Interview: Palestine Ambassador

"How do they sleep seeing all this death and destruction?"

Yousef SY Ramadan is the Palestinian Ambassador to Bangladesh. In an exclusive interview with Prothom Alo, he spoke about Israel's genocide in Gaza, the role of the Western and the Arab world, as well as the dreams of the Palestinians.

Yousef SY Ramadan, Palestinian Ambassador to Bangladesh, speaks during an interview with Prothom Alo.
Tanvir Ahmed

We saw the Jabalia refugee camp was attacked even after huge criticism. Many people were killed, and buildings were demolished. Why is Israel not being restrained from bombing and killing people?

It is blatantly clear that the Western world led by US President Joe Biden stands by Israel blindly. As a result, Israel has received a clear message – they have a license to commit genocide. Now, they feel that they can do anything they want without repercussions.

They are indiscriminately bombing hospitals, places of worship, and refugee camps, in staunch contradiction of international law. They targeted the places where displaced Palestinians took shelter. They stopped all the necessities they need to survive, including food, clean drinking water, electricity, and fuel.

A tragedy of this scale, at this rate, has never happened anywhere in the world, not even during WWII. Gaza residents are going through a bigger holocaust than the Jewish Holocaust, and we must say this out loud. We are dying in front of the cameras at an unprecedented rate.

I wish I could give Joe Biden a glance at the situation in Gaza and ask him how he feels regarding the horrific scenes. How do Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz feel? It weighs heavily on my mind that 4,000 of our children have been slaughtered. How do these leaders find solace in their sleep? How do they find joy in their daily lives? You have to lose part of your humanity to be able to stomach a massacre of innocent people.

When their children and grandchildren will ask them about what they did, will they have anything to say to justify these deaths? History will not favour them. When the descendants of these leaders will read history and discover what their ancestors used to do, what explanations can they offer to justify their crimes against the Palestinians, what can they say so their children won’t die of shame? These leaders don’t have to answer to us. Instead, they should at least be able to say something to their own families to save face.


The US claims they told Israel to avoid civilian casualties. At the same time, the US is also saying Israel has the right to self-defense…

The United States is the primary collaborator in this genocide. The bombs raining down on Gaza are manufactured by the US, and the vessels being used are also from there. All of Israel's ammunition is sourced from the US and Western nations. They are all responsible for this genocide.

Their attempt to justify this as Israel's right to self-defense is an attempt to deceive the world. How much longer can they keep up this charade? It is becoming increasingly apparent to people that this narrative is no longer credible.


But that is not stopping the bloodshed.

It signifies that the Western governments remain unaffected by the atrocities they commit, as they seem to have numbed their emotions and locked away their humanity permanently.


Joe Biden visited Israel. Antony Blinken came to the Middle East twice. Demands for a ceasefire arose inside and outside the US. Do you think there will be any visible change now?

We no longer want to numb the pain with morphine; for 75 years, we've lived with our rights compromised, suffering from the disease that is occupation but numbing ourselves to the pain. This time, we want to eradicate the disease. Should we fail to eradicate it now, we risk falling back into the cycle of violence.

The suffering endured by Palestinians over the last 75 years will persist for another 75 years if the status quo doesn’t change. Israel believes it can forcefully displace all Palestinians and live in peace by occupying all of historic Palestine. However, peace will only prevail when they grant us freedom, leave our homeland, and allow us to lead dignified lives.

We yearn to live with our identity and our own passports on our native soil. We want our own airport and the opportunity for our children to attend schools, colleges, and universities, just like any other nation.


Bangladesh has recognised the State of Palestine. How does the world see Palestine? What are Gaza, West Bank and Jenin regions?

Palestine is a country that fell into the traps of the occupier. Gaza is the southern province of Palestine. The West Bank is under the control of the occupying forces. Gaza does not share a border with the West Bank so people from Gaza go to the West Bank via Israel.

Gaza is a tiny area, covering only 363 square kilometers. It stretches 41 kilometers in length and 7-15 kilometers in width, with a border shared with Egypt's Rafah. To its west lies the expanse of the Mediterranean Sea, while Israel surrounds it to the east and north.

