March 2, 2009
I recently had occasion to speak with Fritz Edlinger, the Secretary General of the "Society for Austro-Arab Relations" in Vienna. Edlinger was born in 1948, and he completed his secondary school in 1964 in Vienna. He studied history and political sciences at the University of Vienna. Fritz Edlinger has often been smeared as anti-Semitic and attacked verbally by others due his support for the rights of Palestinians. Some Austrians see Fritz Edlinger as a Palestinian more than an Austrian.
During our interview Edlinger criticized Fatah and the PA. He said: "I think that the problem is the bad of Fatah, they are already bad in the policy of issues, and they work for the Israelis, and there are even people who said that in the preparation of this war there were Palestinians giving at least technical and logistical support to the Israelis, telling them which places they should attack and this and that. This is something which is unacceptable."
If there is any future for Fatah, they must eliminate these people who are in fact traitors. These traitors are paid by the Israelis and the Americans to do bad things, the most callous jobs, and this is something important: if these people are still present after the next so-called congress of Fatah in any position, then forget about FatahÖ" said Edlinger.
also criticized the European countries, saying that the German government supplied Israel with submarines, and that they gave them for Israel for mostly free. That means that the money of European and German tax payers is used to give weapons for free to Israel. This is absolutely unacceptable in that sense.
Edlinger said, that there is direct involvement of some European governments, because this is on the level of the governments. He added: "there are very few European governments which might be ready to criticize the Israelis. There is no unity among the European governments, specially the strong and big ones who are on one side, and I would say that the German government is directly involved in these acts and they are directly to be blame, to say the least, of being complicit of the war crimes of the Israelis".
The Israeli intentions are very simple and very clear to me, the intentions of the Israeli leadership, in the Kadima and labor parties. There is a very strong consensus among the Israeli parties when it comes to the Palestinian case. There is no major difference between Labor party and Likud, as both parties donít want to have a fair and legal solution to the conflict in the Palestinian occupied territories. They just want to have a kind of "management" of the conflict, but according to their own rules. They want to define any kind of political solution, they want the Palestinians to be always under control and they never, ever, will accept from their heart and in free will a fair and independent solution, said the Austrian political activist and Secretary General of the "Society for Austro-Arab Relations" in Vienna, Fritz Edlinger, during a friendly interview in his office last week.
He commented on the scandal of the biggest companies which supply Israel with sophisticated weapons: "They got more of the most sophisticated weapon system in the world. Nuclear power, nuclear bombs, and they have the most sophisticated and modern weapon. We saw it in Gaza, where new modern sophisticated weapons were used. I think that Gaza was a kind of experimental field to test new weapons. I think that the Americans have Iraq, Afghanistan to exercise the new weapons, but the Israelis used Gaza to test new weapon. This is a shame, and this is a crime of all the countries and the companies involved in supplying this kind of modern weapons. This is inhuman, and this is a crime".
Edlinger described the Israeli occupation officers and the teams who control the movement of the human beings at the borders as "stupid ones who just want to demonstrate their strength and superiority by asking stupid questions to the people who want to access to Palestine".
Here is the whole interview with Fritz Edlinger.
Q: Who is Fritz Edlinger? How did the Jewish community and the Israeli Ambassador in Vienna, react to his debates, speeches and his support for the Palestinians?
Edlinger: I am working since 30 years in support of Palestinian rights. I started being interested in the Palestinians in the early 1970, when I was a young socialist in Austria, and close to Bruno Kreisky, the chairman of the socialist party at that time. He caused me, like other young people of that generation, to have an interest in the Middle East.. Starting at that time I visited Israel, and also Palestine. When I first visited Palestine my ideas changed dramatically. I still remember my first visit to Israel. It was shortly before the six day war in 1967. At that time, all the Europeans and even the leftists were pro-Israel. We all admired Israel for what they did to build their country, for "making the desert bloom". I visited Israel as a young socialist, and I even worked there in a Kibbutz.
Q: "In which Kibbutz?" I interrupted him.
Edlinger: became a bit nervous of my question, as if his mind refused to remember the Israeli Kibbutz, and he answered my question: "donít ask me about the name of the Israeli Kibbutz, I really donít know, it was in the center of Tel Aviv inside the green line, for sure it was inside the green line."
