Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat recently gave an interview to Saida Hamad, the Ramallah correspondent for the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat. Arafat made a comparison between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Al-Hudaybiyya agreement made by the Prophet Muhammad and the Meccan tribe of Quraish. He stated that no one can abolish the right of return and that the Wailing Wall has no connection to the Jewish Temple. The following are excerpts from the interview:
"O Allah, Give Me Martyrdom"
Hamad: "It is known that the Israeli army planned to expel you from the Palestinian territories, to a remote area."
Arafat: "To a remote area! That is, to the desert! They are most welcome. 'O Mountain! the wind cannot shake you.' Have you forgotten my motto? They will not take me captive or prisoner, or expel [me], but as a martyr, martyr, martyr. 'O Allah, give me martyrdom.' [The Prophet Muhammad said:] 'There still exists a group in my nation that preserves its religion, vanquishes its enemy, and is not harmed by any one who attack it, and its people are the victors, due to Allah's strength.' It was said [to the Prophet Muhammad], 'O Messenger of Allah, where are they and who are [these people]?' The Prophet answered: 'They are in Jerusalem and its surroundings, and they are at the forefront until Judgment Day.'"
Hamad: "During the time you had been under siege, the people came to your aid and swore a new oath of allegiance [to you]. Also, polls showed that 60% of Palestinians would vote for you."
Arafat: "Sixty percent is a lot. I'd settle for 55%."
Hamad: "But 80% support the continuation of the Intifada and armed operations."
Arafat: "Does anyone think that our people will surrender to this occupation, this destruction, and this siege? We as leadership and as a people still cling to the peace of the brave, which we signed with my late partner Rabin, who paid for the peace of the brave [with his life] to the extremist elements who today [are at] the highest positions of the [present] regime in Israel. Peace on the land of peace and on the holy lands is not just for the Palestinians, but for the entire world, for our children and their children."
Hamad: "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is now offering a phased solution. Do you agree to a repeat of the Oslo experiment?"
Arafat: "There are resolutions that must be carried out. And there are agreements that must be implemented."
Hamad: "Would you again accept a phased agreement?"
Arafat: "These things will be presented to the Palestinian National Council, and it will decide."
Hamad: "A policy of establishing facts on the ground is being imposed by the Sharon government, in order to change the demographic reality. [This is being carried out by] by annexing one plot of land, and another plot of land, with the Palestinians still seeking to implement the international resolutions."
Arafat: "Is this the first time? Didn't they, in the U.N., cancel Resolution 181? When Golda Meir came to the Suez Canal and was asked about the Palestinian people, didn't she reply, 'There is no Palestinian people.' This Palestinian people has been dealing with this since Sykes-Picot, and even before, since the Zionist Congress in Basle, with this [Zionist] program, defending this holy land and the holy sites in it."
Hamad: "Sari Nusseibah, in charge of the Jerusalem portfolio, signed a document with Israeli elements from the Left which includes abolishing the Palestinian refugees' right of return to their homes from which they were expelled."
"No One Can Abolish the Right of Return"
Arafat: "No one can abolish the right of return. There is Resolution 194. I told them this officially in the [framework of] the agreements signed between them and us, and also to Sharon and Netanyahu at Wye River."
Hamad: "The Palestinian court decided to free Popular Front's Secretary-General Ahmad Sa'dat, and to this day the decision has not been implemented. How long will he remain a prisoner?"
Arafat: "Don't forget how they assassinated his brother, falsely and aggressively. He was a wretched man, uninvolved in political activity. [Sa'dat's] deputy Abd Al-Rahim Malouh, a member of the [Popular Front's) Executive Committee, is in prison. Sa'dat and [Fuad] Al-Shobaki are not in prison; they are under American-European auspices in Jericho for a while until the problem is solved."
Hamad: "This agreement is a precedent for foreign intervention in an internal Palestinian matter."
Arafat: "Did I hand them over to the Israelis?"
Hamad: "You didn't hand over Al-Tirawi, nor Abu 'Awadh, [as] this time there was no agreement." "Do you think that the two agreements [regarding the Church of the Nativity crisis] were a mistake?"
