“A common state of Muslims, Christians and Jews without Zionism”

Interview with Abu Obaida Shakir, representative of Islamic Jihad in Lebanon
by Mohamed Aburous
In the frame of the Sumud mission to the Ain el Hilweh refugee camp in July/August 2010 we met Abu Obaida Shakir, IJ’s spokesman for the camp.
Abu Obaida Shakir

Founded in 1983 the “Islamic Jihad” (IJ) has been the first Islamic organisation which took up arms and joined the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. It offered the first Islamic alternative to the secular project of Arafat even before the Muslim Brotherhood created Hamas and embarked on the armed struggle.

The political difference between IJ and Hamas is that the first puts national liberation before the Islamisation of society. Inspired by the Islamic revolution in Iran its founder Fathi Shikaki (born 1951 and assassinated 1995 in Malta) absorbed many social and political elements not only from Shiite political Islam but also from the secular left and the Pan-arabist movement. His book “Khomeini: The Islamic Solution and the Alternative” which appeared in 1979 can be regarded as the first echo of the Iranian revolution in the Sunni Arab environment.

IS continues to call for the boycott of the election organised in the frame of the PA and maintained the armed struggle as the only valid strategy on the road to the liberation of Palestine. In the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas their remained neutral.

Q: Who is Islamic Jihad?

As people who were expelled from its land and whose land is under occupation, we are still struggling with all methods to be able to return and to liberate it. We as the movement of Islamic Jihad in Palestine are a natural response to occupation. We have three pillars: Islam, Palestine and Jihad as the method to liberate Palestine. These three pillars are the decisive points which determine our relationship to all political forces in the Arab and Islamic region and in the international area. We focus on the principle of resistance and unity as the main slogan in our work inside Palestinian society. Unity is the only protection for our people and its resistance and it is the only way to progress. Based on these pillars we are ready to cooperate with everyone who agrees with us and we are thankful for all solidarity efforts supporting our fight for a just peace. We as Islamic Jihad come from an Islamic ideology based on the rule of unity in resistance. Resistance is the only method to achieve our aims.

Q: Why resistance?

Because the peace processes in all its forms and colours was not able to end the Zionist occupation and its expansion and aggression against our people. They were not able to change the fact that our people is under occupation and suffering. We are a people who loves life, but we also stick to our land and are ready to die for a life in dignity and freedom. Martyrdom means for us life for our people. We are ready to die for our just cause. We do not fight because we love war, but to regain our right and to force the Zionist occupier to leave our land. Peace means for us to dismantle the Zionist project that occupied the land of Palestine by force and created a state on the land of others and the return of the settlers to the countries they came from. That means Palestine should be returned to its legitimate people. When this is achieved, we are ready to live together with our Christian and Jewish brothers in one state liberated from the Zionist aggression. We don’t fight Jews because they are Jews, but because they are aggressors and occupiers of a land which is not theirs and because they caused the expulsion of the Palestinian people. I stress this point so that no one mixes up things. The international community unfortunately supports the Zionist aggressor instead of supporting the Palestinians to achieve their rights. This is a result of the US-American and Zionist domination on the institutions of the international community, rendering it to support the aggressor against the victim. Peace can only be based on justice, which implies giving every one his rights. As long as Palestinians are expelled or under occupation, the balance of justice is not straight. We consider the Zionist enemy and the American administration that is supporting them the real danger for peace in the region and in the world. The Americans, talking about human rights, are daily aggressing human beings. In the name of democracy and humanity they are assassinating democracy and humanity.

Q: Because you are part of the resistance, we would like to know how you practically deal with the actions of resistance. What are the targets of your military operations?

This is left to the conditions of our brothers in our military arm. The Jihadic operations target the military presence of the occupation in all its forms, colours and structures. As long as the occupation is there, all actions are legitimate. All resistance actions are the response to the occupation, the normalisation and the daily humiliation our people is suffering from in all parts of Palestine.

Q: What are the ideological and political differences between Islamic Jihad and Hamas?

