Palestinian Islamist Azzam Tamimi Defines Hamas, PLO Differences and Calls for Dialogue with Both

By Halsell, Grace | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 1998 | Go to article overview
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Palestinian Islamist Azzam Tamimi Defines Hamas, PLO Differences and Calls for Dialogue with Both


Halsell, Grace, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Palestinian Islamist Azzam Tamimi Defines Hamas, PLO Differences and Calls for Dialogue With Both

"Time is not on Israel's side, but rather with those who resist Israel," declares Azzam Tamimi, a native of Hebron and chairman of Liberty for the Muslim World, a London-based organization promoting human rights and democracy in the Muslim world.

In Washington to participate in a Jerusalem Fund-sponsored conference on "The Legitimacy of Resistance," Dr. Tamimi told the Washington Report that "the Zionist project" in Palestine will fail for at least three reasons:

"First, there's the demographics. The Israelis murder a father. But he has six to ten sons who replace him. Palestinians have large families, the Jews do not. And Israel is running out of Jews. They wanted to bring all the Jews of the world to Palestine. But no more Jews want to go to Palestine. Even the Russian Jews who came to Israel are still hoping to get to America. Now a large portion of Israelis have dual nationalities. Maybe a million Jews have dual Israeli-American citizenship. And a huge number of South African Jews hold two passports. They are ready to flee the Jewish state at any moment. They did not go there to live in constant conflict. For them, the Jewish state has become the most dangerous place in the world for a Jew. This will become increasingly apparent.

"Secondly, Israel depends not on itself, but on a superpower. The Israelis are spoiled. The United States has given them a high standard of living. And a huge military arsenal. Now Israel is totally dependent on handouts -- in the billions. But the superpower has its own problems. More than 16 percent of Americans live in poverty. Americans won't be interested in supporting a Zionist regime forever. And, moreover, America won't be a superpower forever. Look what happened to Russia."

As a third reason, Tamimi points to the moral and financial support given by Arabs and Muslims to the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas, an acronym meaning "enthusiasm" or "zeal." An example of solidarity, he says, was expressed by the manner in which Arab leaders received Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin earlier this year after his release from nine years of Israeli imprisonment. Sheikh Yassin's September 1997 release was part of a Jordan-Israeli deal concluded in the aftermath of the Mossad's failed assassination attempt in Amman on the life of Khaled Meshal, head of the Hamas political department.

In April of this year, after making the religious pilgrimage to Mecca, the sheikh met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Iran. "The hajj presented a golden opportunity for someone like him to receive invitations from so many Arab capitals and to talk to people -- not only about Hamas, but to talk to them about the Palestinian problem because what Sheikh Yassin represents is a symbol of Palestinian resistance, rather than just one faction within Palestine. This is what distinguishes him from anybody else. His presence does not mean a partisan affair. That is why he was met with a sort of veneration and respect. His visits came at a time when the governments and people were becoming increasingly frustrated with the peace process. The way in which they received him and the statements they made gave greater legitimacy to Palestinian armed resistance as exemplified by Hamas."

Tamimi, whose father was a resistance fighter in the 1940s against the Zionist invaders of Palestine, said there were two main differences between the PLO and Hamas. "The PLO operated outside. Instructions, directives, appointments, policies -- everything came from outside. Then leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) came from outside. Hamas is domestic, it's local, it's well entrenched in the society. The second difference: the PLO and the PA are more interested in improving the lifestyles of their VIPs. They've become corrupt. But no one has ever heard of any corruption in the institutions that belong to Hamas or that sympathize with Hamas.

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