Max Budovitch: The first question is on the Israeli Facts on the Ground. The Israelis have and continue to attempt to establish Facts on the Ground such as the settlements in the West Bank. How can the Palestinians counter this continuing project?
Hani Masri: I believe that unity and the Resistance in all of its forms (especially popular resistance) as well as boycotting the Settlements and Israeli goods which go to market as well as the return to national law, national rule, and public opinion of the nation, and to the Arab and to all parts of the world, herein lives the widest world-campaign by way of the condemnation of Israel, the isolation of Israel, and the imposition of sanctions against Israel until Israel feels as though it suffers from its actions more than it actually gains. At that point, the Palestinian efforts can be effective and contemporary.
MB: There have flourished a group of Israelis on the left of the political spectrum, which participates in activities which support the Palestinian cause. What is the effect of the these groups on the Palestinian Resistance and on the Occupation?
HM: I believe that the Israeli left and the Israeli peace camp has retreated during the past several years during which it became a small minority that is not contemporary in Israeli politics or in Israeli society because the parties of the right as well as the extremist religious parties—these are the parties that win the majority of the votes in the Knesset. Israeli politics have indeed become quite different form the condition in which it existed in the past, at which time there were two camps-the camp of the right and the camp of the left. The camp of the left was a strong camp and one which believed in peace. Today, the camp of peace is very weak and does not play in Israeli politics.
MB: What is the best way to stop the Judification of East Jerusalem (specifically, the Silwan neighborhood) and the entire West Bank; what can the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government do?
HM: The best way is defiance/facing these issues in all peaceful ways, as well as the return to national ruling/authority and the making of any Israeli step a setback to Israel. This is especially the case with any step in Jerusalem, which has a special place for Palestinians and the entire world. I believe that this defiance must continue as well as articulate all of the requested needs...and secondly must be recognized by the Arabs and by the entire free world.
MB: Was the last Freedom Flotilla helpful to the Palestinian movement and/or in putting pressure on the Israeli government?
HM: Yes. What happened in terms of the Freedom Flotilla, and especially after the Israeli crime in killing and wounding dozens—this crime gave movement to international public opinion and made the head leaders of Israel all the way to the president of Israel admit that Israel is in a bad position as a country and that Israel's track and laws are in a state of criticism. Secondly, this condition is a dead end for Israel, which persists to claim that peaceful resistance can produce results. If this condition persists the Palestinian people will be divided. As for how the matter will be if they come together, if they come together, they will be more capable of gathering to the greatest extent of their nation, the Arabs, and entire world.
MB: The Palestinian Resistance has changed greatly over the years-for instance the First Intifada was throwing stones, and after that the Second Intifada was greater in terms of violence. Have these types of Resistances in the past years been beneficial to the Palestinian movement or not?
HM: First of all, resistance is the right of the Palestinian people in all its forms
-this right comes from national legislation and national law, and has been practiced by all generations. It is rightful for any people under occupation to resist. However, any form of resistance which is employed—the popular form [the peaceful form], or the armed form—this is determined by the surrounding circumstances;...as well as Arab and national support....In addition, armed struggle will not return as the principal style of resistance. Bit by bit, the resistance has become popular—this is the primary form of the Palestinian Resistance. What is happening in Bil'in, Ni'lin,...and in Jerusalem exists as the popular resistance can become effectual—however, it must exist in all locations and come in all of its force and all of its divisions in order to create noticeable influence on Israel. Surely, in the stage of Palestinian development [at a certain time] armed resistance played a large role, and in the other stages this form of popular resistance has risen as the primary method.
MB: Now we can turn to the subject of the Palestinian armed gangs such as the Al-aqsa Martyrs' Brigades—how was and what was the relationship between these groups, such as the Brigades, and the Palestinian Government?
HM: This has changed from time to time. During the Second Intifada, The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades was of the Fateh Movement, and gathered elements from the security establishment. It found support from the Palestinian leadership, however in a non-direct way, up into the days of the leadership of president Arafat, when it was discovered that supporting the al-Aqsa Brigades was a method of putting pressure on Israel, so that its position would be changed to peace. However, after that with the arrival of Abu Mazzen, the agreement to dissolve the al-Aqsa Brigades by way of gaining amnesty from Israel and by way of incorporating elements of the Brigades into the security establishment as well as other branches of the Authority.
MB: How did these groups grow and flourish under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, under, as you said, the rule of Yasser Arafat?