Obliged to Transit Israel
"Since there is no possibility to go directly to Palestine, and since everything is under the Israeli control, I was obliged to transit Israel."
Edlinger said: "Shortly after my first visit to Israel, I went for the second time, and soon my opinion changed. I didnít like the whole attitude of the Israelis. I see how they used the militant, the aggression, and they were even racists. I changed my ideas. And soon I decided to visit Palestine".
He added: "my third visit was to Palestine. Since then and until now I just transit Israel. I donít visit Israel any more. But since there is no possibility to go directly to Palestine, I have to transit Israel. This is the way I really look at it. Palestine is surrounded by Israel and everything is under the Israeli control. I have many friends in Palestine. I know what I am talking about it. This is in contradiction to what many people here talk about the Middle East. I know exactly what they are talking about. For example, when I am traveling in West Bank, I feel like the Palestinians, not like the Europeans with their European passports, and whenever we reach the Israeli military checkpoints I feel exactly what it means for the Palestinians to be stopped and to be checked, because in the worse case it could mean being killed, in another case it could mean going to prison or being put in administrative detention.
I now see with the eyes of the Palestinians since hundreds of times, even before and during the first Intifada, I sneaked into the Gaza Strip illegally with other Palestinian friends who were not allowed to go there. I know exactly the mentality and the way of the Israeli oppression, and I know exactly the way of the persecution of the Palestinians due to my visits under the Israeli occupation. This is my way to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to know what going on there".
The secretary general of Jewish community in Vienna stated about him: "Edlinger is immoral, he is not up to our high standard of ethic and morality", but Edlinger received this statement as a compliment.
According to Fritz Edlinger, the secretary general of "Kultusgemeinde" - the Austrian Jewish Community in Vienna - people who always refuse to debate in public with him, had commented in writing, in the context of an invitation to a lecture of llan Pappe: "we donít need Mr. Edlinger because ethically he is not on our level. We say he is an anti-Semite because of his criticism against Israel he is an anti-Semite, and we donít want to discuss with him because he is immoral, he is not up to our high standard of ethnic and morality."
Edlinger added "I donít complain about what the Jews say, I have enough invitations for lectures. In a certain way I find it positive that the Jews refuse to debate with me, because this is a sign of weakness, this is sign that they are afraid of discussing, debating in public with people like me. They are afraid to lose a public debate, or maybe they are not so convinced that their argument are the rights ones. So I put this in a positive way, I donít complain. I just complain about the double standards of the Austrian and European journalists, how they write, and how they report. I am not complaining that the jewish zionists are boycotting me because itís clear that I am not their friend, and I have a very critical position on what they and the Israeli government are doing. And when they said we donít want to debate with Mr. Edlinger, I find that this is a compliment."
The Stupidity of the Israeli Intelligence
Q: How did the Israeli occupation treat you when you accessed the borders during your visit to Palestine?
Edlinger: "The Israeli Intelligence demonstrated their strength and superiority by asking stupid questions.".
"when anybody passes the borders of Israel, he must pass through some Israeli measures, they ask many questions where are Ö Since I had this "ceremony" on the borders, or on the bridge or in Tel Aviv airport hundreds of times I could make the interviews myself because I know exactly what the Israeli intelligence are going to ask me. They have procedures, they have standard questions, "where are you going, why, why did you book your ticket two days before your flight" Ö "and have you got a present from anybody before leaving Öetc."
These questions are in fact stupid, because if you want to identify terrorists, you will not identify anybody by asking these questions. Itís so easy to know what is behind it, so there are two ways to handle this. Sometimes I handle it the easy way and I give them the answers they want, and then I pass in a few minutes. For instance one time I was tired, angry and I had time when I passed through the bridge. I gave them the wrong answers, and this took me four hours. Just on the second or third question they asked me "where are you staying?". I said in Ramallah. They asked "Why you are staying in Ramallah? I said: Because most of my friends are living there. They asked: "Who are your friends, and whom you are going to meet?
