Palestinian Popular Resistance spokeson the record with The Media Line

(On April 20, 2006, Sa'id 'Siam, the new Palestinian Interior Minister and member of Hamas, established the Executive Force - a unit comprised of about 3850 armed men, mostly Hamas members, and includes over 500 members of the Popular Resistance Committees. The Executive Force was established following the appointment of Rashid Abu Shbak by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas as head of the Palestinian security organizations. In doing so, 'Abbas took responsibility for the security forces, which were previously under the authority of the interior minister. This is all part of the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, which accelerated when Hamas rose to power following the January 2006 parliamentary elections. Established in the year 2000, the Popular Resistance Committees quickly became one of the most violent organizations in the Gaza Strip. PRC is also considered a close ally of the Hamas movement. Its founder and leader, Jamal Abu Samhadana, was appointed on April 20th 2006 as General Director of the interior ministry. The Media Line conducted the following interview with Muhammad 'Abd Al-'Al, aka Abu 'Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees.

TML: What is the relationship between Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees?

Abu ‘Abir: The relationship between the Na’sr A-Din Brigades or the Popular Resistance Committees, and Hamas or the ‘Azz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, is nothing but a close Palestinian and Islamic relationship. The Popular Resistance Committees is an independent Islamic organization, with its own activity and identity, which is based on the Koran and the Prophet’s conduct, and which calls for Jihad against the Zionist occupier.

[Editor: the Na’sr A-Din Brigades and the ‘Azz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades are considered the military wings of the two movements].

TML: There are those who say that Hamas is funding the activities of the Popular Resistance Committees. What is your response to this?

Abu ‘Abir: This is a lie. Hamas is a movement which supports many Palestinian organizations. Part of our aid comes from the brothers in Hamas movement. Nevertheless, it is not a financial aid, but rather a field-related aid. We are coordinating [with Hamas]. The ‘Salah A-Din Brigades have an engineering unit, which coordinates with the brothers in ‘Azz A-Din Al-Qassam and with all the Palestinian organizations, aiming at developing all methods of resistance. Having said that, I declare that Hamas directly supports the ‘Salah A-Din Brigades, but does not finance its activities. Our financing comes from the Palestinian people and from all the generous people in [the Palestinian areas] and abroad.

TML: What is the Popular Resistance Committees’ main aim?

Abu ‘Abir: Our main aim is the liberation of the land from the filthiness of the Zionist occupation. As long as the Zionist enemy forces itself and makes the Palestinian people – our sons, wives and elders – shed tears and blood, so will grow the honor of the Na’sr A-Din Brigades in their fight against it. For this cause the Popular Resistance Committees were established – only to defend the Palestinian people. If there was no occupation, the Popular Resistance Committees would not have been established.

TML: Lately, some Hamas officials spoke about the possibility of recognizing the state of Israel within the pre-1967 borders. What is the Popular Resistance Committees’ stand in this regard?

Abu ‘Abir: We welcome every Israeli withdrawal from any piece of Palestinian land, where we will be able to establish the Palestinian state within its initial borders. We see the returning of the [post-] 1967 areas as a great achievement for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance. We are a Palestinian organization within the Palestinian arena.

We chose the Hamas movement in the Legislative Council’s elections on the basis of its assertion that Israel will not be recognized and that the Palestinian resistance is legitimate. On this basis we say, that we will not recognize Israel as a state on the ground, because our recognition in Israel will annul the right of return for all the Palestinians living in the Diaspora, and will annul our right to return to our homes, conquered by the Zionists in 1948.

This is why we say, that the only solution is the expulsion of the Zionists. We call on the West and the United States which defends Israel, and say: If Israel wants to enjoy peace and quiet, the [U.S.] should allot a piece of land in one of its states and ask the Zionist people to settle there. Then, we will not intervene in any Zionist external or internal matters.

TML: If Hamas recognizes Israel within the pre-1967 borders, will this cause a friction between Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees?

Abu ‘Abir: There will never be a friction between any two Muslims or Palestinians. The aim of our Jihad is to free Palestine and bring independence and honor to the Palestinian people, like the rest of the peoples of the world. If there will be any kind of recognition in the entity state [meaning Israel], we will not allow it.

Nevertheless, if the Palestinian people will benefit from this, then we will not decide immediately, and neither will Hamas. We will all sit around one table in order to take a decision. If all the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people will agree and take this decision, then we – as an inseparable part of the Palestinian people – will accept all that our people wants.

If Hamas will recognize [Israel] then so will we, as long as it is in the benefit of the Palestinian people, and as long as it restores all the rights for the Palestinian people, and brings back all our prisoners and every piece of Palestinian land to its owners.

TML: Recently there were attempts on the lives of two top Palestinian security officials – [Intelligence chief] Tariq Abu Rajab and [head of the security organizations] Rashid Abu Shbak. Is there a friction between Hamas, Fatah and the Popular Resistance Committees, and do you believe a civil war could follow?

Abu ‘Abir: My dear brother, all we see in the Palestinian arena does not mean that a civil war is approaching. Our Palestinian people is smarter than this. The Zionist enemy, for 50 consecutive years, has tried to plant the seeds of internal controversy among the Palestinian organizations, and each time the organizations and the people came out stronger.

