Mashaal: Hamas is no IS, will accept state based on ’67 lines

Palestinian terror group’s political chief rejects terrorist label, even as he justifies rocket fire from civilian areas, demands ‘right of return’

The exiled head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, gestures during a press conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, September 7, 2015. (AFP/al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar/File)
The exiled head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, gestures during a press conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, September 7, 2015. (AFP/al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar/File)

Khaled Mashaal does not believe that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and would be prepared to accept a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital and with the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, he told India’s English-language New Delhi Television (NDTV) station .

Speaking from his home in Doha, Qatar in an interview aired on July 18, Mashaal stated that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state along 1967 borders.

“We are keen to unify the Palestinian front, the Arab front and attract the support of the world for our rights. And that’s why we have agreed in consensus among us Palestinians on a national program that is supported by the Arabs on establishing a sovereign independent Palestinian state along the lines of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right of return for the Palestinians in exile,” he said, according to a translation provided by NDTV.

His statement contradicts the infamous Hamas charter, which states that the movement “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” The Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians — refugees and their descendants — would also remake Israel’s demography and wipe out its Jewish majority, and as such is a demand flatly rejected by Israeli governments.

Hamas, which is designated a terror group by Israel and the US, has been the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip since it seized power in a bloody internecine battle against Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement in 2007.

Mashaal rejected comparison to the Islamic State and dismissed claims that Hamas is a terrorist organization. There is, he said, a fundamental difference between “legitimate resistance” and terror on the basis of religion.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the Israelis have always thrown those allegations against our people, since they are the real terrorists,” he said. “There is a vast difference between us as a national liberation movement, a legitimate resistance against [Israeli] occupation, which is a right reserved for all people under occupation in international law, in the divine faiths, in all human experience. We are against those random killing extremist movements who are killing on the basis of religion or faith or sect.”

In the past, Mashaal has, however, praised terror numerous occasions, and as recently as last December reiterated that jihad is the only option available to his people.

“The Palestinians have reached the realization that negotiations with the (Israelis) are useless,” he said during a visit to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lampur on December 10. “The so-called peace process is futile. There is no peace. Only the path of jihad, sacrifice, and blood (will bear fruit).”

In his recent interview, Mashaal also defended Hamas fighters’ practice in Gaza of using human shields and its habit of firing rockets from civilian areas indiscrimnately into Israel — most recently during the 2014 conflict with the IDF, known by Israelis as Operation Protective Edge.

“Gaza is a very small area… condensed with its occupants,” he said. “The resistance has the right to choose places where they can cover up their defensive weaponry to respond to the aggression of the enemy.”

Despite his ostensible willingness for compromise, Mashaal said that negotiations with Israel were currently doomed to fail due to Israeli intransigence.

“The Palestinian Authority is negotiating. It has been engaging in this process for a long time,” he said. “But the Israelis are denying them that basis [for a deal]. That’s why the negotiation process has been useless. It’s just been a mirage for repression.”

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