Arafat: "In one of the battles of Al-Mu'ta, [waged] at the beginning of Islam, the first commander, the second commander, and the third commander were martyred. The fourth commander, Khaled Ibn Al-Walid, decided to retreat. When he returned, the people were angry with him. But the Prophet named him [in praise] 'The Drawn Sword of Allah.' Don't forget that difficult decisions are made in battle, but in the end what is most important is that a boy from among our boys and a girl from among our girls will wave the banner of Palestine over the churches, walls, and towers of Jerusalem. They see this as far, but we see it as coming, and truth is with us… 'They will enter the mosque as they entered it for the first time' (Koran, Al-Israa, 7)."
Hamad: "Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres declared that the internal reforms in the Palestinian Authority would topple the Authority."
Arafat: "Was it he who decided on reforms, or was it I who announced the reforms in a speech to the [Palestinian] Legislative Council? If the reforms topple me, then the reforms are welcome; I am not conducting reforms for my own sake but for the holy cause."
Hamad: "[The issue of] Jerusalem is the one that torpedoed the talks at the Camp David summit. And now it is…"
Arafat: "Not only Jerusalem. It is true that they wanted to take what was beneath the Haram, and that we would have what was above it. This was the proposal. And that they would control the Armenian Quarter. I said to them that I would not betray the Armenians. Also, [they wanted] to control the Gethsemane Church and the area around it, because they want to built settlements there. This, in addition to their control of the border with Egypt and the border with Jordan. Immediately upon my return [from Camp David], I convened the Jerusalem Committee for a meeting and presented this [proposal] to them, [saying,] if you agree, I will tell them yes, and if you refuse, so will I."
Hamad: "Today, on the pretext of cracks in the Western Wall of the Haram, the Sharon government is trying to intervene in the affairs of the Waqf."
"The Temple Was Not in Palestine"
Arafat: "This is most dangerous. And it is not the first time. For 34 years they have dug tunnels, the most dangerous of which is the great tunnel. They found not a single stone proving that the Temple of Solomon was there, because historically the Temple was not in Palestine [at all]. They found only remnants of a shrine of the Roman Herod. Now they have prevented the [Ministry of] Religious Endowments from monitoring the renovation of the southern wall of the Haram. But we are following this matter in an international framework, and you will see that the entire world is on our side in this matter…"
Hamad: "The Israeli army commanders boasted that they defeated the Palestinians and added that they want the Palestinians to acknowledge [this] defeat."
Hamad: "The Palestinian street is insulted when the Authority issues a statement condemning the armed operations. After all, the Palestinians say that this is a natural response to the reality of the occupation in the heart of their country, so why do you condemn the resistance?"
On the Al-Hudaybiyya Agreement
Arafat: "Because there is a need to honor the decisions emanating from the Palestinian leadership. I gave you two examples - the Battle of Al-Mu'ta and the Hudaybiyya agreement. No one has the right to violate the decisions of the leadership."
Hamad: "But the Palestinians say that it is self-defense."
Arafat: "We are the ones who decide, as the leadership. Particularly since I cannot agree, in the capacity of my military and Islamic-religious honor, to kill a woman in the street or in a café or [to kill] a civilian or a child or [a student] at university…"
Hamad: "Also there were [Palestinian] condemnations when soldiers and settlers were killed."
Arafat: "No. Let's be accurate. Don't start in with [pointless] questions and answers because I will outsmart you. I am the one who issues the decisions, together with the leadership, and I am the one who decides who the leadership is. When I was an officer in the Egyptian army, I did not act on my own. I carried out orders. In 1973 when the three of us, the Egyptians, the Syrians, and the Palestinians, took part in the war, the leadership was in the hands of the commander of the Egyptian army. I commanded my area and in every matter acted in coordination with the commander of the three armies who was the Egyptian commander. I will give you another example. In 1981 when the battle in southern Lebanon took place and the international forces came and we agreed on a ceasefire, we stopped [firing]. There is a decision that everyone must honor."
Hamad: "What about the dialogue with the Islamic movement, particularly the [Hamas] movement?"
Arafat: "The dialogue continues and there are brothers who are following the matter."
 The 628 Al-Hudaybiyya agreement, between the Prophet and the Meccan tribe of Quraish, was signed for a period of 10 years, which became, in Islamic tradition, the time limit for any agreement with non-Muslims. The Al-Hudaybiyya agreement was broken after 18 months. Muhammad's army then conquered Mecca.