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Excepts from Chief Palestinian Delegate’s Peace Conference Speech

October 31, 1991

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Here are excerpts from the speech of Haidar Abdul-Shafi, leader of the Palestinian delegation, to the Middle East peace conference. He spoke in English.

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We, the people of Palestine, stand before you in the fullness of our pain, our pride, and our anticipation, for we have long harbored a yearning for peace and a dream of justice and freedom. For too long, the Palestinian people have gone unheeded, silenced, and denied, our identity negated by political expediency, our rightful struggle against injustice maligned, and our present existence subsumed by the past tragedy of another people. ...

It is time for us to narrate our own story, to stand witness as advocates of a truth which has long lain buried in the consciousness and conscience of the world. We do not stand before you as supplicants, but, rather, as the torch bearers who knew that in our world of today ignorance can never be an excuse. We seek neither an admission of guilt after the fact nor vengeance for past inequities, but, rather, an act of will that would make a just peace a reality.

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Our acknowledged leadership is more than just the democratically chosen leadership of all the Palestinian people. It is the symbol of our national unity and identity, the guardian of our past, the protector of our present, and the hope of our future. ...

Jerusalem, the city of peace, has been barred from the peace conference and deprived of its calling. Palestinian Jerusalem, the capital of ourhomeland and future state, defines Palestinian existence past, present, and future, but itself has been denied a voice and an identity. ... Israel’s annexation of Arab Jerusalem remains most clearly illegal in the eyes of the world community and an affront to the peace that this city deserves.

As we speak, thousands of our brothers and sisters are languishing in Israeli prisons and detention camps, most detained without evidence, charge, or trial, many cruelly mistreated and tortured in interrogation, guilty only of seeking freedom or daring to defy the occupation. We speak in their name, and we say, ″Set them free.″ ...

As we speak, the eyes of thousands of Palestinian refugees, deportees, and displaced persons since 1967 are haunting us for exile as a cruel fate. Bring them home. They have the right to return.

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The settlements must stop now. Peace cannot be waged while Palestinian land is confiscated in myriad ways and the status of the occupied territories is being decided each day by Israeli bulldozers and barbed wire.

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In the name of the Palestinian people, we wish to directly address the Israeli people, with whom we have had a prolonged exchange of pain. Let us share hope, instead. We are willing to live side by side on the land and the promise of the future. Sharing, however, requires two partners willing to share as equals. Mutuality and reciprocity ... must replace domination and hostility for genuine reconciliation and co-existence under international legality. Your security and ours are mutually dependent, as entwined as the fears and nightmares of our children.

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We will continue to strive for our sovereignty while proceeding freely and willingly to prepare the grounds for a confederation between the two states of Palestine and Jordan, which can be a cornerstone for our security and prosperity.

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Our homeland has never ceased to exist in our minds and hearts, but it has to exist as a state on all the territories occupied by Israel in the war of 1967, with Arab Jerusalem as its capital in the context of that city’s special status and its nonexclusive character. ... We are willing to accept the proposal for a transitional state ...

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Israel must demonstrate its willingness to negotiate in good faith by immediately halting all settlement activity and land confiscation ... . Without genuine progress, tangible, constructive changes, and just agreements during these bilateral talks, multilateral negotiations will be meaningless.

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The process launched here must lead us to the light at the end of the tunnel. And this light is the promise of a new Palestine - free, democratic, and respectful of human rights and the integrity of nature. Self- determination, ladies and gentlemen, can neither be granted nor withheld at the will of the political self-interests of others. For it is enshrined in all international charters and humanitarian law. We claim this right.

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Palestinians will be free and will stand tall among the community of nations in the fullness of the pride and dignity which by right belongs to all people. Today our people under occupation are holding high the olive branch of peace. In the words of Chairman Arafat in 1974 before the UN General Assembly, ″Let not the olive branch of peace fall from my hands. Let not the olive branch of peace fall from the hands of the Palestinian people.″

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