Hamas is typically vilified and ignored by western media obsequious to the fascist Israeli cause – Ken Livingstone makes a stellar effort in illuminating facets of the democratically elected government of Gaza in his interview with leader-in-exile, Khaled Meshal, covering his life, the sadistic Gaza siege perpetrated by the Ziocolony and the hideous, illegal Occupation.
KL: What is the situation in Gaza today?
KM: Gaza today is under siege. Crossings are closed most of the time and for months victims of the Israeli war on Gaza have been denied access to construction materials to rebuild their destroyed homes. Schools, hospitals and homes in many parts of the Gaza Strip are in need of rebuilding. Tens of thousands of people remain homeless. As winter approaches, the conditions of these victims will only get worse in the cold and rain. One and a half million people are held hostage in one of the biggest prisons in the history of humanity. They are unable to travel freely out of the Strip, whether for medical treatment, for education or for other needs. What we have in Gaza is a disaster and a crime against humanity perpetrated by the Israelis. The world community, through its silence and indifference, colludes in this crime.
KL: Why do you think Israel is still imposing the siege on Gaza?
KM: The Israelis claim that the siege is for security reasons. The real intention is to pressure Hamas by punishing the entire population. The sanctions were put in place soon after Hamas won the Palestinian elections in January 2006. While security is one of their concerns, it is not the main motivation. The primary objective is to provoke a coup against the results of the democratic elections that brought Hamas to power. The Israelis and their allies seek to impose failure on Hamas by persecuting the people. This is a hideous and immoral endeavour. Today, the siege continues despite the fact that we have, for the past six months, observed a ceasefire. Last year, a truce was observed from June to December 2008. Yet the siege was never lifted, and the sanctions remained in place. Undermining Hamas is the main objective of the siege. The Israelis hope to turn the people of Gaza against Hamas by increasing the suffering of the entire population of the Strip.
Meshal points to the rightful remedies which could, if the US was an honest player, be applied:
KL: How do you think the blockade can be lifted?
KM: In order for the blockade to be lifted, the rule of international law must be respected. The basic human rights of the Palestinians and their right to live in dignity and free from persecution would have to be acknowledged. There has to be an international will to serve justice and uphold the basic principles of international human rights law. The international community would have to free itself from the shackles of Israeli pressure, speak the truth and act accordingly.
Meshal highlights accurately the chain of events which lead to the massacre of the people of Gaza earlier this year:
L: Israel says that the bombing and invasion of Gaza last year was in response to repeated breaking of the ceasefire by Hamas and the firing of rockets into southern Israel. Is this the case?
KM: The Israelis are not telling the truth. We entered into a truce deal with Israel from 19 June to 19 December 2008. Yet the blockade was not lifted. The deal entailed a bilateral ceasefire, lifting the blockade and opening the crossings. We fully abided by the ceasefire while Israel only partially observed it, and towards the end of the term it resumed hostilities. Throughout that period, Israel maintained the siege and only intermittently opened some of the crossings, allowing no more than 10 per cent of the basic needs of the Gazan population to get through.
Israel killed the potential for renewing the truce because it deliberately and repeatedly violated it.
I have always informed my western visitors, including the former US president Jimmy Carter, that the moment Hamas is offered a truce that includes lifting the blockade and opening the crossings, Hamas will adopt a positive stance. So far, no one has made us any such offer. As far as we are concerned, the blockade amounts to a declaration of war that warrants self-defence.
Significantly, Meshal declares his commitment to democratic processes and describes why the Islamic nature of Hamas is not an impediment for democracy in Palestine.
KL: Do you wish to establish an Islamic state in Palestine in which all other religions are subordinate?
KM: Our priority as a national liberation movement is to end the Israeli occupation of our homeland. Once our people are free in their land and enjoy the right to self-determination, they alone have the final say on what system of governance they wish to live under. It is our firm belief that Islam cannot be imposed on the people. We shall campaign, in a fully democratic process, for an Islamic agenda. If that is what the people opt for, then that is their choice. We believe that Islam is the best source of guidance and the best guarantor for the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
KL: Does Hamas impose Islamic dress in Gaza? For example, is it compulsory in Gaza for women to wear the hijab, niqab or burqa?
KM: No. Intellectually, Hamas derives its vision from the people’s culture and religion. Islam is our religion and is the basic constituent of our culture. We do not deny other Palestinians the right to have different visions. We do not impose on the people any aspects of religion or social conduct. Features of religion in Gaza society are genuine and spontaneous; they have not been imposed by any authority other than the faith and conviction of the observant.