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From the August 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 8)

'We Will Give Israel One More Chance'

An interview with Hamas spokesman Hasan Yosef
Palestine Report (weekly independent Internet publication), Jerusalem, Israel, June 6, 2001

What is your position regarding the cease-fire?

A cease-fire means that there are two fighting armies. The Palestinian people are a people whose land is occupied and whose Muslim and Christian holy sites are threatened by Judaization. This is on top of the siege, closure, and constant deprivation of Palestinians. All of these practices force our occupied people to defend themselves, according to the Shariah and divine laws.

Will the suicide operations inside Israel continue?
The Palestinian people gave the Israelis a historical opportunity. There were eight years of negotiations and talks. However, the Israeli occupation did not give us anything. On the contrary, settlements increased. These Israeli measures forced the Palestinian people and all its forces, including Fatah—which believed in the peace process—to resist the occupier. For the past eight months the occupation has carried out violence—it has used warplanes and rockets and internationally banned gases. It has used every means to kill our children, men, and women. Should we offer them a bouquet of roses for what they have done to us? When Americans are attacked, they defend themselves. What we are doing is defending ourselves. There is no Palestinian who is interested in maintaining this state of violence and tension in the region. We, as a Palestinian people, call for real peace. But there exists an occupation of our land. When the occupation is ended, settlements are halted, and we establish our fully sovereign Palestinian state, there will not be one individual from the Palestinian people, including Hamas, who will want to shed one drop of blood from anyone in the world.

Did you receive an official letter or request from the Palestinian Authority to stop your operations?
I was called upon by the Palestinian intelligence services. They put before me the decision taken by Abu Ammar [President Yasser Arafat’s nom de guerre] regarding the cease-fire. They described to me the extent of the dangers facing the Palestinian people and the pressures put on the Palestinians. Hamas and all the national forces will work toward the interests of the Palestinian people.

Does this mean a calming of the situation and an end to the Intifada?
Seventy-eight percent of the Palestinian people support the Intifada as long as Palestinian land is occupied.

Will the pressures facing President Arafat lead to a real cooling down of the situation?
The interests of the Palestinian people will be decisive. Struggle and jihad will remain [our] legitimate rights.

What if Arafat calls for your arrests?
We will cross that bridge when we get to it. But the Palestinian people reject political arrests because they will destroy the unity of the people. Hamas rejects the Mitchell report calling for the arrest of Palestinians by Palestinians.

But do you think that Arafat might arrest Hamas activists because of international pressure and in order to protect his people from a harsh Israeli retaliation?
Sharon does not need excuses to strike. The Israeli media prepared public opinion, and Sharon is ready to strike the Palestinian territories. But the Tel Aviv operation made Sharon recalculate. He does not respect peace agreements. His philosophy is based on settlement expansion and the expulsion of the Palestinians.

Will Hamas carry out any operations in the next two weeks?
We are part of the Palestinian people. And in accordance with this new move to confront the Israeli occupation, Hamas will give Israel one more chance. After the arrival of the Palestinian Authority, we did not shoot one bullet for eight months. But despite this calm, Israel still assassinated Yahiye Ayash [believed to be the mastermind behind past suicide attacks—WPR]. We will act according to the other side. Just yesterday, Israeli planes were hovering over the area. Israel does not want peace; it does not want a cease-fire. We are the ones who want peace. Israel is responsible for everything that is happening to us.

What did you get out of the Tel Aviv operation?
This operation deeply disturbed the Israeli people and shook their sense of security. One million Israelis have left [Israel] since the start of the Intifada. As for the Palestinians, the more Sharon shells, the more they grow in strength. People welcome these operations against Israelis as they would welcome a wedding.

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