Hamas supremo Khalid Mish'al: "Balance Has Moved in Favour of Palestinians"
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
MG Editor spoke to Hamas politbureau chief Khalid Mish’al in his
Damascus office. In this first-ever interview to an Indian publication,
Hamas chief answered candidly to some very embarrassing questions
clarifying why Hamas took part in elections before liberation of the
occupied lands, why it took over Gaza, what is the reality of the
accusations levelled against Hamas and what is the common minimum
programme of all Palestinians. He said that the balance of power is
shifting towards the Palestinians and Israel is no longer able to force
its will on the Palestinians. He said that there have been attempts to
start a dialogue between Hamas and Fateh but the Palestinian Authority did
not allow it. He also spelt out the six principles for a solution to the
current imbroglio. He said that Hamas is committed to the common minimum
programme agreed by Palestinian factions which is: to establish the
Palestinian state within the areas of 1967 on the borders prevailing on
the 4th of June 1967 including Jerusalem. right to return - not right to
return to the Palestinian State as some in the region explain it but the
right to return to the towns and villages taken away from the Palestinian
people. Here is the full text of the interview:
Mish’al (right) talking to Zafarul-Islam Khan
Khan: To start with, does Hamas maintain any relations with the Indian
government, even through the Indian mission in Gaza? Has Hamas ever tried
to explain its stands to the Indian people?
Khalid Mish’al: We are careful to cultivate good relations with all
countries of the world. This is because ours is a just Arab, Islamic and
humane cause. We have been trying for some time to establish relations
with a number of countries including India which is a big country with
considerable weight in both Asia and the world. There is no clear shape
yet of this relationship. We hope that our efforts will lead to
establishing a relationship with India whose weight in the international
arena is known to us. We want good relations with India and all other
countries so that the world may support our rights and pressurise Israel
to end its illegal occupation of our land.
Hamas is the “Islamic Resistance Movement of
Palestine.” In other words, its real aim is to resist occupation and
liberate the usurped and occupied land. Why then, Hamas decided to
participate in elections while the homeland still remains unliberated? Why
it made the same mistake committed earlier by the PLO when it decided to
move from the stage of “revolution” to the stage of a “State” and
now it is clear that it did not achieve anything except to deepen and
prolong the occupation as this change allowed the occupier to wash his
hand off the problems of the occupied areas while the occupation itself
remains intact, making occupied areas real prisons.
Our outlook and beliefs haven't changed. We believe that the top priority
is for resistance, liberation and retrieval of rights. We are a movement
of national liberation and self-determination. This is our priority and
only after this come state and power. This belief in the priorities has
not changed. We have found fault in those PLO factions which changed their
priorities. They placed the cart in front of the horse and started talking
about “power” before achieving freedom, liberation and sovereignty of
the occupied land. There is no state without sovereignty over the land.
This is why we from the beginning of Oslo refused to join the game. But
later the Authority became a fact of life. The Authority came via Oslo in
1994. Many years have passed since , during which the Authority became a
fait accompli. It is now ruling the Palestinian people and controls their
daily lives. This Authority, because of its evils and the mistakes
committed in the political, financial and security fields and its stand
against resistance during the past years, exhausted the Palestinian people
who started demanding that Hamas play a political role to correct and
change and to fight corruption. This was not to be a substitute to
resistance but was to take place alongside resistance. When we
participated in the elections we did not do it because we had changed our
basic assumptions which say that our first priority is resistance and
liberation and not gaining power. Our decision was not because we were
forsaking resistance. Instead, we took this decision because the Authority
had become a fact of life and we had to deal with it and correct its evils
in order to ease the burden on our people. Hamas entered politics so that
the Palestinian people may continue resistance. Our basic assumption
continues that the top priority is for liberation and that there should be
no talk of a real state or real power or real authority except after we
achieve sovereignty which comes only after liberation of the homeland.
This change in our course was not due to a change in our perspective.
