“Gaza is a normal place with normal people”
- 23 Feb 2009
INTERVIEW : Grégoire Lalieu & Michel Collon
Many readers reacted positively to our Mohamed Hassan’s interview about the Hamas. A lot of people expressed indeed their need of clear, precise and contextual information. So we are going to make with our Middle East specialist a series of interviews “Understanding the Muslim world”. Our goal is to give you the keys to understand the issues specific to this region, rich in resources and coveted by the great powers. The next chapter of this folder will be about the Darfur crisis and will be published next month. Elsewhere, some readers asked further questions on the previous interview. Mohamed Hassan answers in a second discussion that closes the first chapter dedicated to the Hamas.
The Hamas is presented as a terrorist and fundamentalist movement. But in a sociological view, what kind of leaders and active militant compose the Hamas?
MH. What you’ve got to understand is that Gaza is a normal place with normal people. But, in a new colonial type, Israel doesn’t allow the Palestinian economy to develop because it is a real danger for them. Gaza has a really good base of traditional artisans. It’s for that reason that Arafat told to the European Parliament: “If you help us, we’ll make our country a new Singapore. If you don’t, it will be Somalia!” Israel is afraid of that. That’s why they stifle the Palestinian economy to keep the monopoly. Gaza is an urban society with very active people: intellectuals, clericals, petite bourgeoisie, women associations, businessmen who work in the import export… All those classes compose the Hamas as a nationalist movement. You’ve got also peasantry but in a very small proportion. Gaza is indeed one of the most densely populated places in the world so there is not very much land to exploit.
So, the Hamas is composed by all the classes of the Palestinian society. Does it lead to contradictions among the movement?
MH. Of course it’s not perfectly homogeneous but currently, the Hamas is unifying all those people in the resistance. And the main contradiction among the movement is to be more or less radical in that struggle. I know that some Europeans wish that the resistance could be led by a more progressive movement but History is not an exact science. Let me make a comparison with Indonesia. The first anticolonial movement was Sarakat al Islam, an Islamic nationalist movement created in 1920 to fight against the Dutch occupation. In this situation, Lenin sent a Dutch communist, Henk Sneevliet, into Indonesia. When he arrived in Indonesia, he found that young nationalist movement Islamic. What would you do in his position? Henk Sneevliet decided to work with them. He was very wise and patient and turned the movement into a communist movement, which will become the Communist Party of Indonesia, the second biggest communist party in Asia. Patience in politics is essential.
Are there communists in Palestine? Is an alliance with the Hamas possible like the Hezbollah did with the communists in Lebanon in 2006?
MH. In Palestine and in the other Muslim countries, you need specific communist like the Dutchman; communists with patience, vision, independence of their ideas to develop their tactic on the ground. They don’t need what I call some “fax communists”, communists who give their orders from the outside. All successful revolutions have been homemade. But some Arab communists are like hot pepper, red on the outside and white on the inside! Every Arab communist must do his job with the base specific to his area. In Palestine, they must find the most democratic elements who want to struggle against the occupation. If it is the Hamas, the communists must be close to them and work with them.
You know, I can have contradictions with my wife, my son, my daughter, my dog and my cat! But all those contradictions are among the family and I must resolve them with discussion and negotiation. But if someone puts a gun on me, that will be a main contradiction! Palestinian communists have to clarify who are their allies and who are their enemies. They can have contradictions with the Hamas and the other parties. They need to clarify it in family because those contradictions are secondary compared to the problem they have with Israel.
You mentioned a resemblance between the Hamas and the IRA, the Irish Catholic movement fighting for the total independence of Ireland. But the IRA never tried to install a religious state. Isn’t that point that blocks the Europeans progressives in their support to Hamas?