Many have labeled Gaza as an open-air prison, but I call it a concentration camp. It undeniably resembles the grim history of Nazi concentration camps.


Israel is trying to say they have left Gaza, and Hamas controls the strip entirely. Could you make it a little bit clearer?

They claim to have withdrawn their troops from Gaza, but the question remains: where have these troops relocated? In reality, they have placed Gaza under a tight siege, effectively severing its lifeline. The people of Gaza are trapped, unable to either exit or enter the region. If 1,000 people from Gaza seek to leave, Israel permits only five to ten percent to leave. Even vehicles carrying essential supplies like food and medicine require Israeli authorization.

At present, Israelis are fabricating lies to justify their actions, a common response in times of desperation. Gaza was attacked in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, and 2022, destroying approximately 60% of the region. With their homes reduced to rubble, Gazans have been forced to find shelter with their families in tents. If the Israelis were telling the truth, they would have focused on the reconstruction of Gaza instead of repeatedly bombing it to dust.

On top of that, 75% of the population remains unemployed, dependent on the remaining 25% who serve as employees of the Palestinian National Authority.

Yousef SY Ramadan
Tanvir Ahmed

On which authorities do people in Gaza depend for water, electricity and other services? What is the arrangement for education and health?

They depend on Ramallah. Israel provides water and electricity, and Ramallah pays the bill. There are 35 hospitals in Gaza, many of which have been established with the assistance of friendly nations. Most of the children study in UN schools. In Gaza, a strong emphasis is placed on education, to the extent that even someone with limited financial means is highly regarded if they have a Ph.D., and families readily consider them as potential husbands for their daughters.

Indonesia and Malaysia have established hospitals in Gaza. Boys and girls from Gaza also study at various medical colleges in Bangladesh. At present, 30 physicians who passed from Bangladeshi medical colleges work at various hospitals in Gaza. Healthcare is provided under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel bombed hospitals as people sought refuge in these facilities. Many hospitals have had to close due to a shortage of fuel, resulting in dire consequences for patients, including newborns whose incubators cannot run without electricity. ICUs are on the brink of collapse, as surgeries cannot be performed in the absence of adequate lighting. The healthcare system has collapsed completely.

We hear that Joe Biden is advocating for a ceasefire, yet it is unclear if he has personally visited Gaza to witness the dire situation. Despite public opposition, there is still a tendency to support Israel, but the voices of the people are growing louder, demanding an end to this prolonged crisis. It is time for them to bear the consequences of their actions.


How will the countries supporting Israel pay the price? Could you please explain?

People possess a moral compass, a conscience. They recognise that remaining silent in the face of brutality equates to complicity in such actions. People cannot passively endorse such cruelty. It is not their governments I am referring to, but individuals with a strong moral conscience who will undoubtedly hold their leaders accountable, especially when those leaders are constantly sermonising about human rights and values.

How can these leaders lecture the rest of the world on democracy and human rights when their actions contradict their principles? When we see they do not care about these values, how will we believe them? Will anyone believe them ever again?

We have received support from people across the world. We are sacrificing our blood; our children are giving their lives; our women are dying. Our enemies seek to annihilate us, but we have won the hearts of the people in return for everything. Now we depend on the support of the people.


You talked about the US and its allies. What response did you receive from the Arab world? We only heard Jordan's King Abdullah making strong remarks. Their foreign minister placed a proposal at the UN and continued diplomatic efforts. What are the other countries doing?

The actions taken by the Arab world may be deemed acceptable, but when people are in dire straits, they require immediate rescue, not just promises. We are drowning, we are not swimming. Now is the time to do something tangible. While words of support are appreciated, they alone cannot save us from this situation.

The people of Gaza need food, water, medicine and fuel. We don’t need empty declarations on paper. Let trucks carrying the flags of 22 Arab countries arrive at the Gaza border and enter the strip forcefully. What response can Israel offer in the face of such determined action? The question arises, why haven't these Arab countries taken this step?

Jordan ousted Israeli diplomats. Four other nations maintain diplomatic ties with Israel, and they too have the option to recall their own diplomats and expel the Israeli diplomats. They can unequivocally declare that enough is enough and Israel must pay the price.

