Dr. Ghazi Hamad, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, tells RT's Nadezhda Kevorkova that, despite Bashar Assad’s past support for the Palestinians, Hamas does not support his regime and instead welcomes revolutions in Muslim countries, even though new revolutionary governments have not helped to lift the blockade. Dr. Hamad stressed that Hamas has good contacts with the world’s leading political players and that the balance of forces in the Middle East is definitely going to change.
RT: Unlike Russia, the United States and many European countries consider Hamas a terrorist group. How are you going to prove to them that you are not terrorists?
GH: Hamas’ political wing is in constant contact with Russia. When Hamas won the 2006 election, the US, Europe and Israel did something terrible- besieged the Gaza Strip. In 2007, after the civil war between Palestinians, the blockade only got worse. We have good relations with foreign ministries of different countries at different levels. Sometimes they are official, sometimes they are unofficial. We hope to achieve a truce (with Fatah) so we can develop our contacts further. I have traveled abroad on numerous occasions, alone or together with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh – to Gulf nations, to Iran, to Turkey, to Algeria, to Morocco, to South Africa, etc.
We have had many meetings with Europeans. We have met with French, German, Japanese, Swedish, Swiss and Italian diplomats. We have expressed our position on the aggression against us and on their support of the blockade. And we see significant changes in their attitude to us, especially after it became obvious what kind of policies Israel pursues and what kind of military crimes they have committed. Most Europeans have realized by now that Israel is not a democracy. They realize that Hamas is a liberation front, that our purpose is to liberate the Palestinian people and that we are not involved in terrorism. We have explained this to them, and they have realized this. They have also realized that the siege and the war are ineffective. We see more and more countries opening up for talks with Hamas. After the war last November, four to five thousand people visited the Gaza Strip in a show of solidarity: Americans, Europeans, Christians from all over the world. Nothing bad happened to any of them. We have a secure and stable situation. Our people are generous and hospitable. We receive everybody in spite of the siege and are proud of it. Visitors feel it, be they state officials or common people. Welcome.
RT: In the spring of 2011, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had a meeting with Khaled Mashal in the office of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hamas had its headquarters in Damascus, Palestinian commanders had their meetings in Damascus, Hamas had bases and training camps in Syria. Now it’s all gone. Do you regard what happened in Syria as a loss?
GH: This isn’t a loss. The people of Syria are
on our side. The people and the government of Syria have supported
us before by providing political support and helping us with
weapons; and we have supported the Syrian authorities because they
opposed the occupation.
But when the Syrian regime launched an aggression against their people, we changed our position. We are against this aggression and we advocate a democratic solution to this problem.
What the Assad regime is doing in Syria is a horrible massacre. Assad could have nipped the problem in the bud by reforming security agencies and removing those guilty of abuse. There can be no justification for the current situation.
We don’t think Russia’s position is justified. By supporting the Assad regime, you support aggression against the people of Syria.
The whole Arab world has changed. People no longer accept dictatorships. This movement will reach other countries as well. This tide cannot be stopped.
As the people of Palestine, our position is as follows: we don’t meddle in Syria’s domestic affairs and we don’t get involved in internal strife. We did our best to stop Palestinians from joining this fight. But unfortunately some people in refugee camps were forced to join the fight. Some of the camps have been destroyed. 90% of the Palestinians living in Syria are refugees now. There has been much bloodshed.
RT: Has the tide of Arab revolutions affected Palestinians and their situation?
GH: The Arab revolutions have resulted in major changes, especially in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. This is a major source of support for us — if not today, then certainly in the future. So, we look forward to positive change.
RT: What is the situation in the Gaza Strip like today? How was it affected by Palestine getting their observer status in the UN?
GH: According to international law, it is still occupation. They still control the border, the air and the sea. Israel continues its collective punishment policy through blockade or military operations. There have been numerous acts of aggression against Gaza in recent years. We all remember the bombardments of 2008, 2009 and November 2012. The situation in Gaza is horrible. It is an ongoing tragedy for the people.
RT: Looking at the Rafah Crossing, you can tell that the blockade is not as tight as it used to be. People do get in. I saw a few trucks with gravel get in. But you’re saying the blockade hasn’t been lifted?
GH: The ban on food products is still enforced. There is a ban on exports and imports. Infrastructure is completely destroyed, the economy is in ruins. The Gaza Strip is politically separated from the West Bank. The situation in the West Bank is similar. There is a lot of aggression. Jerusalem is still occupied, people are being arrested, the construction of the wall continues, Israelis tear down Palestinians’ houses to build their settlements. Israel wants to go on like that forever. We don’t think we can have peace with them. We have been negotiating with Israel for 20 years, and we are not getting anywhere. With its action, Israel renders all the talks ineffective.
RT:What lessons have you learned from the eight-day war in November?
GH: We continue our fight. The recent war has taught us a few things. First, that occupation knows no mercy. Second, that our enemy continues using banned weapons. Third, we were able to resist the enemy forces despite their superiority. We were able to launch strikes against military installations and cities in Israel, catching Israel by surprise.
RT:In the fall of 2012, Henry Kissinger made a statement, based on an 80-page report prepared by 16 US intelligence agencies, saying that there will be no Israel by 2022. What do you make of this statement?
GH: I think Israel cannot continue to exist the way it does today. They cannot continue using the same methods as before. Muslim countries around it cannot tolerate this any longer. Israel’s policies and Israel’s aggression make it impossible for Israel to continue its existence. In the past 60 years, Israel has not made a single offer of peace. All they want is to occupy the land and deport all the Palestinians. We will never allow this. Muslim nations will never allow this again. We insist that we have the right to live like all the other nations do. At this point, we live like refugees. All of our people, 7 or 8 million people, live like refugees.
RT:If talks don’t work, what is your outlook for the future?
GH: According to international law, we have the right to use all means available to us, including a military operation, to stop the enemy. Our primary objective is to achieve unity among our people. We want a truce with all Palestinian organizations more than anything else.
Nadezhda Kevorkova, RT