Hamas: What is really behind Israel's assault on the people of Gaza (updated Jan. 13)

By Mousa Abu Marzook

January 6, 2009 -- Damascus -- While Americans may believe that the current violence in Gaza began December 27, in fact Palestinians have been dying from bombardments for many weeks. On November 4, when the Israeli-Palestinian truce was still in effect but global attention was turned to the US elections, Israel launched a "preemptive" airstrike on Gaza, alleging intelligence about an imminent operation to capture Israeli soldiers; more assaults took place throughout the month.

The truce thus shattered, any incentive by Palestinian leaders to enforce the moratorium on rocket fire was gone. Any extension of the agreement or improvement of its implementation at that point would have required Israel to engage Hamas, to agree to additional trust-building measures and negotiation with our movement -- a political impossibility for Israel, with its own elections only weeks away.

Not that the truce had been easy on Palestinians. In the six-month period preceding this week's bombardment, one Israeli was killed, while dozens of Palestinians lost their lives to Israeli military and police actions, and numerous others died for want of medical care.

The war on Gaza should not be mistaken for an Israeli triumph. Rather, Israel's failure to make the truce work, and its inevitable resort to bloodshed, demonstrate again that it cannot permit a future built on Palestinian political self-determination. The truce failed because Israel will not open Gaza's borders, because Israel would rather be a jailer than a neighbor, and because its intransigent leadership forestalls Palestinian destiny and will not make peace with history.

This week's war is not an attack on the Izzidin al-Qassam units -- our movement's military wing -- but is simply aggression targeting the people, infrastructure and economic life of Gaza, designed to sow terror and loose anarchy; it aims to establish new "facts on the ground" -- that is, heaps of rubble with bodies trapped beneath -- in advance of the coming American administration.

Israel claims loudly that it had no other choice this week but to rain death on refugees in camps, killing dozens of women and children, while Defence Minister Ehud Barak (the once and would-be prime minister) -- his eye fixed on February elections -- employs mass murder as his party's latest vote-getting appeal, an electoral strategy fit to shame the most hardened Chicago political operative.

But, of course, options remained available. Israel might have relented months ago, for the sake of the truce, in its criminal determination to starve Gaza, cutting off much of its fuel and choking all commerce to a trickle, blocking relief organisations from delivering food and medicine, and consigning Gaza's citizens to famine rations. Only the most cynical observer would call this grinding attrition "good faith" adherence to the truce. Blockades, after all, are explicitly acts of war.

Palestinians everywhere mark the closing of the Bush era with relief; nevertheless, skepticism runs high that any justice for our people might come from a new president who remained ominously silent in the presence of the latest Israeli onslaught, and who has aligned himself so thoroughly with Israel's interests, so long in advance of taking power. Barack Obama's helicopter ride two years ago above the Holy Land was not unusual in the annals of American parliamentarians junketed on "fact finding" trips by Israel's lobbyists; yet his fond remarks on what he saw -- "houses and streets like ones you might find" in any American suburb -- were notable for their silence as to any troubling sights. Did he miss the security roads and checkpoints that riddle the West Bank, or the construction of the wall, or the illegal settlements? Perhaps his helicopter flew too high.

But now, amid Israel's latest attack on our people, as the death toll rises in the hundreds, with thousands wounded -- all victims of US taxpayers' largesse -- Palestinians wonder how Obama will react to the escalating crisis. They demand of the next White House a new paradigm of respect and accountability, because when Palestinians see an F-16 with the Star of David painted on its tail, they see America.

Palestinians are understandably guarded about the coming administration, noting its appointments with trepidation. The soon-to-be US Secretary of State is unforgettable for urging years ago US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital, while the administration's chief of staff bears the stain of his father's service in the banned terrorist Irgun paramilitary, a Zionist group responsible for numerous atrocities.

Renewed calls today for our movement to "recognise the right of Israel to exist", in the face of murderous onslaught, ring as hollow as Israel's continuing claims to be acting in "self-defence" as her jets bomb civilians. Without debating here the Zionist state's fictive, existential "right", which of the many Israels, precisely, would the West have us recognise? Is it the Israel that militarily occupies land belonging to three of its neighbors, ignoring international law and scores of U.N. resolutions over decades? Is it the Israel that illegally settles its citizens on other people's land, seizes water sources and uproots olive trees? Is it the Israel that in 60 years has never acknowledged the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their farms and villages as the foundational act of its statehood and denies refugees their right to return?

Through bitter experience, when we hear demands for "recognition" of Israel as a precondition to dialogue, what we hear is a call for acquiescence in its crimes against us, validating the injustices that have been wrought in its name.

