The US killing of Osama bin Laden provides an opportunity to look back at recent years. What are the lessons that Hamas learned in the period after September 11 until today? Specifically, what has Hamas learned about its program of resistance?
First of all, we have to distinguish between Hamas' project of resistance against the occupation and Bin Laden's project of global jihad. Our project preceded Bin Laden's [and is] part of our legal right to end the occupation and get our freedom.
Therefore, it's not fair to ask about the lessons Hamas learned from Bin Laden's assassination by the US. Israel assassinated Sheikh Yassin, Abu Shanab, Rantisi, Maqadma and a lot of Hamas leaders in Gaza and the West Bank. Does that mean that we should be frightened and stop our resistance and stop seeking to free ourselves and our land?
Hamas doesn't related to [people who are] Jewish, American, Christian or any other group through race or religion. Hamas' war is with those who are occupying our land and our resistance activities are limited to Palestine. Bin Laden's conflict with the West is ideological, while ours is political. There is no comparison or relationship between them. I don't think there are lessons for us to learn from his assassination.
Many people have said that bin Laden was not so important any more as a leader for al-Qaeda and Islamists. Do you think this is true and why or why not?
The importance of Bin Laden comes from his opposition to the American project. America, when it practices its oppression and injustice against Muslim and Arab countries, increases Bin Laden's supporters. I don't mean ideological supporters, but I mean those who can meet over the idea of opposing the American project and its dominance over the region. America's support for Israel and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan increase the numbers of those who unite under hatred for America.
After a rocket killed an Israeli schoolboy earlier this year, Hamas said that it never targets civilians. This is different from how Hamas used to defend its suicide bombings in Israeli cities. Why the change? Are some forms of resistance more acceptable (morally) than others, or is it all about the current balance of power and pragmatism?
Neither war nor fighting are goals for Hamas. Hamas seeks freedom for the Palestinian people. We have participated in all peaceful resistance activities, but at the end of the day we were also obliged to defend our people through violent resistance.
Israel always uses force, even against peaceful resistance, killing a lot of Palestinians. The first Intifada was the best evidence of that. The Israelis used to kill Palestinian children for carrying the Palestinian flag.
Now things are developing. Hamas began to follow violent means for defending people. But Hamas still doesn't have F16 warplanes or tanks or smart rockets like Israel, which uses all of these weapons to kill innocent people. There was a time when Hamas used suicide bombings, then [it turned to] home-made rockets. But those rockets are not smart rockets like the ones Israel uses to kill civilians.
Regarding the bus incident: this bus was using a military road. When the Qassam Brigades fired at the bus (because no normal bus could use such a military road), it was Hamas' retaliation for the assassination of three of its fighters days before. Israel tried to distract the attention of the international community from its crime, convincing the world that [Hamas'] target was a children's bus to mislead them, all the while there was a ceasefire that had been broken by Israel.
How should we understand the Hamas statements about bin Laden's death? Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Hanieh called him a "holy warrior", but Hamas prevented demonstrators from protesting his death in Gaza.
When the assassinator of Bin Laden antagonizes the Palestinian people and Arab nations, then they will consider the assassination of Bin Laden a brutal act just because the Americans did it. Palestinians and Arabs hate American policy--but of course, not the American people. Hanieh criticized the way America killed Ben Laden because Hamas has paid a high price from Israel, which also uses assassination without trial. We consider this a purely American-Israeli invention.
Hamas has nothing to do with Bin Laden's ideology. America was telling Israel, through its assassination, that "Your means are successful. Go ahead."
Then Moussa Abu Marzouk explained that what Hanieh said didn't represent Hamas' position on Bin Laden and his assassination.
Looking at Tunis and Egypt and probably Yemen, one could argue that peaceful public demonstrations have done more to change the region than years of violent resistance by Hamas. What do you say to this?
We resist the occupation, while the Arab revolutions were against their regimes. Is Israel our regime to resist peacefully? Ask all the European nations how they achieved freedom from the occupation.
There is a big difference between revolution against regimes and resisting the occupation. Israel kills women and children who carry out peaceful resistance against the apartheid wall in the West Bank. There is no comparison. -Published 19/5/2011 © bitterlemons-international.org