Max Budovitch: Welcome, listeners. We are coming to you directly over the air from WYBCX Yale College Radio in New Haven, CT. It is noon, I am Max Budovitch, and this is CrossTalk. With me today is a special guest over the phone from the West Bank city of Jenin. Zakaria Zubeidi is one of the founding members of the Freedom Theatre, which is located in Jenin. Mr. Zubeidi was also one of the leaders of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades during the Second Intifada, and afterwards joined Juliano Mer Khamis and several other people in order to form the Freedom Theatre in 2006. Mr Zubeidi, can you hear me?
Zakaria Zubeidi: Good afternoon
MB: Likewise. If we may, I would like to review your activities and the stages...of you life before you came to the Theatre. Firstly, what and whene was your first activity in the Theatre in Jenin with Arna Mer, in the 1980s.
ZZ: The Freedom Theatre here is a continuation of The Theatre of the Stone that we worked on in 89 and 90 and 92 because there were many activities that commented on the Intifada in those three years. Arna Mer Khalil came from Occupied Palestine (Israel) to the Jenin Refugee Camp and…the children inside the camp. The children learned drawing and writing until my father [my family] saw her and invited her into the house and gave her the basement under the house in order to form The Theatre of the Stone. Of course we built the Theatre in which the youth studied until the Oslo Accords and the return of the PLO to the land of the West Bank. This was one of the factors that led to the dissolving of The Theatre of the Stone and the most important factor was the death of Arna Khalil. Of course I was in jail at that time in 92 and 93. When I left prison I began working on the Theatre. The idea was that the idea of refusing the Occupation by means of cultural work pleased me until The Al-Aqsa Intifada began in 2000. Of course I was a part of that. My responsibility was the protection of the Palestinian People and the protection of the Jenin Refugee Camp. I joined Fateh and we established the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. I was one of the most prominent wanted men on the lists of the Zionist Occupation [of the Israelis] through, uh, I was also on the lists for assassinations until the idea remained living, and I thought about it a lot, until Juliano threw the idea on the table to build The Freedom Theatre. I didn't have any problems and soon enough I agreed and provided the conditions and the place and the position and the students and the workers. We began the plan for The Freedom Theatre and, praise be to God the ruler of the universe, The Freedom Theatre grew a lot in the West Bank and we are working on it and we are promoting the voice of the Palestinian People to the world.
MB: In the beginning, in the 1980s in the first Theatre with Arna Mer, how did the Theatre change your thoughts during your childhood in the 1980s
ZZ: In the beginning, Arna was working our house, where we were living. We helped her with her work and of course her son, Juliano, in providing for the Theatre and providing the preperations for the Theatre.
MB: I have several questions on your political activities before we turn to your current work at the Freedom Theatre. In the past, what was the first instance you witnessed violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Jenin and what was the influence of this on you?
ZZ: Look, before the Freedom Theatre, this was the Intifada al-Aqsa
MB: Yes, but before the Intifada al-Aqsa, what was the influence of the violence between Palestinians and Israelis on you? On your ideas and on the state of politics in your mind?
ZZ: The remaining matters of the Palestinian negotiations...Abu Umar [ Yasser Arafat] was...there were negotiations and, unfortunately, the Israelis did not give the Palestinian people their rights through the negotiations. The political matters, negotiations, and the political horizon closed before Abu Umar, and the outcome of this was the Intifada. The opperations in that time were not anything formal, but was a sort of public work.
MB: Okay, so the violence itself was not the basic influence on your mind, it was the failure of the negotiations.
ZZ: Yes, the main reason was the failure of the negotiations. The Israelis did not give the Palestinians their rights and...all of the doors closed before Abu Umar.
MB: I understand that you spent time in Israeli prisons, but what was the influence on you of staying in those prisons?
ZZ: Look—The Israelis...the Israeli terrorists also killed my mother in the Battle of Jenin. The terrorist Israelis killed my brother in a targeted assasination in the Jenin Refugee Camp. The terrorist Israelis killed that camp. The terrorist Israelis killed many of my friends also. Naturally, it is imposed that they...a constitution and peace and peace goals. It is imposed that they put forth...the killing of the Palestinian people. They undertook in opperations against the Palestinian people which ressembled in memory what the Jews went through under Nazi rule in the Holocaust. They talk about the Holocaust...and at the same time impose a Holocaust upon the Palestinian people, while the entire world looks on at how the killing continues in Gaza and in the West Bank.
