As It Happens

Hamas member says there is 'no limit for sacrifice' when protesting Israel

Ahmed Yousef says Israel is using propaganda to "demonize" peaceful protesters at the Isreali-Gazi border.

Ahmed Yousef says Israel is trying to 'demonize' protesters at the Israel-Gaza fence

Ahmed Yousef says the protest at the Israeli-Gaza border is not being driven by Hamas. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

A Hamas member says Israel is using propaganda to "demonize" peaceful protesters at the Israel-Gaza fence. 

The Israel Defence Forces killed 62 people on Monday and Tuesday using live ammunition during mass protests to stop demonstrators from penetrating the fence that separates Gaza from Israel.

Thousands were injured, including Canadian physician Tarek Loubani.

In an interview with As It Happens on Tuesday, Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren blamed Hamas for the violence. 

The militant group controls Gaza, and is considered a terrorist organization by Canada, Israel and several other countries.

Ahmed Yousef, a member of Hamas and former senior adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Friday.

Here is part of that conversation.

Mr. Yousef, we've heard from Israel that says Hamas is responsible for all 62 Palestinian deaths this week. Does Hamas have blood on its hands?

No. Actually, the whole march, it was peaceful and the people who were being gathered there [were] from all walks of life. 

The Israelis are all the time trying to demonize the demonstrators by [stigmatizing] them with Iran, with Hamas — all this nonsense.

Israeli soldiers patrol on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza on Monday. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Israel warned on Monday that if Palestinians approach the fence, if they got within metres of it, that they would be shot. ... So why would you encourage people to go to the fence knowing that it was likely and quite possible that the IDF would shoot at them?

Because we're squeezed to the corner ... as Palestinians living in Gaza, in a big prison in Gaza, and we would like to remind the whole world that we're still there.

The New York Times reported that Hamas had told people during the midday prayers that the fence had been already breached and that it was open and that it said that Palestinians were flooding into Israel and that people should join them.

The Washington Post reported that organizers urged protesters over loudspeakers at the fence to burst through the fence and told them that Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even though they were actually reinforcing them.

Did you not encourage people to go to the fence to try and push through it knowing that they would likely be killed?

This is the propaganda of Israel.

No, this is the Washington Post and the New York Times, who were there and saw this.

If the people will listen to the Israeli propaganda machine, they might say something like this. But if you are in the field, you didn't see any of these things.

Palestinians carry away a protester injured during clashes with Israeli forces along the border east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Was it Hamas' intention to get through the fence?

We are there as Palestinians. I'm going there as a Palestinian, not Hamas.

And others also representing other political factions, they were there to represent themselves as Palestinians who are suffering from the occupation and colonialism.

Enough is enough. We can't continue for 70 years stateless in that situation, very miserable life and Gaza being under siege.

Is it not true that the intention of this was to break through the fence?

Ma'am, with all due respect to you, can you imagine that there are hundreds of thousands or at least a quarter of a million people marching to the fence and causing nothing to the Israeli side?

There is no single Israeli that has been injured or killed. So why are you buying the Israeli propaganda and saying these things? 

Haaretz has reported that Hamas had posted pictures and maps on Sunday of routes from the border fence, once inside, to a nearby Israeli communities. Is that not true, sir? Did that not happen?

People are spreading these things through social media.

So you're saying it's not true?

This is not the credible source for information.

Sir, you know from your own charter that the intention of Hamas is the destruction of Israel. And so the Israelis are asking: If the fence had been breached, would Hamas operatives or combatants not have gone into Israel with the intention of hurting and harming Israelis? 

Destruction of Israel. What can we destruct of Israel? Israel has nuclear weapons and they can smash the whole Gaza Strip.

This is nonsense.

Senior Hamas officials said this week that 50 of the 62 people who have died were members of Hamas.

No, I don't think so ....

No, this is not Israeli propaganda. This is your own officials.

We went to the funerals, because the family doesn't have money. 

Sometimes they are adopting this political faction because they might be able to cover the expenses for medical treatment or something like this.

That's what the people waving the flags of certain organizations, because they know that they might be able to cover their expenses.

But the reality is that people who've been there are not there because of Hamas.

A poster with the image of Said al-Kher was displayed outside of the funeral tent where mourners remembered the 15-year-old earlier this week in Gaza City. The funeral was paid for by Hamas, which flew its green flag at the memorial. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

We know and we've seen that the majority of Palestinians who turned up to those demonstrations were completely non-violent peaceful protesters, not armed. And yet there are images and videos of Palestinians shooting Israeli drones with guns. So, were there not weapons at the fence?

We are defending our life, because the drones are taking photos and shooting, and they killed many of the people. And that's why the people in our territory, we are defending ourselves.

If anybody trespasses onto your house, you will shoot him. I was in America. I was in Canada and in many other places. People there can't trespass the lines of your house. You have the right to kill them.

But this has nothing to do with the march.

Yousef says there is 'no limit to sacrifice' when it comes to fighting Israeli occupation. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

Hamas has already promised a new protest on June 5th at the fence. The other day I asked the Israeli government official we spoke with: "Is there any limit to the numbers of protesters that Israel would be willing to kill?"

Is there a limit to the numbers of Palestinians you would urge to become martyrs and put themselves in the way of death?

No ma'am, there is no limit for sacrifice. Our land is still occupied and we are willing to have normal lives.

We need to create a future for our children like your children. Maybe in a few years, a few months, people will wake up and say, "enough is enough" to Israel.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong.