Thursday, 8 January 2009

EXILED HAMAS LEADER DEFIANT

This brutality will never break our will to be free

For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire.
Israel broke it repeatedly from the start

Khalid Mish'al
The Guardian,
Tuesday 6 January 2009

For 18 months my people in Gaza have been under siege,
incarcerated inside the world's biggest prison, sealed off
from land, air and sea, caged and starved, denied even
medication for our sick. After the slow death policy came
the bombardment. In this most densely populated of places,
nothing has been spared Israel's warplanes, from government
buildings to homes, mosques, hospitals, schools and
markets. More than 540 have been killed and thousands
permanently maimed. A third are women and children. Whole
families have been massacred, some while they slept.

This river of blood is being shed under lies and false
pretexts. For six months we in Hamas observed the
ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start.
Israel was required to open crossings to Gaza, and extend
the truce to the West Bank. It proceeded to tighten its
deadly siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and
water supplies. The collective punishment did not halt, but
accelerated - as did the assassinations and killings.
Thirty Gazans were killed by Israeli fire and hundreds of
patients died as a direct effect of the siege during the
so-called ceasefire. Israel enjoyed a period of calm. Our
people did not.

When this broken truce neared its end, we expressed our
readiness for a new comprehensive truce in return for
lifting the blockade and opening all Gaza border crossings,
including Rafah. Our calls fell on deaf ears. Yet still we
would be willing to begin a new truce on these terms
following the complete withdrawal of the invading forces
from Gaza.

No rockets have ever been fired from the West Bank. But 50
died and hundreds more were injured there last year at
Israel's hands, while its expansionism proceeded
relentlessly. We are meant to be content with shrinking
scraps of territory, a handful of cantons at Israel's
mercy, enclosed by it from all sides.The truth is Israel
seeks a one-sided ceasefire, observed by my people alone,
in return for siege, starvation, bombardment,
assassinations, incursions and colonial settlement. What
Israel wants is a gratuitous ceasefire.

The logic of those who demand that we stop our resistance
is absurd. They absolve the aggressor and occupier - armed
with the deadliest weapons of death and destruction - of
responsibility, while blaming the victim, prisoner and
occupied. Our modest, home-made rockets are our cry of
protest to the world. Israel and its American and European
sponsors want us to be killed in silence. But die in
silence we will not.

What is being visited on Gaza today was visited on Yasser
Arafat before. When he refused to bow to Israel's dictates,
he was imprisoned in his Ramallah headquarters, surrounded
by tanks for two years. When this failed to break his
resolve, he was murdered by poisoning.

Gaza enters 2009 just as it did 2008: under Israeli fire.
Between January and February of last year 140 Gazans died
in air strikes. And just before it embarked on its failed
military assault on Lebanon in July 2006, Israel rained
thousands of shells on Gaza, killing 240. From Deir Yassin
in 1948 to Gaza today, the list of Israel's crimes is long.
The justifications change, but the reality is the same:
colonial occupation, oppression, and never-ending
injustice. If this is the "free world" whose "values"
Israel is defending, as its foreign minister Tzipi Livni
alleges, then we want nothing to do with it.

Israel's leaders remain in the grip of confusion, unable to
set clear goals for the attacks - from ousting the
legitimately elected Hamas government and destroying its
infrastructure, to stopping the rockets. As they fail to
break Gaza's resistance the benchmark has been lowered. Now
they speak of weakening Hamas and limiting the resistance.
But they will achieve neither. Gaza's people are more
united than ever, determined not to be terrorised into
submission. Our fighters, armed with the justice of their
cause, have already caused many casualties among the
occupation army and will fight on to defend their land and
people. Nothing can defeat our will to be free.

Once again, Washington and Europe have opted to aid and
abet the jailer, occupier and aggressor, and to condemn its
victims. We hoped Barack Obama would break with George
Bush's disastrous legacy but his start is not encouraging.
While he swiftly moved to denounce the Mumbai attacks, he
remains tongue-tied after 10 days of slaughter in Gaza. But
my people are not alone. Millions of freedom-loving men and
women stand by its struggle for justice and liberation -
witness daily protests against Israeli aggression, not only
in the Arab and Islamic region, but worldwide.

Israel will no doubt wreak untold destruction, death and
suffering in Gaza. But it will meet the same fate in Gaza
as it did in Lebanon. We will not be broken by siege and
bombardment, and will never surrender to occupation.

• Khalid Mish'al is the head of the Hamas political bureau

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