Abu Araj

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Jon: Can we maybe begin by having him describe what led him to this place? Maybe what led him into activism and to become a leader?

Weird Voice 1: Yes, of course. First of all, he is Muhammad Abu Hammad Abu Araj. He is one of the leaders of Fatah in Jenin, and he is the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. Two points: Leader I mean in Fatah for all the region, and he is number one in Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. It is clear?

J: In the whole region, or just in the city?

WV1: In the city, he and another two for all the north of west bank

Abu Araj: The central command for the north...

WV1: of the Brigades..?

AA: Of course.. what else? the Mishmar Ha-Gvul?

WV2: [Guess] I hope that answer wasn't on record.


WV1: These guys will relay everything, so be careful. If you say your name, they'll talk. [To Jon/Val]: You are recording, yes?

J & V: Yes.

WV1: Yeah, be careful. You don't want to say any names. Be careful.

J: But it's no problem.

WV1 [laughing nervously]: Be careful.

J: So maybe you could ask him if there's a particular incident that led him into activism, and then he could maybe describe briefly - or however long - how he got to be leader.

WV1: He's asking if there's a specific incident/reason that drove you to the stage where you would choose to be constantly on the run and involved in military operations. Is there something specific, or if you just want to describe anything about yourself/your situation.

AA: The specific reason is that we are occupied... The specific reason is that we are occupied.

WV1: First of all we are under occupation [TL: I'm gonna skip the rest of WV1's talk]

AA: The Palestinian people are occupied. In the beginning of the Intifada, people were involved in [peaceful] demonstrations and protests, but even during our symbolic protests, many of us were killed. So, we decided to even out the fight.

I am a prisoner [ am vs. was ] of the first Intifada, where I spent four years in prison with my four brothers for the same case. During this Intifada, many of our friends, companions and brothers were killed, so we developed a willingness to fight the [Israelis] with weapons.


The Palestinian people have reached a point at which all segments of society would pick up weapons against the Israelis if they were available, because they fight for their rights, their children and their freedom.


J: Maybe it would be best if he answered at length in Arabic, and then you just sort of told me what he had to say so he could get a rhythm

WV1: OK.. no broblem [TL: heheh : )].. OK, if you want to ask, yes.

J: Can he.. he mentioned his brothers who are all in prison. Can he trace a particular point in his youth where he said "I will be a fighter"? Was there a particular incident? A particular friend who was killed maybe or something like this where he said "I have to be a fighter".

WV1: He wants to speak "at length". He's asking if there's something specific, like the death of a friend or something? You spoke generally about how you're a Palestinian, but is there anything specific like the death of one of the shabab or something specific that influenced you in your belief that military resistance was the way to go.

AA: Something specific, no.


AA: I used to work with other young men as [saffariy'een - people who travel to work? labourers in Israel? WV1 translates it as a "secret group"] at the beginning of the Intifada. I would guess that 80% of those I was with have since been killed.

Their death is what gave ...

<loud bang>

Distant voice: What's that? What the hell is that?

Voice 1: Hey, Hey!

<apparently indicating that it's OK>

DV: you bastards! <at the others for not communicating sufficiently>

Voice 1: Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid.. Tell her not to be afraid..

Voice 2: Tell her... Tell her....

Val: I don't like strangers pointing guns at me

Voice 2: No, no... [in English] security, security.


WV2 (giggling): did you see that?

Distant voice [now very close to mic and furious]: You were just gonna [???] anybody while I [???] [berates for allowing a situation like this to arise].

Voice 1: Calm down, dude.

Distant voice [calming]: Ohh.. it's a journalist.

[TL: Skipping the transaction up to 7:25]

J: Can you ask him the impact that the battle in the camp had on the resistance. Did it help? Did it destroy the resistance? Did it set it back? Did it make more people want to join? Less people?


AA: In April, everybody resisted, not just those who were carrying rifles. Everybody resisted: those who stayed up late at night, those who received [fighters and refugees] into their homes, and put a roof over their heads and fed them morning, noon and night. Those who let others wash [make wud'uu] for prayers in their homes, and then let them pray. Everybody was ready to sacrifice and fight for the sake of God, and defend Jenin and its refugee camp. These circumstances brought people together and strengthened their bonds to each other more than could have been imagined.

<break to get paper and tell AA that he can continue>


The resistance flowed from the people as a whole, not just those who were armed. The resistance flowed from the children, women and old men. It flowed from those who came here from outside Jenin. This resistance was strong and determined. After [that act of] resistance, people began to embody the spirit of resistance, and grew in their love of the resistance and [fighting and] dying for the sake of God.

