August 19, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 964

An Interview with Hamas Leader Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahar

August 19, 2005
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 964

The following are excerpts from an interview with Hamas leader, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, which appeared in Asharq Al-Awsat on August 18, 2005: [1]

The Resistance Must Move to the West Bank to Expel the Occupation; The Tahdiah Scheduled to Finish at the End of 2005

Q: "Will Hamas continue the resistance after the disengagement plan is implemented?"

A: "Our plan is not to liberate the Gaza Strip, nor is it to liberate the West Bank or to liberate Jerusalem. Our plan in the first stage is to liberate the lands occupied in 1967. Those who view it as a strategic solution and those who view it as an interim solution have agreed upon this plan. Therefore, we will not take over the Gaza Strip and live there peacefully while the Zionist enemy is detaining thousands of our sons and occupying the West Bank. The resistance must move to the West Bank to expel the occupation."

Q: "Will the calming down [ Tahdiah ] end with the completion of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip?"

A: "The tahdiah is scheduled to finish at the end of 2005. It was contingent on the release of the prisoners and stopping the attacks. Israel has not abided by these conditions. Our goal was not to hit Israel for the sake of hitting Israel, but to attack the occupation. I stress that the resistance was what drove the occupation out of the Gaza Strip."

Q: "Will Hamas resume its operations in Israeli towns after the withdrawal?"

A: "Firstly, there are no Israeli towns. These are settlements. If the aggression and occupation continue, the Palestinian people will have no alternative but to defend themselves. The Palestinian people are not killing the occupiers or being killed out of fun or madness. The life spent by our generation in killing, imprisonment, and exile is not the life that we want for our sons. We want them to live in security and peace and to live in a homeland in which they are able to move and not to live as slaves of the Israeli enemy."

Q: "In other words, the resistance of Hamas in the future will be in response to Israeli actions."

A: "No, our position depends on two things: the withdrawal from the Palestinian territories and the extent of the aggression against the Palestinian people."

We Will Not Recognize a State Called Israel; Israel Has No Right to an Inch of Palestinian Land; Our Position Stems from Religious Convictions

Q: "You talk about attacks on the Palestinian territories as if you recognize the existence of Israel."

A: "I strongly disagree with your statement. We do not and will not recognize a state called Israel. Israel has no right to any inch of Palestinian land. This is an important issue. Our position stems from our religious convictions. This is a holy land. It is not the property of the Palestinians or the Arabs. This land is the property of all Muslims in all parts of the world. We regard the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and the West Bank as a geographical unit, as mentioned by resolutions 242 and 338, which have not been implemented. We are currently talking about this area."

Q: "Let us talk about the relationship between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Has there been friction recently?"

A: "When Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was elected, we started talks. Some people in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority told Abu Mazen that he was giving Hamas more than it deserved at the expense of Fatah, and that his policy was leading to the destruction of Fatah, as proven by the success of Hamas in the first and second rounds of the municipal elections. They claimed that we fixed the elections. This was a joke, because no opposition has been able to rig elections.

"Some officials of the Palestinian Authority told Abu Mazen that they could resolve the situation with Hamas militarily. The Interior Ministry, under Nasr Yusuf, issued leaflets saying that anyone firing rockets at the Zionist enemy will be shot. This was an attempt to repeat what happened in 1996 to protect the Israeli borders, arrest those who fire rockets, and confiscate the weapons. Nasr Yusuf was engaged in a confrontation around the Jabalya refugee camp area and deployed armoured vehicles, which the Palestinian people had not seen before. However, he quickly realized that he could not resolve the situation militarily. Now, they are seeking dialogue, and we welcome that."

We Will Keep Our Weapons, Because No-one Can Guarantee That the Occupation Will Not Return

Q: "In his recent speech in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Abu Mazen was unyielding."

A: "We responded to the speech. He said that only one authority should exist, and we want one authority. However, regrettably, the only authority that exists is the authority of Israel. Neither Abu Mazen nor Nasr Yusuf can move from here to there without the permission of the Israeli army. We want a single Palestinian authority, but a strong authority can only exist through elections. Do we have security services and ministries to form an alternative authority? We want a single authority, but we do not want it to be corrupt.

"We want an elected authority that represents all the Palestinian people and not an authority that disputes with the people about their livelihood. They are excluding the members of Hamas from jobs in the educational, health, and other fields. In such conditions, we cannot talk about an authority, but about authoritarian rule. If the Palestinian people have rejected Israel's oppression, do you think that they will accept Palestinian oppression?