Actually there are no ideological differences. Ideologically we have the same source, which is Islam. We have differences in methods and tactics. In our view, Hamas entered the Palestinian Authority in order to defend the resistance project and to protect the Palestinian cause from further capitulation. As for us, we did not join the Authority because it is a result of the Oslo agreement, in which the occupation of 80% of our country has been explicitly recognised, while the remaining 20% are a matter of negotiations. Until now, and after 20 years of negotiations, the Israeli enemy did not give back anything. The enemy is still occupying all Palestine and is still proceeding in its aggression and expansion without any kind of moral or political pressure from the side of the international community. The Zionist will give nothing away and they will keep exhausting the Palestinians so that they finally succumb and accept all Israeli conditions. Putting hopes in this peace process is like following a fata morgana, an illusion. We refuse to join the Authority because we are a national liberation movement practicing its right to struggle against the occupation. It is inacceptable to have a national authority under occupation. Talking about an authority under occupation is against all facts and serves the occupation at the end. One evidence is the fact that since the establishment of the Authority in 1993 following the Oslo agreement, the rate of colonisation and land confiscation increased. The enemy is using the Authority to legitimise its occupation, to justify the aggression and to cover its colonial expansion, especially in Jerusalem, where the Islamic and Christian holy places are in danger.´

Briefly, this kind of Authority is an American and Zionist project to close the way in front of our fight to liberate our homeland and to expel the enemy from Palestine and all occupied Arab lands. If you want to practice “authority”, you would need a land which is totally liberated from occupation. Our strategic priority as Islamic Jihad is liberation first, and then we establish our state in all Palestine.

Q: Do you think you can liberate the land by military action? What would you need to succeed?

We as Islamic Jihad, or even as Palestinian people as a whole, we don’t believe that within the current balance of forces we can liberate all Palestine by military methods. The liberation of Palestine requires the efforts of the whole Arab and Islamic nation. We consider the Palestinian people as the vanguard of the Arab and Islamic nation in fighting the Zionist imperialist project. The Zionist state was created by Western colonial will. It was British colonialism which founded it and provided it all kind of support and all means of survival.

Until the nation is able to carry on this liberation struggle, we as Palestinian are doing our duty toward the nation. Although we are not able to change the balance of forces and to defeat the occupation now, it is enough that we are able to set fire in its body and to see that it will never rest. No right gets lost as long someone is demanding it. We have a right, and we are practicing our natural right to fight our enemy. This struggle will continue for generations, until victory and liberation are achieved. For this, there is no time schedule.

Q: What are you doing to change the balance of forces in the Arab and Islamic countries? What do you think about the recent Turkish moves? Would a shift in the relations between Turkey and Israel change the situation?

Now we are suffering of the hegemony and the tyranny of the official Arab regimes which are dominated by the American imperialist will obliging them to serve the Israelis. We put our hopes in the peoples who will be able in middle or long term range to correct the line and to force the regimes to take part on the side of the people and not to follow the American dictates. That does not mean that we are calling for a confrontation with the regimes. We consider that our main and strategic contradiction is with the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Our aim is to force the regimes to change their politics and to deal according to the will and interests of the nation. More achievements of the resistance in the field mean more decline of the hegemony of the regimes in the Arab and Islamic societies.

As for the Turkish position, we welcome this change and see it as a positive development in the interest of the Palestinian cause. We hope that this Turkish position develops and crystallises so that Turkey becomes a leading force in the confrontation with the Zionist project in the region. Any Arab or Islamic or international effort is welcome as far it is in solidarity or support of our people. The Turkish position is characterised by its courage and is daring to challenge the siege of Gaza. They had martyrs in this action, of which we are also proud and whom we consider as Palestinian martyrs. There blood is an evidence of the criminality of the Zionist and US aggression against the peoples of the region. This blood was a solidarity statement.

Q: The Arab world consists of various religious elements. The colonial powers are trying to divide the region acting upon these differences. What is your view of a future political project for the region? How do deal with its religious plurality? How do you see the role of the Christian and the other confessions in this struggle to liberate the region?