Our spirit to fight on is the legacy of collective suffering: With tens of thousands dead or wounded by decades of the "peace process", you cannot find a family in Palestine -- Muslim or Christian, Hamas, Fatah, PFLP or Islamic Jihad -- without a son or daughter killed, injured, jailed or tortured, or which does not count itself or its kin among the millions of refugees living in UN camps.

Hamas is not a handful of leaders. Israel may kill all of the current leadership in this round of violence, including me, and its organic, social infrastructure will not go away. We are, simply put, a homegrown national liberation resistance movement, with millions of people who support our struggle for freedom and justice.

President-elect Obama spoke courageously in his campaign for a policy of open dialogue, absent preconditions, with those deemed inimical to US interests, and we were listening. One former US president -- a true peacemaker -- has dared to visit with us and hear our side of this struggle, while offering us no shortage of criticism. It has been a refreshing exchange. Now is the time for the next US president to do the same.

No American leader has ever visited a Palestinian refugee camp anywhere, much less in Gaza -- a startling fact, considering the central role America has played in our people's narrative. None has dared to look our refugees in their faces and experience their suffering directly.

In observance of the storied tradition of Arab hospitality to guests, and anticipating that day when a US president fulfills his promise of change, we extend the invitation now, and we will put the kettle on.

[Mousa Abu Marzook is the deputy of the political bureau of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.]

This brutality will never break our will to be free

By Khalid Mish'al

Guardian, January 6, 2009 -- For 18 months my people in Gaza have been under siege, incarcerated inside the world's biggest prison, sealed off from land, air and sea, caged and starved, denied even medication for our sick. After the slow death policy came the bombardment. In this most densely populated of places, nothing has been spared Israel's warplanes, from government buildings to homes, mosques, hospitals, schools and markets. More than 540 have been killed and thousands permanently maimed. A third are women and children. Whole families have been massacred, some while they slept.

This river of blood is being shed under lies and false pretexts. For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start. Israel was required to open crossings to Gaza, and extend the truce to the West Bank. It proceeded to tighten its deadly siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and water supplies. The collective punishment did not halt, but accelerated - as did the assassinations and killings. Thirty Gazans were killed by Israeli fire and hundreds of patients died as a direct effect of the siege during the so-called ceasefire. Israel enjoyed a period of calm. Our people did not.

When this broken truce neared its end, we expressed our readiness for a new comprehensive truce in return for lifting the blockade and opening all Gaza border crossings, including Rafah. Our calls fell on deaf ears. Yet still we would be willing to begin a new truce on these terms following the complete withdrawal of the invading forces from Gaza.

No rockets have ever been fired from the West Bank. But 50 died and hundreds more were injured there last year at Israel's hands, while its expansionism proceeded relentlessly. We are meant to be content with shrinking scraps of territory, a handful of cantons at Israel's mercy, enclosed by it from all sides.The truth is Israel seeks a one-sided ceasefire, observed by my people alone, in return for siege, starvation, bombardment, assassinations, incursions and colonial settlement. What Israel wants is a gratuitous ceasefire.

The logic of those who demand that we stop our resistance is absurd. They absolve the aggressor and occupier -- armed with the deadliest weapons of death and destruction -- of responsibility, while blaming the victim, prisoner and occupied. Our modest, home-made rockets are our cry of protest to the world. Israel and its American and European sponsors want us to be killed in silence. But die in silence we will not.

What is being visited on Gaza today was visited on Yasser Arafat before. When he refused to bow to Israel's dictates, he was imprisoned in his Ramallah headquarters, surrounded by tanks for two years. When this failed to break his resolve, he was murdered by poisoning.

Gaza enters 2009 just as it did 2008: under Israeli fire. Between January and February of last year 140 Gazans died in air strikes. And just before it embarked on its failed military assault on Lebanon in July 2006, Israel rained thousands of shells on Gaza, killing 240. From Deir Yassin in 1948 to Gaza today, the list of Israel's crimes is long. The justifications change, but the reality is the same: colonial occupation, oppression, and never-ending injustice. If this is the "free world" whose "values" Israel is defending, as its foreign minister Tzipi Livni alleges, then we want nothing to do with it.

Israel's leaders remain in the grip of confusion, unable to set clear goals for the attacks - from ousting the legitimately elected Hamas government and destroying its infrastructure, to stopping the rockets. As they fail to break Gaza's resistance the benchmark has been lowered. Now they speak of weakening Hamas and limiting the resistance. But they will achieve neither. Gaza's people are more united than ever, determined not to be terrorised into submission. Our fighters, armed with the justice of their cause, have already caused many casualties among the occupation army and will fight on to defend their land and people. Nothing can defeat our will to be free.

