movements and variety of Palestinian means of resistance. Despite what is going within the Palestinian community, I don’t think division is the right word. I don’t think the people on the ground are divided at all. I think people on the ground are very determined about what they want, what they are willing to give to get it, and what they need. I think the United States and Israel at this point have been able to buy a very small segment of the Palestinian community; they have been able to divert temporarily the Palestinian movement from independence and liberation. I think it will be short lived and failed. Annapolis will have its little show and every one will huge, kiss, say nice things and pick a picture. And when it is time Abou Mazen will go back to the compound in Ramallah and have power, basically. The United States and Israel will continues to disparately try to control what is going in the territories, but the people on the ground will continue to march. I don’t want to make it sound romantic; the sacrifices are tremendous. But the reality is as it is; the march of time moves on. And I remain convinced whether it is a weak, a month, a year or five there will be a Palestinian state.
Q:  What significance do you see for Al Quds and struggling against the occupation there in the context of the Palestinian cause?
A: There is a big debate over the city—should Al Quds be a divided city? Should it be an international city? Or should the West be the capital of Israel and the East the capital of Palestine?—I am not a believer in the two state solution; I don't believe it will work. I believe in the two state separation as a step towards the one state solution is important and necessary. I think it is going to take a while for cousins who have been fighting each other to begin to learn how to work together again. Eventually, Al Quds will be the capital of whatever that one state is. It will be a capital where all religions, Muslim, Christian and Jew, will be free to practice their beliefs the way they wish. It will be a state in which there will be a one person, one vote. It will be a state in which people will make decision about how they wish to raise their families, and deal with their neighbors, just the way South Africa did. I am not naïve; it isn't going to be easy; it is going be long; it is going to be a difficult struggle but it'll happen.
Q: So you are advocating the democratic solution…
A: Eventually, the only solution is the democratic solution. It will take time. The right of return is an interesting concept; there are 5 or 6 million Palestinians living in camps throughout the region. Do I believe if tomorrow there was the right of return, the 5 or 6 million Palestinian will go home now? I don’t. They should have the right to stay where they are as full citizens; and for those Palestinians who want to return home, they have the absolute right to return home. For those who don't want to return home, other than a visit, reparations are required, no different than the Jews in Germany after World War II. For those Palestinians who want restoration of their homes, businesses, and properties, to the degree that could be resolved, it should be resolved. Armed struggle is one phase of revolutionary growth; the United States went through it; the United States fought a bloody civil war, and millions of people died, brother and sisters.
Q: As a lawyer, do you see legal means for the people of Al Quds to restore their rights?
A: I believe very strongly that actions can be brought in the Hague and can be brought in European Court of Human Rights, and that Palestinians who live in other countries can bring actions. I think it is important to struggle in every way, including bringing law suits, bringing challenges, and trying to boycott. Struggle is multifaceted. There is a famous American, Fredrik Douglas—a freed slave—who said "Power conceives nothing without struggle, in never has and never will." The struggle may be an armed struggle, may be moral struggle, or may be both armed and moral struggle. You have to use every means available, in every way.

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