We reproduce Khaled Meshaal’s exclusive interview with Prof. Adnan Abu Amer of Al-Monitor. Meshaal is head of the Hamas Political Bureau and he explains Hamas’ position vis-à-vis the current Israeli onslaught on Gaza and his organization’s position about the ceasefire and the broader situation. “Any initiative that doesn’t stop the aggression and end the siege on Gaza would not be acceptable to our people. That’s why the Egyptian initiative was rejected.”
July 17, 2014
Text of Khaled Meshaal’s interview:
Al-Monitor: Hamas officials said that they would not accept a truce without the siege being lifted and the freeing of the prisoners who were previously released in the exchange deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Do you think that this position is realistic, given that Israel is preparing to expand its operations in the Gaza Strip and thus potentially prolong the war?
Meshaal: Yes, it is realistic. Very realistic in fact, because after seven years of a harsh blockade against our people in Gaza, [our people] have started equating dying quickly with dying slowly. This is the mood of the people in Gaza, and you can hear it from them directly. They don’t fear Israel’s threats that it may expand its aggression. Any initiative that doesn’t stop the aggression and end the siege on Gaza would not be acceptable to our people. That’s why the Egyptian initiative was rejected.
We don’t want war or more bloodshed, because we are the victim who is being killed, arrested and aggressed by the occupation, the settlements and the siege. We want to live a decent life without occupation and siege. So it is high time that the international community addresses the root of the problem in Gaza, lifts the unjust siege on the people and puts an end to Israeli violations in Jerusalem and the West Bank — such as the arrests, home demolitions and the closing of civil society institutions — because the root of the problem is the occupation, the settlements and the Judaization [of Palestinian land].
Al-Monitor: Israeli officials are claiming that Hamas fighters are using civilians as human shields, that the [Izz ad-Din al-] Qassam Brigades is putting its fighters in civilian areas and that rockets are being launched from there.
Meshaal: Those allegations are completely false. This is an immoral pretext for the crimes being perpetrated by Israel when F-16 jets destroy hundreds of houses over the heads of their owners in the Gaza Strip, such as the crime of killing all 18 members of the Batsh family a few days ago. Hamas fighters are sacrificing themselves and are acting as shields to protect their people, not to subject them to death. For decades, Israel has been killing our people and committing successive massacres against them. And then [Israel] fabricates these false pretexts to cover up its crimes.
Al-Monitor: The current conflict has revealed a large discrepancy between the strong capabilities of the Israeli army and the limited capabilities of Hamas. While more than 200 Palestinians have been killed, including dozens of women and children, only one Israeli has been killed by Hamas rockets. Why are you willing to continue the war even though the Palestinian people will pay a very high price?
Meshaal: This is not a war between two states where the calculations are subject to the power balance between them. It is the cause of a people trying to get rid of the occupation. It is a cause of national liberation. No peoples in the world have made calculations based on the power balance when resisting occupiers. Otherwise, no group in history would have been liberated. This applies to the peoples of America, France, Vietnam, South Africa and others. Occupation and settlements are worse than any price we may pay [in a war].
Netanyahu is the one who started this war. He attacked Gaza without justification. [He did it] for internal Israeli calculations and to face those ‘one-upping’ him inside his government. We did not take the decision for war. Netanyahu imposed it on us.
Netanyahu is the one who started this war. He attacked Gaza without justification. [He did it] for internal Israeli calculations and to face those ‘one-upping’ him inside his government. We did not take the decision for war. Netanyahu imposed it on us. We are greatly suffering because of the casualties of our people. We don’t wish to see victims from any side. But the occupation and the illegal settlement activity have left our people with only one option: resistance to defend themselves, their land and their rights, as the international community has failed to provide redress and help [our people] get rid of the occupation.
We, the Palestinians, are the victims of the worst occupation in history. It is the last occupation in the world today. And it is high time for it to end.
Al-Monitor: There is talk of regional efforts seeking a cease-fire, but Egypt appears to be taking a back seat in these efforts compared to in previous wars. Do you think that Egypt is ambivalent toward Israel’s attempt to destroy Hamas, given Egypt’s strained relations with Hamas?
