Original link: http://middleeastobserver.net/senior-hamas-official-qasim-soleimani-gave-us-everything-iran-has-to-offer/

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Description:

In an extended interview with Al-Mayadeen TV, senior Hamas official Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar discusses the role of the late Iranian General Qasim Soleimani in supporting ‘Palestinian resistance groups’ and particularly his relationship with the Hamas movement.

The following translation contains keys excerpts from the interview.

Source: Al-Mayadeen TV

Date: 11-01-2020

Transcript:

The host:

Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, welcome back. There is no doubt that Hamas’ great solidarity with Iran regarding the martyrdom of General Qasem Soleimani has raised many questions and triggered analyses. So we are turning to you to get our facts straight. Has the martyrdom of Hajj, or rather General, Qasem Soleimani actually brought Iran and Hamas closer together and cemented their alliance, following periods of ups and downs in their relationship for regional reasons? Is that true?

Dr. al-Zahar:

Actually it has, but I would like to clarify – after saying in the name of Allah the Merciful the Compassionate, praise be to Allah, and peace and prayers be upon His prophet… I think that the relationship (between Iran and Hamas), according to my experience in this field, started in 1991 when a group was deported to Marj al-Zohour (in southern Lebanon). At the time, Iran sent civilian envoys to listen to the demands of Palestinians in the region, in order to support this group that stood at the borders of Palestine and was able to come back a year later. Therefore, Iran’s proxy groups and personalities dealing with this matter were known and plain to see. And they are still present to this day.

While the next significant moment was when Hamas took office in 2006 after the elections. As the minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, I visited Iran and met with all political parties and other officials. So our relationship deepened and their support increased not only in the military field, but also at the political level as they backed the government. After that, the relationship carried on until the shared vision become indisputable: the battle to free Palestine, is a real battle, a Qur’anic fact that might come true with cooperation, especially this cooperation that is not founded on short-term interests, but on a strategic dimension, i.e.  achieving comprehensive goals including the ending of the occupation and establishing a Palestinian State on the entire soil of Palestine. All of that while maintaining balanced, respectful relationships with all parties who helped to free Palestine. I think that this cause is not related only to Soleimani. Even though he had a crucial role, and was a very important personality as he knew even the smallest details. Therefore, I think that our cause will not be affected. The only issue is finding the person who will be able fill in Soleimani’s shoes during this period.

The host:

Abo Khaled, did the martyr General Qasem Soleimani ever visit the Gaza Strip? Have you ever met?

Dr. al-Zahar:

No, that is very hard. It is very difficult to come to Gaza. To get to there, there are only two ways: you can come either from Egypt or from the Israeli entity. Either way, that actually never happened. Not to my knowledge at least.

The host:

In a statement delivered yesterday, Hamas’ representative in Lebanon said that Soleimani visited the Gaza Strip multiple times.

Dr. al-Zahar:

I honestly have no information on that matter. I don’t know.

The host:

So maybe yes, maybe no..

Dr. al-Zahar:

Either way, it is a risk that Soleimani could assess. I don’t know. I don’t know everything. Some security and military issues are confidential, and only one or two people might know of them. But to my knowledge – I honestly don’t know.

The host:

Okay. Dr., have you ever met (Soleimani) in person? Do you have a personal relationship with him?

Dr. al-Zahar:

Yes, I have met him multiple times. I believe he highly appreciated the role Hamas has played in all areas. I have actually met him multiple times. And every time, I was more and more confident that this man, who named himself the commander of the Quds Force, attached his name to al-Quds because he was sincere in his support for the Palestinian cause, and for al-Quds in particular. He chose this title and lived up to it indeed. He was a man of his words. In fact, this man was ready to give, and has actually given everything the Islamic Republic can offer to support the Resistance’s cause.

The host:

In return for this support, has Iran ever asked you for anything, at the political or military levels? Or has it asked (Hamas) to adopt certain positions?

