Top Hamas official Osama Hamdan recently dismissed Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports that Hamas was committing human rights violations against Palestinians, including executions and torture. In the English-language interview, which was broadcast by the Al-Jazeera network on January 27, Hamdan said that Hamas, along with all the Palestinian organizations, had agreed in 2006 "to build a Palestinian state on the lines of June 4, 1967, including Jerusalem." Pressed by the interviewer on whether Hamas would accept a two-state solution if Israel accepted a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, he said that "If they did that, they would create a chance, and then the Palestinian elected government would decide what the next step would be, and we will be okay with that." Hamdan also denied that Hamas attacked civilian targets in Israel, saying that "most of the people who were killed were soldiers, even if they were on buses."
Interviewer: What is your end goal, as of 2017? Is it the elimination of Israel, as documented in your charter, or is it some form of pragmatic two-state solution?
Osama Hamdan: Well, I have to say clearly that we in Hamas want to liberate the Palestinian lands, and we want an independent sovereign state for the Palestinians, with the return of all the refugees and Jerusalem as the capital of our state. Everyone knows that all the Palestinian organizations have agreed on the Palestinian national document, which was signed in 2006. In 2006, we all said in this document that as Palestinians, we want to build a Palestinian state, on the lines of June 4, 1967, including Jerusalem, with the right of return of the Palestinians. This is a national Palestinian goal, agreed by all Palestinian organizations.
Interviewer: What you are saying is that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state - an independent state - in the occupied territories, in what the world considers occupied... Hold on... in the West Bank and Gaza. You would accept a state on the 1967 lines... Is that a temporary solution, or is that a long-term solution?
Osama Hamdan: Well, it depends on the Israeli behavior. If they accepted that and acted in a positive way - that would be something else. But if they insist all the time on being occupiers, to take over the lands, to take over Jerusalem, no one will accept that, and no one will stay [silent], watching this.
Interviewer: Assume they do back off, assume that the Israelis are okay with an independent state on the West Bank and Gaza - will Hamas be okay with that?
Osama Hamdan: If they did that, they would create a chance, and then the Palestinian elected government would decide what the next step would be, and we will accept that.
We are not killing our people.
Interviewer: Osama Hamdan, Amnesty International did a report in 2015, with lots of facts, figures, names, and dates. It's not just Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch said last year: Hamas "summarily executed alleged Palestinian traitors, engaged in arbitrary arrests, torture of detainees," and "helped fire thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centers." Those are all potential war crimes.
Osama Hamdan: Well let's separate the issues.
Osama Hamdan: What we have done in our resistance against the occupation is not a war crime. We were defending our own people, the Israelis were launching hundreds of thousands of rockets against the Palestinians, and in turn, we reacted against that. So this is not a war crime. That was our defense against the Israeli war crime towards our people in Gaza. Interviewer: Palestinians who say they have been tortured by Hamas - do you dismiss them? Osama Hamdan: No, we don't torture them. We don't torture the Palestinians, and we have said clearly that Amnesty International are welcome if they want to visit Gaza. They are welcome to ask the people directly. They are welcome to see everywhere if that was true or not.
Interviewer: Does Hamas still support suicide operations?
Osama Hamdan: Well, let's ask this question first: What is the problem in that - the bomb or the suicide action? If it is the bomb, let's ask what is the meaning of sending hundreds of thousands of rockets against the Palestinians and their houses, their buildings, their offices, their streets, and their markets. Is that a terrorist action, or because it is Israel, no one is asking questions? As Palestinians, we don't have aircrafts, we don't have tanks...
Interviewer: Okay, so put aside the tactics. You made that point...
Osama Hamdan: We don't have clever weapons, so we use what we have.
Interviewer: What about the targets? Buses, pizza restaurants, public squares...
Osama Hamdan: If you went back through the targets, you will find that most of the people who were killed were soldiers, even if they were in buses, even if they were in other places. The idea is simply that there is an occupation, which is attacking our people, killing our people. This occupation must understand... The political leadership of this occupation, the military leadership of this occupation, have to understand that they can't kill our people without paying a price for that. We believe that the people there must make the needed pressure on their leadership to withdraw. This is the idea. If we had wanted to target civilians as civilians, other targets would be attacked, like cinemas or football stadiums. This did not happen. No one attacked such targets, because the targets were not the civilians. The targets were the militants who were using the buses.
It is not our problem that the Israeli militants are hiding themselves among the civilians. It is not our problem that the Israeli militants are using the buses. It is not our problem when the Israeli militants go to the market with their weapons...
Interviewer: That's the Israeli line. When they bomb Gaza, they say the same thing about you. They say Hamas is hiding with civilians.
Osama Hamdan: No, that is not true, because they bomb the houses.
Interviewer: You bomb the buses...
Osama Hamdan: I was clear: If we wanted to target civilians, we would attack clear civilian places. This did not happen. This is easier and simpler, but we did not do that. We were attacking even the soldiers.
Interviewer: Just to be clear: Does Hamas still support suicide operations on the other side of the Green Line?
Osama Hamdan: To be clear: We believe that it is our right to resist the occupation. We will need what we believe is the right tactic in doing that.