Meshaal: Egypt’s negative position toward Hamas is unwarranted. We didn’t interfere in Egyptian affairs, because they are internal affairs. And we respect the privacy [of those affairs] as [we respect the privacy] of other countries’ affairs. The responsibility of all Arabs, and the big sister Egypt first and foremost, is to stand by the Palestinian people, work to stop the savage Israeli aggression, end the siege on Gaza in a real way and help the people get rid of the occupation and the settlements.
Al-Monitor: US President Barack Obama proposed to negotiate a cease-fire. Have you personally been in touch with US officials? What have they suggested?
Meshaal: You know that the US president and his administration’s officials have tied their own hands with illogical laws that prevent them from having direct contacts with Hamas, which hasn’t made any act of aggression against America. Those laws don’t serve America’s interests, but serve Israeli calculations and considerations. This weakens the effectiveness of America’s role in resolving the Palestinian cause, because Hamas is the main resistance party in Palestine, and to communicate with us, the US has had to resort to intermediaries — Arabs, Europeans and others.
We in Hamas are ready to communicate with America and the countries of the free world to put an end to this Israeli aggression against our people, to end the siege on Gaza and to enable our people to get rid of the occupation and the settlements.
Al-Monitor: Unlike during previous wars in Gaza, Hamas now has no access to supply routes through tunnels under the Egyptian border for military supplies and support. Are you currently receiving aid from Iran and Qatar?
Meshaal: These conditions that you are talking about in the current war prove that no obstacle can hinder our people from exercising their right to defend themselves, confront aggression, seek to lift the siege and get rid of the occupation and the settlements. All efforts to tighten the siege on our people in Gaza and crack down on Hamas have failed, and will continue to fail, because the will of freedom and [the will] to get rid of the occupation are stronger than all the obstacles. Our Palestinian people are known to be educated and have been hardened by harsh experiences. [Our people] have a boundless ability for creativity, meeting challenges, endurance and patience. Need is the mother of invention, and pressure causes an explosion — every action has a reaction. These are the laws of life, just like in physics, mathematics and chemistry.
Al-Monitor: Al-Monitor reported that the al-Qassam Brigades have prepared an elaborate network of tunnels and booby traps in preparation for whenever Israel sends ground troops. Are you confident of Hamas’ ability to confront an Israeli ground invasion?
Meshaal: We don’t seek nor do we wish for an air, sea or ground war in Gaza. What is going on is an aggression, not a war in the [typical] sense. But if an Israeli ground invasion is imposed on us, the resistance can confront it. How? This is the responsibility of the Qassam Brigades and other resistance factions. They are more knowledgeable about that. They know their duties and capabilities and we as leaders have full confidence in the heroes of the resistance, in the steadfastness of our people and in [the people’s] embrace [of the resistance].
Our cause is just. We are the aggrieved party that is resisting an unjust and aggressor party, and therefore the confidence of the Palestinians about their future is much greater than the confidence of the Israelis about their future although the imbalance of power is hugely in the enemy’s favor. This is the difference between the psychology of the land’s owner and the psychology of the thief who stole it.
Al-Monitor: Hamas officials have strongly criticized what they see as the failure of President Mahmoud Abbas during the Gaza war. What do you have to say about his position so far? Will the reconciliation agreement survive the war?
Meshaal: Now is not the time to assess positions. We are facing fierce aggression by the Israeli occupation, and this requires uniting the efforts and the ranks to defend our people and to counter the aggression. Regardless of any differences within the Palestinian arena, the reconciliation will continue to be our choice and our position before, during and after the war. Netanyahu has sought and is seeking to undermine the reconciliation, but our response will always be to stick to it more and more.
I take this opportunity to call on President Obama and his administration to respect the decision on the Palestinian reconciliation and prevent any interference to sabotage it. This is our natural right, like any people in the world, to reconcile and to arrange internal national affairs on real democratic bases because respecting the will of our people and their right to liberty will create security and stability in the region. But the constant pressure on [our people] will inevitably lead to more tension, bloodshed and instability.
The US administration has many times tried to pressure the Palestinians and the Arabs in order to help Israel, but this policy has failed. This time, try to stop the pressure on our people and leaders and respect their right to national liberation, the right to reconciliation and the building of its institutions on the basis of democracy. Change your foreign policy to be more balanced, and you will see results the world will not regret.