Dr. al-Zahar:

That’s actually a very important question. Because the side wishing to weaken the Resistance project insists that Iran wants to use Hamas or the al-Qassam Brigades as proxy forces in her regional conflict. During the past period, we have never witnessed – nor did it cross our minds – that Iran might ask us for anything. Our long experience with them from 1991, as I have mentioned, until today, has never revealed, even for a moment, that Iran wants to use us for any cause beyond Palestine. Our whole energy was devoted (to our cause) and they were aware of that. Qasem Soleimani was one of many who insisted that the Palestinian cause should aim all its attention and forces at the occupation to free Palestine. Only after that, parties can sit down to manage their relationships. Some countries that have nothing to do with Palestine, and are fighting it, tried to claim that the Iranian intervention in Palestine serves Iran’s interests and not the interests of the Resistance. I testify before the Almighty Allah that over the past years, from 1991 until the past year, I have never felt, not for a second, that there was a single Iranian request made to the detriment of the Palestinian cause.

The host:Dr., regarding the relationship with the new IRGC’s Quds Force commander Ismail Qa’ani, reports state that Qa’ani met with a delegation from Hamas, and with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Sayyed Ali Khamenei… Have you looked at the results of these meetings? How does the relationship with the new commander seem to you? Do you think General Qa’ani will have the same abilities as General Soleimani, or will offer you the same cooperation Soleimani has offered you?

Dr. al-Zahar:

In fact, we should stress that the Iranian policy is not dependent on one person, not even on the president. The policy is decided by a system and a group of interventions that control the relationship between Iran and the Palestinian cause. I’ve told you that when I was assigned as a minister of Foreign Affairs in 2006, I met with President Ahmadinejad, the foreign minister, the martyr Qasem Soleimani, and a lot of officials. We were also invited to conferences. Each and every conference mentioned the same cause: the Palestinian cause, that is of central importance to Iran. This is how they’ve talked about it. We’ve heard about it in every forum and every place. This is what we have confirmed. This is also one of the key reasons for which we enjoy a good relationship with Iran. It is not a relationship where a party is taking advantage of another.

Therefore, this long experience at the political, diplomatic or security levels, and in terms of other aids and self-defense techniques (shows that this relationship) is not dependent on individuals. Even if Soleimani is gone, all the accomplishments we’ve made won’t be lost, and previous relationships will continue, that’s my opinion. I’ve actually never met Qa’ani and I don’t know if any of my brothers (colleagues) did, even though it is eminently logical to meet with the new commander of this force that has the honor, as every person, to be associated to al-Quds. As everyone knows the promised final battle is a Qur’anic fact. And everyone who takes part in this battle will not only change the geopolitics of the whole region, but will also, God willing, go to heaven.

The host:

According to the pictures taken in the funeral, there was a meeting between the Hamas delegation that went to Tehran to pay its respects, and Ismail Qaani. However, it is not clear if that meeting was just to show condolences, or it was an actual meeting with deliberations and acquaintances. I don’t know.

Dr. al-Zahar:

Of course, they should make deliberations and acquaintances. It’s also totally logical for Hamas to ask for the continuity of the relationship between not only Hamas but all Palestinian resistance forces especially in the Gaza Strip, and the important (Quds) Force and this country that supports the resistance project. This assassination is the biggest proof of the sincerity of Iran’s policy. If Iran was part of this group of hypocrites, and if it didn’t put pressure on the Israeli entity, and on the Western-Israeli interests related to Christian, Jewish and even Arab Zionism… if that was true, there wouldn’t be an assassination. The assassination was carried out because there were practical measures taken by the (Quds) Force and by Iran through its members, constituents and leaderships to support the Resistance project.

The host:

“My father’s blood will pave the way for us to pray in al-Quds”. Dr. al-Zahar, those are the words of a Muslim girl (Soleimani’s daughter) who lost her father, but is still talking about al-Quds, about Palestine, in Arabic and in front of a crowd of worshipers, while holding a weapon in her hand, even though she can’t be more than 20 years old. Dr. al-Zahar, what is your comment on such a scene? And how much does this scene problematise an notion which many tried to reinforce, and for which large sums of money was paid to transform it into public opinion. I am talking about the notion of sectarian division, and turning people who belong to different sects away from the causes that Muslim people, from Iran to Pakistan and Indonesia, are sympathetic towards.

