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Reflections on the Murder of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin

March 2004

I think these are some of the saddest and by far the most frightening of days. Israel, together with this administration, has been trying since Sept. 11 to equate the Palestinian struggle for freedom with terrorism, trying to frighten the American people into believing that they are one and the same and that Israel is fighting the same “war on terror” as America. The assassination of Yassin is just one more step in this direction.

Sharon knew exactly what he was doing. Uri Avnery, a long-time leader of the Israeli peace movement, writes that the assassination is “the stupidest move”, but it is not. It is, as usual, a very carefully planned strategy. Now the Arabs–and certainly the Palestinians–are saying that America is to blame this time and that Israel could not have done that without America’s approval. Sharon’s strong statement yesterday saying that Israel will continue to target and assassinate, and another statment made by one of his ministers following a meeting with Dick Cheney, is seen as further proof of that acceptance. America’s refusal to condemn the attack while all other countries, including Britain, are comdemning it is yet another proof. Now it is rumored that Hamas is saying that since America is directly involved, they will turn their attention to America.

Thank God Rantissi, Yassin’s successor, did not fall into the trap set for him, and he said emphatically that they would not. Funny that in spite of that, we see on the news today, March 23rd, that the US State Department issued an alert to its embassies and people around the world saying there is fear of targetting them by ‘Hamas and Al Qaeda’. Is that wishful thinking?

Did anyone think that Sharon did not know this would happen? Attacking Americans would be a change of strategy for Hamas, who have never targeted anyone beyond Israel. If Amercians were, in fact, targeted by Palestinians there would be no sympathy for the Palestinian cause even for those who are currently sympathetic or on the border.

Needless to say, and from the reactions from the Arab world, the world is by far less safe now than it has been even over the past three years, even following the Iraq war. The talk now about the “Greater Middle East” and reform in the Middle East rings more hollow than ever.

What is “reform” when there are targeted assassinations that contradict all international laws – in addition to all other recent activities by the Israelis that are against international law? Once again, Israel commits a provocative act immediately on the eve of an Arab Summit and immediately when there is the slightest hint of progress towards peace. It is a constant Israeli strategy. This is not done lightly. And following the murder of Yassin and the collateral damage anyone around him, Israel attacked Gaza again, where three were killed yesterday morning… but we have not heard about that one in American media, have we?

It is a daily activity, and Yassin’s murder was just Israel’s way of sticking out its tongue at the Arabs and saying: “Here’s one more outrage, show me what you can do now.” And they cannot do anything because they are impotent, and their governments are so hated by their own people, that they are rendered even more harmless.

For the record, Saudi Arabia just this week arrested a bunch of intellectuals as a – what else? – pre-emptive stirke, since they were PLANNING to write a petition to the King to ask for reform. They were released – pathetically! – only after Colin Powell flew there and expressed ‘concern’ and urged their release. They were released on condition that they sign a form saying they will never write a petition again asking for reform.

How’s that? And that is only Saudi Arabia.

I have other instances throughout the Middle East too. Like the cross amputations in Sudan today, or Kuwait refusing yet again last week to give women the right to vote. All this brings more and more radicalized thoughts to otherwise ordinary and border-line individuals in the Arab street.

Congratulations to Sharon and the Bush Administration: they have succeeded in their strategy of promoting hate and provocation in the Arab World, and we are less safe because of it. Somehow, somewhere, there is a determination to bring the world, and certainly the Middle East, to the edge of annihilation. I just don’t know why or in whose interest it could possibly be.

Waiting for the other shoe. . .

Why did Sharon commit this atrocity now? Besides the fact that there is an Arab Summit on the way, Sharon recognizes that the days of his freehand at madness may be numbered. He is rushing to build the wall’ rushing to assassinate as many as he can, rushing to demolish homes, and rushing to confiscate as much land and destroy as much infrastructure as he can… It is a demolition and destructive frenzy, and here is the reason: three years ago he gellefully and in disbelief announced on a visit to the White House that this was the best administration that had ever been for Israel.

Indeed, with November coming up soon, he is now unsure of Bush’s re-election and he has to maximize his madness before the elections in case Bush loses. Not that Kerry will be much better. From his statements, I am not optimistic, but at least I can only hope that the absolute freehand Sharon is given may be reduced, to say the least. Perhaps less children will die.

And yes, we are now waiting for the other shoe to fall, and we can all hold our breath because Israel will be attacked. No one doubts it. It is a question of when and where. And in addition to Israel, all those angered people around the world are rising to target anything remotely Israeli and also American. We are spinning now, looking over our shoulder every minute of everyday.

And of course, in the meantime, American media cannot help itself: it is already parading a frail 14 year old who was trying to blow himself up at a checkpoint yesterday. Why didn’t they parade all the other Palestinian children killed over the previous month?

But they do not matter, you see. Notable mentions: Ala Al Nujili (13) and Mosbad Mwafi (14) [blown to smithereens on March 20th]; Raed Almoghary (12) killed when a shot entered his eye and exited from his left ear on March 6th; Bashir Abu Armana (13) killed while he was playing near his house in Hay Al Salam area on Feb.19th… and more. Here are statistics from a recent report by the UN Human Rights Commission: “Since the beginning of 2004, the IDF has killed more than 140 Palestinians and wounded more than 200, mostly children. Each month has seen an increase in the death toll. Thirty-two Palestinians were killed in January and 52 in February. In just the first two weeks of March, 44 have been killed, 30 of whom were killed in Gaza.”

But you see, Israel is ‘defending itself’. The Palestinians don’t. But you see, the Israelis have a right to demolish 10 homes [only this morning in Khan Yunis] because they are close to settlements. Palestinians don’t. But you see, they have a right to stand at the Human Rights Commission’s meeting yesterday and say unabashedly that the Commission has descended to its lowest ‘nadir’ yet, because it convenes a session to ‘bash Israel’. Palestinians cannot. But you see, they have a right to do anything they want to the Palestinian people, because they have an American President who flew by helicopter over refugee camps in 1998, looked down and later, after he became President, said dismissively: “Looked real bad down there. I don’t see much we can do over there at this point. I think it’s time to pull out of that situation.” And when warned about the ‘dire consequences’ to the Palestinians, he said: “Maybe that’s the best way to get things back in balance. Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things.” [from Paul O’Neil’s book The Price of Loyalty].

Are things clarified enough now, Mr. President?

That explains it, doesn’t it?

And we are still waiting for the other shoe to fall.

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