(JTA) — A very senior member of Hamas, Mahmoud al-Zahar, said that when his organization “talk[s] about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public.”
Al-Zahar, who according to some is a co-founder of the Islamist group ruling Gaza, said this on May 13 about his group’s organizing of protests that it billed as non-violent, but which ended the following day with Israeli troops killing more than 60 Palestinians amid border clashes that featured dozens of firebombs and attempt to break through the barrier.
During an interview with Al-Jazeera on May 13, Al-Zahhar, former foreign minister in the Hamas government, spoke about deception in dismissing his interviewer’s suggestion that by organizing a non-violent protest, Hamas was no different than the more moderate Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.
“This is a clear terminological deception,” Al-Zahar assured the interviewer, referencing the language used to advertise the protests. “This is not peaceful resistance. Has the option (of armed struggle) diminished? No. On the contrary, it is growing and developing. That’s clear. So when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public.”
But Fatah’s peaceful resistance “consists of rallies, demonstrations, protests, pleas, and requests, in order to improve the terms of the negotiations, or to enable talks with the Israeli enemy. This deception does not fool the Palestinian public,” al-Zahar said.
Salah Al Bardawil, a Hamas lawmaker and spokesperson in Khan Yunis, on Wednesday said that 50 out of the 62 people listed as killed Monday were members of his organization. Israel has identified only 24 fatalities as belonging to Hamas.
Quoting al-Zahar, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said his remark vindicates Israel’s firing of live ammunition on some protesters amid an international outcry over Israel’s actions.
“I agree. Shooting guns and lobbing explosives at Israelis isn’t peaceful at all,” Netanyahu said in the English-language video message. He also quoted Hamas commander Yahya Sinwar who before Monday’s riots was filmed saying that during the clashes, “we will tear down their border and tear out their hearts.”
This. Netanyahu said, “is what we are defending our families against. And you would do exactly the same.”
The United Kingdom, France, Canada and other countries have accused Israel of using excessive force in Gaza on Monday, though the United States, Australia and several other countries have blamed Hamas for the bloodshed.
Separately, the United Nations Human Rights Council accused Israel of keeping Gazans “caged in a toxic slum” during a special session in Geneva on the Gaza border clashes.
“Israel, as an occupying power under international law, is obligated to protect the population of Gaza and ensure their welfare. But they are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanized by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.