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Interview with a Muslim Teacher from Artas Village

Contributed by Miluse Tumova on 14.08.2007:

Interview taken on 1.8.2007, with Mr. Sami Asad, a Muslim teacher from Artas village

Mila:

What are the greatest problems which the villagers from Artas have to face?

Sami:

The greatest problems are as a result of the Separation Wall and the Israeli settlement nearby. Artas became a small prison; the Israelis took and still take more of our land. We cannot move freely.

Mila:

Did the Israelis offer you money for your land or did they take it without any compensation?

Sami:

They offered some money, but we refused. We will never leave our land, or betray our country.

Mila:

What is your final political goal?

Sami:

To end the occupation, to have Palestine under the rule of the Palestinian National Authority and to get back our land.

Mila:

What do you do personally to make this aim into a reality?

Sami:

I try to encourage others to resist the occupation. We have to resist, to do something so as to change the situaton. We have to show the truth to the world.

Mila:

What exactly does it mean for you „to resist“?

Sami:

It means firstly to refuse totally the idea of occupation. Not to accept the present situation. Resistance can be either militarily or nonviolent such as by demonstrations and marches, or to communicate with the international community.

Mila:

Which borders for Palestine would you like to have?

Sami:

The borders of 1967.

Mila:

So, the best solution in your opinion is the two-state solution with Gaza and the West Bank under the Palestinian National Authority?

Sami:

We have to be realistic and make compromises. We cannot kill seven million Jews. We are satistied with the borders of 1967, in Gaza and in the West Bank. I don´t want to see an Israeli occupation of my lands.

Mila:

Don´t you dream of a larger Palestine as it was before 1948?

Sami:

No one can prohibit me to dream.

Mila:

You really believe that it is possible to abolish the state of Israel?

Sami:

Not now but I believe in the future this can come true.

Mila:

What would happen with the Israelis?

Sami:

There would be no Israelis. Muslims, Jews and Christians would live together under a common Palestinian rule.

Mila:

How would the Muslims behave towards the Jews?

Sami:

Very well.

Mila:

What do you think about military resistance?

Sami:

We do not have our rights, freedom, democracy … if you put somebody under a very strong pressure for a long time, he will blow up. As for myself I chose peaceful resistance with an eye to my family but I understand the motives behind the military resistance.

Mila:

Do you hate Israel?

Sami:

I hate the occupation. I hate Israeli soldiers in Palestine. But I don´t hate Jews, I can have even Jewish friends, no problem. I like for instance the Jew Noam Chomsky very much, he´s a clever guy.

Mila:

Have you had personally conflicts with the Israeli army?

Sami:

Yes, I was imprisoned seven times. Alltogether I spent three years in jail. The first time, it was in 1989, I was fifteen when I threw a stone but I hit nobody. They put me in prison for two days.

The second imprisonment happened in 1992 and it was the longest one, one and half year. I made a bomb and it exploded in my hands. (Sami lost two fingers – Mila) That time I shared prison with different political leaders, such as Mohammad Abu Tair.

In 1994 I was captured for twenty days, in 1998 for a week, in 2003 for six months and the last time it was this year for four months.

Mila:

How does the Isreali prison look like? Was it very hard for you?

Sami:

There are two kinds of prisons, either a building with rooms or tents. I was in a building. In one room we were with sixteen people, supporters of Hamas and Fatah were separated. Twice a day you could go for a small walk in the yard. I took many lectures in prison, it was a very good exercise for me.

Mila:

Do the Israelis hit prisoners?

Sami:

Not normally, not on daily basis. Sometimes when a new prisoner comes and they want information from him, they hit him.

They gave us also very little to eat and we often had lack of water. But many times the prisoners succeeded in getting their rights.

Mila:

How´s that possible?

Sami:

For instance through a hunger strike. Prisoners also threatened the jailors, even with knives. The Israelis wanted to have quiet, no strikes and problems.

Once I was also in the jail of the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem, for five months. It was much worse. Thirty people in one small room, no television, bad food, no visits allowed of the family members.

