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A struggle to realise Palestinian hopes
by Atul Aneja
The Hindu, 29/1/2008
|Interview withDr. Musa Abu Marzuk, Deputy Chairman of the Hamas political bureau who is second-in-command in the group’s leadership-in-exile.|
Hamas is ready to accept an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital, says Dr. Musa Abu Marzuk.
Musa Abu Marzuk, a key Hamas figure, has been ceaselessly at work since the Israeli attacks on Gaza began on December 27. The 58-year-old second-in-command in the Palestinian group has emerged as its public face over Arab satellite television channels such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. In this interview he says Hamas is ready to accept an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital, without formally recognising the state of Israel. He clarifies that once this state emerges “we [would] then arrive at a stage when a status of calm between this state and Israel is established.” Asked how Hamas would visualise the return of Palestinian refugees after a Palestinian state was established on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, the Deputy Chairman of the Hamas political bureau says: “Any kind of solution after that will be between the people. Now if the people return to Israel and they have full rights, human rights and political rights, then it’s their choice of the kind of future they want. Our struggle is that Palestinian hopes are realised and full justice is accomplished.” Dr. Marzuk, who has a doctorate from the United States, spoke to The Hindu at an undisclosed location in the Syrian capital Damascus. Excerpts:The first phase of resistance in Gaza appears to have been accomplished after the recent war. How does your resistance advance from the level that has already been achieved?
During this stage, the Israeli aggression hit Gaza from everywhere: the sea, air and land. Gaza Strip, as you know, is a very small area. It’s 365 sq km, and it’s one of the most crowded areas in the world. It has 1.5 million people living there. Most of the people in Gaza are refugees. They have come from their cities, towns, villages and farms in [historical] Palestine. Nearly 75 per cent, or one million, people are refugees who live in this area.
Now after Hamas won the elections in 2006, we tried to change the ideology, policy and goal of the movement. From the beginning our goal has been to return our people to Palestine. We have emphasised that Palestinians have a right to live in their country and not in refugee camps. Our goal has been to establish our state and to struggle against occupation.Are you saying your final objective is a single Palestinian state? Are you inclined to accept a two-state solution?
Look, after we won the elections we accepted the [formation of the Palestinian] state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip because of the balance of power in region. And we suggested that after that a status of calm would be established between this new state and Israel, without recognising Israel. This was our aim after we won the elections. In the past, we didn’t see this as a Palestinian objective.So your objective is to establish an independent Palestinian state including West Bank and Gaza on territory occupied by Israel during the 1967 war? However, that is not your ultimate goal?
We have priorities. Our priority now is to get the [Israeli] siege lifted and let the Palestinian people carry out reconstruction of their buildings and homes which were destroyed by the Israeli aggression in Gaza. This is the first priority now. Our second priority is to re-establish our national unity.Under which plan? There is a Yemeni proposal and the Egyptians have been involved as mediators to achieve Palestinian unity.
It doesn’t matter whether there is a Yemeni plan or an Egyptian plan. We have to achieve our objectives — the tools are not very important. The important thing is to rebuild our unity. Our third priority is to work together to establish a Palestinian state with Gaza Strip and West Bank and with Jerusalem as the capital.When you say Jerusalem as the capital, are you referring to East Jerusalem alone?
You see they [Israelis] should withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip up to the borders of 1967. That means East Jerusalem would be the capital of the Palestinian state. After this is done, we then arrive at a stage when a status of calm between this state and Israel is established. We refuse as a movement, whether we are inside the government or outside, to recognise Israel as an independent state, because all our rights would not have been restored.These rights relate to the rights of refugees to return to their homeland?
We have refugees in Lebanon and Syria who must return to their homes, to their relatives, who are still waiting for them. Those people will not just accept a state in West Bank and Gaza Strip.Where should they return? To West Bank or Gaza or their ancestral villages and towns which are in present-day Israel?
If they return to West Bank or Gaza Strip, that is not a return to their country, to their villages or their homes. They would become refugees again, inside their country but in a different area. There are already more than 1.5 million refugees in West Bank and Gaza Strip. I am talking about historical Palestine, not West Bank and Gaza Strip.So, you wish to establish an independent state along the 1967 borders without recognising Israel. But full normalisation will come only after the last phase has been accomplished — when the refugees return to their ancestral homeland?
