María Torrellas / The Dawn News / September, 2016
In the context of the International Seminar on Capitalism held in Sao Paulo, “The Dawn News” interviewed Maher Taher, Foreign Relations Secretary of the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” who studied in Baghdad, Iraq and obtained his PhD in Political Science in Russia.
What ideology does the Palestinian Popular Liberation Front have?
At the beginning the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was the Palestine branch of the Arab Nationalist Movement. It was formed in 1951 by Doctor George Habash, and it was a National Pan-Arab Movement. In that context, the People’s Front adopted Marxism as their ideology.
What type of resistance do people currently employ in Palestine?
Every possible type of resistance is being employed now in Palestine. There are different ideas among Palestinians —for example, President Mahmoud Abbas does not believe in the armed struggle against the Israelis. The People’s Liberation Front and other organizations still believe in all types of struggle, including the military struggle because, according to our belief, Israel does not really want peace and they want to control everything in Palestine.
In fact, Israel has a front of struggle against Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and Israel is responsible for Gaza bombing, right?
Yes of course. There are thousands of members of the People’s Liberation Front in Gaza. The General Secretary of the organization was killed in Ramallah by the Israelis and when the three wars of Gaza occurred, all the organizations were there but Israel wanted to show the world that there was only a conflict between Hamas and Islam on religious bases, they didn’t want the world to know it was a conflict between Palestine and Israel. Israel want to give the world a false picture that they were fighting Islamic fundamentalism by fighting Hamas. But in fact they are fighting against Palestinian people. And the Palestinian people are confronting them.
What will the list for the next elections be like?
For the next elections, which are now postponed, we were planning to form a list of the left: with left-wing groups like the People’s Movement, the Democratic Front and the People’s Party: all of them want to make a unified list for the elections. There is another wing with Hamas and another with Fatah —from Mahmoud Abbas—. There is also another group called the National Initiative, led by Mustafa Barghouti. And there’s the FIDA: the Palestinian Democratic Union, lead by Saleh Ra’fat. Our aim is to introduce a fair direction in Palestine (with Hamas and Fatah and the Left) but the election is postponed, anyways.
How is the situation of the Palestinian prisoners who embarked on a Hunger Strike?
Israel has very dangerous practices: we have 7,000 prisoners and they have judges against them. For example, the General Secretary of the People’s Front, Ahmad Sa’adat, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Another comrade, Bilal Kayed, who has participated in military actions against the settlers, was sentenced with 14 and a half years in prison. Now Israel made a new law, called the Administrative Detention. When the prisoner has done their time in jail, Israel will not release them, they keep them in prison according to this new law, which is a very strange law… And this is under the responsibility of the Israeli Minister of Defense. This means that Israel has sentenced all the prisoners with a life imprisonment. This administrative detention can be prolonged indefinitely: for example a 6-month detention could be increased to up to 50 years in jail by adding 6-month terms. That’s why prisoners are starting hunger strikes. Our comrade Bilal Kayed started this. He did his 14 years in prison, so he should have been released but Israel refused and they prolonged this detention; so he started the hunger strike and continued it for 70 days, and all the other prisoners joined in solidarity and also started hunger strikes. Now Israel says that his administrative detention will only be in force for 6 months, and he is supposed to be released on December. This is a great victory for the prisoners and now others have also started hunger strikes, so this is a continuous process. The aim is to prevent Israel from using these administrative detentions.
Is there any other method to fight against administrative detentions?
We, as an organization, have to bring this up to the international community, international organizations and human rights organizations. This law in any case was taken from the French who applied this law in Algeria against the revolution. We are trying to struggle by all means against this law. It’s a very discriminative law. There is no fundament nor cause for this law. This is the decision of the Minister of Defense —this man decides who should stay in jail for 20 years, even without a trial.
What’s the situation like in Gaza?
The situation is very bad. The embargo (blockade) continues. All the ways through which people can come to Gaza are closed, from all directions, the borders with Egypt are closed
though sometimes they open them. Patients who want to leave to receive medical treatment, can’t, as well as students who want to go abroad to study. People can’t move. This is an embargo (blockade) on 1,700, 000 people in a very small space, 365 km² —it’s the most crowded place in the world. It’s like a big jail for them.
What’s the role of international solidarity in the Palestinian struggle?
Now, there has been a great campaign to boycott the production from Palestine’s settlers. It has succeeded. The boycott is especially active in Europe. We call upon activists and academics from universities to join the boycott against Israel. This was also successful in many Universities. We received solidarity through demonstrations, through letters sent to the UN, through Human Rights Organizations and through solidarity with our prisoners and also financial support and medical care sent to Gaza.