MH. I told you about the Islamic movement in Indonesia. Their maximum program was to kick the Dutch out of Indonesia and to put an Islamic regime. But the movement changed by itself and became later the Communist Party of Indonesia. How will the Hamas evolve? There is no crystal ball to tell us. As I said, History is not an exact science. Hamas has a maximum program but today, its main task is the resistance against the Zionist state. Tomorrow, there could be a combination of several factors such as a new leadership and new ideas that could make the Hamas taking a democratic revolutionary way. The fact is that the progressives who want to take part to the struggle for the Palestinians want to have complete guarantees that everything will be fine. But there is never complete guarantee. Who could have predicted the degeneration of the soviet communist party which had made the first socialist revolution in a country and had supported all anticolonial movements in the world? Nobody expected too that Arafat would negotiate on that particular way the Oslo Accords. So here we are: Hamas is the resistance. I don’t support them in their women position, in their economic program or in their fatalistic ideas. I support them for the most important point: they are nationalist resistant fighting on the ground. And who could tell what will be tomorrow? You even got Islamic movements which became pro-imperialist agents like in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. Why these people asking about the Hamas don’t also ask for those countries?
Amnesty condemned the Hamas for the elimination of some opponents among the Palestinian society after the war. What can you tell us about that?
MH. Of course, in every war, you can have accidents or excesses. But also a major problem : the infiltrators. A war is not only shooting guns, it’s also political. Israel doesn’t only attack the Palestinians with bombs, they also attack from the inside, creating internal enemies. With Egypt and Jordan, Israel had put a very sophisticated system of intelligence service. With the help of these countries, Israel wants to crush the Palestinian resistance and the Hamas. With all the money they’ve got, they can pay traitors. These infiltrators use cellular phone and they call Egypt or Jordan. Then, the information goes to Israel.
Israel wants to cut the head of the Hamas to crush the movement. In order to do that, they must know which house they have to bomb. Something important you’ve got to know: the first attack of Israel was on the police station of Gaza at a very specific moment: the team swift. That was exactly the particular time when you’ve got the maximum concentration of policemen at the station. How did Israel know? Through its infiltrators. This is a war, not a party! The Hamas is defending.
Why did the Hamas recently appropriate the aids from the UN?
MH. I think the Hamas was smart when they did. Let me explain. By the UNRWA and only them, the food and the help came into Gaza and Israel could get tactical information out of that. One important issue is that the Israeli war was ignited the 27th of December on the base that the intelligence knew that there was not a lot of food in Gaza. This is how Israel proceeded: first, they closed the border to make sure that food will not get in; then, they attacked, knowing that the Palestinians couldn’t hold out more than ten days. Tsahal bombed the UN depots thinking that without food, the population would turn against the Hamas. But after the twelfth day, the resistance was continuing and Israel stopped to bomb the UN depots. I think that, in the future, the Hamas will not let the food burn again under the Israeli bombs. That’s why they want to provide the aid distribution by themselves.
Why does the Hamas still send rockets as Israel use it for its war propaganda and as it leads to the repression of the Palestinian population? Are the “Qassam” useful?
MH. For a rat, the most dangerous animal is the cat. He doesn’t care about a lion or a hippopotamus. And for the cat, the most delicious food is a rat. This is the level in which is situated the logic of the Qassam. The Qassam are a violation of the embargo and a sign of refusing the concentration of the Palestinian people who live in a ghetto. It’s a message that oppressed people send: “We’re still alive and we will continue the resistance”. It’s also a message to the Israeli citizens who believe that the army and the government can guarantee their security. But after sixty years, the security of their nation is not yet guaranteed. There are a lot of citizens who’re leaving Israel so the government has a problem with a demographic crisis. That’s why they made a big war to crush the Hamas. And in order to have enough Jews and try to resolve the demographic crisis, some Israeli leaders even went to the mountains of Peru! They converted Indians to Judaism and then, they bring them to Israeli border, in the frontline against the enemy. Those Indians received houses and guns. There are the new settlers. The fact is that anybody can live inside Israel except Palestinians!