Through these question they want to make me mention names of somebody. I answered them itís not your business, it has nothing to do with my security, whatever. I refused to give them any answer. But they repeat the question again and again and again, then the supervisor came. And at the end I refused to answer the question. Then the boss gave me my passport but after four hours. I told him if this is going to happen in any European airport or border to any average Israeli citizen, the next day all your papers, the Jewish papers in the whole world will have the headline of rising the anti-Semitism in Europe. Donít think that. He looked at me and didnít say any word, he just gave me my passport and say go.
Psychopathic Israeli Intelligence
It was really ridiculous, but it was at the same time I discovered on this line, left and right to me there were too persons, young and old man, obviously the father born as a Palestinians and the son, those one was German and the other was Swiss, so they had European passports, obviously the father was born in Palestine and the son was born in Europe, when I arrived they were there before the Intelligence door, and when I left they were still there, they just kept them there. They did not ask them any questions, they just left them there. Itís kind of psychological harassment. This is the main function of this kind of treatment at the border. I think they want to humiliate the Palestinians. Itís not about security, itís about demonstration of strength, of superiority. This they have to done to all the Palestinians, and if they have the feeling if he is a European or American or even jew sometimes, who is pro-Palestinians, they treat him in the same way to demonstrate we are the bosses here, we control everything, and you have to play the game according to our rules or we send you back.
The Austrian Media is pro-Israel
Q: How you evaluate the role of the Austrian media and diplomats in how they depicted the Israeli crimes during past December and January ? Why did the local media take a very negative stance towards the Palestinians during this massacre, as compared with, for example, the media in Spain, UK, and elsewhere?
Edlinger: I just complain about the double standards of the Austrian and the European journalists, how they write, and how they report. I want to tell you something. Today I am going to write a small comment in the Kurier newspaper. I think it was mentioned for the third time that an Israeli tennis player was refused to participate in a tournament at the contest at Doha in Qatar. It was even today mentioned in the Kurier as a commentary. I really want to write for them. I will tell them if you want to inform the public about the jews, then you have to mention how many hundreds the Israelis do not allow to enter Israel or Palestine without any reasons, every year. I think that Europeans, among them members of International solidarity movements, and they are many, for instance Marwan Abado, our Austrian-Palestinian-Lebanese singer, was refused to enter at the airport and they kept the airplane captain for two days in the Tel-Aviv airport, and they did not give him any reasons. They just told him "you are refused to enter Israel". So if somebody is complaining that a tennis player is not allowed participate in a tournament or to enter any Arab countries, they should mention that Israel is intentionally not allowing any people who they imagine are pro Palestinians to enter Israel and Palestine. This is the fact , so it should not be just blaming Arab countries who donít want Israelis.
Mary Was not Virgin and Jesus Did not Walk on Water!
Q: Did you hear that the Austrian media or news have mentioned anything about the insults against Christians by insulting Mary and Jesus in a show of Lior Shlein in Channel 10 of the Israeli TV ?
Edlinger: No, I did not hear anything in the Austrian TV, radio or newspapers. Nobody reported one word over these Israeli insults. What was it?
Mary and Jesus were mocked in a late-night television show on Channel 10, in program in which Lior Shlein sarcastically denied Christian traditions, that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water. Mary was described as "an unwed mother who got knocked up at 15 by a classmate". Jesus was "too fat to have walked on water, in fact he was so fat he was ashamed to leave the house, let alone go to the Sea of Galilee with a bathing suit".
Edlinger said that this is part of the double standards. In principle, the Austrian media is pro-Israel in their reporting. I want to finalize this by stating that whenever I have heard any debate in Austria or in Europe, I feel more and more that the Austrian media are hesitant and very cautious to interview me, or to invite me for TV or radio. The Israeli ambassador and the jewish community here, most of them in the mean time, refuse to debate with me. The last time was in Graz. The ambassador said that he did not want to attend because of my presence.
The Palestinian State and the Israeli Control
Q: Do you think that there is any future to build an independent Palestinian State in Palestine?