The imperialists led all their wars in the region using the famous rule “divide et impera”. They are targeting everyone who lives in this land, independent of the religion. When the region is facing an external aggression, it should be natural that all would unite to face this aggression. Islam is an emancipatory and international religion. It is appropriate as a political umbrella to contain and cover all resistances in the world. For us Islam means peace, safety, security and stability for all the peoples of the region. It was Islam who protected Arab Christianity during the Western crusades which invaded the region. Since Islam entered the region, the Caliph Omar signed a pact with the Christians to secure and to protect the Christian holy places and grant religious freedoms. Islam coexists with all who would coexist with Islam, and fights those who fight Islam. Islam has never been the aggressor. It was always defending itself and willing to spread the ideas of peace, tolerance, security and stability. Islam calls for unity, because it means power, while confessionalism wants to divide in order to rule. When sectarianism fails in open confrontation with the peoples, it tries to set fire between the confessions. There is no contradiction between Panarabism and Islam. These boarders and categorisations are imposed by our enemy to ease colonialisation.

We as Islamic Jihad are an Islamic, Jihadic, Arab and patriotic movement, which calls for the unity of all the forces in the region in the main confrontation with the Zionist and US aggression, which represent the neo-colonialisation of the region. The future of the region will be on the side of the peoples of the regions. No external colonial power could stay here forever. The crusades also were finally defeated and the land was liberated. It can take long, but the colonial logic will be defeated.

Q: Talking about the Turkish position, what do you think of the struggle of the Kurds for self-determination and the PKK?

We take side of all oppressed in the world because we are oppressed as well. The Kurdish issue is complicated. The Kurds are divided between four states. We do not call for divisions and separation. The Kurdish people should live in peace and equality within the state it is living in. At the moment it is known that the Kurdish issue is deeply infiltrated by the Zionists. The Israelis have a wide freedom of operation in the Kurdish part of Iraq. The Kurdish issue is being used to blackmail the peoples of the region. Out of our unity concept we are against further divisions. Therefore there are no differences between Turks, Kurds and Arabs inside the Islamic identity. All nationalities are to be treated equally.

Q: You opposed to the Oslo agreement, together with Hamas and most Palestinian organisation. But together you all failed in creating an alternative political pole or a political project to Arafat’s track. Later Hamas joined the PNA and entered the election with known consequences. Why we don’t see any trials to create a political pole to the PNA based on the resistance program as an alternative to the collaboration authority of Ramallah?

The PNA was established by international efforts to guarantee Israeli security and interest and is supported by most powers of the world. On the other hand, the resistance is being persecuted and is under siege, being the vanguard in facing the Zionist and US project in the region. Additionally, most of the regimes of the regions are cooperating with the US. The balance of power is now on the side of the colonial forces. Nevertheless, the PNA is in a critical position and is even unable to administrate the daily life of the Palestinians. This is because it is dominated by Israel and has no options based on the will of the Palestinian people. The main contradiction is with the occupation, therefore all the resistance forces are focusing their energy on facing this occupation. They are doing their best to avoid distraction towards internal fights. For us Oslo was an American project to create a deep division inside the Palestinian society. The enemy needs such an equation to distract and confuse the Palestinian people and occupy them with side conflicts. Instead of uniting against the occupation, Palestinians would be fighting against each other. We were aware of this trap and we did not enter any direct confrontation with the PNA. We concentrated on fighting the Israeli enemy. The resistance forces were finally able to break the Oslo process and to impede it from reaching its aim to liquidate the Palestinian cause. At the moment the balance between the resistance and the collaboration forces is equal. Both sides have points of weakness and strength.

As for the failing alternative political program to the PNA, this is due to the external interventions and pressures by several regimes whose aim is to hinder any form of unity within the Palestinians. Our ambition is to be a factor of unity and not a factor of confrontation. We want to save the Authority and to bring it back to the hands of people and to the camp of resistance. The authority of Ramallah is instrumental for the occupation in order to distract and to occupy the resistance. Any move towards a Palestinian internal reconciliation is aborted by Israel, the US and their henchmen in the region. Their condition to achieve unity is that we recognise Israel. The Palestinian reconciliation is hence dominated by an international will which is dedicated to support the Zionist. If the Palestinians are on their own, they would have been already united. The resistance is going on in its project to create cracks in the enemy front. There is no salvation for our people but in the resistance. Our people tried the peace process and achieved nothing. The Israelis understand only the language of force. The more you compromise, the more they demand. The more you resist, the more they withdraw. This is because their whole existence is basically founded on aggression and occupation.

