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Synthesis/Regeneration 30   (Winter 2003)

Hamas Interview with Jamal Abu Alhija

by Andrew C. Kennis,
Independent Media Center of New York City

Hamas Interview with Jamal Abu Alhija by Andrew C. Kennis, Independent Media Center of New York City

[Andrew Kennis] I am here with a leader from Hamas in the middle of the Jenin refugee camp, and my first question was going to be, what is Hamas? This is an especially important question because most Americans have one idea of Hamas, and that is crazy, terrorist, Islamic people. I wanted to hear from him a more accurate and comprehensive picture of Hamas.

[Jamal Abu Alhija] In fact, Hamas is a Palestinian movement and it was founded to help the Palestinian people here, to help them realize their rights. It is a movement that has introduced many activities, not only political activities, but also educational activities, sanitation projects, sports programs and social projects. In terms of cultural activities, Hamas has been active in maintaining sports programs. Hamas has contributed to many activities in the Palestinian society. We have also participated in many workshops, conferences and conventions in calling for the peace process. During this Intifada, Hamas has done excellent work and has distinguished itself from other Palestinian movements and groups.

We are against the occupation because we see our friends and our sons killed by the Israeli army…

[AK] What are the differences?

[JAA] A lot of people belong to Hamas – it is a mass movement. Hamas has organized mass demonstra-tions and the people have reacted positively to such demonstrations, which have been against the Israeli occupation. They have also reacted positively to the other social and cultural activities that Hamas has engaged in.

The first phase of [this second] Intifada, was to engage in peaceful demonstrations. However, the Israeli army killed our sons, our brothers and wounded thousands of our people. And they killed a lot of people. I want to clarify that Hamas is against the occupation. We are against the occupation because we see our friends and our sons killed by the Israeli army…our trees and our lands have been taken by the Israelis in light of this aggression and with these victims, we have found ourselves obliged to fight and struggle against the Israeli soldiers.

…we have found ourselves obliged to fight and struggle against the Israeli soldiers.

We are obliged to undertake operations inside Israel, to stop the Israeli aggression. We don’t like to do this, but we have found ourselves obliged to do as much, to defend our sons, our lands, our people in our struggle against the occupation.

The Hamas movement wants to find a strategy as to how to fight the Israelis. The strategy that we have found to work now, is to sneak our people into Israel and to undertake operations. The last strong operation was near the Haifa airport, which was very successful against Israeli politics. Another successful operation was undertaken in Jerusalem by Azardine Amazray, which killed 22 or 25 people or so. Actually, we don’t know exactly how many people were killed, but whatever the numbers may be, we want to match the same level of Israeli aggression.

We also organized our members to fight against the last Jenin invasion and many other previous invasions by the Israeli army. You can visit many houses inside the camp and you will discover that Hamas has a lot of martyrs and brave fighters that Jenin depends upon.

[AK] He means that there have been a lot of resistance fighters from Hamas who have defended Jenin?

[Translator] Yes, exactly, they have defended Jenin in resisting the occupation.

[AK] But something that some people criticize is that resistance should only be inside the green line. These people say if they only resisted within the green line that their cause could look better, less terrorist and more legitimate and that they could then get more support.

[JAA] In the first year of the second Intifada, Hamas did not undertake any operations inside Israel. In the previous Intifada, the first one, in 1987, Hamas also did not undertake any operations. At the same time, the Israelis killed many of our people. Hamas has been obliged to do this for many reasons.

The first reason is that the people here have been repressed by Israeli politics. If you remember, during the first Intifada, they followed the breaking of arms politics by Yitzhak Rabin. This is during the first Intifada. The second reason is that the Israeli government refused to comply with any important United Nations resolutions. For example, Israel failed to implement 242, 338 and 198. Another reason is that the investigation committee from the United Nations that was supposed to investigate the recent invasion was blocked by the Israeli government.

[AK] Everybody agrees that the UN resolutions should be implemented, everybody agrees that Israeli aggression is wrong.

For one, Palestinians die, the bombers. Secondly, they have the terrorist excuse, they can more easily accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists. So they question whether it is tactically effective.

These people are often dismayed about the fact that these bombers are often young—young kids.

[JAA] Let me give you some good examples. For instance, Hezbollah.

The Israeli soldiers withdrew from these lands [southern Lebanon] not because of the UN resolutions, but because of Hezbollah being successfully able to scare the Israeli soldiers out of Lebanon, only through strikes.

Also, if you want to wait for the world to solve this problem and to ask Israel to leave our land, this will not work. The Israeli government does not care, they just want to continue to occupy our land.

Another example is the Golan Heights, Syria’s land. This has been occupied territory by Israel since 1967. And what has the world done about this problem? Nothing. If we wait for Israel to do something, or for the world to force it to do something, we cannot solve any problem. If the Israeli government does not want to obey or to implement the UN resolutions, what can we do?

