By Silvia Cattori in Nablus
(Dr Abdul Sattar Kassem is a professor of political science at An-Najah National University, Nablus Palestine)
A long interview, but well worth reading.
"Silvia Cattori: You are a strong voice in Palestine, but a voice we don’t hear much in French speaking countries. Why?
Dr. Abdul Sattar Kassem: For 26 years, I am not authorized by the Israeli authorities to go out of Palestine. I spent two years in the Israeli jails and eight months in a Palestinian prison under Arafat’s regime. I was injured by four bullets shot by men recruited by the Palestinian authorities. But I am always here, with my pen, to help my people to recover their rights and try to get a change in the Arab world. I firmly believe that present Arab regimes must disappear, because they defend foreign interests and not the interests of their citizens. Most of these dictatorial regimes are collaborating with Israel, so against the rights of the Palestinians and the Lebanese. These regimes are the puppets of certain powers, more particularly of the United States.
Silvia Cattori: In such a difficult context, do you think that the Hamas movement will succeed to implement that atmosphere of democracy you call for?
Sattar Kassem: I do not think so, not because they are not able to do it, but because they are facing terrible problems from so many sides. The Israelis do not want to let this government function. Actually, the Israelis have arrested most of the ministers and many legislative members.
Silvia Cattori: When you complain about “Arab regimes” do you include the Palestinian authority?
Sattar Kassem: I include the former Palestinian authority and Abou Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), the present President of the Palestinians.
Silvia Cattori: But did Mr Arafat know that his aides were misbehaving? Was he aware of what was happening around him?
Sattar Kassem: Yes, he was aware and he was very clever. If you are challenged several times and you don’t correct your behaviour then you intend such behaviour. Arafat was warned hundreds of times by so many people that his aides were misbehaving, but he did nothing to stop that. He was supported by the money he got from Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Emirates. So, because Arafat was the man of Israel and America, these countries were asked to finance him. He had a lot of money; he was the richest so called "revolutionary man" in the world. How can that be when revolutionaries are generally under siege? Without the consent of Israel and America, these countries wouldn’t give him money. These aren’t independent countries. Now it is on orders from Israel and America that they aren’t giving money to Hamas.
Silvia Cattori: Are the people who succeeded Mr. Arafat better?
Sattar Kassem: Abou Mazen is a very weak person and he doesn’t have a vision. All Palestinians know him. I have known Abou Mazen personally for more than thirty years and I know that he has been against resistance all the time. So, Arafat was just putting him there until the time comes.
Silvia Cattori: In your opinion is he an honest man?
Sattar Kassem: I think he is better than Arafat in that sense, but he is very weak. He is like a tool. Fatah people supported him to keep him in power, especially as they knew he was weak.
Silvia Cattori: Was he not the man that Israel and United States promoted, as from 2003?
Sattar Kassem: He was Israel’s choice, but all the influential people in Fatah are the men of Israel and the United States. So, these three parties made that choice, but the person chosen is very weak and incapable.
Silvia Cattori: That means that, as yesterday, under Mr. Arafat’s power, people are scared because Fatah people are still powerful?
Sattar Kassem: Yes. We are scared of the Israelis and of Fatah people. Both are making threats to our security.
Silvia Cattori: So, you have two camps: the camp of Fatah, which is struggling to not lose its power and the camp of Hamas, who would like to defend the interests of the people, but which is impotent?
Sattar Kassem: That is true. And the camp of those who are against our own people is strong, because they are supported by Israel, by the United States, and by the European countries. Mr. Bush said openly, “We are supporting Abu Mazen financially and militarily.” They are supplying him with guns. Guns to use against whom? Against Israelis? No, against Hamas, of course!
Silvia Cattori: Does this mean that, when Mr. Abu Mazen and the PLO representatives call the new Hamas government to respect the results of the agreements negotiated with Israel, it is just because they want to preserve the privileges they got?
Sattar Kassem: Yes. They want Hamas to adopt the Oslo Accords so that they will preserve their personal interests and privileges. The Europeans and the Israelis needed supporters for the Oslo Accords. This is why they encouraged the corruption that Arafat established in the West Bank and Gaza. For the United States, Israel and European countries, corruption was an instrument to get supporters. So, much of the European money was wasted for the corrupt people. Palestinians do not believe that the negotiation has been productive for them; on the contrary. So they don’t want it anymore.
Silvia Cattori: Do you think the European Union will change its strategy and recognise the legitimacy of the Hamas authorities?
Sattar Kassem: No. The European countries will never recognize Hamas, never. The European states are a tool in the hands of the Israelis and the Americans. There are not independent. They are not united. If Hezbollah wins the war, the movement within the Arab countries will accelerate.
Silvia Cattori: You arrive at the same conclusion as the Lebanese political analyst, Youssef Aschkar,(3) who thinks that the so-called “war against terrorism” is a war against societies and against communities, a war cynically designed to destroy entire countries and peoples. He also concludes that the latter are no longer protected by their authorities.
Sattar Kassem: Yes, that is alas true. This is not, as Bush and Blair say, a war against “terrorism”. This is a war against all of us."