Ziad Asali
The Media Line
The Palestinian Take
March 5, 2009 - 1:00am

Dr. Asali is interviewed by The Media Line on the purpose and role of the American Task Force on Palestine.


Media Line: I am speaking with Dr. Ziad Asali who is the founder and currently heads the organization called the American Task Force on Palestine. Dr. Asali, let’s start with the very beginning the [American] Task force on Palestine appears to say what it does in its name, are you geared towards educating the American public, the American Congress, everybody, what exactly is your role?

Ziad Asali: [Our role is] all of the above, but, our main mission is to state that it is in the national interest [of the United States] to have a state of Palestine alongside Israel and to advocate this policy with the establishment, the policy-making and decision-making establishment, on the one hand, the opinion-making establishment on the other hand and the general public at large whenever we have access to it.

Now you are based in Washington…


And of course you do interact with the governmental bodies quite a bit…


But as you were beginning the organization and starting up, what was your greatest challenge?

To see if this message actually will receive a fair hearing. Because, we meant what we said. It is in our national interests. Saying it at that time was not exactly in the mainstream of policy. At the time, the name of Palestine was not exactly attractive and anything that was associated with it was likely to get a harsh hearing. So, we insisted on two things, in the very title, as you mentioned, American and Palestine, American Task Force on Palestine, to state that we do think that these two things are compatible indeed. That it is in the national interest to have a state of Palestine. It is good for Palestinians. It is good for Israelis. But above everything else what matters for us, here, is that it is good for America.

We thought that this would be sufficiently different, that we may not get a fair hearing, but I have to say that we are so gratified now that it is national policy; everyone says it is United States policy and it has been for several years, 2002 first, then 2004, then the Road Map and all these other instruments that state the United States is for a state of Palestine. So it has become mainstream, American policy, it has become much easier to advocate and frankly we are now pushing on open doors.

You are frequently seen in Washington, on The Hill, what do you find to be the issue that you find the most resonance with on Capitol Hill, what is the issue that you have the least difficulty in selling?

The need to create a state of Palestine. I think there is an emerging consensus, especially on The Hill, which was the last citadel that had, in practical terms, been very reluctant to support anything Palestinian, especially in the form of funding, as you well know. Now it is much easier for a congressman to support the concept of a state of Palestine and then to start funding the Palestinian Authority. You know, last year the direct funding voted for by the Congress was about 300 million dollars. This is exact, the actual funding, so it speaks, with a certain truth, to the commitment of the Congress of today to supporting the state of Palestine more than any other time in the past. That’s the easiest part.

The second thing that I’d like to comment on, we do not say that we represent the Palestinians. We do not make that claim. As you know the Palestinians are of divided opinion, [of] all shades of analyses. We advocate exactly for what I just said, creating a state for Palestine that is viable on the ’67 border, negotiated and democratic. So, we have a vision for the state. But, there are people who agree with us and people who don’t. But this is exactly what we stand for.

You bring up a terrific point, as a local address for congressmen and senators to turn to when they are looking for input on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East, you’re there, you’re accessible, you’re known, so how do you deal with the questions of disunity among the Palestinians and the different opinions of the different factions?

Well we support this vision of the state that I told you. [This] is basically an open, free, democratic Palestine that we hope will take place and above all has to be viable, un-fragmented and in the ’67 border and [along with] the usual requirements that the Palestinians have accepted in ’88.

What we’d like to see, now that there has been such tremendous movement and political achievements for the Palestinians globally, is a recognition of a state of Palestine, pretty much similar to the Balfour Declaration that the Jewish people got in 1917. We have now the commitment of the International community, the United States, Europe, UNRWA, the United Nations, and Russia, and that is the whole world, all of them are committed to a state of Palestine. This is the Palestinian Balfour Declaration as a document, as a policy.

Now, people might remember that it took the Jewish people 31 years from 1917 to ’48 to get to their state and we advise and council for everybody to understand that it will take time and effort, especially on the part of the Palestinians, to work for their own state. Nobody is going to give them the state. So, it has to be very clear to people that want to work on the political process that they have to abide by the rules of the political process. You cannot fight the global system as you ask it to acknowledge your participation as a legitimate partner. That is why calling for a Palestinian state, a Palestinian state on the borders that I just outlined, is very crucial to get any support from the International community and this is where we stand on this issue of unity. On the issue, the mundane issue, of the government: now, if the Palestinians are able to put together a unity government, or unity accord government, that is acceptable to the international community, then we certainly would be very happy because that would decrease the tension and would make the Palestinian story here, in Washington, where we are, it would make it a less contentious, a less headache producing issue for the legislators and the government. We think it is a good thing, if it is done on this basis, that it will be an acceptable entity to the international community.

Dr. Ziad Asali, I thank you so much for taking the time to be with us and help us understand the work of the American Task Force on Palestine, Thank You.

Thank You.  

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American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017