"There is confusion between the resistance and the chaos caused by the struggle in the Fatah movement. The only legitimate weapon is the weapon of resistance which does not kill innocent people and it not used to resolve factional or family disputes. This weapon forced the occupation to withdraw. We will keep our weapons, because no one can guarantee that the occupation will not return. We hear the threats of the occupation throughout the day and at night. Which do you consider is the legitimate weapon? Is it the weapon that disappeared during the confrontation period, and is used in celebrations, or is it the weapon used to maintain steadfastness and defend the people? Is it the weapon that has driven the enemy out or the weapon that is defending the enemy?"

Q: "Is Hamas interested in seizing power?"

A: "I do not accept the word 'seize'… On the issue of education, we want to teach the people our history, and we insist that the people must learn the Quran. Even if the Quran attacks the Jews in some of its verses, the people must read it. We cannot agree to the manipulation of the Quran and the religion. We are against any economic cooperation with Israel. We want a local Palestinian economy so that others do not influence it. We want investment, but without kickbacks, bribes, and commissions. If we can make the interest rate zero in this economy, based on Arab, Islamic, and international investment, then this would be an achievement. We want to spread the culture of resistance. We want tourism, but tourism of a people that have dignity. We will change the names of the settlements to represent the martyrs who died attacking them. We will tell the tourists that the honest rifle was able to achieve victory."

We Will Participate in the Elections Based on a Program to End the Oslo Accords

Q: "Does Hamas have a plan to assume power?"

A: "Only through elections."

Q: "Hamas did not participate in the first legislative elections because it regarded them as the product of the Oslo Agreement. What changes have taken place to prompt Hamas to change its position?"

A: "The Legislative Council used to be called the Palestinian Council. It was not legislative. It consisted of 88 members. We were talking then about a transitional period. Now we are talking about a liberation period and 132 representatives. I guess the current setup is the product of the Oslo Accords and the situation we find ourselves in the product of the British Mandate and the ongoing Israeli occupation. We will participate in the elections based on a program to end the Oslo Accords."

Q: "Will Hamas participate in the presidential elections?"

A: "What is the problem in that? We represent an alternative to the Authority. We want to serve the people, and the people want servants and not masters. We are part of a larger movement called the international Islamic movement."

Q: "Israelis fear that Gaza could become the land of Hamas after the withdrawal."

A: "Let Israel die."

Q: "Is this an encouragement for the Palestinian Authority to clamp down on Hamas with an iron fist?"

A: "No one can crackdown on us with either an iron fist or a golden fist."…

Q: "Have you prepared to enter the settlements?"

A: "We will enter the settlements and sully the dignity of Israel with our feet. We will stand on the ruins of the Israeli settlements and tell our people we have prevailed. This is nonnegotiable. We will secure the Gaza Strip and prevent anyone from occupying it again. In past experiences, government land was stolen.

"The land of the evacuated settlements should serve as the lungs for the economy to breath. Schools, playgrounds, agriculture, and industry should be established on this land. This is our position, which we expressed in the meeting of the national committee formed to oversee the withdrawal. The government to be formed after the elections will determine the future of this land. "

Q: "In other words, there is an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas about the future of the settlements' land."

A: "Yes. The Palestinian Authority has the right to manage the land after consulting with the committee which consists of representatives of the national and Islamic factions. "

Q: "Is there a plan for Hamas leaders abroad to return to Gaza?"

A: "We will never give up our right of return. All of Palestine is our land. When any part of it is liberated, any Palestinian and Muslim will have the right to come. This does not mean that this is consistent with the current Israeli withdrawal from Gaza."

Q: "Therefore, will the leaders of Hamas abroad return to Palestine?"

A: "This is up to them. However, the Hamas movement has international dimensions and relations that it must maintain. Therefore, those who maintain these relations must stay abroad. "

All the Europeans We Have Met Admit the European Position is Hypocritical and Subservient to U.S. Pressure

Q: "What is the relationship… between Hamas and Europe?"

A: "All the Europeans that we have met admit that the European position is hypocritical and subservient to U.S. pressure. They look forward to freeing themselves from such pressures. If you want democracy to express the will of the Palestinian people, wait for the results of the elections. If you regard the Palestinian liberation movement, of which Hamas is part, as a terrorist movement, you must look at history. Was De Gaulle a terrorist? Were those who worked to liberate their countries from occupation terrorists? We do not consider the West as an enemy but we believe Christian Zionism is criminal."

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