Any kind of solution after that will be between the people. Now if the people return to Israel and they have full rights, human rights and political rights, then it is their choice of the kind of future they want. Our struggle is [to ensure] that Palestinian hopes are realised and full justice is accomplished.There have been accusations that Hamas is a terrorist organisation which wants to throw all Jewish people into the sea?
This is not true. You know, in history, Jews have suffered many massacres. This happened in Germany, Poland in the Second World War, and in Spain. These are the three main massacres that the Jewish people have suffered. After these massacres the Jews immigrated to Islamic countries, especially Turkey, Palestine, Morocco, in fact in many places in the Islamic world.
Now, we do not have any problem with any other religion. If you look at the Islamic countries, we are part of a mixed region. I can’t be a Muslim unless I believe in Jesus. I can’t be a Muslim unless I believe in Moses. I have to believe in their prophets also. My religion rejects any kind discrimination. So to say that we will throw the Jewish people in the sea, this is just propaganda.
On the contrary, it is also necessary to recognise the massacre of the Palestinian people. In the last massacre [in Gaza] 1,500 people have been killed, including 400 children and more than 200 women.What are the principles that unify the Palestinian resistance? You have a Leftist group like the Popular Front for the People of Palestine (PFLP) as your ally and you have support from a country like Venezuela. Do you find any contradiction between Leftist or Marxist principles and Islamic principles, or do you see them coming together in some way?
Our responsibility as Muslims is to be with people suffering injustice. These are human values that we share with others on ideological terms. We have to stand with suffering people, people suffering from hunger or people under occupation.There have been attempts to link Hamas with terrorism and Al Qaeda. Do you reject Al Qaeda?
We are completely different. We are under occupation. Of course, we reject Al Qaeda.Is your resistance in Gaza during the recent conflict part of a wider struggle in the region which includes Hizbollah in Lebanon, with support from countries such as Syria and Iran?
Our success is a victory for all Palestinians and not one for the people of Gaza alone. Of course, with Israel’s defeat we have defeated many others in the region who want Israel to reoccupy Gaza Strip for different reasons. It is therefore going to help all countries and people who stand with Hamas and support Hamas in different ways. At this stage our support goes beyond Hizbollah, Syria and Iran. If you return to the war, most of the people in the Muslim world and the rest of the world stood by Hamas. They have been raising Hamas flags and burning Israeli flags. That means we have the support of millions of people throughout the world.What is the significance of the Doha conference where Hamas and its allies were invited?
At Doha, Qatar’s Emir invited [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas to this conference. But he could not take this step because of pressure from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. After that Hamas was chosen to attend this conference because, being a conference about Palestinians it would have lost significance had Palestinians not participated. It was a good conference because it supported the Palestinian struggle. It is very clear that certain countries are now behind the Palestinian struggle and the Palestinian cause. That was the main message that emerged from the Doha conference.Does Turkey have a specific role in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict?
Day by day our international support is expanding. When we won the elections we were backed by Russia, Turkey and many others. Now, European representatives who come to meet the Syrian President or the Foreign Minister seek us out.Did U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon meet you?
No, but I met his political representative in the West Bank and Gaza Strip one day before the Secretary-General’s visit.How do you perceive Egypt’s role in the conflict?
We have differences with Egyptian policy. We want the Egyptians to open the Rafah gate, because we have no access to the rest of the world.There have been proposals about a larger American military presence in Egypt to curb smuggling of weapons through tunnels into Gaza.
It’s Egypt’s responsibility to do whatever it wants to do on its territory. Nothing has been smuggled from Gaza to Egypt or Israel. There may be some people involved in smuggling items from Israel to Gaza or from Egypt to Gaza. But that is the responsibility of those countries, not ours.Will you accept international monitors inside Gaza?
No, we do not accept international monitors either within Gaza or between the stretch from the Egyptian border to the Gaza border.Will you accept the presence of European monitors and representatives of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Rafah border crossing?
We have no objection to the presence of European monitors or from representatives of Mr. Abbas at the gates.