"ÖI would say that 90 percent of the Knesset parties donít want to have a real, independent Palestinian State, Ö the Israeli plan is to keep control of the Palestinians Ö Israel humiliated Abu Mazen and the Arab leaders, they forced them to accept the Israeli domination, they made them accept that there never will be a real, fair solution, they made them accept to take what the Israelis are ready to give them, and this made Hamas strongerÖ"
Edlinger: The Israeli intention is very simple and very clear to me. For me there is a very strong consensus among the Israeli parties when it comes to the Palestinian case. So I donít see any major difference between Labor party and Likud. They just donít want to have a fair, legal solution of the conflict. They just want to have a kind of management of the conflict but according to their rules. They want to define any kind of political solution, they want to be always in control and never, ever, will they accept from the heart or out of their will a fair independent solution.
This is consensus. I would say for sure that 90 percent of the Knesset donít want to have a real, independent Palestinian state, not even in the '67 borders. Palestine with shared and free access to the neighboring Arab countries, and if you read all the Israeli plans, you will find that they still want control over the Palestinians. They want to control the Jordan Valley, they want to control the border to Egypt in the south. There is no intention at all among the political leadership in Israel to have a fair solution. And they managed with American support and a little bit of European support to split the Palestinians. So this was the big achievement after Oslo, the way how they treated the Arab part and the leadership of the PLO at that time.
I think that Israel humiliated them. They humiliated the Arab part and specially Abu Mazen and his leadership after that. They forced them to accept the Israeli domination, they made them accept that there never will be a fair solution, they made them accept to take what the Israelis are ready to give them, and this made Hamas stronger.
The surprising victory of Hamas in the PLC elections was a surprise even to Hamas themselves, who never expected to be 2/3 in the PLC. This is a result of that, it was not an election for Islamism. It was mainly a protest against the way how the PLO and Fatah is dealing with the Israelis, and about the un-democratic and corrupt way in which they behave, and a rejection for the Israeli-American project.
Bad Guys in Gaza and Good Guys in Ramallah
"ÖIsraelis define it like that, we have good guys in Ramallah who accept our domination, and the bad guys sitting in Gaza and in prison and wherever, who are not ready to accept an unjust and in principle unfair attitudes in the negotiationsÖ"
Edlinger: Now the game of the Israelis and Americans is to split Palestinians, to divide them and to say OK, there are bad guys in Gaza, we donít accept them, we just boycott them, and we try to deal with them according to what Mr. Netanyahu said during the last days, "our aim is to eliminate Hamas and their rule in Gaza". That was his intention, and he tried this in 22 days of the war, because they eliminated almost 1400 people physically. This is one side of the coin of the boycott. So the Israelis define it like that, we have good guys in Ramallah who accept our domination, and the bad guys sitting in Gaza and in prison and wherever, who are not ready to accept unjust and in principle unfair attitudes of negotiation. This is the problem, and this is the background for all the boycotts and sanctions against Gaza, because they want to demonstrate "we will fight you till the end and if you donít give in you will be physically eliminated".
"Mohammad Dahlan", The Bad Fatah Guy in Gaza
Q: Do you think that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the in Gaza blockade by signing the border agreements of 2005 with Israel? Do you think that Fatah is involved in the Gaza situation?
Edlinger: There is something else where the PA Fatah fell into the Israeli trap. There is one name who is responsible for this policy of Fatah, this is Mohammad Dahlan. So part of Fatah is even fighting Hamas since they are there political competitors, and I wouldnít blame all of Fatah. For sure there are many who were against what Dahlan tried last year, because the coup of Hamas was not a coup. The coup of Hamas as we know from many articles, was to prevent Dahlan from making a coup against the Hamas government, so the problem is the bad people of Fatah, they are already bad for the policy, and they do the job for the Israelis, and there were even people who said that there were Palestinians involved in the preparation of this war, they were giving at least technical and logistical support to the Israelis, telling them which places they should attack and this and that. This is something which is unacceptable.
If there is any future for Fatah, they must eliminate these people, who are in fact traitors. These traitors are paid by the Israelis and the Americans to do bad things, the most callous jobs. And this is something: if these people are still present in any position in Fatah, even after the so-called next congress of Fatah, then forget about Fatah.