Even your own child needs to be disciplined sternly sometimes so that they don’t continuously repeat the same mistake. It appears that Israel's allies are quietly urging them to continue their actions, albeit more discreetly, away from the public eye. As Henry Kissinger once advised Yitzhak Rabin, "Kill them but behind the cameras."


This cabinet of Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be most extremist, especially, two members of this cabinet -- Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Yoel Smotrich. Ben-Gvir entered the Al Aqsa premises, and Smotrich raised questions on the existence of the Palestinians at a speech in Paris. They have aggravated the anger of the Palestinians.

The statements and actions of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Yoel Smotrich are completely unacceptable. Imagine the repercussions if a Palestinian did something similar such as denying the existence of Israel as Smotrich has done. While Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet is notably more radical, past governments have adhered to similar policies. In the past, these policies were implemented covertly, with hidden agendas, while Netanyahu's government promotes extremist genocidal policies in plain sight.

Yousef SY Ramadan
Tanvir Ahmed

Let me ask you a personal question. Do you have any relatives in Gaza? Can you meet them?

No, we cannot meet them whenever we want. And now we speak to someone in Gaza once every five or six days. Telecommunication and internet connections are often disconnected. Their communication with the entire world has stopped. My son-in-law is from Gaza. Fifty-seven people from his family were killed. We do know what the situation is now.


The Israelis are trying to say that this suffering of the people of Gaza is because of the Hamas' attack on Israel, although the UN Secretary General António Guterres said the 7th October attack did not come out of nowhere. We have seen that the Western media repeatedly asking the Palestinian representatives the same question on whether they condemn the Hamas attack…

António Guterres spoke correctly. The Hamas attack on 7 October has a context that began in 1948. The Palestinians have been victims of torture for 75 years and Israel is violating one international law after another. Who made these laws? Us? You? The allies of Israel created the laws, and we just signed. Even though these are their own laws, they are still appeasing Israel even when Israel is in clear violation of international law. Israel is fully aware that it is the only country in the world that is above the law, exempt from international legal standards.

When I heard that the Hamas fighters killed children, I could not sleep. How could one be a martyr by killing children? Later, I started inquiring and learned that Hamas targeted and attacked Israel's military establishments and police outposts. Most of the women present were not civilians. In fact, women constitute over 30 percent of the Israeli military, where they undergo military training.

In addition to Hamas, several other groups entered the kibbutz on that day and effectively held Israeli citizens hostage. Hamas members were armed when they entered, and the destruction in the kibbutz resulted from the crossfire that ensued with the Israeli forces. People died in the crossfire. The Israeli forces came to eliminate Hamas and then demolished the entire village.


Hamas and Fatah have a difference of opinions. Do you support this fight against Hamas?

Whoever is a child of Palestinian parents is akin to family for me. While we may hold differing ideologies, we have one common goal. Fatah aims to address issues through political means, seeking independence through peaceful negotiations due to the existing power imbalance. In contrast, Hamas pursues liberation through armed struggle. Nonetheless, the majority of Palestinians, around 70%, don't strongly align with any specific party. However, there is a shared consensus among us: we all want independence, we all want peace.


Tell us about yourself. Where did your ancestors live? Were their families affected by the Nakba in 1948? What future do you see?

My grandfather was the mayor of Akka City, which is in Israel. Almost all of my family was forcefully displaced from there. My father was an agriculture engineer. He fought for the country but could never return to his homeland.

I once visited Akka with a 24-hour permit granted by the Israelis. I set foot on the land of my ancestors at midnight and returned to West Bank at midnight the following night.

I studied at the UN school in Lebanon and worked in the army for a while. Then I went to Kabul, Afghanistan, and did my graduation in political science at Kabul University.


What future of Palestine do you see? Are there any hopes or dreams?

Dear sister, we have been fighting for freedom for 75 years. We do not know how many more years we will have to fight. But know one thing – shining shoes in your independent homeland where you live with dignity and freedom is better than being an Ambassador for a country you cannot return to.

* This interview appeared in the print and the online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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