The following is an interview with Abo Imad Alrifai, leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Lebanon, an organisation that has been labelled as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the European Union. Alrifai gives his perspective on Israel, the potential fall of the Assad regime in Syria and what the revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa has meant for PIJ and for the future of the region.
Do you think that Israel will attack Gaza again?
- The Zionist entity has an aggressive nature; it has been established by killing another people, and robbing their own homeland. The international community couldn’t even impose the cessation of settlement on Israel, and used to justify its crimes in every war against the Palestinian people. Thus, it’s not surprising that this entity could resort to wage more wars, against the Gaza Strip or anywhere else. However, the current situation in the region, particularly in Egypt, may not allow the Zionist entity to launch a new aggression.
The Zionist entity examines well the variables that are going on in the region, especially in the surrounding countries. It realizes the magnitude of the reaction of the Arab peoples in respect of such an aggression. Although it is threatening to wage war against Gaza, it does so to cover the operations of the Judaization of Jerusalem and the expansion of settlements and the expulsion of the original Arab citizens from Jerusalem. Currently, the negotiations that the international Quartet has called for in Amman, provides Israel with such a cover.
Arabs have different opinions about protests against regimes in Bahrain and Syria, why?
- It’s not about this or that country, but about the nature of the conflict in the region. Peoples of the region are mostly Muslims, so it’s natural that they support the demands of the people to get their full rights of freedom and political and social reforms, whether in Bahrain or in Syria, or anywhere else. Therefore, the difference in evaluation is a difference in degree and not a difference in nature; it is not linked to the regimes, but to the position concerning the conflict against the Western project and the Zionist enemy. We believe that reforms should be supported in Syria without being dragged behind the plan which aims to remove Syria away from its influential role in the ingoing conflict against the Zionist enemy. Unlike Bahrain, Syria enjoys a geopolitical position in the region; thus it is natural to get more attention. Moreover, media plays a major role in directing people’s concern and attitudes. Major media channels in the region talk about what’s happening in Syria without saying a word about what’s going on in Bahrain. For these reasons, we believe that Muslims across the Arab region support the calls for reforms in Bahrain too.
How will it affect Islamic Jihad if Assad falls?
- We do not see that President Assad’s regime is going to fall in the foreseen future. We believe that the logic of reforms will win in Syria at the end of the day. Anyhow, the Islamic Jihad, like other resistance movements in the region, went through more difficult situations, especially during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. At that time, many people thought that this would affect our morale and our efforts, but the opposite has happened. And the US occupation of Iraq has been defeated. Moreover, resistance movements went through two major wars in Lebanon, 2006, and in the Gaza Strip, 2008, and prevented the Israeli aggression from achieving its goals. The fall of the Assad regime will affect the entire international system, and will re-mix all the papers across the region. This, in turn, will open the door for new opportunities. Resistance against the Zionist occupation is not related to this or that country; it is a natural response to the occupation itself; so it will continue as long as the occupation exists, under all circumstances.
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- What is happening in the region, in general, is the focus of Islamic Jihad with all national and Islamic forces, not with Hezbollah alone, because the current variables will affect the Palestinian cause positively or negatively. It is said that the risks have the opportunities within them. The issue of the Palestinian people is a cause of an oppressed people, which has been expelled from its own land by the force of terrorism of the Zionist occupation. The peoples of the region are linked by historical, ideological, and intellectual ties to Palestine, and they will not abandon the land of Palestine and its people, no matter how long; and the Crusades, which lasted 100 years, are the biggest proof of that.
Egypt's Islamists will maintain the Camp David agreement. What do you say about that?
- Islamists in Egypt said that the People's Council will discuss the agreement, and possibly subject it to a referendum. We are not afraid of the Islamists, because they have historical, realistic, and Quranic ties to Palestine. And this will prevent the Islamic Movement from the recognition of the Zionist entity. Masjid al-Aqsa (Al Aqsa Mosque) does not represent the Palestinians alone, but is a fundamental pillar of the faith of all Muslims, regardless of their political visions. Arafat himself was unable to give up Al-Aqsa Mosque despite all the temptations and pressures imposed upon him. Even more, the rules of procedure of the Fatah movement still consider that Palestine, from the river to the sea, is a property of the Palestinian people. We do not believe that the Islamic movement can say otherwise, under any circumstances.
What is the future for Israel and how do you see the Middle East's future?
- The Zionist Entity is a state of occupation; and by nature, occupation can’t stay or last forever. Israel is a need for Western governments, and when it is no longer in need, and becomes a burden on the West, it will be abandoned. The Zionist entity may start to collapse internally, particularly in the fields of human values, which has become so obvious today; then, collapse will spread in all other areas in a way that it can’t meet the Western needs and ambitions.
For the Middle East, we believe that it will go through a difficult era in the coming years, but the future will be an ally of the peoples of this region. As people started to smell the odor of freedom, and tomb down regimes supported by Western governments for decades, this positive change will impact the region’s future, which we look at with great optimism.
How does Islamic Jihad see the call for negotiation in Jordan?
- This meeting gives the enemy more opportunities to continue its policy of Judaization of Jerusalem, expanding settlements, and neglecting the Palestinian cause. Past experiences should have taught the Palestinian Authority that it shouldn’t be dragged behind the illusion of more bets on the international community; the Quartet Committee was biased to Israel, and could not impose on Israel to halt settlement activity. This meeting is throwing dust in the eyes; it is a continuation of the approach of negotiating with the occupation, which has been proved nonsense and a waste of time for the past two decades. Moreover, the orientation of the Palestinian Authority towards negotiations could lead to the failure of the Palestinian reconciliation.
This interview was originally published on Arab Nyheter.