- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Ismail Abu Shanab, a former adviser to Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, is a top political leader of that Palestinian Islamic movement. An engineering professor at the Islamic University of Gaza, Mr. Shanab spoke with reporter Joshua Mitnick about the U.S. war on terrorism and the two-year -old Palestinian uprising.

Q: What are the political implications of September 11 for Hamas?

A: This is a problem of the Americans with the Saudis and Osama bin Laden. This is the fault of the Americans. I totally believe this.

We have no connection with bin Laden. Our position was to denounce what happened. If you look at what happened, Osama bin Laden was a person who was encouraged to fight in Afghanistan by the Americans. The Americans were using bin Laden to fight the Russians in Afghanistan.

Later on he became a figure, and a dominant figure, in Saudi Arabia. So he began to fight Americans in Saudi Arabia. It has nothing to do with Islam in general. It has nothing to do with Hamas or other Islamic movements elsewhere.

Q: The Americans say they see a connection, and they want to cut off support for Hamas from institutions in the U.S.

A: This is ridiculous. Nobody can buy all of this propaganda.

I am familiar with Americans. I got my master's there. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1983. So I know this plan to attack Afghanistan and to attack Iraq or Saudi Arabia later on, or Egypt, is preplanned.

The Pentagon had plans, so they wanted to find an excuse. My analysis is that Osama bin Laden is the scapegoat who was to make all of things happen just to give America this trend, this excuse. I cannot believe that all of this propaganda all over the world has no connection to what happened.

There is a new trend in America to be the new face of imperialism. This trend is triumphing over other forces in America that want to be the guardian of democracy and humanitarian values.

The superpowers in the U.S. are the big companies. Those big companies are pushing the Americans toward more hegemony, more control and imperialism. So the problem was not Afghanistan the problem was the oil in the sea in Afghanistan.

Now the problem is not Saddam, but the oil in the Gulf. And so on. So this is the real problem. Because if it was just Osama bin Laden, they could have reached him without all of these losses and without killing thousands of innocent Afghan people.

Q: How did you feel when you heard that in the Tel Aviv bombing, there was a Scottish boy killed, and in the Hebrew University bombing in Jerusalem, there were several Americans citizens killed who happened to be studying there.

A: You need to start from the beginning to see how these consequences happen.

We are in the middle of a war between Palestinians and Israelis. In this war we have lost 2,000 Palestinians who were killed, most of whom were schoolchildren and women. We have 20,000 injured, the most serious number. Many of those injured have been paralyzed and are permanently disabled. We have more than 500 homes demolished. This is the situation.

The Israelis are using tanks and airplanes. We don't have anything. In this mood of outrage and anger, you should expect anything from Palestinians. If the Palestinians have killed the amount of people which the Israelis say, around 600 people, it is much less compared with the 2,000 on the Palestinian side. This is the story, and this is the comparison.

Now, my feeling is that this is wrong, and it shouldn't happen. But for the sake of defending yourself, you have to take all measures to affect and hurt your enemy. That is what is happening with the Palestinian side.

Q: How is that defending yourself? Isn't it only exposing the public to the danger of being hurt in Israeli reprisals?

A: This is [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's equation. The arrogance of power makes Israelis do more against Palestinians. But the Palestinians understand the equation that as long as the enemy is losing, we will lose. We will suffer as our enemy is suffering. Suffering among the Israelis is the price of their occupation. Because if we surrender, we will pay the same price.

Remember, many times the Palestinians have maintained calm, and Sharon continued to kill Palestinians. We discovered that, in any case, we will lose. So we will lose at the same time the Israelis are losing. This is hurting them. We have reached a point where we have nothing to lose.

Q: Were you approached with a cease-fire plan [from Yasser Arafat's Fatah party to stop bombings inside of Israel]?

A: Yes, we were.

Q: What did you think of it?

A: We made many initiatives like this cease-fire plan, but Sharon did not respect it. I'll tell you why: The Americans are in his pocket. The Americans are supporting him. They're not only supporting him, but they do not say no to him. He is overriding American policy and directing American policy toward his goals, not American goals.

Our understanding was that this will never be in the interest of the United States. But now the Americans very strongly support this. Why, I don't understand.

Q: You just talked about the recent period of quiet. Was it something deliberate by Hamas?

A: It's not a matter of deliberate; it's a matter of initiative. We want to examine all possibilities. We are in a very critical situation, and we want to achieve our goal by getting rid of the Israeli occupation. This is the main factor and the main source of all troubles.

We want to get rid of this, so we've tried all possibilities. We've tried nonviolent protest, which didn't work. We tried to use stones, and it didn't work. And so on.

Q: Do you have meetings with Fatah people?

A: Yes.

Q: You mean you sit down together?

A: We are one nation, and we are one people. You see, in Gaza, we are one family. We are close to each other. We are even relatives. You'll find in one family one brother from Hamas, a second in Fatah and a third in another party, and so on. So we meet frequently. We talk and have channels of communication open all the time.

Q: Right now, the Palestinian Authority is saying that they're trying to persuade Hamas that suicide bombings serve Sharon more than they serve the Palestinians. Can you comment on that dialogue?

A: We tried to see Palestinian reaction to this. And we've taken many polls among Palestinians. Imagine that 70 percent of Palestinians have supported operations inside of Israel. Now the statistics speak about 60 to 65 percent of Palestinians that support something like this. So the Palestinians cannot understand that while Israeli forces are killing Palestinians, the Palestinians [should] stay calm.

It should be put to the Israelis: Leave Palestinians alone, stop killing, withdraw from Palestinian territory, and then ask the Palestinians to stop the resistance.

This is the possible way to solve the issue: The Israelis are occupying another people. This is against international law. This is against U.N. resolutions. So, let them withdraw.

Later on, ask the Palestinians to stop the resistance, and you will find the Palestinians are more understanding.

Q: It's very interesting [that] you look at public opinion polls. How often do you consult polls?

A: This is a new trend among our side. Do you know why? Because the Palestinian Authority sometimes claims; 'We are legitimate, and we understand the interests of the Palestinian people. So we should lead the whole process.' You can't just take that from their hands. You have to go to the people to ask them whether they believe the Palestinian Authority statements. So that has been encouraged.

Q: The Palestinian Authority security chiefs are saying that if they can't come to an understanding with Hamas, they are going to make arrests. Are you concerned about that?

A: Well, we are concerned, but this would be a disaster for the Palestinians.

This is what the Israelis are trying to plan all the time. If the Palestinians fight each other, the Israelis will continue their occupation. They'll tell the whole world that the Palestinians are fighting each other, so it's better for them to stay.

We understand that this isn't in the interest of any of the Palestinians. We have avoided it in the past, we are trying to avoid it now and in the future.

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