Once again, Washington and Europe have opted to aid and abet the jailer, occupier and aggressor, and to condemn its victims. We hoped Barack Obama would break with George Bush's disastrous legacy but his start is not encouraging. While he swiftly moved to denounce the Mumbai attacks, he remains tongue-tied after 10 days of slaughter in Gaza. But my people are not alone. Millions of freedom-loving men and women stand by its struggle for justice and liberation - witness daily protests against Israeli aggression, not only in the Arab and Islamic region, but worldwide.

Israel will no doubt wreak untold destruction, death and suffering in Gaza. But it will meet the same fate in Gaza as it did in Lebanon. We will not be broken by siege and bombardment, and will never surrender to occupation.

[Khalid Mish'al is the head of the Hamas political bureau.]

Hamas: `Immediate withdrawal of Israel from Gaza; lift the unjust siege; open all border crossings -- With an open mind, we will deal with any initiatives based on these three requests'

In a speech from Damascus on January 11, 2009, Khalid Mish'al, head of the Hamas political bureau, spoke on Israel's 15-day assault on the Gaza Strip. This edited text of the televised address appeared on the Socialist Unity website

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The Zionists wanted to impose a humiliating defeat on us because the only obstacle to confront them is resistance, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps the Zionists, because of the difference between the resistance in Lebanon and Gaza, thought that in comparison with Hezbollah, we were weak and they could regain the reputation of their army following its defeat in Lebanon. They tried to use the territories of Gaza to show their military might.

So this is a battle of demonstrating military strength, a fight or war to impose a defeat on our people. The Zionists thought that we were the weakest. However, the Zionists were surprised by the resistance.

All our supporters in the Arab and Islamic world as well as the West should be sure that the resistance in Gaza is in its best situation.

The resistance was able to absorb the strikes of the enemy and then take the initiative and day by day, we are seeing new surprises by the Palestinian resistance.

Just less than two hours ago we struck the airbase of Balnakhim which is 50 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip.

The enemy had assigned aims for itself to achieve. These aims are now lessening with the passing of time. Israel wanted to destroy Gaza, wanted to end Hamas’ control of Gaza as it said, the enemy wanted to destroy the resistance in Gaza, wanted to stop the rockets from Gaza.

But what are the Israelis left with today? They are now focusing and targeting north Gaza and are demolishing peoples’ houses over their heads while trying to enter north Gaza and stop the rockets. However, the heroic resistance has not allowed them to make progress. In the south, they are trying to stop weapons reaching Hamas. They are trying to impose new realities whereby with the new situation they can negotiate for what better suits them, for instance in the Security Council.

They are trying to send a message to the Israeli population that they are victorious; that they have imposed new realities, in order to cover up their defeats in these 15 days. But very frankly the enemy has achieved nothing.

Let us make calculations. What has the enemy achieved? I can say with all confidence according to facts on the ground that from a military perspective the enemy has failed completely. Have they stopped rockets being launched? Now they are talking about ways to stop the rockets. They want to impose new facts on southern Gaza so they can guarantee their security as they allege. But they have not attained any of their aims. So what have they achieved?

The enemy has succeeded in one thing. In addition, to covering up for their loses, Israelis do not confess to their causalities and deaths among their soldiers. They prevent the media from entering into Gaza. Israel tries to cover up these losses by talking about friendly fire and road accidents. But the truth will come out and the Zionists will discover how many people they have lost and the magnitude of their failure in Gaza. They also try to trick the world and show that they have gone deep into Gaza by fabricated TV footage. They depict by means of false pictures that they have entered deep into Gaza.

So what has the enemy succeeded in? The enemy has succeeded in committing murders. Murders against the women and children of Gaza. Israel has grouped people in houses and then destroyed the houses. They kidnap people and then execute them in cold blood.

The enemy has succeeded in bringing about a new Holocaust on Gaza.

Let me now speak to Israelis and Zionists. What have you achieved in this war that you supported? You supported your leaders in going ahead with this war, but what have you achieved besides killing innocent children, breaking skulls and creating an ocean of blood in Gaza?

What have you achieved except a Holocaust that your leaders want to use to win the next elections in February? Palestinian blood is now a means for political achievements in your elections.

