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>PD NOV. 23, 1994, V2 #210

Interview with a Hamas Terrorist

By Al Pessin (Gaza City)

The dispute between moderate and radical Palestinians, which has been played out on the streets of Gaza since last Friday, is based on a difference of opinion about one very basic point of policy; the moderates have decided to accept Israel and the radicals have not.

The moderates say they want to create a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank and live as good neighbors with the Israelis.

The radicals, such as Mahmoud Zahar, spokesman for the Hamas group, say they will never accept what they consider the injustice of Israel's existence and will continue fighting for all of what they consider Palestine.

"We are here. We suffered a lot from the Israeli existence. We are looking for the elimination of the occupation." (Pessin) Of all of the land? (Zahar) Yes, of all of the land. Who is the true owner of this land? What are the moral or historical or ideological bases that allows them to dismiss us from our land and to establish their state?"

Zahar says his group, and others like it, will never be willing to accept Israel's existence as legitimate. He says Jews came from other countries and seized Palestinian land, under the protection of the Western powers.

"Who is the source of violence? People who left Poland and Ethiopia and the ex-Soviet Union and came here to be in our area are the true owners of the land, and they are not terrorists? And the people who are defending themselves against the occupation are terrorists? This is actually a very bad impression you gave, in the West, about your attitude to the ordinary people in Palestine."

Many moderate Palestinians agree with that analysis, but they disagree on what to do about it. While the radicals vow to continue fighting Israel, moderates such as Gaza lawyer Fayez abu Rahmeh say there is no choice but to accept it. "Once we think it over, to wipe out Israel it seems that we have to use atom bombs, and the atom bombs which we don't have. And they have the atom bombs. So, where will we go? So there is a certain impossible situation. Someday, say, in the year 5000, things may change, or in the year 3000 things may change, but we are in the present times and we have to manage ourselves to cope with the present situation."

But the more radical view appears to have a certain resonance among many Palestinians, especially those with only a basic, Islamic-oriented education but also extending to the very well educated, including Dr. Zahar, who is a physician. In addition, ongoing economic problems have hurt the moderates, enabling the radicals to claim that the moderate approach is not only morally wrong but in a practical sense has failed.

But moderates claim most Palestinians would be happy to forget conflict and get on with their lives if they had more economic opportunities. Attorney abu Rahmeh says there is no absolute justice in the world and most Palestinians are ready, after nearly 50 years of conflict, to accept what he calls the practical and possible moderate decision to live side-by-side with Israel, even though they wish it were not there.

With demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in the streets, and talks starting next week with Israel on expanding autonomy, it is important for the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, to know whether the radical view or his moderate one has more support among the Palestinian people. But experts say with all that is going on these days, it is difficult to know the answer.

Rabin: Sinai and the Golan are Equivalent;

Netanyahu: It's an American Decision

The Likud is not behind the recent lobbying in Congress to oppose a US troop presence on the Golan Heights, party leader Binyamin Netanyahu said last week.

Former officials and allies of the Shamir government engaged in such activity "are categorically not sent by us, they are not there in our name. I do vigorously contest the allegation or notion that they are sent by us,'' he said.

Three officials from the former Shamir government, Yigal Carmon, Yossi Ben-Aharon and Yoram Ettinger - have visited Washington twice in the last six months to make the case on Capitol Hill that US troops should not be sent to the Golan to monitor any Israeli-Syrian deal. Netanyahu also said none of the three were Likud members. His remarks followed his address to the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who addressed the gathering Thursday night, told reporters that while the opposition has the right to call for new elections or to seek parliamentary action to advance a cause, those Israelis lobbying in Washington "cause long-term damage to Israel, and it's a shame."

"I can't see why today in Sinai [a multinational observer force] is kosher, and why if there will be a peace treaty with Syria it will not be kosher," he said.

Netanyahu said that the question of whether to station US troops on the Golan is a purely American matter. "I want to make it clear: The question of actual decisions or laws about this issue will be decided by Israelis in Israel in the Knesset or in a plebiscite," he said. "And if the issue of American soldiers happens or becomes a real issue, it will be decided by American Jews and non-Jews. I believe that there is an urgent need to energetically engage in the debate and this will be decided in Congress.

Netanyahu's appearance marked the first time an Israeli opposition leader addressed a CJF General Assembly.

He said that the battle for Jerusalem has begun, and called on Rabin to press the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem "and move it now." In their speeches, both Rabin and Netanyahu pressed for an Israel-Diaspora partnership to dramatically increase the number of Jewish youth visiting Israel. Such a program would help to counter fading Jewish identity here, they said.

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