Ahmed and Abu Kifah belong to the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the para- military wing affiliated with Al Fateh party of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Between them they are in their late twenties, five and a half feet tall and nervous. Both the activists met for a conversation in a town in the Gaza Strip. Three other Palestinians present during the conversation ensured the translation from Arabic into English was accurate. Sometime into the talk, the translators even began to speak for the activists.

Both the activists dressed in Friday casuals when they learnt it wasn’t a TV interview. They had wanted to slip into urban camouflage uniforms, facemasks and tuck pistols into holsters. Abu Kifeh hasn’t met his fiancée in three years, he says. He cannot visit the West Bank where she lives. Israeli rules restrict Palestinian movement between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Between the duo, Ahmed is the tight-fisted one. The Brigades are unique in one respect, they aren’t Islamists. The militant group restricted its resistance to the West bank and Gaza. But when they noticed that Hamas’s popularity among the Palestinians shot up following their attacks inside Israel, that they began to imitate Hamas and target Israeli civilians.

Full text:

Q. What are your names and who do you work for?

Ahmed,

Abu Kifah [in Arabic, father of struggle]

Abu Kifah (answering for both)

Fateh movements Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades

Q. People in Israel say you kill civilians. You must have some reasons for doing so.

Ahmed:
In the first intifada, the resistance did not use weapons, though the Israelis used several kinds of lethal weapons against civilians and children with stones. But still, there was international silence.

The reason the Palestinian people resist is that because we are deprived of our rights, land… and there is no move or intervention either by those who have the right to, that is, the Arabs and Muslims, and given the balance of power neither the United Nations nor the five permanent states in the UN security council. They side with the Israelis.

Q. Do you have enough support among the Palestinian people?

Abu Kifah:
There is no doubt about it. The Palestinian public is giving all the support. There is support at the individual level and particular support through certain frameworks and channels.

I just would like to go to the first question and add something…

…As a man who has land that is located in the so-called Zionist entity. My grandfathers lived there and I still have documents proving that I own the land. [Near present day Tel Aviv]. The land is estimated at one thousand dunums, [250 acres] and I still can not have access to my land.

Q. Is military resistance your first option?

Ahmed:
Our first option was peace. That is why we joined Madrid conference and Oslo agreement and our commitment to the United Nations resolutions. Though the UN was unable to make Israel implement these resolutions. But the resolutions on Iraq, Sudan and Libya were completely implemented.

The military resistance did not come from nowhere. It was our last option. The last card in our hands. We have to prove to the whole world that we are a people with rights; and will achieve our rights with or without your assistance, no matter how much the price is.

Q. But is there a reason for this particular strategy and tactic of resistance of targeting civilians?

Abu Kifah:
The [Israeli] civilian you are talking about is staying on the land that I own and have documents to prove it. It’s them who started targeting civilians. This civilian you are talking about is, on one hand, staying on my land, the land that I have legal documents to prove that I own. On the other hand, this civilian is a trained militant. He is a reserve soldier that can be called any time.

Q. I agree with you. The civilian is a reserve soldier trained in warfare and all ….

Ahmed:
I just would like to comment something here…

It was not us who initiated this idea of targeting civilians. They committed massacres against our civilians in 1948. They committed several massacres such as Deir Yassin. Innocent civilians were massacred. There are also the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Child Mohammed El Durrah was killed in the beginning of the intifada [Netzarim junction incident (date) of a father trying to shield his son], Baby Iman Hejo…


Q. Do you know that there is a group of reserve soldiers in Israel who refuse to serve in the occupied territories and are fighting against their own government saying that Israel is humiliating a population and they do not want to take part in that? What is your reaction to that?

Ahmed:

We respect such a step. Those people are part of the Israeli community that are aware of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Abu Kifah:
This is also a result of our action. He [the reserve soldier] is afraid and that is why he refuses to serve.

Ahmed:
Not all the Israeli people believe in and want the occupation of the Palestinian people. A part of the Israeli people believes in the rights of the Palestinian people to freedom. The Peace Now Movement in Israel is an example of this. The reserve soldiers are part of this group. There is also the democratic movement for peace and coexistence.

Part of those reserve soldiers refuse to serve as a result of our action. Our action forced them to refuse to serve in our territories.

Q. Where do you see yourselves in the next two years?

Abu Kifah:
I see myself in Jerusalem. This is the last occupation in the world. The result of this military action that we carry out will be the implementation of the international legitimacy resolutions on Palestine. Since these resolutions are not binding and the Security Council cannot implement them, our struggle and military action will do. We have the example of south Lebanon and South Africa.

Q. Do you expect to defeat Israel militarily?

Ahmed:
With our will and determination and our faith in our issue, we will defeat Israel, but not militarily. This is a war of aggression. You have the example of Vietnam and the USA. There was no comparison between both sides as far as military balance?

Abu Kifah:
Id like to comment on the question on where we see ourselves in two years.

We believe that with the help of Allah, in two years, our Aqsa mosque and our lands will be liberated. The land that the United Nations and international legitimacy could not liberate for us. We have no other option. Either to die as martyrs or liberate our land.

Q. Did you personally take part in any military action?

[Ahmed and Abu Kifah declined from answering this question.]

Q. Tell me more about your background. Education?

Abu Kifah:
I have a degree in law and Im preparing for my MA studies.

Ahmed:
Im a University BA student.