In Judaism, in Christianity and in Islam there are scriptures that allow for self-defense. We are only defending ourselves.

In response to the point on young people: Yes, most of the young men that did these operations inside of Israel range from about 18 to 20. These people did these operations because in their previous experience, they had done good work and have excellent enthusiasm.

[AK] Are they volunteers or are they chosen?

[JAA] Both volunteers from inside and outside the organization have done these operations. They do these operations as a result of the Israeli aggressions. When they hear that the Israelis have killed two Palestinians, or 10 Palestinians, or when Israel commits crimes such as the invasion of the Jenin refugee camp, they volunteer.

The members of this movement want to do something, because they want revenge; because the Israelis killed their brothers and their sons.

[Raheb, another Hamas member who sat in on the interview] I want to make a point about the operations against “innocent Israelis.” They are not innocent. They are not innocent because when Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, called auxiliary soldiers, they are not official soldiers. They are [not?] innocent because as you know, military work is obligatory in Israel. When he called upon the auxiliary soldiers, within one hour, they arrived with their tanks, their planes and started to kill our sons and brothers inside Jenin camp.

Lastly, there are scriptures for self-defense in three major religions. In Judaism, in Christianity and in Islam there are scriptures that allow for self-defense. We are only defending ourselves.

[AK] I wanted to ask Jamal what he thinks the meaning of Jenin is, that is, what people can learn about the Israeli government.

[JAA] The first thing I want to mention is that from this battle in Jenin, against the occupation and the Israeli soldiers, that from this battle in Jenin, Sharon will learn that this land belongs only to Palestinians. Even if he does a lot more criminal acts, more attacks against our people, I will not respond with telling our people to leave our lands, to leave their lands. As he puts it, the “transfers.”

This state terrorism from Sharon and the Israeli soldiers will not make the people here inside the West Bank and Gaza leave their lands. We will stay here. We will continue to stand and sit down, to sleep and to grow, and to live in our houses.

For example, in the last invasion of Jenin, the Israeli soldiers asked the people to leave their houses. They asked the civilians to leave their houses so that the Israeli soldiers could destroy our camp. But they refused. They want to stand with the people who are struggling against the occupation. They don’t want to leave us alone. Because they are part of us. And they believe that these are our lands, and not for Sharon or the Israeli people.

So, the first lesson from this battle, that the Israeli people and Sharon learned is that this land belongs to Palestinians, not to Israel, and that we will not leave this land. We will stay, forever!

Sharon and the Israeli people should not ignore the results of these invasions. Sharon entered and invaded the Palestinian lands to kill and to destroy the infrastructure of the people in the struggle against the occupation. Not to destroy terrorism, because it is [not?] terrorism, but instead a struggle against the occupation.

After Sharon finished the invasion, the struggle responded to this crime and we undertook more activities against state terrorism.

So I want to point out to the American and English people that they look out only from one eye. … The support of the US and Europe has killed innocent people.

So it is a cycle that Sharon cannot win. If Sharon will return here again, we will respond with more operations. It is useless, these kind of politics that Sharon engages in.

[AK] So what do you think people from outside of Palestine and Israel can learn about Sharon from the invasion?

[JAA] The first lesson from the Jenin battle that the Arab people should learn, is that little persons struggled alone against the occupation and the Israeli soldiers for about 10 days and we killed Israeli soldiers. We did what all the other Arab countries did not do and should have done.

I have a message for the European and American people. It’s hopeless, I suppose, to transmit this message to them, but here it is. I will clarify first though, that the Palestinian people were expelled by Israeli forces in 1948 to camps, such as here, in Jenin refugee camp. And then they came in 2002, in this new century, they came again to fight again against people that were expelled by Israeli forces.

So I want to point out to the American and English people that they look out only from one eye. They close the other eye and both of their ears. The support of the US and Europe has killed innocent people.

Most of the people who were killed inside the camp, were killed by untrained Israeli soldiers, by auxiliary soldiers. That is, the people of the Jenin camp were mostly killed by “innocent” Israeli people.

[AK] Would Hamas end all operations inside of Israel if it had a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and a right of return, a limited right of return and East Jerusalem as the capital? Would that be enough to satisfy the demands of Hamas?

[JAA] We can accept and be satisfied with this solution, that is, with the ’67 lands and to have some people returned as refugees to their houses. We can be satisfied with this. In this scenario, we will then be a peaceful political party that object to our government in peaceful means, not by force, like now. So as a phase one, we can accept.

But that is as a preliminary phase and not a permanent solution. You see, this man, [looking to his left at another Hamas member] this man’s village is inside of Israel. And I cannot convince this man that his village will be finished and will always belong to the Israeli people. One day, they should return our lands.

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