A Palestinian living in a refugee camp in northern Gaza gives us his account of the current situation
The voice that you hear below is that of a young Palestinian baker who voted for Hamas in the recent election, hoping they would be able to lighten the suffering of his people. We think that his account sincerely reflects the feelings of a large part of the population of Gaza and can help us to rethink our biased way of seeing the situation there.
"Preventive Security Force" of Mahmoud Abbas (IMEMC)
Silvia Cattori : A few weeks ago when we talked you told us of your fears that your society would become destabilized by the men of the security forces led by Mohammed Dahlan . Has the situation deteriorated since then?
Hicham : Yes, it is difficult, very difficult. Especially since the recent massacre of the women and children on the beach. Unfortunately, the Israelis are killing civilians every day here in Gaza and in the West Bank. Normally nobody talks about it. When it happens, like last Friday, that their crime is too visible and provokes protests, the military spokesmen begin by hastily saying that experts will do an investigation, sometimes making apologies. Then, subsequently, they retract this statement, sowing doubt, and let it be understood that it probably wasn’t from their positions that the shots were fired, in order to finally place the responsibility onto Hamas, on the victims. It’s always in this way that they mask their crimes and deceive public opinion. We’ve never seen the results of their inquiries. We never seen them judge the criminals that have already killed thousands of children and have wounded tens of thousands of others. We never see your governments react with firmness against the brutality that Israel imposes upon us.
Silvia Cattori : This lack of recognition of these massacres, Israel’s refusal to admit that you are the victims, do you find it offensive?
Hicham : Of course. They always manage to turn their crimes against us, in their favor. No matter the horror of the things they do, they have the support of the United States. You will have noticed that Bush is the only Western head of state that didn’t condemn this massacre. The United States simply repeated that Israel has the right to defend itself! But it is a question of arms of war being used against civilians. We don’t have any rights: neither that of being protected, nor that of defending ourselves.
Silvia Cattori : After the slaughter, Ehud Olmert said that Israel possesses the "world’s most moral" army and his army chief declared that the shelling of the beach was in response to Palestinian rockets?!
Hicham : A response to what? What morality can the Israel army appeal to? For years they have never stopped attacking us and killing us! For the last 16 months Hamas has respected the ceasefire signed in Cairo and has not launched any rockets. As to the homemade rockets, these don’t threaten Israeli security, but it is a way for people to stand up, to say "We’re not going to lie down".
Silvia Cattori : How do you feel about being at the complete mercy of an invincible force?
Hicham : An enormous suffering. But also, since the militants of Hamas announced the end of the ceasefire, people are a bit reassured.
Silvia Cattori : But Hamas, which possesses a few derisory rifles, have no chance of escaping! If the Palestinians defy Israel through armed actions, won’t the Israelis just respond with increased brutality?
Hicham : The population considers that after all the suffering and privations imposed by Israel, they have nothing more to lose. We have nothing but our lives. The Palestinian people are determined to sacrifice their lives for Palestine and Jerusalem. Through its aggressions, Israel has achieved what it wanted: to provoke Hamas into a confrontation.
Silvia Cattori : Are you saying that Hamas didn’t have a choice? That because the population was crying for vengeance, it was obliged to react?
Hicham : The people are angry. They can longer support the sight of the Israelis multiplying the humiliations and the massacres of their children without a response. That’s why, when the Ezzedine and Kassam Brigades announced they would avenge the slaughters, it was well received.
Silvia Cattori : Your people have paid by their blood and suffering to learn that in confronting this army you have neither the arms nor the means to fight back. Will you, in the face of the odds, still shoot?
Hicham : The Palestinians have only this path. Sometimes there are some successes.
Silvia Cattori : Are there no other ways of fighting to make yourselves heard?
Hicham : Other means? What other means? How can we defend ourselves against Israel’s barbarism? We have only our bodies as a force to fight against the armed forces of Israel. All we can do is blow ourselves up. Do you want us to allow Israel to kill and kill and kill without our ever saying a word or reacting? For 16 months Hamas conducted no suicide missions in Israel. But the Israelis, they never stopped coming here to attack us, to kill us. In spite of the fact that the colonists have left Gaza, we have never been able to rid ourselves of the Israelis. They are always present with their columns of tanks all along Gaza, with their drones, their F16s, and their helicopters circling over our heads, as well as their battleships. They have fired thousands of bombs on Gaza over the last months. And they continue to launch Bang bombs that make an unsupportable noise that scares our children day and night.
Silvia Cattori : Is the referendum an idea of the United States destined to help Mahmoud Abbas  weaken the Hamas government?
Hicham : The leaders of Hamas have termed this referendum a "coup d’état". Obviously Fatah wants to push Hamas out of Parliament and the government.