This is something I am very sorry about. Because, as I mentioned, I am really fighting and working for the Palestinians since more than 30 years, and I am really sad, and nobody from the Palestinian heroes who got killed, thousands and ten thousands during the previous years, would like to see that people who are Palestinians, who are high ranking officials in the PA or Fatah are really working closely together with the Israelis to spy on their own people and finally to kill their own people. This is something which is unacceptable, and this is something the Israelis, with this American support, achieved by separating the Palestinians into "good guys" and "bad guys". I am really not with Hamas, I am with the Palestinian unity. This unity is the best chance for success against the Israelis and the Americans, because as long as the Palestinians are not united, the Israelis and the Americans will play with them, and they will continue playing for years.
Europe Boycotted the Unity Government of the PA
Q: You are talking about the Palestinian unity, but as I remember the Europeans boycotted the previous coalition government of the PA, so the protest against the Palestinian unity came from Europe, or what did you say about that?
Edlinger: I criticized the Europeans, who all the time said that the unity government of the PA would have to accept the right of co-existence, to refuse terror and youÖI answered them OK let us talk. I donít accept terrorism, I donít like killing children, but then you have to put the same questions in the same seriousness to the Israelis. You have to ask them "Do you accept Palestine in a defined size within defined borders, and say I accept the State?" First, do you refuse any kind of terrorism which the Israelis are perpetrating every day?" They kill Palestinians everyday. This is exactly the double standard which and I am really sorry about, even I say, as a European I feel a shame that the European politicians and leaders do not realize that they fell into a trap which was put in place by the Israelis and the by the Americans.
The Destroyed Infrastructure of the European Projects in Gaza
Q: Do you think that the EU must ask for restitution from Israel for the destruction of the public infrastructure which they had previously financed in Gaza, or should they cut the restitution for the destroyed infrastructure from the generous yearly donations which they send to Israel?
Edlinger: We demand this since many years, the European Union has lots of bilateral agreements with Israel, and in many of these agreements there are human rights clauses, and since many years we have said "OK, make agreements with Israel but if there are any human rights violations, look in your agreement, you have a clause, and then execute this and say OK, you violate the human rights, so therefore we cancel this treaties, we boycott you as long as the human rights are violated by the Israeli government". The European Union is not doing this.
Right now there is a report demanded by Amnesty International, at least there are serious crimes committed by the IDF and the Israeli army, and they demand boycott on the weapons side. I think that many European countries, the German, the French, the British the big European powers, sell weapon to the Israelis. Sometimes they donít even sell them. The Germans, for instance, there is this famous cases of German submarines, they gave them to Israel mostly for free. That means that the European and German taxpayers money is used to give weapon for free to Israel. This is absolutely unacceptable. In that sense there is a direct involvement of some European governments in the crimes against the Palestinians, because this is on the level of the governments. This is not on the level of the EU.
This is on the level of the governments, and I would say that the German government is directly involved in these acts, and they are directly to be blamed to be at least accomplices of the war crimes of the Israelis. Nothing is done because the European government are not there, there are very few European governments who might be ready to criticize the Israelis, but there is no unity among the European governments, specially the strong ones, the big ones, they are one-sided. And thatís the problem. And we, especially as Europeans, we shouldnít stop to criticize these governments, to blame them and to call for actions. I think that just now, after this Gaza massacre, that sanctions against Israel are justified, and that the European Union is not doing anything. And this is really petty, and even for us as pro-Palestinian people and groups in Europe, this is something which we failed to achieve because our position is a minority position.
The Gaza Blockade and Nuclear Bombs to Israel
Q: The International community, among them all European countries, are willfully forgetting the 1,5 million Palestinians jailed in Gaza under conditions of a concentration camp, while everybody is talking about what kind of measures can be implemented in order to stop delivering weapon to Hamas, but at the same time they ignore the grave crimes of Israel. What do you think about that?
Edlinger: They also forgot to talk about the weapon deliveries to Israel. Even if we are talking about what kind of weapon Hamas get, they get simple rifles. The Israelis get more, and they get the most sophisticated weapon systems in the world. So for example the nuclear bombs. They have the most sophisticated modern weapons. We see it in Gaza: new modern sophisticated weapons. I think that Gaza was a kind of experimental field to test new weapons. I think that the American have Iraq, Afghanistan to exercise their new weapons, but the Israelis used Gaza to test their new weapons. This is a shame, and this is a crime of all the countries and companies being involved in supplying this kind of modern weapons. This is inhuman, and this is crime, and this has to be addressed, and to be criticized, and the most accurate way is to have complete sanctions of sales to Israel. This is the minimum request I have after the last events in Gaza.
