An Interview with
The Chief of the
Hamas Political Bureau
Dr. Khalid Misha'al
"The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) does not believe in the [act of] violence that is directed against foreign embassies. However, we do believe that the U.S. policy, which is unjust and biased against the Arabs, the Muslims and other freedom-seeking peoples in the world, provides the right environment for such actions, and thus is to be held responsible for them."
The Chief of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khalid Misha'al, asserted that his movement does not believe in violence directed against foreign embassies. However, he held the United States responsible for these acts of violence.
Mr. Misha'al, who escaped an Israeli attempt on his life in September last year, said Hamas is convinced of keeping the battle against the Zionist Occupation in Palestine although it is still possible to transfer the battle elsewhere.
Following are excerpts of an interview conducted by Khalid Al-Hroub and published first in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, 10 September 1998. It is translated by Dr. Azzam Tamimi.
Question: How do you view the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar Salam?
Answer: The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) does not believe in the [act of] violence that is directed against foreign embassies. However, we do believe that the U.S. policy, which is unjust and biased against the Arabs, the Muslims and other freedom-seeking peoples in the world, provides the right environment for such actions, and thus is to be held responsible for them.
Q: In the light of the [bungled assassination] attempt on your life, has there been a change in Hamas' strategy with regard to transferring the battle outside Palestine? That is, bearing in mind that in the wake of the assassination of Muhyiddin Ash-Sharif, Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing), issued a statement in which it threatened to execute military operations against Zionist targets all over the world.
A: The arena of conflict between us and the Zionist Occupation [regime] is occupied Palestine. Hamas is still adhering to its policy of restricting the conflict to occupied Palestine. This is our legitimate right in light of the oppression and persecution our people are being subjected to. In our view, the Israeli transgression of transferring the battle to [areas] outside Palestine-through the extension of aggression to wider sectors of our people and their leaders and through the violation of the sovereignty and security of Arab and foreign countries-is a sign of weakness, not strength. The Occupation's failure to repress the resistance [of our people] inside Palestine has driven it to transfer [the battle] to the outside [of Palestine]. Hamas is not so weak as to resort to transferring the battle elsewhere. Hamas still has confidence in its people and in itself, and is still capable of resisting the occupation. It is also capable of developing the tools of resistance, especially that it emanates from just and legitimate foundations. However, I would like to point out that Hamas may indeed be able to restrain itself, its followers and recruits in accordance with the policy it believes in and commits itself to pursuing, but it does not have the means of controlling [spontaneous] popular reactions that may ensue, develop and express themselves in any other language should Israel persist in its aggression [against the Palestinian people] in all directions and in all arenas without any regard for international law, United Nations resolutions or criticism from the international community. If the world truly believes in justice and human rights, and if it recognizes the right of oppressed and persecuted peoples [to struggle for freedom], it is responsible for putting an end to Israeli crimes. So long as such crimes continue to be committed, no one can restrain the Arab and Muslim people's reactions.
Q: Many observers frequently raise questions about what Hamas expects to come of its military operations: does Hamas want to liberate Palestine based on erratic campaigns, and does it truly believe that this methodology will achieve its objectives? And what exactly are the objectives and strategies of Hamas, especially since many observers see these military operations as a hindrance to the peaceprocess that in turn hurts the Palestinian people and their cause?
Furthermore, it is only logical that a people oppressed have a legitimate right to rise against their subjugators; this is a right that peoples of the East and West, in the past and in modern times, in Europe and America, have exercised."
A: First of all, resistance must be placed within the context of legitimate rights, and then discuss the objective. Because without placing it in this context, its role in the struggle of many peoples throughout history is dwarfed. Furthermore, it is only logical that a people oppressed have a legitimate right to rise against their subjugators; this is a right that peoples of the East and West, in the past and in modern times, in Europe and America, have exercised. Therefore it is neither acceptable nor reasonable that the right of the Palestinian people to pursue what is expected of them be confiscated, particularly given that the roots of, and the reasons for, the resistance are significant, continue to exist and, in fact, have increased. The resistance of the Palestinian people is exercised within this context. Therefore, the objective of these military operations is to eliminate oppression-no more, no less. For the Palestinian people have been subjected to suppression, and the resistance seeks to remove this injustice; liberate the land and the people, and guarantee the Palestinian people's right of return. It neither makes sense nor is it just that millions of Jews emigrate from all corners of the globe to Palestine, yet the indigenous population that were forcibly expelled and live in exile or in camps cannot return to their homeland. Questions raised here should revolve around the larger challenges, around the imbalance of power in the region, around the lack of parity between the Israelis on the one hand and the Arab Palestinian side on the other, and about the ability of the resistance to succeed in achieving its objective. Hence the question [of whether military operations achieve Hamas' goals] may be valid, but it does not preclude resistance as an effectual option to attain the objective. And discussion of this idea can be approached from a number of angles.
