March 22, 2004 - Even our Hypocrisy Dept. couldn't contain this one.
Early this morning Israel assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and "spiritual leader" of Hamas. His credentials as a genocidal terrorist are well known and irrefutable - simply read the Hamas Charter, which we include under recommended readings. No one has done more than Sheikh Yassin to incite anti-Jewish violence. Here are some quotations from Sheikh Yassin:
Palestine [including Israel] is an Islamic land consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. (5)(6)
The so-called peace path is not peace and it is not a substitute for jihad and resistance. (5)(6)
Reconciliation with the Jews is a crime. (Filastin al-Muslimah, March 1995) (2)
The comparison has often been made that Sheikh Yassin was to Israel what Osama bin Laden is to the United States.
European reaction to Yassin's assassination was swift. Here are a few representative quotations as reported by the New York Times (3):
Britain and France condemned Israel's killing of Palestinian Hamas movement leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on Monday and said it would only fuel violence.
This is not an objective assessment but a statement of the Palestinian position. From the Israeli perspective, violence against its civilians needs no fueling. Hamas has pledged a war against every Israeli citizen, as long as Israel exists. Therefore the only option Israel has left to stop the violence is to fight Hamas.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana also condemned what he called the extra-judicial killing as "very, very bad news for the peace process."
There is no peace process, as long as Hamas has any power. As we have seen, Hamas considers peace with Israel to be a crime against Islam. It has made no secret of its rejection of any peace with Israel no matter what Israel does, and of its intention to continue killing Israeli civilians.
The term "extra-judicial" implies this should be a matter of law enforcement. It is way beyond that. It is a war.
"[Israel] is not entitled to go for this kind of unlawful killing, and we therefore condemn it," [British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw] said.
If this was an "unlawful killing," then what does Mr. Straw call the killing of all the people whom Sheikh Yassin has murdered? Why does he not speak out as vigorously when truly innocent people are killed?
We were all preoccupied by reports this week of Pakistani forces with U.S. backing trying to attack Al Qaeda senior leader Ayman al-Zawahri. That action drew no worldwide condemnation. Nobody said it would be an "unlawful killing." How is Yassin any different?
And as for hypocrisy, once again the French will not be outdone:
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said: "France condemns the action against Sheikh Yassin. At a time when it is important to mobilize for the relaunch of the peace process, such acts can only fuel the cycle of violence."
I have written before about the misleading term "cycle of violence." It implies a moral equivalence between both sides, and that if either side would cease fire, the cycle would stop. In the Middle East this is patently untrue. No matter what Israel does, its citizens are targets. There is no "cycle" when someone is after you simply because you exist.
The Polish Foreign Minister may have tipped his hand and revealed the real reason for European concern:
"I'm afraid that it may have very, very negative consequences not only in terms of Israeli-Palestinian conflict but I'm afraid that the threat of terrorist attacks also on other countries, including European (ones), is growing," Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told a press breakfast.
In other words, Israelis should not defend themselves because there might be more terrorism in Europe. It seems there has been a lot of sentiment out of Europe lately to the effect that terrorism is OK as long as it doesn't happen there.
If the spread of terrorism is indeed a concern, the proper response is to unite against it, not give in to it. That is the only way this threat will ever cease: the entire civilized world must stand together against terrorism, which is the intentional targeting of civilians to achieve political ends. It is not legitimate for the British to condemn the IRA or for Spain to condemn the ETA and dismiss Islamic terrorism against Israel or even worse, to blame Israel if Islamic terrorism spreads to Europe. All of us must unite in opposing terrorism in England, Spain, Israel, and anywhere else. That is our only hope.
And finally from the Foreign Minister of Denmark:
"Of course we are against assassinations like this. This is not the way ahead. There's only one way ahead, and that is political," said Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller.
These words are a very dark joke. The Palestinians have proven once again that they will not cooperate with any political solution. They claim they want an end to "occupation," but after Israeli Prime Minister Sharon proposed a plan to withdraw from Gaza the violence only became worse, most recently with the attack on the port of Ashdod.
So if Israel stays in the territories, the violence is bad, but if it leaves, the violence becomes even worse. The reason: Palestinian terrorists want to use the territories to stage further violence against Israel itself.
Europe has no moral standing to comment on this issue in this fashion. Last night the television program 60 Minutes did a profile of Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's right-hand man and very likely the true mastermind of Al Qaeda and planner of the attacks of September 11. Zawahri was tried in absentia in Egypt and sentenced to death. However, because of their high-minded opposition to the death penalty, the countries of Europe refused to extradite Zawahri. And so Zawahri remained free to travel throughout Europe for some ten years. He remained free to plan the deaths of thousands of people in the September 11 attacks.
There probably will be repercussions to the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. Eliminating him was a calculated risk. Over the short term violence against Israelis may increase. But one thing is certain: If Israel does nothing, more innocent Israelis are certain to die. Israel is fighting a war not of its own choosing. The only strategy it has is to weaken the terrorists by weakening their leadership. There is evidence from past experience that when Israel steps up what the world calls "targeted assassinations" (but which Israel rightly considers going after the perpetrators, just as America does), the power of the targeted terrorist group starts to wane.
Israel's critics may be right in predicting an immediate increase in retaliatory violence. But Israel has taken a short-term risk to achieve a long-term gain. If Israel stops here things will get worse, and Yassin's death will only further radicalize the terrorists. But if Israel keeps up the momentum, it might be able to win. What choice did Israel have? Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations have made very plain their intention to keep killing Israelis until they destroy the entire country.
Is that too hard a message to be understood in Europe? Or do those in Europe making these pronouncements simply not care?
In 1989 Israel sentenced Sheikh Yassin to life imprisonment after he pled guilty to manslaughter charges related to the murder of four suspected Palestinian collaborators. At his sentencing Yassin was defiant: "At the end we will always be tried by God," he told the court.
Let's hope Sheikh Yassin has found himself a good defense attorney. He'll need one now.
(1) Dudkevitch, Margot. "Sheikh Ahmad Yassin: 'The Palestinian bin Laden'." Jerusalem Post, March 22, 2004.
(2) Hollander, Ricki. "BBC's Profiles Obscure Reality." Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, February 5, 2003.
(3) Reuters News Staff. "Britain, France Condemn Killing." New York Times, March 22, 2004.
(4) "The Second Most Wanted Man." 60 Minutes, CBS News, March 21, 2004.
(5) "Sheikh Ahmed Yassin." Charlotte Observer, March 22, 2004.
(6) "Sheikh Yassin: Spiritual Figurehead." BBC News, March 22, 2004.
Peace with Realism