In a recent interview with the Arab-Israeli weekly Kul Al-Arab, Farouq Al-Qaddoumi, head of the PLO political bureau and secretary general of Fatah's Central Committee, expressed support for attacks inside Israel and stated that there had never been a difference between the strategies of Fatah and Hamas. He also recommended pressuring Europe with oil hikes. The following are excerpts from the interview:
"The Resistance Is Legitimate"
Question: "Do you support resistance within the 1948 areas as well [as in the occupied territories]?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "It is the Palestinian people's right to resist in all territories of the Palestinian land as long as Israel does not completely cease [its actions], and as long as it has no mercy on children, the elderly, trees, roads, institutions, and security personnel who have entered [the territories]… The resistance is legitimate; we are struggling for our national rights. It is Israel that bears the responsibility."
"… Even if there is a single shot in a month, it is good for us, because we want the emotional and social pressure in Israel to continue, so that a message will be sent to the international community that there is an alternative to third-party intervention so that we can begin to arrive at a just arrangement."
Question: "What is your opinion on martyrdom operations?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "We are fighting as a popular movement. We cannot stop every operation. We are not an army and we cannot prevent the martyrdom operations…"
Question: "Must a solution [to the Palestinian problem] come from America?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "No, not only [from America]. This problem was created by the United Nations when it decided on the partition resolution. The superpowers and the entire world are also party [to this]."
Question: "But America has a plan called the 'road map.' Have you received it and do you agree to it?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "We have many objections regarding it. It demands that the Palestinians first of all stop what they [i.e. the authors of the 'road map'] call violence and terrorism, and this means our surrender. It also proposes a temporary state, and this is strange and new; they want us to draft a constitution for a state that does not exist, while they know that Israel has no constitution; they want us to establish a committee that will oversee the elections when we do not control the territory; they want to establish a security apparatus trained by the Americans, when they know that they [the Israelis] have bombed all the security apparatuses and arrested hundreds of security personnel; they want us to make new laws regarding the elections so that Jerusalem will not be included [as a voting district]. How can elections be held under such conditions?"
Question: "This is not an American plan, but a Sharon plan."
Al-Qaddoumi: "Exactly. This is a Sharon plan, with an American rubber stamp and American wording. We cannot agree to it. Furthermore, the Americans and British are not serious about their road map proposal. They are now focusing on seeking other pretexts to bomb Iraq…"
Question: "If war with Iraq comes, what do you expect to happen?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "I think that the region will be ignited [as a result of operations] against American interests and that many Arab regimes will fall…"
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Oil As a Weapon
Question: "How can Europe be pressured to take a more aggressive and active stand?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "By using the weapon of oil. That is, by raising its price so that the people will feel the pressure, will be angry at their leadership, and will force it to play a more active role. The most important thing is to rely on the Palestinian people and the resistance, and to this end there is a need for a brave Arab leadership. Abd Al-Nasser faced three countries and defeated them, but [today] there is no Arab leadership at his level…"
Question: "There was talk of a coup [attempt] against Arafat's leadership with American support, by Fatah members, particularly Abu Mazen. What do you think about Abu Mazen's recent statements...?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "We may disagree with Abu Mazen's political views, but I don't think he tried to carry out a coup against Abu 'Ammar [Arafat], and I am the secretary-general of Fatah's Central Committee. Abu Mazen has an opinion, and we respect it. In Fatah, there are various opinions, but when a decision is made, we are all bound to it, including Abu Mazen – as I was bound to Oslo despite my objection to it."
Question: "If Oslo has failed, why don't these officials resign?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "The battle is still going on, and we must not change horsemen in mid-battle. Settling accounts during the battle is a mistake. This will be done only when the battle is over…"
Question: "Your words are puzzling to me. On the one hand, you recognize that Oslo has failed, and is over, while on the other hand, you do not demand that those who [engineered] Oslo be replaced. Have Ahmad Qurei'[Abu 'Alaa], Saeb 'Ereiqat, and others changed their opinions and ways?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "The main thing is to continue the resistance."
"The PA Is Like A Scarecrow"
Question: "But don't you see that the Palestinian Authority is disappearing?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "Yes. But it must be preserved, as a symbol. I hear people arguing amongst themselves over ministries and jobs, and I ask myself, what ministries and jobs are they talking about? Where are the institutions? This is tremendous deceit. Where are the security personnel, who have nothing to guard?"
Question: "In other words, is the PA finished?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "[The PA is like] a scarecrow, or a shed, protecting a plot of watermelons and cucumbers. There is no substitute for resistance."
"We Were Never Different From Hamas"
Question: "Then in effect your ideology is no different than that of Hamas."
Al-Qaddoumi: "We were never different from Hamas. On the contrary; [Hamas] is a national movement and is part of the national movement. Strategically, we are no different from it."
Question: "What do you think about our [Israeli Arabs'] role in the upcoming parliamentary elections?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "You must unite in order to become stronger and increase the Arab voice, which must keep resonating in the Israeli parliament…"
Question: "What do you think of the refugee problem?"
Al-Qaddoumi: "In my opinion, the refugee problem is more important than a Palestinian state. No negotiations or solution will succeed if the refugee problem is not solved. Sari Nusseibah has no political sense. He is a doctor, and political sense is in someone who has experienced pain and suffering – and the refugee has experienced this, genuinely and deeply. I personally am from Jaffa…"
In another interview, with the UAE daily Al-Bayan, Al-Qaddoumi spoke of the ongoing dialogue between the various Palestinian factions in Cairo:
"The Palestinians agree that the resistance is the natural basis for national unity and national Palestinian dialogue. The [Cairo] talks deal with the nature of future Palestinian domestic relations, [and with] managing this resistance, and in the framework of political, social, and economic relations [among the factions]…"
"There were contacts between Fatah and Hamas, and they stopped. An agreement was reached regarding the [domestic Palestinian] problems needing non-violent solutions, and both sides were satisfied with this."
"The Palestinian factions submitted various documents and the bottom line of them all was [the principle of] maintaining the resistance, which constituted a basis for discussion of the future of the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian political outline…"
"Stopping The Intifada Means Rewarding The Israelis"
"There were those who said that the talks focus on stopping the resistance, not maintaining it. But this talk is not accurate and not true. I don't think the factions of the resistance can agree to such a principle. Stopping the Intifada means rewarding the Israelis [while they are facing their] elections, and particularly [rewarding] Sharon, who has no political plan at all…"