Q. What would you tell an Israeli civilian who wants peace if you met him, here, now?

Ahmed:
We will demand of him to go back to his society and make them aware of our rights and stand against their own government.

Q. What is the philosophy behind suicide bombings, your idea of it? The world thinks in a different way, what do you believe in?

Abu Kifah:
These bombings are the strongest way to hit the Zionist entity. The weapon I have is my soul and for my life to make a difference, I have to hit with it.

Otherwise, we have no army, no well equipped army, no military balance. So this only weapon for me is to bomb myself.

[intervention by an observer]

If I have a tank, I would not have to use my body as a bomb.

Ahmed:
The philosophy of the martyrdom operations--we don’t call them suicide bombings--is to hit the Israeli community. Because, the Israeli community will just keep watching the Israeli government committing massacres against the Palestinian people. So, as far as if the community itself is not hurt, is not shocked from the inside, it will continue just watching the practices of the Israeli occupation army in our territory.

If the Israeli public is stirred up against the government, the government will be forced to prevent the danger from reaching the Israeli people.

The only way to prevent the danger from reaching the Israeli people is by giving the Palestinian people their rights back.

This danger is represented by hitting the Israeli community in their depth. All Israeli operations against our people did not and could not stop the martyrdom operations. The last Israeli operation in the territories, the so-called the Defensive Shield proved that the Israeli security can not prevent martyrdom operation.

The other part of the answer… We are regarded as terrorists by the Israeli government when a young man dies for the sake of liberating his homeland; while Israel is using F-16 warplanes, Apaches, firing missiles at innocent civilians and bystanders.

We have no weapon but human bombs. We have no F-16, Apache or Merkava. Our only weapon is our faith and determination to continue our struggle against the occupation.

The whole world is just watching us dying and doing nothing about it.

Q. So the message the martyr sends to the Israeli community is ‘speak to your government because we’re going to hit you,’ what is the message the martyr sends to the Palestinian community?

Ahmed:
The message is to continue the struggle after him and to restore the rights of the Palestinian people.

"My life has ended and I made my life a bridge for you to continue the same path of struggle until freedom."

Abu Kifah:
The message is to continue the path. The martyr says to his people: "Look my people. I have the possibility and ability to defend you dignity, future, and rights".

Q. What is your idea of a Palestinian state?

Ahmed:
A Palestinian state is a must. It’s our legitimate right. We have the right to this land that was stolen from us. International legitimacy gives us this right to a state of our own.

Q. But what is the form it has? The government, the …

Ahmed:
We aspire that it would be a state that would contribute to the civilization of the world. To adopt the ideas of the free-world of peace, justice, democracy and the freedom of the speech.

We would like to be like all the countries of the world, and to contribute to this world either by inventions, industries, etc.

Q. What is the relationship would you like it to have with Israel?

…your idea of a Palestinian state?

…a state that would contribute to the civilization of the world. To adopt the ideas of the free-world of peace, justice, democracy and the freedom of the speech…

Ahmed:
If there was real peace, according to international legitimacy resolutions, the relationship will be neighbors living side by side in peace.

Abu Kifah:
Israelis and Jewish can have the right to live in the Palestinian state, but this is going to be under our rule. History has shown that until 1948, they have lived under our rule free and safe. The law even gave them the right to purchase land.

Q. A personal question, if it came to you would you participate in a suicide bombing/martyrdom operation if you had the chance?

Abu Kifah:
Yes, sure

Ahmed:
Yes, I would participate. This is a national duty that every Palestinian should undertake. We are 100% convinced. Yes.

Abu Kifah:
We made a kind of quick poll among some 100 people and we found that around 65% to 70% said they would participate in martyrdom operations.

Q. Where this poll was conducted?

Abu Kifah:
In Gaza City a month ago [June] at the university. Among university graduates

Q. Which university? Al Azhar?

Abu Kifah, and Ahmed: [Decline to mention the name of the university].

From all universities.

[intervention by observer]

The people want to commit martyrdom operations because they have no reasons to live. They have nothing to live for.

Q. Why don’t you overthrow the Palestinian Authority and take over, isn’t that a better option? Why not you turn to fight against the PA?

Abu Kifah:
Why should we? You tell us, why

(intervention)

The occupation is the problem, not the Authority

Q. The Authority is not able to tackle the situation. It is not able to give a good life to its people, is not able to ….

Abu Kifah:
The Palestinian people are well aware of the capabilities of the Authority. The people understand the position of the Authority. The PA is cuffed by the agreements it had signed. The PA kept its commitment to those agreements, while the Israeli occupation did not.

They violated all the agreements. Israel reoccupied the Palestinian territories. Killed civilians. Closed borders. Set up checkpoints and roadblocks. All of this is grave violation of the signed agreements.

The Palestinian people do not condemn the position of the Palestinian Authority. The people are with [the] resistance.

Q. What do you know about the problem between India and Pakistan?

Ahmed:
Kashmir

Abu Kifah:
The conflict in Kashmir. That is a dispute between countries. It should be dealt with through the International Court of Justice. The court would decide on this conflict.

Ahmed:
As long as it is a dispute over land, the United Nations should intervene. The party that has documents proving their ownership of the land will have it because it is their right. Like our people who have documents proving our right to our land.

This should be dealt with through the United Nations.

Abu Kifah:
A referendum should be conducted among the Kashmiri people, and they would decide which side they want to go with.