Dr. al-Zahar:

First, allow me to offer my sincere condolences to this lady, the daughter of the man who devoted himself to Palestine. If Qasem Soleimani was not loyal to Palestine, his daughter would not have said such words. If his words were politically motivated and dishonest, his daughter would not have stressed (on the importance of the Palestinian cause) that she heard her father talking about time and time again. She became certain that he believes in freeing Palestine and in the promised final battle. Otherwise, she would not have come out, stood, held a weapon, and said those words. As the English saying goes: “like father like son”. Soleimani’s daughter, son, brother, etc. will all follow his footsteps. Therefore, may all our martyrs everywhere rest in peace.

The host: Amen.

Dr. al-Zahar:

Regarding the next part of the question. Please remind me what it was.

The host: The sectarian issue.

Dr. al-Zahar:

They have said that Iran is spending money to develop ideological centres in Palestine. I say that I dare anyone to come to the Gaza Strip, and find someone who converted to Shiism, or find a place, a center or an institution for the Shia. These (accusations) are spread only to create a rift between us. Why? Who are those? Does the Sunna (tradition of Prophet Muhammad) allow cooperation with the Israeli occupation? Does the Sunna allow giving money to the Israeli entity, and supporting Christian Zionism? Aren’t Muslims brothers, who shouldn’t let each other down? Muslims, whether Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Afghan or Pakistani are brothers; regardless of their nationality, country, identity, or identity card. Muslims are brothers. Islam is both believed in the heart, and translated in the actions (of Muslims). Therefore, saying that Iran is seeking influence in Palestine is a lie. We dare anyone to say the opposite. We have never heard anyone asking for a price in return. (Iran) provided us with all kinds of support, even at the political level (to serve) the Palestinian cause. However, it never asked us for such a thing. And if anyone has (evidence), then I invite them to present it to the people for the truth to be revealed. But as a witness during this long period, from 1991 until this very moment, I assure you that the Iranian support to the Palestinian cause is altruistic. They, however, became certain that Hamas and the Palestinian resistance are absolutely serious about freeing Palestine and attaining the promised final battle.

The host:

I am sure you heard of, or followed up on the criticism that was directed at Hamas when its delegation, headed by Ismail Haniyeh, paid respects and participated in the funeral (of Soleimani), and after the speech delivered by Mr. Haniyeh who considered General Soleimani the ‘martyr of al-Quds’. Some of this criticism came from the Islamic movement (in the region) general speaking, not from Hamas and its personnel in particular. But rather from the Islamic community as a whole. How did you receive this criticism, or these voices, that questioned (Hamas’ loyalty), attacked it, and thought that it exaggerated its feelings?

Dr. al-Zahar:

In fact, the problem, or the problems, that aroused before were exaggerated, and some took a stand (against Iran) because of these problems. We were hoping that both sides, Sunni and Shia Muslims, make some steps to bridge the gap between the political – and not the sectarian – positions. Every human has his own beliefs, behavior, style and approach. But what brings us together is the saying: “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger”. I want – so that we don’t get deep into this subject and get drawn into disputes- I call upon Islamic scholars, Shia, Sunni and others, to hold a conference to settle the dispute and find solution, a common solution, for all the current disputes; and to advise Muslims, Shia, Sunni and others, to follow precise instructions. Only then, the scheme run by colonialists, Zionists and others will collapse. As you know a lot of people are sectarian, even within Sunni, Shia and others. Those narrow-minded people shouldn’t distract us from the bigger project.

I want to remind them of a hdith of the Prophet reported by Thawban. I am going to say it in short. The Prophet said: Allah, the Almighty, gathered up the world (or the earth) for me so that I saw its east and its west; and indeed the dominion of my nation will reach what was gathered up for me”. He didn’t say Shia or Sunni. We all follow the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad. Is there a prophet other than Muhammad for us to follow his Sunna? There are some doctrinal differences, and some personal judgments of some scholars. However, in essence, our judgment comes from our belief that Allah is our God, and our absolute loyalty is to him.

The host:

So what I understand is that Hamas doesn’t care about the opinions of extremists, whether Sunni, Shia or other?

Dr. al-Zahar:

In fact, we are hurt by this subject, especially by the hurtful words that were harsh towards the Resistance and Hamas. We’ve heard a lot of words on this matter. But I suggest that, to overcome this crisis and avoid being bogged down in the swamp they want us to fall into, our scholars should hold a conference to unite their word, and adopt a single approach. That way, we will no longer be targeted whether in bad faith, or by simple-mindedness, regarding these suggestions and ideas.

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