Middle East

Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Talks About Israel

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Robert Siegel talks to Ghazi Hamad, a deputy foreign minister of Hamas. The two biggest Palestinian movements — the nationalist Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and the Islamist Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip — signed a unity deal.


As we just heard, the two biggest Palestinian movements - the nationalist Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and the Islamist Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip - signed a unity deal. A spokesman for Hamas declared in Gaza that all points of difference have been overcome between the two groups.

Well, joining us from Gaza City now is Ghazi Hamad, who is a deputy foreign minister of Hamas.

Mr. Hamad, welcome to the program.

Mr. GHAZI HAMAD (Deputy Foreign Minister, Hamas): Welcome.

SIEGEL: And I'd like to ask you to begin with what has been a major difference between Fatah and your group, Hamas. Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, spoke the other day of the Palestinians', and I quote, "great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine."

About a week earlier, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in Cairo that the goal of your movement is a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital. Which is it that Hamas seeks, a two-state solution alongside Israel or an end to the state of Israel altogether?

Mr. HAMAD: I think there is all kind of contradictions because maybe people understand that the occupation is a reflection of the Zionist movement, and I think the declaration of Hamas is very clear. We accept the state and '67 borders. This state should be independent. It was chosen as the capital for Palestine and the right of return for the refugees.

But I think that Israel will not accept this because Israel reject all the demands of the Palestinian people because they believe that they have to have a Jewish state and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and no right of return. So I think we'll still have a big struggle and big disputes.

SIEGEL: But just to clarify, if Israel were to accept a two-state solution in which Palestine would be in Gaza and the West Bank and have its capital in Jerusalem, is that an acceptable aim that Hamas is striving for, or is that in and of itself insufficient because there would still be a state of Israel?

Mr. HAMAD: Look, we said frankly we accept this state and '67 borders, but the question now should be directed to Israel. We need clear answer from Israel because Netanyahu said that we will not go back to the '67 borders. We will not (unintelligible) settlements. So we still the victims of the occupation.

SIEGEL: You said recently that by signing this accord with Fatah, Hamas, and I quote you now, "became part of the Palestinian legitimacy," that the movement gained legitimacy. The Israelis and others, some others, point to the 1988 Hamas charter very often and say that you should renounce that.

And I looked at the document, and, you know, at one point it claims that the Jews started the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, both World Wars, that they operate in league with the Freemasons and set up the Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs to do their bidding. Do you think that Western democracies are going to grant legitimacy to people with a document that reads like the paranoid conspiracies of the Ku Klux Klan or the American Nazi Party?

Mr. HAMAD: Look, and first of all, I think people should not judge Hamas according to their charter because many changes happened inside Hamas. But many people in United States and the West or in Israel, they say no, no. Hamas is still as it is before 20 years, no. I think Hamas show a lot of flexibility, and it became more pragmatic, more realistic. Hamas could be a good player in making peace in this region, but please don't use stick against them and punishment against Hamas.

SIEGEL: But people who point to the charter say, well, even if Hamas says it has changed and there's evidence that it has changed, the charter hasn't changed. These are still the declared principles of your movement, aren't they?

Mr. HAMAD: No one talk about removal of Israel. We're only talking about removal of the occupation, and I think this is according to United Nations resolution, this is legitimate.

For example, my parents were born in Tel Aviv. We have seven millions Palestinian refugee - as refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, every - and Europe and Brazil and everywhere. They have no chance to return to their homeland. Is it their destiny to live as refugees forever? And Israel have a right to bring the Jews from South Africa, from the United States, from Russia, from everywhere to live inside the Palestinian territory, in settlements in the West Bank. I think it's not logic. It's not fair.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Hamad, thank you very much for...

Mr. HAMAD: Thank you.

SIEGEL: ...spending time with us.

That's Ghazi Hamad, who is deputy foreign minister of Hamas. He spoke to us from Gaza City. And we've also requested interviews, I should add, with a leader of Fatah and also with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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