First, history tells of no alternative to resistance that forces an oppressive occupying power to withdraw and let go of its occupation and violation of the lands of others. The use of entreaties and pleas achieves no ends or liberty, nor does it return usurped land; so why do they want the Palestinian people to be an experiment for defective options that perhaps no other people in the world would consider? Second, the language of the dominating force in the 20th century has proven that the only language it understands and affects its decisions and directions is the language of counter-force, even if the two parties are not of the same strength. And here, the strength of the people need not necessarily be equal to the strength of the occupier. Third, the other option, namely that of (a peaceful) settlement, has been tried, especially after Madrid and Oslo. This route has proven to be a total failure. The settlement, and what it has entailed of concessions, has not restored any of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians. The settlement has not persuaded the Zionist entity to make any significant concessions, nor has it prompted the sponsoring powers, especially the United States, to get involved and at the very least try to implement the agreements, despite their feebleness, that the parties to the settlement had agreed upon. What we see of negotiations and meetings proves that this process has turned into a futile exercise becauthe imbalance: one party pleads, and tdictates.Therefore, our conviction in Hamas is that the option of resistance is a legitimate right, and it is the only effective, useful route to achieving the objective, even if the path to victory takes a long time. Yet it is not true to say that the choice of resistance hinders a just settlement currently available because there is no just settlement put forward at this time. Nor do I believe that there is another solution that can be attained without resistance.
Q: Let's move on to another issue, namely Hamas' international relations. Hamas continues to be, clearly, lacking in its international relations. While maintaining some good relations at the Arab level, there is no indication that Hamas is making any effort or pursuing any activity at the international level, whether in the West (that is Europe and the United States), in Asia, or in other regions. What is Hamas' strategy in this regard, and what is the cause of this weakness?
Hamas is aware of its responsibility toward all the concerns of the Palestinian people, both Muslims and Christians, in all segments of society, and wherever they happen to be located, whether in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or in the 1948-occupied territories, or outside Palestine.
A: I would like first to point out that we have no problem with any regional or international party. Our problem lies exclusively with the Zionist Occupation in Palestine. Even the United States of America, despite its complete bias toward Israel, is not considered to be at war with us. Our movement keeps all channels open. We address the entire world based on the just cause we defend and the fundamental right we possess. Hence, Hamas emanates from an anxiousness to communicate to the rest of the world the justness of our cause. Secondly, I would like to stress that Hamas exercises resistance against occupation and practices politics and what that entails of international relations in the widest possible way. Hamas is a moderate movement in terms of its rationale, its ideology, its position and its comprehension of the factors and circumstances that determine regional and international conditions. Thus, in Hamas we believe that what adversely affects the building of international relations is not Hamas itself but rather the other parties. Hence, at the level of Arab relations, some parties were hesitant, but with time Hamas has become widely acceptable in both the Arab and Islamic regions.
Q: Hamas says that it carries a national project that encompasses all individuals and sectors within the Palestinian community, and that aims at achieving their objectives. However, its discourse seems to be restricted to the Muslims in Palestine. Where are the Christians in Hamas' reckoning?
A: Yes, Hamas carries an all-encompassing project for all the Palestinian people. Hamas is aware of its responsibility toward all the concerns of the Palestinian people, both Muslims and Christians, in all segments of society, and wherever they happen to be located, whether in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or in the 1948-occupied territories, or outside Palestine. Some within the PLO have attempted in the past to cast doubt on the Hamas position vis-à-vis the Palestinian Christians. They even tried to obstruct Hamas' interaction with the Christians. However, it has been proven during the years of the intifadah, as well as through political dealings and field interactions, that there was never a problem in Hamas' dealings with the Christian sector of our people. There is evidence in numerous stances known to everyone inside and outside Palestine. I would like to stress that no obstacle, or tension, exists within Hamas regarding the Christians. After all, they too are our people, and they share with us the responsibility and the suffering. Hamas' programme and national project do not exclude our people's Christians in any way, just as they do not exclude the various elements of the Palestinian spectrum from the right to the left, including the forging of alliances and pacts with the ten Palestinian factions and various other Palestinian groups.As for the mechanisms of inclusion, which some have been asking about, I believe that the Hamas project, which is developing and progressing, and the advancement in its organizational structures, will one day be capable of translating the movement's convictions in this matter into a practical formula. Hamas is a horizontally and vertically deep-rooted organization that expresses the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people wherever they may be living. Such a well-placed, deep-rooted, organization, whose programme and project are founded on credibility and adherence to the option of resistance, is here to remain. Hamas, together with other Palestinian political forces, contributes-perhaps more than anyone else does-to outlining the Palestinian future. Those who insist on dealing with this cause both at present and in the future, while ignoring Hamas, are in fact missing the future option.
"It seems the United State has lost its mind and lost its balance. It doesn't know to what it is reacting. We warn the United States that it will certainly harvest the fruits of its bloody aggression (US strike)."
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Hamas Founder & Spiritual leader
Special to MECRA
Dr. Mousa Mohammad Abu Marzouk
Hamas Political Leader