Here we reprint an interview with KHALID MESHA’AL, leader of the Hamas politburo, given during talks between different Palestinian groups in Cairo last month.
A: Abu-Mazen’s statement about "demilitarising" the Intifada is nothing new, and it is not accepted by the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen’s words come at a time when the Palestinians are suffering deeply from the brutality of the Israeli forces. Attacks are increasing, and consequently so is the demolition of houses, destruction of all manner of infrastructure and the killing of our people. Israeli forces have also started mutilating the bodies of our martyrs, as they did in Beit Hanoun. Is this the appropriate time to ask the Palestinians to give in? Would it not have been more appropriate to ask the Palestinians to continue their struggle and support them in their fight? We are not launching an attack on the Israelis, we are exercising our legal right to self-defence.
Thus, I believe Abu-Mazen’s call is neither practically nor politically logical. It would have been better for Abu-Mazen, or any other Arab official, to call on Israeli forces to halt their attacks against the Palestinians.
A; No, they are all labels and differentiating between them is not realistic. To speak of demilitarisation without ending the Intifada is nonsense. In 1987, the Palestinians started their Intifada as a peaceful move using only stones. However, Israeli cruelty in responding to our stones pushed us naturally to try to develop our means to using Molotov cocktails, knives and guns, and when the Israelis committed a massacre in Hebron’s mosque in 1994, Palestinians began their ‘suicide attacks’. It is obvious that the development of the Intifada was a natural response to the Israelis’ escalation in the use of force against our people.
The same thing is happening in today’s Intifada. It started as a peaceful movement, but with increased Israeli aggression, our people have had to develop their means as well. Any talk about a peaceful Intifada is entirely theoretical. Dozens of our people are killed every day for no reason other than throwing stones. What should we expect from family members who see their loved ones killed before their very eyes? In short, I think it is a call to halt the Intifada — not only the armed resistance, as they suggest.
This is mainly due to the extensive support Hamas enjoys among Palestinians as a result of its backing the resistance and efforts to defend the legal rights of our people. But still, the aggression is so vast as to touch on all sectors of Palestinian society. It was tragic to hear a 95-year-old man describe how he saw his son killed.
It could also be that Israeli forces are directing new operations at Hamas members, as they say they are, while they are, in fact, attacking everyone.
It is an open war, and this is why the call for demilitarising the Intifada is a big mistake: it will not halt the Israeli invasion. Giving the Palestinians their rights is not on the Israeli agenda at all. Sharon wants to break our will and destroy our steadfastness.
A: Abu-Mazen hoped that participation by the other factions in the Cairo talks would lead them to support his call for demilitarisation. When this did not happen, he went ahead and announced his initiative, saying it came from the PA so as to impose a de facto position on Palestinian factions. However, this policy did not work because our people have not given in to the status quo, because the status quo was not created by the Palestinians. It is not even a policy created by Abu-Mazen, but rather a policy by [Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon. Moreover, even if it is a PA strategy, there is actually a split within Fatah. Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, did not agree to the demilitarisation option. Besides, it is not only Al-Aqsa, there is also Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as us in Hamas. None of us agrees to this call, we insist on continuing our resistance for our self-defence. What is really annoying is that such a call is coming from those who did not participate in the Intifada in the first place.
A: The Palestinians are currently witnessing great losses. In the meantime, the world is preoccupied with talk of a possible war on Iraq and US preparations for it. We are all aware of the ongoing developments in the international arena, but the question is, what is the alternative? Will a halt to our resistance allow us to stand up for our cause against the aggressors and enable us to stop their attacks? Yasser Arafat announced more than once the suspension of the Intifada. The resistance movements, for their part, declared a truce, but these periods saw the highest number of casualties. Thus we are left with no option but resistance.
The Arab position we expect in such circumstances should be in our favour. The Arabs are expected to support us in our struggle because we have no other option but to remain steadfast.
These are not theories, but facts and realities. For example when Israeli forces invaded Nablus this week, they killed eight of our people, destroyed 300 houses and their contents. To pull themselves out of this quagmire, Palestinians should — as Mossad pamphlets distributed in the territories told us — surrender their fighters whom the Israelis have labelled "terrorists"? The people in Nablus refused the entire idea, calling the men the basis of their "honour" and saying, "we will never give them up."
Thus steadfastness is our one and only choice. Any other solution is suicidal and would invite our enemy to do more to humiliate our people.
A: We are not relying on Arab countries, we only call upon our nation — it is up to our people to decide whether to support us.
One day the Arab nation will realise its mistake in adopting unilateral solutions to our [Arab] issues. As I have said before, we are targeted by the Zionists and by the Americans. This alliance between the American Christian-right trend that opts for global hegemony and the Zionist lobby, which is igniting the war against the Arabs and the Muslims, is primarily meant to degrade us. This aggression is targeting our nation, and any unilateral attempts to solve the conflict of one country outside the framework of the whole nation is suicidal. Things are going by turn, and will ultimately hit us all. Our only way out is solidarity.
[Courtesy: Al-Ahram Weekly, February 27-March 5, 2003.]