MB: How did the Battle of Jenin change your thoughts?
ZZ: Response currently being translated. Check back often.
MB: When did you decide to become a part of the Palestinian Resistance?
ZZ: I was the whole time—it's not that I decided to join the Resistance, but I was protecting it; the whole time.
MB: What was your strategy in the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades after the assasination of the last commander before you?
ZZ: It was the typical strategy of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades-to demonstrate to the world that the Palestinian people are under Occupation and want their freedom....It was a simple form of resistance.
MB: What was the relationship like between the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Yasser Arafat, and Fateh?
ZZ: It was, the relationship, of course, we were the military wing of Fateh.
MB: Why did the Brigades undertake bombing campaigns against Israel, as opposed to another strategy?
ZZ: It is a part of the armed resistance. All of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades' armed attacks were expressing our refuting of the Occupation. That the Occupation was present.
MB: What were the goals of the 2nd Intifada and did you achieve them? How do these goals differ from those of the 1st Intifada?
ZZ: Look, after 40 years of Palestinian revolution, we have not accomplished anything. The Occupation still exists.
MB: So the Second Intifada was a failure
ZZ: Every Palestinian revolution was a failure. We don't have our freedom. However, we still exist.
MB: So if the Second Intifada was a failure and, for that matter, every Palestinian revolution was a failure, according to you...
ZZ: I didn't say that it was a failure. I said that the Intifada did not achieve the freedom of the Palestinian people.
MB: The freedom of the Palestinian people-can you return to this for a moment?
ZZ: The freedom of the Palestinian people, meaning the establishment of a Palestinian state and claiming of blessed Jerusalem.
MB: Why did you move from the resistance with the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades to the Freedom Theatre in 2006?
ZZ: No, no, I did not move. I'm at the Freedom Theatre, but the Resistance is still present.
MB: So do you continue your work with the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, or have you ended that?
ZZ: No, I've stopped my military work.
ZZ: I stopped because there was an agreement and an ongoing program with Fateh, and there is now a popular program [of resistance]
MB: And the popular program at the Freedom Theatre is more beneficial?
ZZ: No, it's no problem-maybe this and maybe that.
MB: In the future will there be another choice?
ZZ: Maybe, maybe. If the Israelis continue to abuse Palestinian rights, there will be a problem.
MB: What are you doing at the Theatre now, what is your work there?
ZZ: Well, I don't work at the Theatre, I support it. I don't work there-I am an originator of the idea of the Theatre.
MB: I have a question on your relationship with the IDF. There was and still is violence between you and the IDF, over your life, in Jenin. After you left the armed resistance, the IDF continued to threaten you, correct?
ZZ: I did not negotiate this agreement, it was the Authority which was responsible for that.
MB: The Authority in Jenin is the Police and the Army, the Palestinian Army of Fateh, that is, correct?
ZZ: Yes, that's correct.
MB: And have the Police and Army, now, after the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, have they been successful in their activities?
ZZ: The Authority is under the Occupation. The Army is under the Occupation. There is no success.
MB: Will the Palestinians succeed in gaining their freedoms in the future? And, if so, will these be by the Theatre and the cultural resistance, or by military resistance?
ZZ: Look, all of these paths are open to the Palestinains. The Theatre, the cultural resistance, the military resistance. All paths are open.
MB: Will you return to military work, or are you with the Theatre permanently?
ZZ: If the Israelis don't give the Palestinians their right, there will be a problem. If there is a problem, we will return.
MB: So if there is a problem, you will return to armed resistance?
ZZ: No, no, if the Israelis are not sticking to peace or negotiations, etc...there will be a problem.
MB: Is there a way that Palestine and Israel can deal in peace in the future?
ZZ: The Israelis will not stick to peace. It is a terrorist state.
MB: But in your opinion, isn't there a path to peace between Israel and Palestine?
ZZ: The Israelis will not stick to peace. It is a terrorist state
MB: You have encountered all of the types of resistance; political activities, cultural activities, and military activities. What is your future in the Palestinian movement? Will you stick with the Theatre?
ZZ: I will stick with the Palestinian people in resistance to the Occupation. In all ways.