You complain about the Holocaust that was committed against you, but you today are now committing an even harsher Holocaust. The Palestinians can now make a museum of your Holocaust in Gaza…

What prevented the US from allowing Resolution 1860 being passed a week or two weeks ago? They wanted to give Israel a chance to kill more Palestinians and claim victory over Gaza. But when the resistance did not back down and Israel failed and when the magnitude of these massacres were uncovered and the USA and those who collaborated in this military campaign witnessed the dissent and intifada among the Muslim masses, which carries with it real danger, at that point they let the resolution pass.

But they took the teeth out of (UN Security Council Resolution) 1860. The resolution is a non-binding cease-fire with no date specified for the cease-fire.

The question now is about who should implement the resolution. Those who started the military campaign in the first place, the Zionists, should implement it and immediately pull out of Gaza. This is logic.

Concerning us, we want the immediate and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the lifting of the unjust siege on Gaza that has led to the current situation.

Our other request is the opening of all border crossings including the Rafah border crossing.

We, with an open mind, will deal with any initiatives and decisions based on these three requests.

Therefore, we will not accept any negotiations for a truce in the light of and under the pressure of a military campaign and siege.

Let the military campaign stop, let the Israelis withdraw, and let the rights of our people be admitted to, let them recognize our rights to live without a siege and closed border crossings, just like other humans, then we are ready to discuss a truce, just like we did before.

We will not accept a permanent truce, because it will take the right of resistance from the Palestinian people. The resistance is against occupation and military campaigns and therefore as long as occupation exists, resistance will too…

We will also not accept the interference of international forces because international forces will come only to protect Israel’s security and any international force imposed will be considered as occupiers.

We will not accept any talks about strengthening the ``choke hold'' on the resistance concerning its weapons. Some are speaking about the tunnels as if Gaza is a super power with advanced weapons, while we are people with very limited capabilities to defend our territories and ourselves. No body has the right to take our legitimate right for defense and resistance. The US, as if the whole of the Israeli arsenal does not exists, sends hundreds of tons of explosives and artillery shells to Israel.

In this context, we still sent our delegation to Cairo to talk about Egypt’s proposal and other political plans. The November 2005 Rafah crossing agreement, must be reconsidered because this agreement really promoted the blockade on Gaza and we proposed different means and methods.

I call on Mr. Mahmoud Abbas -- who called for national unity in the face of Israel’s attacks -- to declare to the world that we must agree to a Palestinian partnership between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza, so that we can reach a firm arrangement in Rafah. This is appropriate choice for you. Anything besides this has no credibility when it comes to national unity.

We supported national unity from day one–nNational unity based upon confronting the military campaign, but this needs honesty and credibility. All political detainees must be freed and the Palestinians in the West Bank must be free to hold protests without being arrested. We saw them arrested of course yesterday. We also call on Mahmoud Abbas to stop cooperating with the enemy and to stop negotiations with the Israelis. There is no future for these negotiations…

And to the Arab countries, by God you abandoned and degraded us. But if you made mistakes in the past go ahead and correct your mistakes before it is to late… I call on Arab countries not to welcome any Israeli official in their capitals.

The Arab leaders must coordinate and be aligned with the will of their people. Moreover, I call on Arab countries that have relations with Israel to tell the Israelis either that they should stop their war, or that the Arab countries will stop their relations.

After this resolution, the Muslim Ummah should not calm down and assume the atrocities are over. Resolution 1860 has not brought about any changes on the ground. Israel refuses the resolution and the battle in Gaza is in its most intense phase. What we need is more stern resistance in Gaza and we need more fierce protests in the Arab and Islamic world and the international community to achieve victory for the people of Gaza. We need a third Intifada (uprising) in the West Bank and a revolution in the Arab, Islamic world until the enemy withdraws from Gaza, the siege is lifted and the border crossings are opened.

A very important point is that the Muslim world should stand by us. In spite of all these massacres committed by Israel, some say that we are the problem and the massacres are our fault. These are shameful words. What provided the atmosphere for the Zionists to boost their reputation (among their people) and to increase our wounds and impose new circumstances, for example the separation wall, settlement activities and so on, all happened at the time of negotiations.

Concerning are casualties and wounded, resistance cannot liberate without martyrs and casualties. It is better to achieve victory through martyrs and wounded, instead of having casualties without resistance and victory.

Some express fear that after all the sacrifices, the leadership of the resistance may collapse or make a settlement for example. On the contrary, the blood of our women and children and people will increase our cohesion and determination to achieve our aims. It is unjust that after all these massacres to just go and say lets make a truce. On the contrary, the price of this bloodshed is freedom and to decide our own destiny and to end the occupation and siege.