On the basis of that we say, there isn’t an essential controversy between Hamas, Fatah, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Islamic Jihad. Look, whenever there is even a small problem, the brothers in Hamas and Fatah arrange for a meeting. They then conduct a positive meeting and make a decision which the organizations are obliged to follow. This does not mean however, that there can not be simple disagreements here and there around certain ideas or activities.

For that we believe that there will not be a civil war. The attempts on the lives of Abu Rajab and Abu Shbak do not represent any of the Palestinian resisting factions. We say that the Palestinian resistance’s weapon is a legitimate weapon, as long as it is directed only towards the Zionist occupation. There are hidden hands which try to hurt the Palestinian people and cause conflicts in the ranks of our people.

TML: Who tried to assassinate Abu Rajab and Abu Shbak?

Abu ‘Abir: I believe there are hidden hands that look for their own interests. The activities in the past few days aim at hurting the Palestinian people and dividing its ranks. I do not know who did it.

TML: What is the role of the Executive Force which was established by Interior Minister Sa’id ‘Siam and deployed in Gaza last week?

Abu ‘Abir: When the interior minister presented us with this issue we accepted it with an open mind and full confidence. We announced we will participate in this blessed force and so we did — praise the lord — with more than 500 men. At that time we told the interior minister we had a common ground with the ministry in that we wanted to end the security deterioration and the chaos in the Palestinian areas. Therefore we decided to take part in this force, so that the Palestinian resistance would fight on two fronts: fighting against the Zionist enemy, and fighting against those who are corrupt, and against all those who do not obey the law in the Palestinian areas.

TML: Who are the corrupt people you spoke about?

Abu ‘Abir: There are people who receive orders from abroad and from Israel, whose aim is creating inner-conflicts and overthrowing the Palestinian government, which was legitimately elected by the Palestinian people. They prefer their own interests to the interests of the people. To them we say that this force will last many days, God willing, and will act against them until peace and quiet are restored.

TML: How large is the Executive Force?

Abu ‘Abir: A total of 3000 [armed men], and it is expected to expand.

TML: You said you sent 500 men to participate in this force. Who is the person in charge of them from your organization?

Abu ‘Abir: No one is in charge of them from the ‘Salah A-Din Brigades. In this force there is no unit which is subordinate to any of the Palestinian organizations. We assembled a 500-strong force and handed it to the interior minister. They are completely subordinate to him and to the chief of the Palestinian Police.

TML: In case chairman ‘Abbas orders the Palestinian security organizations under his command to disarm the Executive Force, will the Popular Resistance Committees resist this order, and how?

Abu ‘Abir: We respect brother Abu Mazen’s [P.A. chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s] orders, but to an extent. The Palestinian people chose the Palestinian government with a majority of votes, and the interior minister is part of the chosen government. Therefore, we say that the Executive Force is abiding by the law.

We could not imagine a day would come when one law would conflict with another. With all honesty, we say that we find it strange that Mr. Abu Mazen is deploying now — of all times — the security forces, the police and the National Security, exactly now when the Executive Force is deploying. I say this because the Palestinian arena had witnessed a few months ago anarchy in the streets. Why weren’t the security organizations deployed then? Why specifically now? The Executive Force has become part of the Palestinian law and is subordinate to the interior minister. Any discussion in regard to its disarmament is solely within the authority of the interior minister.

TML: In the past few days the Executive Force was also deployed in Jericho. Will it deploy in other Palestinian cities as well?

Abu ‘Abir: This force was specifically deployed in Gaza because of recent problems which erupted there. God willing, the force will grow and will deploy in all the Palestinian areas. Since its deployment [in Gaza], not one case of robbery was registered, nor cases of assaults against houses or shops or even conflicts between big families like we used to see in the past. This is why the Executive Force must be supported by the Palestinian people. It is not a force standing on its own, but rather a force which aids the Palestinian police. The Executive Force is aiming to restore the prestige to the security forces of the Palestinian Authority.

TML: Recently a leaflet was published in Gaza calling for the assassination of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas and Head of the Parliamentary Security and Interior Affairs Committee Muhammad Dahlan. Which organization is behind this?

Abu ‘Abir: I have no idea and we had nothing to do with it. We have our own official media outlet. Whenever we take responsibility for our activities, or when we threaten someone, we do so only if that person acted directly against us. Therefore we say, that there are hidden hands of mercenaries active in the Palestinian arena. Today, in the age of technology, any boy can use the media outlets. We say, that most of the leaflets which were published in the past few months, and especially in the last month, were false and baseless.

TML: Both chairman ‘Abbas and the Hamas government were chosen by the Palestinian people. Who has the final say: Chairman ‘Abbas or Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyya?

Abu ‘Abir: My dear brother, there should not be a separation between the Chairman’s office and the government: after all, they were both chosen by the people. Nevertheless, there is a constitution and there is law, and both the chairman and the government must be committed to them when making a decision or a stand. Therefore, we say that the Chairman has authorities with which the government must not interfere, and the government has authorities with which the chairman must not interfere. The final decision is within the hands of the Palestinian people.

©2006. The Media Line Ltd. All Rights Reserved. This interview was conducted by The Media Line’s Yaniv Berman in Arabic on 22 May 2006. Editors interested in using this interview or excerpts from it with attribution to “The Media Line ” are asked to contact TML at [email protected]

The Media Line, an American news agency, operates its Mideast Bureau in Jerusalem with correspondents throughout the region. Visit www.themedialine.org for more information or contact us at [email protected] Material is available for radio, television, Internet and print.

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