Silvia Cattori : According to a poll, financed by the US, 85% of the Palestinians are in agreement with the referendum. Is this true?
Hicham : This poll isn’t credible. Abdelkhaleq Al-Natché and Bassam Al-Saadi, two leaders from Hamas and Jihad among the prisoners who signed this document, removed their signatures. They didn’t accept that Abbas take the text out of context and use it to blackmail the Hamas government. If Abbas persists in maintaining the referendum, he will deal a terrible blow to his people and a victory to Israel.
Silvia Cattori : But hasn’t Israel let it be known that they aren’t in favor of the referendum?
Hicham : They say that they aren’t favorable, hoping that way we’ll vote yes. If Abbas persists down this path, Israel will be the only winner in this story. The Israeli government’s goal is to push us towards civil war.
Silvia Cattori : So the referendum risks splitting the population in two?
Hicham : That’s already been done. The people are already split in two and find themselves, unfortunately, today with a new enemy: Fatah, who has not digested its electoral defeat.
Silvia Cattori : If the referendum is held, do you think that the people who are in great difficulty will vote yes?
Hicham : But what will they be voting on? On the UN resolutions? It is a catastrophe to ask the people to vote on international resolutions! These resolutions can’t be submitted to negotiation or to blackmail. I don’t think this vote will happen. Either Abbas agrees to talk with Hamas or there will be civil war. It’s towards this extreme that Abbas will lead his people, counseled by the American Jack Wallace, if he is obstinate and holds this referendum.
Silvia Cattori : Can we consider that these massacres, committed by Israel in such a critical period, are a way of intervening in your affairs in order to increase the tension?
Hicham : Yes, we can believe it. Israel’s goal by these repeated massacres is to increase the frustration of the people and push the resistance into reacting. For more than a year Israel has been conducting operations to push Hamas into a confrontation.
Silvia Cattori : All international organizations have folded in the face of the exigency of the US and Israel: don’t enter into relations with Hamas. Even the Palestinian banks have imposed restrictions on the accounts of Hamas’s deputies and ministers. On the other hand, the Palestinian authorities, those who lost power in January but have the favor of the West, are still receiving their salaries. Is this true?
Hicham : It is money stolen from the Palestinian people. Abbas is also financing the training of an army of 10,000 men with the green light from Israel, the occupier massacring us every day.
Silvia Cattori : How do you feel about the fact that Israel has announced that it will furnish arms to Abbas, to fight against the militia of Hamas?
Hicham : Officially it justifies this army as a necessity to ensure the security of the presidency. The members of Fatah are thinking of only one thing: protecting their backs, coming back to power, against the wishes of their people. In spite of the fact that the international community boycotts Hamas, the Palestinians continue to have confidence in them. We hope that Europe will finish by understanding that the will of the people is stronger than their will to impose upon us the people of Fatah who are playing Israel’s game. That is the worst thing that could happen to us.
Silvia Cattori : Why are the tensions concentrated above all in Gaza?
Hicham : The majority of ministers today are in Gaza. The capital of the Palestinian authority is no longer Ramallah. But Abbas refused to allow Hamas to control the security forces. He allows Dahlan to use these forces to shoot against the government of Hamas; and then he forbids Hamas from defending themselves. That’s were we are! The people will never forgive Fatah for what it is doing.
Silvia Cattori : Such harassment of Hamas, which until yesterday had remained open to dialogue, seems difficult to justify politically.
Hicham : Fatah’s people know that if they allow Hamas to govern, the latter will prove their efficiency and that Fatah will not be able to return to power.
Silvia Cattori : Hasn’t Abbas become a hostage to Washington’s destabilization policy?
Hicham : We know that Abbas, Erakat, Dahlan, Rabbo, Joubril, etc are closely cooperating with Israel and the United States. The United States and the Arab and European governments, believed at first that by cutting the lifeline to Hamas, the Palestinians would rapidly revolt against the government they elected. However, it is the contrary that is happening. These last days, the people have shown their support for Hamas and are calling on Fatah to unite.
Silvia Cattori : In evoking the difficulties facing the Palestinians, you appear to be very saddened. You also seem full of affection and esteem for this martyred people that you describe as valiant and combative, even in the midst of the worst adversities.
Hicham : Never will the Palestinians lose their will to live and the will to liberate their land.
Silvia Cattori : However, your current situation is more terrifying than ever. Don’t you have to confront three enemies from now on: the sanctions of the international community, the threats from Abbas, and the threats from the occupier?
Hicham : We aren’t too afraid of the international sanctions. We can overcome them, make do. The threats from Israel, we know. It is our enemy now for a century. What is most insupportable for us is to know that our brothers, the people of Fatah, are our new enemy.
