Hamas leader says Palestine and Jews can co-exist, but occupation must end.
“We can co-exist with Jews, but not with military occupation”, says Hamas.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared in an interview with CBS News that Hamas is willing to co-exist with Israelis, but not under the IDF occupation of Palestinian territory. Mashaal stressed that the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the military occupation of the Gaza Strip and not religious fundamentalism or anti-Jewish sentiments.
He told CBS’ Charlie Rose, “We are not fanatics; we are not fundamentalists. We do not actually fight the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers.” Mashaal also re-iterated Hamas’ demand that Egypt and Israel end the blockades of Palestinian sea ports and airspace.
The interview was given in light of the recent conflict in Gaza which is now entering its fourth week. The Israeli offensive, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” is the result of a chain of events which started with the killing of two Palestinian teenagers on May 15. Following this, on June 12, three Israeli teenagers were abducted. This prompted the IDF to launch “Operation Brother’s Keeper” in search of the boys and as a crack-down on perceived terrorist threats from Hamas. Ten Palestinians were killed and hundreds arrested in the offensive. On June 30, the three boys were found executed.
The violence continued to escalate from there. On July 2, a 16 year-old Palestinian boy was kidnapped, tortured, and burned alive in an apparent retaliation for the three Israeli youths. This sparked further outrage, and Hamas intensified rocket fire into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. This again prompted action from the IDF, who began making preparations for an invasion of the region. Operation Protective Edge commenced shortly thereafter on July 8. So far, it is estimated that over 1,100 people have been killed in the offensive, the vast majority of whom have been Palestinian civilians. This has caused concern worldwide about human rights violations, and has sparked massive protests criticizing the Israeli government’s heavy-handedness and calling for an end to the IDF operations.
The Israeli government’s response to critics has been to accuse Hamas of instigating the violence and of antisemitism. Khaled Mashaal denied this, asserting that the root cause of the conflict is the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and not hostility towards Israeli Jews. He told Rose, “in order to stop the bloodletting we need to look at the underlying causes, we need to look at the occupation, and we have to stop the occupation.” He also laid the responsibility at the feet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Mashaal blames for derailing the US-led peace talks: “Netanyahu has killed our hope, has killed our dream, and he has killed the American initiative.”
However, although the Hamas leader says he is willing to co-exist with Jews and Christians in the region, he was more reluctant to discuss whether or not he would co-exist with Israel as a nation. When asked if he would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Mashaal asserted that he does “not want to live with a state of occupiers.” He elaborated further, “When we have a Palestinian state then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies. You cannot actually ask me about the future.”