Elkalam.com talks with Nadine Rosa-Rosso, former secretary general of the Parti du Travail (Workers’ Party) of Belgium, who has launched a Europe-wide campaign to remove Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations. She explains the reasons for this initiative today.
Why did you decide to launch an appeal for the removal of Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations?
The appeal is a follow-up on my 17 January 2009 address at the international forum in Beirut on the theme of “The Left and Support for the Resistance.” The Israeli offensive against Gaza was still underway. The more or less explicit objective of this operation was to annihilate, as much as possible, the forces of resistance to the occupation of Palestine lasting over sixty years. That means Hamas above all today. We have heard many condemnations of the massacres committed against the people of Gaza. In contrast, few voices were raised to condemn the very purpose of the operation, to liquidate Hamas and its presence among the Palestinian people. One of the reasons for the lack of solidarity with the Palestinian resistance is that all the resistance organizations are listed on the European (and American) list of terrorist organizations. In his report to the Council of Europe in November 2007, the European rapporteur Dick Marty concluded that “being listed on this list is equivalent to a death sentence.” It couldn’t be said clearer. After the massacres of December 2008 and January 2009, and in view of the European elections of June 2009, I thought it urgent to demand that these organizations be removed from the list and to open a political debate on the recognition of the resistance.
Can you explain to us the reasons that pushed Europe to include Hamas in this list in 2003?
In this case, as in many others unfortunately, the European Union is content to follow the American model and strategy. The Palestinian organizations of resistance, including Hamas, were put on the American list of terrorist organizations in 1995, under the Clinton administration. The point was to do away with the alliance of Palestinians — composed principally of Hamas and the PFLP — who opposed the Oslo accords. All the organizations (eight in total) that effectively opposed it found themselves on the “Specially Designated Terrorist” (SDT) list, aimed specifically at “persons and organizations who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process.” The European Union put the Palestinian organizations on its own list after the launch of the “Global War on Terror” following the attacks on 11 September 2001, even though the Palestinian organizations of course had nothing to do with those attacks.
Given the political pressures exercised over the European leaders and MPs for the benefit of Israel (which was demonstrated in December by the enhancement of the relations between Europe and Israel), do you think that such a removal is even conceivable?
The pressure of the Zionist lobby is indeed very strong. There was even a parliamentary initiative, on 12 June 2008, to add Hezbollah to the European list of terrorist organizations. The initiative was supported by 79 members of the European Parliament (MEPs). On the other hand, with the 2006 war against Lebanon and the 2008 invasion of Gaza, the legitimacy of the resistance, including the armed resistance, is beginning to be better recognized in diverse political milieux. Very recently, a delegation of Greek and Italian parliamentarians met the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. It is becoming increasingly clear that any solution to the Palestinian question will have to deal with Hamas or no solution will be found. Our appeal is addressed to not only future MEPs but also their constituents: stop voting for candidates who criminalize resistance! We’ll pose our question to those who head the party candidate lists in the 27 countries of the European Union, and we’ll publish their responses. Probably we won’t be able to achieve satisfying results during this campaign, but we can make it impossible to avoid a political debate and put pressure on the future representatives. On 26 January 2009, the Council of the European Union removed the People’s Mujahedin (Iran) from the list of terrorist organizations. After the creation of the European list, five groups and eighteen individuals in total have been removed. It is also encouraging that more and more voices are being raised, in the political, legal, and activist milieux, against the very existence of anti-terrorist legislations.
Does the European Left, which you represent, support you in this endeavor?
I don’t represent the European Left. I’m an independent communist activist. The appeal was launched on the first of February, addressing, especially, all the MEPs in the Green Group, the European United Left, and the Socialist Group. To this day, with the notable exception of Giulietto Chiesa (Italy, Socialist Group, European Parliament), who immediately signed the appeal, we have not received any response from other members. However, very famous communists, such as Henri Alleg and José Saramago, have joined the appeal. One by one, we have so far collected over one thousand signatures, of which a quarter are from well-known individuals and numerous activists known for supporting the Palestinian cause. The signatures mainly come form the countries comprising the European Union. We have also received signatures from every continent even though we haven’t oriented our efforts, at this stage, to countries outside the European Union.
In your view, why is there such a great gap between the Left’s and the Far Left’s support for the Palestinian people on one hand and, on the other hand, the denial of recognition, on the part of the same political forces, of the political representative of the Palestinian people, namely Hamas?
A large majority of the Left cannot admit that a national resistance may be led by an organization whose foundation is religious, a factor exacerbated when it comes to Islam. The Left in effect ends up denying recognition to the resistance of the people in question, namely the Palestinian people. The Left thus only diverges farther away from the resistances in the world and, in the end, aggravates its isolation from the peoples in struggle. The debate sparked by the appeal for the removal of Hamas from the European list of terrorist organizations should allow us — at least that is my hope — to move forward through this debate and unite the forces, within the Left as well, who are campaigning to gather the forces of resistance together.
A majority of those who advocate for keeping Hamas on this list think that the unconditional removal from the list would signify the explicit support for and approval of Hamas’s actions against Israeli civilians. What do you think of this?
The Palestinian people are in a state of war and occupation lasting over sixty years, facing an incomparably more powerful military force that enjoys the unconditional support of the United States and, increasingly more overtly, of the European Union as well. The wars waged in the name of the war on terrorism, exactly like the embargoes, have led to the deaths of millions of civilians in the Persian Gulf region, Afghanistan, and the Middle East in general. On the contrary, recognizing Hamas and other Palestinian organizations as legitimate resistance organizations is the first step to take, on the part of the international community, to contribute to a just solution to the Palestinian question. We are not in occupied Palestine. Our role is not to decide how the resistance ought to wage its battle but to give it the political place that it deserves. Only the end of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, through a just political solution, can put an end to deaths of civilians, on any side.
Nadine Rosa-Rosso is also a co-editor of the book Du bon usage de la laïcité (Proper Use of Secularism). The original interview “Débat autour de la question du retrait du Hamas de la liste des organisations terroristes : entretien avec Nadine Rosa-Rosso” was published by El Kalam on 23 March 2009 and is also available at the Recognise the Resistance Web site. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).