Rather, it was for the sake of the people after the Authority became a
fact of life and its corruption became common knowledge. We wanted to ease
I will return to this issue later as the result
was not what Hamas wanted to achieve in the first place...
No problem, but we can continue with this issue...
The result was not what you desired as we have
seen from this experiment. What really happened is that the occupying
authority and the occupier exploited this opportunity to lay complete
siege on Gaza Strip and now the people in Gaza are in real trouble with
regard to basic needs of life. In other words, it is possible to say that
you have fallen in a trap and I do not know how you plan to come out of
Look, the issue is not a trap, dear brother. What happened since our
winning elections last year, 2006, has exposed the real nature of our
problem. The US and Israel wanted the Authority, which came out of Oslo
[agreements], to be an autonomous authority committed to stop resistance
and bound by security obligations towards Israel. The US and Israel did
not accept Hamas coming to power through the ballot box because they do
not want an authority committed to resistance. They do not want an
authority which safeguards the security of its people instead of taking
care of the security of Israel. They want an authority which does not
permit resistance. The American and Israeli plan for Oslo was that the
authority emerging out of it will be anti-resistance, that it will go
after the freedom fighters and will guarantee the security of Israel. The
US and Israel did not like it when Hamas, after coming to power, tried
with other Palestinian factions to lay down a plan to fight corruption and
usher in an authority which would make its priority the security of
Palestinians instead of the security of Israel, an authority which would
support resistance. From this point started the punishment of the
Palestinian people starting with the siege last year. Funds were cut off,
people were besieged, and this continues to this day in both Gaza and the
What we are facing today is a challenge. Hamas’ coming to power did not
create the problem, it only exposed the problem. The problem existed
alrready and our elevation to power only exposed the problem and its
cause. This is part of the challenge we face. As Palestinian people we
face a number of challenges: resistance, independence of the Palestinian
decision-making free from the dictates of America and Israel.
This is correct but you move within a given
international situation which cannot be changed easily. To have your own
free will, you need a conducive climate within the international and
regional organisations and the neighbouring countries. It seems nothing
has changed in this sphere as was envisaged.
Hamas maintains its Arab, Islamic, regional and international
relations. Hamas is well aware of the international balance of power and
it knows that the balance of power is not in our favour at present. Hamas
is receptive to the world around it and, all praise to Allah, maintains
extensive relations. But what Hamas can do, faced with very difficult
options? No people in the end should submit to balance of power. Yes, it
cannot change the situation within a day or two. But, it should continue
to struggle. All nations in the world have struggled, endured and refused
to give in to the tyranny of the balance of power. There is international
injustice. Balance of power permits Israel to kill and assassinate with
impunity. Balance of power did not come to the rescue of the Palestinian
people and did not help them to retrieve their rights.
There are international covenants, there are UN Security Council
resolutions, but the balance of power and the international community are
unable to force Israel to respect international resolutions or even the
international agreements Israel itself has signed. Should, then as a
Palestinian, must I submit to this balance of power? It is true that I
cannot fight the whole world but at least I can cling on to my rights. How
the Indian people secured their freedom from British occupation? People in
South Africa, Vietnam, rather all peoples of the world at some point of
time, have fought for their rights. We too as Palestinians are destined to
remain steadfast, to resist, to move ahead politically and diplomatically
and to approach the world community until things start favouring us. I
tell you that things are moving in our favour. It is true that we are
suffering badly. The siege is harsh. But the fact remains that Israel too
is no longer able to settle things against us. Things are no longer in
favour of Israel. True, it is mightier than us but it is no longer able to
defeat us. This means that the future belongs to resistance and to the
Palestinian people and not to Israel which relies on aggression.
Occupation has no future. Every resistance triumphs in the end.
Issues are being raised at present against the
government of Hamas in Gaza Strip. These issues are discussed all over the
world and therefore these should be addressed. Issues like some Hamas
outfits using unnecessary force such as firing at the feet of Fateh
people, throwing people from top of buildings, and now prohibiting people
from praying in open spaces and gate-crashing into wedding ceremonies.