Silvia Cattori : Israel spills your blood every day. But it seems that what you fear the most is the idea that Fatah could drag you into a fratricidal war?
Hicham : Unfortunately, yes. It is the worst catastrophe for us. They are our cousins, our friends. I have relatives on both sides. I have no desire to see them kill each other. Hamas has been able to retain its sang froid. It has done everything to avoid falling into Fatah’s traps. But it won’t be able to avoid the worst indefinitely.
Silvia Cattori : But how can Palestinians end up turning their arms against other Palestinians?
Hicham : You know, the people of Fatah buy people. It is easy when there is so much poverty. For months the United States has been spending as much money as necessary to bring down Hamas. Israel and the United States announced back in February that they would do whatever it takes to prevent Hamas from governing. The money spent by the United States goes into the pockets of people like Dahlan. The militias that have been provoking incidents and killing Hamas and Jihad militants are paid to do it with this money. Dahlan, born to a refugee family, has made a fortune with embezzled money. He has arrested, tortured, and killed numerous Hamas militants in the past. He moves today in a reinforced limousine, protected by convoys even more imposing than those of Abbas. He is a close confidant, an ally for Abbas.
Silvia Cattori : Is Dahlan afraid of being attacked by members of Hamas?
Hicham : Members of Hamas would never attack Dahlan. The people of Hamas consider the Israeli occupier to be the enemy of the Palestinian people.
Silvia Cattori : Israel is ready to put into effect its terrifying plans to intervene in Gaza. Aren’t they afraid?
Hicham : The militants aren’t afraid of being assassinated. All resistants know that sooner or later they will be assassinated. They know it is their path, the path of loyalty towards their people who are suffering and demanding justice.
Silvia Cattori : Do the people clearly see that these other two burdens have been added to that of the Israeli occupier - the international community and the Fatah party that is collaborating with the occupier?
Hicham : Yes, the people understand all of this. But at the same time they are oppressed by the annoyances that threatened their survival. No one can say what might happen to force the Palestinians to vote tomorrow for the corrupt people of Fatah, in order to gain a salary, a respite, even though they know that they are bastards.
Silvia Cattori : How did the people of Gaza take the fact that Mubarak received Olmert and Abbas with pomp and ceremony while he refused to meet with the newly elected authorities from Hamas?
Hicham : Arab governments should have the decency to resign. The Palestinians have been waiting for gestures of support, of compassion. Nothing. They are pitiless. The young girl who cries and turns towards the heavens to implore that we give her back the life of her father has not heard Mubarak or the King of Jordan condemn the criminals.
Silvia Cattori : Will the world try to prevent other bloody operations?
Hicham : The whole world can see what Israel is doing to us. Why to they allow it to continue? There is enough information, even if Israel’s propaganda is constantly used to confuse them. It serves no end to call out to the Arab states or to Europe. They have never done anything to get us out of our prison and to stop Israel from massacring us. However, we continue to hope that there will be Arab leaders capable of condemning Israel. We know that the Arab people are at our side. They can do nothing for us and are revolted to see their corrupt leaders subservient to the US and therefore to Israel. We know that all honest citizens of the world are touched by our suffering, but unfortunately their leaders have sided with the assassins.
Huda Ghalya at the sides of her father killed by an Israeli shooting on the beach of Gaza, on June 9, 2006 (Photo: Ramatan News Agency/File)
Post Script, June 13, 2006
This week, as I was finishing the writing of this interview, terrible images of children and adults, torn apart by the bombing of Gaza by the Israeli army, were shown on the television news around the world. Among the 11 dead and 32 wounded on that day, there were children and an ambulance worker who had gone to the aid of the victims. At the same time, the campaign of Israeli disinformation, as described above in this interview, began. The occupiers now tell us that the explosion was the fault of... Hamas! Those who spread the Israeli propaganda conveniently omit to report on the denial by the military analyst of Human Rights Watch who affirmed, on the basis of pieces collected on the beach and the examination of the wounded, that it was indeed an Israeli explosive that slaughtered the civilians. This lying through omission regularly permits journalists the world over, protected by their bosses in spite of their lack of rigor, to disinform public opinion. This disinformation has as its goal to criminalize the resistance of the Palestinian people as incarnated in Hamas, while whitewashing Israel, the real aggressor.
The propaganda of Israel and Jewish organizations circulates freely in the media as news. Israel becomes judge and jury in these massacres and in the manipulation of the minds of the viewers.
Translation Sign of Times
 Mohammed Dahlan, born in 1961 in Gaza, is the former chief of the Security forces in Gaza. He is one of the most influential figures in Fatah. He maintains close relations with Israel and the United States and has been cooperating for a long time with the CIA.