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Interview with Ismail Haniyeh

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Interview with Ismail Haniyeh

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Amid the outcry over Israel’s attack on the aid flotilla in the Mediterranean, there have been growing international calls for an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Euronews went to Gaza to interview Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader and disputed Palestinian Prime Minister.

Euronews: After the attack on the Freedom Flotilla you called for an end to the blockade on Gaza. The leaders of many other countries did the same. Do you consider what happened a victory for Hamas?

Ismail Haniyeh:

“What happened is a victory for humanity and for people of conscience all over the world, especially as the flotilla carried people from different nationalities, religions and political ideologies. All of them have one demand which is to break the siege of the Gaza Strip, and from this point of view we consider that the flotilla has become a turning point for global attention on Gaza and the siege of Gaza. We consider what happened as a victory for justice and conscience, at the same time it is a defeat for the occupation and injustice which is committed against the Palestinian people.”

Euronews:

To a large extent, your request to lift the siege was echoed by the international community after the flotilla attack. Some people consider it a success that Hamas refuses to share with the Palestinian Authority. For example you refused to meet the Authority delegation after the flotilla incident…

Haniyeh:

“There is no doubt that our request to end the blockade became a focus of international attention; people reacted to the nature of this siege because of the inhumane crimes the Israelis committed on the Freedom Flotilla. National reconciliation requires a consensus on the demands made by Hamas in the agreement that was negotiated by Egypt.”

Euronews:

How do you see the Commission set up by Israel to investigate the flotilla incident?

Haniyeh:

“To use an Arabic proverb “It is like throwing dust in your eye” or ‘pulling the wool over your eyes’; this is totally unacceptable for us. I do not think that anyone who was part of the flotilla would accept the ‘game’ of the Israeli investigation procedures. We support the international position which stresses the importance of an independent, transparent, international investigation into what happened in the Mediterranean.”

Euronews:

You are asking for a transparent and fair international investigation but the Goldstone report called on you to carry out an independent investigation into the crimes, described as war crimes, that were carried out by Hamas during the Israeli attacks. But the outcome of this investigation eventually cleared all Palestinian factions of blame. Isn’t it the same as what Israel is doing with their investigation?

Haniyeh:

“First of all there is a big difference between the Goldstone report and this crime. Secondly, there is one criminal in both cases and it is the Zionist enemy, the ones who committed war crimes in Gaza, and who committed the crime in the Mediterranean. Hamas conducted detailed and complete investigations, and has delivered the results to the United Nations and the Secretary General of the United Nations. As for the internal Palestinian investigation, we complied with the entire contents of the Goldstone report.”

Euronews:

What do you think of the EU’s offer to take responsibility for inspecting aid ships going to Gaza?

Haniyeh:

“In fact, we haven’t received any formal or specific offer. If we receive an initiative or a certain proposal, we will study it and will determine our position on it, but in general we say breaking the siege must happen; lifting the blockade should not be a formality. We demand to get access to water and an access to the Mediterranean Sea. Initially we think it is not a bad thing if Europeans want to be present in international or regional waters, we don’t mind their presence at any ports in Greece, Cyprus or Turkey, anywhere in international and regional waters, to supervise what enters the Gaza Strip.”

Eurronews:

But without the intervention of Israel?

Haniyeh:

“Yes, without the intervention of Israel at sea, on land and even at the Rafah crossing. We do not object to the return of European control of the Rafah crossing, but we reject any Israeli presence there. That is our position.”

Euronews:

Recently some jihadist movements have appeared in the Gaza Strip, whose ideology is close to that of al-Qaeda’s, for example the Army of Islam and Jund Ansar Allah among others. Can you control these groups, especially in the current climate?

Haniyeh:

“For a start, let us not treat the situation as a phenomenon; it is not widespread and does not form a significant presence in the Strip.”

Euronews:

But when three movements like that appear in a small area like Gaza, isn’t it worthy of being described as a big presence?

Haniyeh:

“There are a lot of names and titles, but its political influence is restricted. There are many names and you can find so many factions. For example even the PLO has about 14 factions, each faction has it’s own name but when you talk about their political or organisational weight, you have to face the facts: the truth is that the majority of people in the Gaza Strip tend towards central Islamic thought, the militant group Hamas, which leads Gaza adopts this kind of ideology. Therefore, I dispel the idea of there being any organisation of al-Qaeda in Gaza.”

Euronews:

But they are jihadist movements with ideologies close to that of al-Qaeda, and Hamas killed some of their leaders recently.

Haniyeh:

“They may have the same ideas but there are no organisations commanded by al-Qaeda in Gaza.”

Euronews:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently met the U.S. President in an attempt to revive indirect peace negotiations. What is Hamas’ position on this?

Haniyeh:

“We believe that direct negotiations, which lasted for 18 years, did not bring any results. What can we say about the indirect negotiations? For four months it did not solve any issue. More precisely, I mean the problem of Jerusalem, refugees, state sovereignty and borders. Neither the direct nor the indirect negotiations can lead to real results in the shadow of Israeli intransigence.”

Euronews:

The Palestinian President spoke on his visit to the United States about the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to have NATO forces stationed in Palestine in the first stages of the state’s formation. How do you see such statements?

Haniyeh:

“For a start we need a state with full sovereignty and complete freedom and the Palestinian people have to run a country without any foreign intervention.”