Doesn’t such conduct betray a certain tendency from which Arab masses
have suffered long at the hands of their regimes? It seems this will
malign Hamas and let it down in the eyes of the very people it wants to
Look, respected brother, our position is like what an Arab poet said in
He was thrown in the well, with hands tied, and told
Beware, you must never get wet.
Hamas came to power through the ballot box and free and fair elections. It
did not come from outside Palestine. It grew from inside the Palestinian
people. Hamas’ legality emanates from its struggle and from its
political legality by winning an election. Hamas is well-known to the
Palestinian people and to the world as a clean and trustworthy
organisation. It has sacrificed a large number of its greatest leaders
including its founder Shaikh Ahmad Yasin. But all this does not work in
favour of Hamas. It is not allowed to rule even for a single day. No
sooner it won elections than it was denied power. Both America and Israel
conspired against Hamas. From here started the problems. Even after the
Mecca Agreement [2 March 2007], General Dayton arrived in order to
coordinate with a certain party in the Palestinian arena as well as with
other security officials in the region with the aim of undermining the
national unity government ushered in by the Mecca Agreement. They
supported this particular party with over one hundred million dollars in
addition to arms and training. Hamas, then, is a victim, not a villain.
What is the crime of Hamas - that the people elected it? Or that it came
to power via ballot box and democratic elections but was denied the right
to rule? It was subjected to conditions and the Palestinian people were
punished and placed under siege so that they would shun Hamas.
These issues that you refer to started because of this conspiracy to stage
a coup against the legitimate government and this in turn led to what
happened in Gaza Strip. Dear brother, what happened in Gaza was a coup by
a party which sought support of the Americans and the Israelis against its
own legitimate government. Like any other government facing coup, what
should this government do? Should it not defend its legality? Hamas only
defended its constitutional and democratic legality in the face of a
conspiring party in cahoot with its enemies. This is why things to slide
to what happened in Gaza.
As to what Hamas is accused of, like throwing people from rooftops, Hamas
did not do it. In fact, the same conspiring party did this too in Gaza
last June. They were searching for bearded people and during this search
they threw a youth from the 16th floor of a building. The family of this
youth said that Hamas did not do it, rather it was committed by that
certain party in Gaza.
Now, America allows Salam Fayyad’s government in the West Bank to
violate the law, to be formed in violation of law. It allows this
government to arrest hundreds of Hamas leaders and cadres. It shuts down
around 500 charitable, social and cultural organisations in the West Bank
but no one questions this move and the media people are not allowed to
cover it. In Gaza, there is freedom of press. How this news was
communicated to the world? Because there is freedom of press in Gaza.
There is a government, though “relieved”, in Gaza. There is division
in Palestinian ranks. There is a government in Ramallah and another one in
Gaza Strip. Why we in the West Bank are not stirring up any problem in the
face of the government of the West Bank? Why this particular trend in the
West Bank stirs up trouble in the face of the government in Gaza? There
are explosions in the West Bank. There are security problems. The salaries
of 11,000 government employees in Gaza have been stopped. Electricity has
been cut off. Then there are the checkpoints. Rafah checkpoint, linking
Gaza to Egypt, has been closed down. This pressure is a kind of war
against us. This is why you find the government in Gaza defending itself.
We do not forbid people to pray in public squares but people have to
respect general law and order. Whoever wants to pray does not go out to
stone the offices of security forces. The government was silent during the
first few weeks but when these people continued to go after prayers to
commit illegal and disruptive acts, the government stepped in to stop this
chaos. What is happening in Gaza is a reaction to a conspiracy, siege and
aggressive measures taken by the US and Israel together with that
particular party. The fact is that we are victims. There is no doubt that
we have to deal with these issues with wisdom. I know that there are some
actions which require examination. But the fact remains that all this
comes in the context of reaction to this pressure. The world has to
realise that what is happening in Gaza is unnatural.