So, what the Israelis would call the "situation on the ground" is that, for us, the people have collectively come together as a society.

[9:35 - 11:30: part translation, part sermon by WV1]

J: And what about Al-Aqsa martyr's brigade specifically? The actual militants.. There was more? It was set back? What was the effect on the actual group?

[Reasonable translation]


AA: The arrests that happened in the refugee camp affected - at least to some extent - the number of people involved in Al-Aqsa martyr's brigade.

[telephone interlude]

... the work side. There were many members of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade based in the Jenin area. It was written [by God] that some of them should live, and they continue [the struggle until now]. Others were jailed, and still others have been killed. All of this has of course affected us. It hasn't affected us to the extent where we have ceased to resist, as evidenced by our ability to fill the rank and file immediately after the siege. Also, we were able to operate very successfully within Jenin and just outside.

WV1: So when the army would enter around here, you would attack the settlers and in the secondary roads..

AA: uh huh.


WV1: Do you want to add anything on the subject?

AA: That's it.. It's that the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade in Jenin and in the West Bank on the whole operates within the 1967 boundaries, you see, so our main goal had always been to block them. But, after the repeated sieges, we have developed a form of resistance that has centred on resisting and attacking inside our homes and inside our neighbourhoods. This is one of the large changes that has happened from the sieges.

J: Ask him if he can comment on the suicide bombings. Does he feel that the suicide bombings are... Take away from the collective resistance - because they are an individual action. Do they take away from the collective base of the resistance when on ly one person is going in to carry out an action. Also, if you can ask him if he believes that suicide bombings or attacks inside Israel - inside the green line - are OK. If he can comment on those two things.


WV1: He's asking you a question, and you'd better be careful how you answer: With regards to the operations inside Israel, what is the strategy of the brigade? First, is the brigade in favour of this sort of thing, or no? And, if a person from Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade carries out an operation inside [Israel], is it due to personal initiative or under orders?

AA: Let me say that we don't kill for sport [literally: killing is not our hobby], and we are not in the business of bloodletting, be it Israeli or Palestinian blood.

Some weird voice: [not clear]

WV1: Shut the hell up, Amer. Let the man talk.

AA: Our strategic goal is peace and a two-state solution: an Israeli state and a Palestinian state side by side. Our goal is not to kill Israelis, nor are we interested in marching our men, children, elderly or the Palestinian people to their deaths. Our strategy dictates that if a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade is killed, the response will be inside '48 in Israel proper. That isn't just a strategic goal, but a response to which we have the right if they come and kill a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.


J: Can you ask...

WV1: If you can quickly, because of the security situation, I think there is a plane in the sky... for you. If you can quick in your question, no problem.

J: OK, no problem. You can maybe don't have to translate anymore. Can you ask him if... can you ask him if there's much discussion in the target of the suicide bombing. How much discussion goes into the target - a pizzaria, a bus stop, an army base.


WV1: [reasonable translation]

AA: We say this to all the people of the world, not specifically the people of Canada: The entire Israeli population are soldiers, with no difference between big and small [TL: could be interpreted as "young and old"] - after 18 years of age, each person is either a soldier or a reservist after they serve as soldiers. During the April invasion of the camp, many reservists (45 years of age and above) served, and so the entire Israeli population consists of soldiers, not civilians. This is something that should be understood by the world as a whole. A fighter who goes out to '48 [Israel proper] aims as much as possible to kill soldiers. Mistakes are of course inevitable, but they remain the responsibility of the Israelis for causing fighters to go out to '48 [Israel proper]. They kill our children by attacking from F16s and Apaches. It's on the contrary - I'm a militant, but my brother isn't. So, if they bomb my house, they would kill a militant and a person who wasn't a militant. But the Israeli population in its entirety is targeted because everyone serves in the Israeli army.


J: Can you ask him to explain what his life is like. He is obviously afraid of assassination. Can you ask him what his life is like. He always has to drive different cars, live in different houses, can never use his cell phone. Can you ask him to describe the effect on his life?

WV1: [Are you afraid of assassination?; Did not ask about effect on life]

AA: Wanted people are wanted on a scale, so the situation for each wanted person differs on that scale. For me personally, I change cell phones every two or three weeks, never travel in cars [meant only for me]. If I want to go do something [TL: "something" said as in "errand"], I would find any friend of mine and borrow their car. This is how I deal with my personal security.

