.....Dr al-Zahar offered no apologies for his past or his hardline views when he spoke to Stephen Farrell of The Times this week
.....On negotiations with Israel:
“Negotiation is not a goal in itself. It is a method; it is not an objective. If Israel has anything to offer on the issues of halting attacks, withdrawal, releasing prisoners . . . then one thousand means can be found.
“Negotiation is not taboo. The political crime is when we sit with the Israelis and then come out with a wide smile to tell the Palestinian people that there is progress, when in fact, there is not. The Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiated with them for many, many years and reached lastly a deadlock. So why should we be a new copy, like Fatah, wasting the time and money of the people negotiating for nothing?”
On relations with Israel:
“We have to disengage from Israel economically, on security, everything. We have to open the doors to the Arab and Muslim countries.
“Co-operation on the security field was a disaster for the Palestinians because it threatened the integrity of the Palestinians. When the PA co-operated against Hamas, that was a very critical moment that could have pushed some Hamas people to attack the PA.
“We destroyed our economical status by the linkage of our economy with the Israeli (one) . . . For example, we pay 5.5 shekels (66p) per litre for petrol from Israel. From Egypt, one metre from our borders, it is one Egyptian pound (9p). In 2004 we paid to Israel in one year $186 million (£105 million) for electricity. If we took it from Egypt it will be $20 million. We have ten commercial agreements with the Arabic and Islamic world without taxes. Israel takes from us 17 taxes and they are destroying our industry.”
The European people came to me in the last month and they said within six months they are going to do their best to change the attitudes of their administration, because they do not accept Hamas is a terrorist organisation.
Interview: Mahmoud Al-Zahar
June 22, 2003
JANA WENDT: Mr Al-Zahar, could I just interrupt you because we don't have that much time. The point is that your prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, has accepted this road map. He would like you to stop sending your young men to blow themselves up and to kill Israelis. He would like you to stop that. Will that ever happen?
MAHMOUD AL-ZAHAR: You are not speaking on the behalf of Mahmoud Abbas. Mahmoud Abbas is also looking at the same time to stop the Israeli killing of our children. Why are you looking in one eye that we are sending our people to kill Israeli children and women?
JANA WENDT: Let me just get Hamas's official position straight. One of your fellow Hamas leaders, Mr Rantissi, who was recently targeted by the Israelis, said these words, "The struggle will continue until the last Jew has left the country." Is that the aim of Hamas — for the last Jew to leave the country?
MAHMOUD AL-ZAHAR: We have no sort of discrimination but we are speaking about occupation. We are going to continue our armed struggle till the elimination of the occupation whether they are from French, Britain or the Jews. So this is the question and is not a sort of racism.
JANA WENDT: OK, just very quickly to finish Mr Al-Zahar how will Hamas respond if the EU moves to brand the political wing of your organisation a terrorist organisation? There is some talk that this will happen.
MAHMOUD AL-ZAHAR: We are considered as honourable people so we don't actually interested about the European Union who are in the tail, who are representing the tail of America, who is unable to do anything for the American — the Anglo-American occupation aggression against the Iraqi people. These people are negligible in the history. If they are considering that, they are going to announce — they are going to arouse many of the Muslims inside the European Union, and if they did, believe me they are going to suffer too much — on the democratic level — from the Muslim everywhere.
Hamas says ready to form Palestinian army
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - The Islamic militant group Hamas was ready to merge armed factions including its military wing to form an army to defend the Palestinian people, a senior Hamas leader said on Saturday.
"We are willing to form an army like every country ... an army to defend our people against aggression," Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal told a news conference in Damascus after the group swept Palestinian parliamentary elections.