Mila:

In which way have the numerous stays in prison changed you?

Sami:

Not to act too quickly, to reflect more before I do something. And I hate the occupation more than before.

Mila:

Do you regret loss of your fingers?

Sami:

No. That´s part of the resistance.

Mila:

How do you see the inner political situation in Palestine? Why are Fatah and Hamas unable to cooperate?

Sami:

That´s a problem since the Oslo Agreement. It did not help Palestine to become a real country. The Oslo Agreement should have been a temporary one but it became permanent.

Mila:

What is the best solution in your opinion?

Sami:

For sure a national unity goverment made up of all national parties.

Mila:

But why doesn´t it work?

Sami:

Because of the international pressure, above all from the US and Israel. They push Abbas not to have a dialogue with Hamas.

Mila:

Why do you like the Hamas ideology?

Sami:

I am a religious man and Hamas is an Islamic party. It is a strong party and wants to return our rights.

Mila:

What do you think of the attacks by Islamic fanatics in Europe?

Sami:

I condemn such acts totally, that´s a wrong way. I don´t accept the killing of civilians. Our enemy is the Israeli army, the Israeli occupation. In accordance with our religion we can kill those who attack us.

Mila:

You are a teacher and encourage your pupils to resist the occupation. Do they agree with you?

Sami:

They trust me and like me.

Mila:

How many pupils are in Artas and how many of them continue university studies?

Sami:

About 1000 pupils, more then 50% become students at the university. Some of them go to study abroad, mostly boys.

Mila:

Why not girls?

Sami:

That´s our culture.

Mila:

If you would have a daughter, would you allow her to study abroad?

Sami:

If her brother would be there with her yes, alone no.

Mila:

What do you think about women who are not covered?

Sami:

Our religion says women should cover their body. If I see you in your dress my emotions move. (Mila – I wore a T-Shirt with long sleeves and jeans-shorts under my knees; no covered hair).

Mila:

Do you think that women who are not covered are easy, prostitutes?

Sami:

(Embarrassed): No, they are only beautiful. If the man sees a woman without cover something pushes him towards her and he´s thinking of sex.

Mila:

Would you like that all women on the streets are covered, even women who are not Muslims?

Sami:

There should be a public law valid for everybody.

Mila:

Do the Artas women work or are they mostly at home?

Sami:

Some of them work. Some women work in Israel, they clean houses there, the other work in agriculture, sell vegatables in the market or cook.

Mila:

What are the jobs of men?

Sami:

The majority work in the building industry, some of them are employees at the ministries of the Palestinian Authority.

Mila:

Is there much unemployment in Artas?

Sami:

About 50% of the villagers work.

Mila:

Where do they take money for their living?

Sami:

The wife works or they receive charity grants, for example from the UN.

Mila:

Is life now more difficult than a few years ago?

Sami:

The land situation became worse. After the Israelis took our land we have to cultivate still the same plot of land and it needs also to rest. But we have not enough land to let it uncultivated and each year we have a smaller harvest.

Mila:

How many children have most of the families?

Sami:

Seven, but for example my uncle has fifteen.

Mila:

How many children would you like to have?

Sami:

Ten, but my wife wants only seven. In the meantime we have three.

Mila:

Is it economicaly important to have many children? Is it necessary that the children care for their old parents?

Sami:

Yes, but that´s not the main reason. We like to have a big family.

Mila:

How many men in Artas have more then one wife?

Sami:

There are about 300 husbands and only five of them have two wives.

Mila:

Don´t you consider that to be strange?

Sami:

No, if the husband can provide them the same life standard, it is all right. In Europe many men have only one wife but then they have many mistresses and nobody considers it to be strange.

Mila:

Can the husband marry a second woman even if his first wife doesn´t agree?

Sami:

Yes, he can.

Mila:

And do they live then in one house?

Sami:

No, each woman has to have her own house and the husband has to spend an equal number of nights with both of them.

Mila:

Thank you Sami.

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