Dr Zafar, brother, Gaza is a small place - just 30x60 sq. kms in whcih one
and a half million people are crammed in. They are living under siege, in
a big prison. This pressure leads to explosion. This is what I meant when
I quoted the poet who said that “I threw him into the well with
hands-bound and told him not to get wet”... When you subject people to
such pressure, you only pour oil on fire. The people in Gaza are under
siege, subjected to hunger, the checkpoints allowing them to go out are
closed. The Government of Salam Fayyad in Ramallah is trying to isolate
Hamas and the Palestinian people in Gaza. This pressure coupled with
instigating trouble and subversion leads to problems. Tell me about one
single government in the world which allows subversion in its country. No
government allows or accepts this. But because America pressurises and the
Authority of Abu Mazin allows, the government of Salam Fayyad does this.
But it is not acceptable for Hamas even to defend itself. This is
We do not like this division of the Palestinians. We said, let us resolve
this issue in the light of correct principles. I made this proposal when I
spoke to Mr Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. I spoke to Arab rulers
and officials and told them: The solution and dialogue should be based on
objective bases which are as follows.
One: Let us unite the West Bank and Gaza. Let us not disconnet Gaza from
the West Bank.
Two: There should be one political system. We want one authority and one
government, not two governments.
Three: The Palestinian legality with all its components should be
respected instead of being limited to the President of the Authority Mr
Abu Mazin. He has the legality as an elected president. But there is also
an elected legislative council which too has its legality. Some want to
deprive the council of its legality, suspend it and usurp its powers.
Four: Recourse to law. Abu Mazin has suspended the legal process.
Five: Dealing with the basic problem, i.e., the security agencies. We told
them, let us reorganise the Palestinian national agencies on patriotic and
professional bases and make them accountable to the government, the
interior minister and the Authority instead of security agencies factions
belonging to factions, Fateh and Hamas alike.
And finally, six: Let us form a government of national unity in the West
Bank and Gaza under the Palestinian Authority.
We are not demanding the moon. We are demanding what is logical. But
America prohibits everone to engage in dialogue. It does not permit the
Chairman of the Authority to do a dialogue. The fact is that Hamas is
being subjected to great injustice. Hamas did not commit any crime. Hamas
is only defending its legality. It is adhering to the law and the
constitutional legality. Is this a crime?
We hear that the popularity of Hamas has dwindled
in Gaza, that the siege has led to a decline in its support. Does Hamas
ponder over this and plan to come out of this situation or does it wait
for a wayout as a result of circumstances?
Let anyone wishing to know facts, visit Gaza and see for himself what
popularity means. Dr Zafar, most opinion polls in Palestine are paid and
managed. We experienced these opinion polls before the elections. They
claimed that Hamas will not win a majority and yet Hamas did win a
majority. It is a game, in fact. Opinion polls, I am sorry to say, are
mostly unworthy of respect. They are bought by money. We are concerned
about our popularity just as we are concerned about serving our people.
Whoever wants to know, let him go to the West Bank and Gaza to discover
the facts and see for himself which Palestinian faction is more popular.
Did Hamas gain something by entering the
political field and taking over the government? Are there lessons learnt
from this experiment?
There is no doubt that political work in inhospitable conditions is
difficult. To practice politics under occupation is a difficult
experience. We were not under andh illusion and we did not deceive
ourselves. We knew when we took part in the elections that it was an
exercise under occupation and under the aegis of an authority which does
not enjoy sovereignty. We knew all this, but as I told you, we
participated for the sake of change and correction and in order to serve
our people, so that the Authority is with the resistance, not against it.
These were our aims. The achievement of these aims is not easy because you
are sailing against the currents. The regional and international currents
are against us. Yet, we have no option but to persevere and be patient. It
is enough that our experiment stopped the downhill slide. There was an
Authority which was neck-deep in corruption, deviation, war against
resistance, lacking principles in political negotiations. At least now
there is a kind of discipline in these matters. Last year we agreed on a
national covenant which determined the political aims and the political
programme of the Palestinian powers. We are moving in a minefield in
difficult times. I believe that there is no option for any serious
movement but to engage in all kinds of activities, starting from
resistance against occupation and engaging in political work among the
people as well as to do social, relief, charitable, ideological and
diplomatic work. We are a comprehensive movement and that is why we are
active in all these fields. You cannot limit yourself to only one kind of
work but the hurdles are legion.
There is another related issue. From time to time
we hear that there is a dialogue between Hamas and Fateh or between the
governments in Gaza and West Bank. Is there any progress in this respect
or has the dialogue stopped?
Unfortunately, this dialogue never took place because the party
controlling the Authority in Ramallah rejects dialogue with Hamas. Some
leaders of Fateh tried to start a dialogue with us, made contacts with us
and we too responded positively to them, but later those leaders were
ordered not to engage us in dialogue. It is the Authority in Ramallah and
the government of Salam Fayyad which prohibits dialogue with us. It seems,
unfortunately, that they seek strength from the American and Israeli
stands. They are betting on wrong horses. Countries like Egypt, Saudi
Arabia and most Arab states call for dialogue but the Authority in
Ramallah does not respond. We opened the doors of dialogue but
unfortunately, Ramallah closed it. The Americans openly say that they are
using pressure to stop any dialogue. David Walsh said a few weeks ago that
they are using pressures on Arab countries so that there is no dialogue
You live in Damascus where many other Palestinian
leaders reside. Are there any contacts and dialogue between you and them?
Yes, as factions we do meet. We enjoy good relations and coordination but
this detente here is not sufficient to force a dialogue in the Palestinian
arena because a dialogue is between two parties. The other party is the
Authority, the government of Salam Fayyad and a certain trend in Fateh
which refuses dialogue. Unfortunately, this is the reason for there being
After about two decades of the United States’
enjoying the status of the sole superpower in the world after the collapse
of the Soviet Union, now a new polarisation is taking shape. There are
signs that a Russian-Chinese bloc is emerging as the new pole of world
power. Did Hamas try to benefit from this new development, especially
since the Palestinian Authority is in close alliance with the US?
Undoubtedly, it is known in politics that monopoly of a single
pole in world politics has many evils for world peace. Since the US became
the sole world power, the world has seen more and more wars, more
aggression, more bloodshed, more preventive wars and control of the
American politics by the Conservative Right. This has been detrimental to
many, especially the weak countries with a cause like the Palestinian
people, Iraq and Afghanistan among others. America does not even respect
international pacts like Kyoto Protocol. Now, for the last few years,
there is some challenge to this American hegemony as Russia is trying to
regain some of its previous momentum. China also has to do something with
this new situation although its priority remains economic growth. I
believe it is in the interest of the whole world that there should be a
balance in world power. Allah the Merciful has created life on the
principle of checks and balances. We in Hamas are alive to these changes.
Our relations with Moscow are excellent, very good, and we are trying to
open channels with China though these efforts are still nascent. We
beleive that it is in the interest of the weak nations that there be a
balance of power. Hamas is open to all. It wants to extend lines of
communication and cordial relationship with all countries of the world.
There are indications and statements from time to
time that Hamas is ready to accept Oslo, rather the results of Oslo, the
borders of 1967 and recognise the Jewish State while there are other
indications that Hamas is ready only for a truce with the zionist entity.
So where does Hamas really stand and what is its red line and what are its
positions on which it will make no concessions in any case?
It is not correct that Hamas has agreed to Oslo. Yes, we did take part in
the elections of the legislative council but we do not accept Oslo as a
political programme. The political perspective of Hamas is clear. It
adheres to all the rights of the Palestinian people. It adheres to
Jerusalem, right to return, liberation of the Palestinian land. Hamas
rejects the legality of occupation. These are permanent positions of Hamas
Movement. But we are dealing with a certain current stage at present. We
are dealing with a general Palestinian national political stand. We felt
that it is beneficial that Palestinians of all political and ideological
hues should meet and subscribe to a common programme. We agreed on a
common denominator acceptable to all Palestinian factions including Hamas,
Fateh, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front, Democratic Front and other factions.