The Future of Gaza
Q: What will happen tomorrow in Gaza, and who will stop this situation?
Edlinger: I am very pessimistic because I donít see any progress. From Israel you donít expect anything, but even worse activities. I think that the new government will make it even more complicated, and the Americans, they talk a little bit better now, but thatís all. The Europeans, as usual, are just paying but doing nothing. And the other point is the Arab side. The problem in not only a split in Palestine, but also a split in the Arab league. It was really a shame to see two weeks ago two parallel meetings, a conference in Qatar and another one in Kuwait, and some people are not going to Doha because Qatar has a position which is not acceptable to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Just saying that we have an Arab peace initiative and the Israelis should comply with the Arab peace initiative is not enough, because the Arab peace inactive is something of a nice tale. We have in fact no unified Arab position.
Edlinger also sent a sincere offer to the Arab Leaders: I think that the Arabs and the Palestinians should clearly come to a position to say "We donít accept this political split among the Palestinians. We donít accept that outsiders like the Israelis and the Americans to apply their criteria about who is the "good guy" and who is the "bad guy". We want one unified position for the Palestinians, one unified leadership where all political groups are represented, that means even Hamas, Jihad, who have to come to be members of the PLO, and to become members of a unified government, and then we need a new election immediately, a presidential election is already past due time, because since the beginning of January there is legally no president in Palestine.
The Body of the PLC
Edlinger strongly criticized the International and Arab silence about the jailing of the members of the PLC by the Israeli occupation. He said that, in connection to the PLC, the "Palestinian Legislative Council", nobody at all is mentioning anymore that almost 50 percent of the elected PLC members are still in the Israeli prison. I think that even many people in Europe donít know this any more. They hear about Marwan Barghouti and others, but nobody knows that the Israelis arrested the elected members of PLC and not just one or two, but almost 40, and they are still in prison without a single court case, without a single accusation, just because they were from Hamas - this was enough to put them in prison. We must try to bring the Palestinian house in order. We need one unified house which reflects the majority of the Palestinian people, and a new president. Even the Arabs must try to come together and present themselves and their ideas to the world and to the Americans in a unified way, and they should not play "pro American Arabs" and boycotting the other ones. There is enough to do internally in the Arab league and in Palestine. It is also important to demonstrate to the Israelis, the Americans and to the Europeans, even to the friends, that Arabs are serious and they want to fight for their rights.
The Palestinian Community in Vienna
Q: You know the Palestinian community in Vienna, you have lived and worked with them in the past and today. How you evaluate the role of this community today?
Fritz Edlinger sighed deeply before answering the question. The depression showed clearly on his face - he is not satisfied on the Palestinian situation in Vienna. He said: "you are living in Austria and you know better than me how the Arabs, especially the Palestinian society, works here in Vienna. In fact that, what you have in the international scale with the Palestinians, you have here in Austria. I think that they are strongly divided. They are divided politically and they are divided personally. Sometimes I have the impression that personal rivalries and problems are more important than the political issues. And at the end you donít have any serious, widely accepted persons who speak for the Palestinian community here.
The situation of the Palestinians in Vienna was better in the seventies and in the early eighties. At that time Hamas did not exist, and there were some left groups from PLO and Fatah, but at that time you had spokespeople here, and you had a community somehow reconciled and unified. Now you have groups of Fatah people, and you have bigger and more active group from of Islamic people, and then you have another big group of former Fatah people, who are not that young anymore, who in their sixties or even older. Most of these people were the founders of the Fatah fraction in Austria, but they are now completely against Fatah and what Fatah stands for now. And that is the problem, that another big group of Palestinians here in Austria donít want to have anything to do with the Islamists, and they are also doing nothing. They have almost completely retreated into private life. Sometimes you see them in the demonstrations, but they donít organize themselves, they just sit together privately and complain".