Of course, most of the wanted don't have their own cars and don't frequent the same cars, though going from car to car is a possibility.

Let me say, though, that the Palestinian people in general do not fear the [Israelis], nor do they fear assassinations, nor do they fear death. Death is the ultimate truth. Those who die, die, and there is no more to it than that. But let me tell you that I picked up a rifle so that I may die, not so I may live.

J: Would you like to go?

WV1 [to AA]: is there...?

AA: no.

J: Can you get him to.. Maybe he's already done this, but in Canada people don't understand what the strategy of the resistance is. Can you have him articulate the strategy of the Al-Aqsa intifada?

V: and what its ultimate goals are..

J: ...and what its goal is. What his exact goal is. What it will take... What the strategy is and when it will stop... When what is accomplished?


WV1: [reasonable translation]

AA: First, let us be clear: The Palestinian Issue is what stands between us [Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade] and the Israelis [i.e., not racism or economic power or whatever].

There are two equal courses, we as the Palestinian state and they as the Israeli state. If they give us the Palestinian state - or at least allow us to compose it - then we will live in peace, and they will live in peace. This is the position and goal of Fatah and the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. Like I've said, our goal is not killing. We are defending the '67 occupied territories, where we have rights under the Geneva conventions and Oslo. All manner of international resolutions and meetings have said that we are entitled to a Palestinian state within the '67 borders.


If they give us a state, weapons and resistance become obsolete, as does the Israelis killing us, or us killing them. The strategic aims of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade are to expel the Israelis from all of the '67 lands, to get rid of settlements, to eliminate checkpoints, to end military incursions, to gain our full rights and freedoms, and to have our prisoners released [from Israeli jails and prisons]. If these aims are met, not a single Palestinian will resist or even contemplate being or sending a suicide bomber into [Israel proper], nor will they consider picking up arms and attacking the [Israelis].

These are Fatah's aims, and they are also the aims of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade: The expulsion of Israel from within the '67 lands *completely*, be they settlers or soldiers. Full stop. Next paragraph. [TL: Could read "Period." instead of "FS. NP"]

So long as they keep assassinating, laying siege, closing off areas, and harassing old and young, we will resist fiercely. We have no tanks, and we have no planes. We don't send tanks into the Afula [TL: part of Israel proper?], nor into Israel. We defend the '67 lands, the borders of which have been decided by international bodies. What we are asking for is not impossible [/unreasonable]. The Israelis themselves say "Give the Palestinians their country." This is all we hope for: the formation of a Palestinian state, and nothing more.

WV1: [translates back]

J: Can you ask him what the level of cooperation between Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade in the resistance? Is there any sort of unity or collaboration?

WV1: [reasonable translation]

AA: Cooperation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad doesn't happen at the highest levels, but on the streets. So, when the army comes in, or if there's an invasion or assassination attempt, people tell each other that the army has come in, and they come together to resist inside Jenin. The organization happens on the street, not at some higher level.

WV1: [translates back]

J: Can you tell him he has the final word. Anything he wants to say to people in Canada. Anything he wants to say at all. The last word is his.

WV1: [reasonable translation]

AA: We invite those who are thinking of this issue or are sympathetic to Palestinians to come to '67 [the Occupied Territories], so they can see the reality[/truth] with their own eyes. Let them see the terrible circumstances that we live in. The rights of a child living in Jenin - or in the West Bank in general - are the same as those of any child in Canada... To live, not to play with tanks. We have to find playgrounds for them, so they breed ideas of peace. Instead, the Israelis foster the desire for resistance in the youngest of children. We are not terrorists, we are part of a resistance for '67, and our rights. We invite all Canadians to come to Palestine and see with their own eyes - without the lens of the media, since it is better [to see] than to listen to the Israeli media.

WV1: [translates back]


Assessment of spot translator

  • Mostly good, but misses key arabic nuances that completely alter the meaning. Examples:
    • "In the beginning of the Intifada..." at ~ 2:00, he translates as "In the first Intifada"
  • Speaks in first person ("I was" instead of "he was"), which is probably good.
  • Inserts some of his personal politics; adds when nothing was said.
    • [4:00] "To achieve their legal aims, and to protect their children and their land" is obvious personal political insertion (really "rights, children and freedom" was said.
    • [5:00] "Something sbeshul, no.. but it is sbeshul for the beoble. They are my family. They are my beoble."
  • Guides questions (good or bad?): [4:45] "You've spoken generally about how you're a palestinian. Is there something specific that made you want to be a fighter?"