Khaled Osaily: The towns and cities of Europe can help us restore peace in Palestine
Speaking at the Congress debate on the role of local and regional authorities in the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, the mayor of Hebron, the main city in Palestine, called on the towns and cities of Europe to take action so that his city and citizens can at last lead “a normal life as in the rest of the world”.
Interview – 03.03.2009
Question: In your speech before the Congress you referred to the importance of partnerships between Hebron and numerous European cities, including Genoa and Florence in Italy, and Belfort and Arcueil in France. What practical moves do you hope to see from the commitment of European local authorities vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Khaled Osaily: Obviously nothing can be done unless there is lasting peace, and this is why Hebron is striving, through diplomacy and lobbying of all the European institutions, to achieve this goal, and is also calling on the European towns and cities to offer their help. We want our citizens, and especially our young people, to be able to lead a normal life, involving sport and game consoles, not tanks and blood. Hebron is a city cut in two, with one half occupied by Israel, with more than 100 streets cut off and thousands of shops and houses closed up. That’s what we have to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Question: You would like UNESCO to place Hebron on the World Heritage List and are asking European local authorities to help this come about. What can they do and what would being included on the List mean for the city?
Khaled Osaily: Hebron, founded 6,000 years ago is one of the oldest cities in the world, but the occupation and the presence of Israeli settlers are threatening its historic heritage which belongs to the whole world. But UNESCO cannot include a site on the List unless it belongs to an internationally recognised state, and we therefore need that recognition. Nonetheless, there have already been some exceptions to this rule and we hope that the cities of Europe, if they join forces, could help us achieve this goal.
Question: There is much that you hope Europe can do for you, but as part of a partnership, what experiences and expertise can you offer European countries?
Khaled Osaily: Hebron is part of the network of cities for peace and we are attempting to restore dialogue in Palestine at local level. Unfortunately, Israeli cities have so far shown no interest and it is only very small Israeli municipalities that seem to take us seriously. Having said that, we are very open to international exchanges, particularly with French municipalities. We invite young Europeans to Hebron and young citizens of Hebron can spend some time in Europe. These exchanges are vital, since it is absolutely essential to show our young people what life without war is like, in other words, a life worth living.