HM: They flourished after the failure of the negotiations and when the Oslo Accords did not realize an independent Palestinian state, and actually, to the contrary only led to the continuation of the settlements and the creation of a harder life. The Palestinians continued, more and more, to not believe that the negotiations were the only path, and especially after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Haram ash-Sharif, to the blessed Haram, and after what Israel undertook in terms of its military aggression in an attempt to divide the Palestinians and to change their consciousnesses, and to force them to meet another time and the negotiation table at Camp David to solve the Palestinian crisis.
MB: What are the people that were part of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades doing now?
HM: They joined the security establishment and the other branches of the Authority, they have become parts of these branches-employees.
MB: In your opinion, are the Palestinian Security Forces beneficial to the condition of the West Bank or not?
HM response currently undergoing translation. Check back often.
MB: There was a disturbance which revolved around the destruction of human rights in several Palestinian prisons. What is going on in these prisons and what is the effect of this disturbance on the Palestinian Authority?
HM: After the division which occurred between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, we had two authorities, one of which led Fateh in the West Bank, and the other which led Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The division became the justification for the suppression of members of the other authority and the order of the other side. IN Gaza, there were assassinations of members of Fateh as well as prosecutions (and the same goes for the West Bank). This is a violation of human rights. This violation experienced criticism, whether it was in the West Bank or in Gaza, and from national or Arab foundations, and even from those from the rest of the world. This is because these actions limited the device of police surpression, and not the device of providing services to the citizens, as well as protecting their rights and freedoms.
MB: Now we turn to the last subject and grouping of questions—this is democracy and the new politics of Salaam Fayad and Hamas also. In your opinion, will an independent Palestinian state be democratic or not?
HM: First of all, the subject of establishing a Palestinian state has become very...in the light of the continuation and spread of the settlements, which has made impossible the contiguous area of land that is needed to establish a state. Second of all, there is absolutely no democracy under the Occupation. Until there is a state and until there is democracy it is necessary to condemn the Occupation. What is going on now, this is a construction of the foundations that exist under the Occupation, and this is not complete democracy because democracy is sovereignty and independence. Without sovereignty, there is no democracy, there is no right of owning land, nor strong organizations, or anything else. All measures remain on the surface as opposed to reaching any depth. Secondly...we must serve the operations to end the Occupation instead of building organizations as an alternative to these operations to ending the Occupation.
MB: Salaam Fayad delayed the Palestinian elections. Why did he delay them, and what does this means for the future of the country?
HM: Yes, Salaam Fayad is the president of the government, however, without support from Fateh and without support from Abu Mazzen, he has no power....He has no power or legislation without the Fateh movement. Fateh was the one which asked him to delay the elections, and he obeyed because he cannot refuse any request. In the end the only power he has follows Abu Mazzen and follows Fateh...he is not as powerful as he seems. He is weak and his power is only his support...
MB: How can Hamas and Fateh join, and what are the consequences if they do not come together?
HM: They can come together if they come together on three key issues. Firstly, the agreement on a unified political parliament; secondly, agreement on the political control instead of the partisan control of the Palestinian order-it is necessary for all to partake; and thirdly, the adoption of democratic foundations—elections and the engagement of the Authority...and freedoms, and the rule of law. These three issues are those that realize unity. Up until now there has not been shared conviction on Hamas or Fateh, there has been outside influence, most importantly from Israel and the United States and from Arab countries and from Iran, which has helped the continuation of the division. The division is not only a Palestinian matter; it is an Israeli matter and and a regional matter and an Arab and national matter. Outside factors impart a large influence in continuing the division.
MB: Was Hamas' strategy of firing missiles on Israel successful?
HM: No, this strategy was not helpful, for Hamas has stopped it by now—the missiles were not modern. However, what did help Hamas was the military operations. Hamas used military operations, in which many people participated, and that made Israel hurt. They took many, because they were aimed at populated and urban areas. This was not a special event after 9/11 in the United States of America, at which point Israel was able to see the difference between the planned Palestinian Resistance and terrorism. There is a large difference between the two. Terrorists work against national law, whereas the Resistance is a plan, for the Palestinians are under the Occupation, and therefore it is their right to resist the Occupation.
MB: What is Hamas' best strategy to relate with Israel?
HM: Hamas, as well as all Palestinians are in need of a national program, Resistance, and unity, however the resistance must use popular forms as opposed to violent forms of resistance. Without cutting off the armed resistance, however, in this period, armed resistance is not the only or desired style...the popular and peaceful resistance should be the key form of action.
MB: I thank you for your time and attention
HM: Thank you, thank you as well.