Q: Before the Israeli war on Gaza 2008 all forces were talking about permanent resistance until the liberation of all Palestine. How do you explain the decline of the military operation of the resistance afterwards?

First, military action never stopped in Palestine, neither in the West Bank nor in Gaza. The resistance didn’t take any decision to stop the military operations. But this issue is left to the conditions, abilities and resources of the fighting forces in the field. There are many difficulties hindering us to perform actions deep inside the Zionist state, and we are doing our best to manage and remove the obstacles. Insisting on our right to resist is an act of resistance itself. The war on Gaza was almost a world war. International and Arab regimes who supported the enemy in its war to uproot the resistance in Lebanon were the same who supported Israel in its aggression against Gaza. As they failed in achieving their targets in Lebanon 2006, they also failed in Gaza 2009. The resistance is in a stage of readiness and is working on developing its instruments and abilities. The state of confrontation with the enemy did not end and will not end, but it has peaks and deep points following the conditions on the ground. We have to pay attention to the strategy of the enemy who tries to push the Palestinians into an internal confrontation. We will not provide them this chance and we insist on the unity of the people in this confrontation. The will of unity and resistance will win at the end. It is an open fight until victory and liberation, and it is not true to say that resistance has stopped.

Q: Claiming that martyrdom means a better life for the people, does your 25 years of experience show any kind of better life for the Palestinians, or can this better life be realised only after total victory?

The culture of Jihad, resistance and martyrdom is a culture of life, based on the refusal of oppression and aggression and the will to be free. If we do not resist, how could we get rid of the enemy? The “culture of life” being marketed by some media means surrender and capitulation. If you would accept this and live without dignity, would this be life? We prefer to die in dignity rather than to live in humiliation. To refuse humiliation, this is life. A victory of the resistance means dignified life for all peoples of the region worth to fight for. How could other world revolutions of all ideologies achieve victory? Without struggle and resistance no revolution of the world could have won. The so-called “culture of life” is a colonial term to weaken the nation and to push it towards capitulation. It means to abort any potential of revolution in this nation.

Can the acts of Israel in Palestine, or the acts of the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan be called “culture of life”? This is a culture of death and terror, and hence oppression and occupation. This is similar to the play with the terms of resistance and terror, which follows their interest. As Muslims we know that death is a part of life and that we have to live with it. Everyone will die at the end, so it is better to die in dignity than to live in humiliation.

Q: In the writings of you founder Fathi Shiqaqi following to the model of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Islam was linked for the first time with the social issue. The poor and the oppressed were the main subject in this movement. In your economical conception is their any social justice beyond the traditional understanding based on charity?

Social justice is the target of any honest movement seeking a stable and secure life for society and is an integral part of our religion. In the Quran there is a verse praising the will of God to protect the people from hunger and fear.

At the moment we are facing wars, sieges and catastrophes. Our resources are exploited by imperialism. So how can we talk about security and distribution of wealth while all our resources are in a foreign hand? Under the hegemony of the US over all our resources there can be no social justice. All the US and Israel wars in the region target oil and water. Egypt, the largest Arab state lives on the US aid. If the Arab states were free to invest their money in reforming the available agricultural surface in Sudan for example, there would be enough food for the whole region. The US hinders such cooperation, as they fight all forms of industrialisation and technological development in the region. Social justice can only be achieved within the project of national sovereignty. For this unity is required.

Q: You got a final massage to convey?

We consider you as Palestinian ambassadors to carry the truth to your societies, where the states are supporting Israel. We thank you for your solidarity with our people in its fight for freedom and for an independent state in the entire area of Palestine.