There are 13 or 15 factions which all agree on the following: to establish
the Palestinian state within the areas of 1967 on the borders prevailing
on the 4th of June 1967 including Jerusalem. right to return - not right
to return to the Palestinian State as some in the region explain it but
the right to return to the towns and villages taken away from the
This is the programme we all agreed upon and this is contained in the
document of the national covenant signed by us last year. Then, this is
the common national programme. Some of these factions see that this is
their final aim and for it they should recognise the state of Israel. Our
stand in Hamas is that we will offer truce to Israel instead of
recognition. This is the perspective of Hamas. It has not changed. We
support a state within the 1967 borders including Jerusalem, right of
return [of the refugees], no [Israeli] settlements in our territory, total
sovereignty of all 1967 lands. In return we offer only truce instead of
recognition of Israel. There are rights of the Palestinian people which
must be taken into account.
But if the Palestinian Authority agrees to a
final settlement in your absence, what will be your stand?
We in the document of the national covenant have agreed on a mechanism for
passing any drafts of agreements. In other words, in the document of
national covenant we have agreed on how the negotiation will take place
and what are the parameters of negotiation, what are the political aims of
the Palestinian people which will be the objective of all negotiations,
who will take decisions, who will approve and pass. We determined two
mechanisms: It has to be passed by the Palestinian legislative assembly
after its reconstruction or through a general plebiscite. We accept what
the Palestinian people accept. We have accepted the democratic game and we
accept the democratic results. We have faith in our people to whom belongs
the right and options.
It seems from the behaviour of the Authority,
starting from Oslo, that it takes these decisions unilaterally and does
not seek the Palestinian people's approval through a plebiscite. If such a
thing, like a final settlement, takes place between the Authority and
Israel alongwith the US, UN, Quartet etc, what will be your stand? Will
the resistance continue or will you approve of such a development?
This used to take place in the past. The Authority used to take unilateral
decisions as it liked. Things have changed today. This is one of the good
things which emerged out of our participation in elections. Now there is a
balance. Today no one, Fateh or even Hamas, can force its perspective and
programme on the other. We have accepted the democratic game and we have
to accept its results too. In the end, the political stand will be
resolved by the Palestinian people. Therefore, anything of this kind will
have to be referred to the Palestinian people for their approval. Our
people are the final arbiter in this matter.
It should happen this way, but what if it
If it happened otherwise there will be vast Palestinian opposition, not
just from Hamas. If the Palestinian negotiator today reached certain
results with [Israeli PM] Olmert, it will not cover the Palestinian rights
as is evident from the negotiations so far. In other words, such results
will not touch the agreed Palestinian ceiling. These result will be less
than the agreed ceiling, be it settlements or the issue of Jerusalem or
the right to return. In such a situation, the whole Palestinian people
will oppose this agreement. The Palestinian people will not accept it. We
are sure of this. The Palestinian people will not accept anything less
than what we have agreed upon, i.e., a Palestinian state on the whole
territory of June 1967 including Jerusalem and right to return. The
Palestinian people will not accept anything less.
Through you and your newspaper, I greet the friendly Indian people and we
hope that India will stand by us, and that all the peoples of the world
will stand by the wronged Palestinian people who are trying to regain
their legitimate rights. The Palestinian people have a just cause and for
it they are knocking at every door. It was only when the Palestinian
people discovered that the international community has failed to secure
its rights and to ensure for it the right of self-determination, that it
turned to resistance which is its legitimate right. We urge the people of
the world, including the dear Indian people, to stand by us. Thank you.
This interview was conducted in Arabic in Damascus on 16
September. Earlier Dr Khan was the first and only Indian journalist to
date to interview Hizbullah chief Shaikh Hasan Nasrallah (see MG, 1-15
Dec. 2002; http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/01122002/0112200264.htm)