Leaving Islam





Rantisi Will Bring More Terror


By: Tashbih Sayyed

Ensuring the national security is the essential function of a government. And to make sure that it does not fail in its duty, the government has to be prepared at all times to act at least against known and declared enemies. The enemy has to be rendered incapable of bringing any harm to the state. Any government that fails in its duty to act by destroying its sworn enemies cannot escape the wrath of its people. That's why the state of Israel had to eliminate the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a sworn enemy of the Jewish state. President Bush, in his first public comment on the assassination said, "Any country has the right to defend itself from terror. Israel has the right to defend herself from terror."

As usual, there are strong views praising and criticizing the action. The quarters condemning the elimination of a murderer, in my view, are either terribly naive or totally dishonest. They must situate themselves in the shoes of Israel before passing any judgments. They must know what it is like living under the shadow of terror all the time, not knowing when the heartless hand of one of the Hamas followers will sniff the life out. "It is easier from afar to understand the "root causes" of terrorism, and to concoct long-range processes that will lead to supposedly permanent solutions. But when terrorism strikes up close and personal, one's perceptions change and it is gut instinct, rather than dispassionate rationalization, that takes control." Inability to view the threat from the point of view of the victim takes away the human virtue of being just.

The people who are critical of Yassin's assassination deliberately ignore the fact that he inspired and instigated suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. Using his religious clout he helped in transforming a whole generation of young Palestinians into a blood thirsty pack of killers. His so called spirituality misrepresented Islam and made the uneducated and unsuspecting followers believe that homicide bombings are divinely ordained. Such people who refuse to see the truth are only acting out of their historical prejudices and a selfish need to be politically correct. If they allow themselves to see the truth, I am sure, they will find no choice but to agree with the Sharon's action that is definitely going to undermine the hate-filled environment in the Middle East.

Hamas does not recognize the right of Israel to exist. Founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1987, Hamas wants to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. Its long-term aim is to establish an Islamic state on land originally mandated as Palestine - most of which has been contained within Israel's borders since its creation in 1948. The immediate means to achieve this goal is the escalation of the armed struggle, and ultimately all-out Jihad, with the participation not only of Palestinian Muslims but of the entire Islamic world. Hamas stresses Jihad as the sole and immediate means to solve the problem of Palestine. Hamas defines the transition to the stage of Jihad "for the liberation of all of Palestine" as a personal religious duty incumbent upon every Muslim. At the same time, it utterly rejects any political arrangement that would entail the relinquishment of any part of Palestine, which for it is tantamount to a surrender of part of Islam. These positions are reflected in the Covenant, and of course in its activities.

Nobody can deny that Hamas's declared position vis--vis Israel not only makes it a strategic threat to the Jewish state but a threat to the peace and stability of the region too. And no responsible leader can allow it to succeed in its objectives. As it is, civilized considerations have allowed Hamas to kill 377 Israelis in hundreds of attacks, including 52 suicide bombings, over the years. Just to re-confirm the dark side of Hamas's violent mind, it's Web site on Tuesday published a message it said Yassin had sent to the upcoming Arab summit in Tunisia. Yassin reiterated that violence was the only way to drive out the Israelis, and demanded Arab countries cut all ties with Israel. "The land of Palestine is an Arab, Islamic land which was occupied with the force of weapons by the Jewish Zionists and we will not get it back except with the force of weapons," the letter read.

The grip of radical Islamism over the Palestinian society is so strong and tight that the man who has succeeded Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is in fact more violent and radical. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a hard-liner who opposes even a temporary truce with Israel, has emerged as a Hamas strongman after succeeding the assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Rantisi has consistently opposed a cease-fire. His uncompromising nature towards Israel has been his hallmark. He has always been calling for Palestinians to drive out Israelis from "every inch of our usurped land" and to "kill them wherever you find them." Underlining the degree of radicalism that has come to control the Palestinians, Rantisi pledged before Hamas leaders and thousands of Palestinians, "We will teach them (Israel) lessons in confrontation." He said, "We will hit them everywhere. Reaffirming the Palestinian resolve to destroy the state of Israel, Rantisi stressed, "We will fight them (Israelis) until the liberation of Palestine, the whole of Palestine." He said that Israeli's Prime Minister Aerial Sharon "will not know security."

Rantisi's declarations confirm the fears that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's death will not be anything like the decapitation of a snake. Hamas is not a snake. It is like a Hydra and Yassin was only one of its many heads. And Rantisi will definitely prove to be bigger and more venomous. His hiss will poison many a mind and its fire will go far and wide. One thing is certain, Rantisi will bring more terror than Yassin.

Abdel Aziz Rantisi is one of the founding members of Hamas, and he is a Hamas man through and through. He is one of the most extreme members of Hamas. He does not recognize Israel's right to exist and advocates violence and terrorism. A medical doctor who had served as Hamas' chief spokesman, Rantisi is considered a hard-liner within the group. Rantisi reacted to Sheikh Yassin's assassination on Monday by saying that Israel had "opened the gates of hell." As he sees it, Hamas must end the occupation of Palestinian lands, in which he includes modern-day Israel.

He will ride the tidal wave that Yassin generated and will try to out do him. According to BBC, "The assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin could be a watershed event - for the Middle East as a whole perhaps, but certainly for Hamas, the militant organization that he founded." One thing is certain, "Sheikh Yassin is just as important to Hamas dead as he was alive, if not more so. The propaganda value of what is seen as his martyrdom, and the imagery of a modern missile killing a man in a wheelchair, may serve as to recruit Hamas followers. But that does not take into account the hugely effective political game that this frail figure has played. BBC quoted Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at St. Andrews University as saying, "There's no doubt he was a very important symbol...He was the only person who was able to unify the different strands of Hamas, in the West Bank and Gaza, and abroad, and there is no obvious person who can fill his shoes."

Another factor that will continue to nourish and support Hamas terror is its organizational structure. Hamas works on a system of separate organizations operating in parallel - the military wing, the multi-faction political sphere, the charitable works. No one person heads the total network. That's why Sheikh Yassin's departure will not change much. Hamas leaders said that while the killing of Yassin is a blow to morale, it would not hamper the group's operations, including its ability to carry out attacks. According to another Palestinian source, Hamas' strategy was not likely to change under Rantisi because the organization's secretive leadership council which makes key decisions remains in place. Rantisi's ideology mirrors Yassin's: that Jews must withdraw from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and all of what is modern-day Israel, to make way for a Palestinian homeland. Hamas is pledged to Israel's destruction. "Hamas will continue in the same way Sheik Yassin taught us. Hamas has its infrastructure, its institutions," Ismail Hanieh, a top Yassin aide, said.

Many had thought that because of Monday's assassination Hamas will struggle to find a leader of Yassin's stature. But Abdel-Aziz Rantissi's election proved that there is no shortage of violent leaders. Rantisi - a hard-line opponent of cease-fires with Israel - is seen by many as the most powerful in the organization. Some experts say that he is ill-equipped to take on the mantle of the Sheikh - who was in many ways a pragmatic figure, able to bend with prevailing opinion as well as bind together Hamas' disparate strands. But there are others who are convinced that in view of the growing militancy in the Palestinian youth because of the spread of radical Islamism, Rantisi will become a more popular and charismatic leader.

The combination of Radical Islamism, its hold on the young minds and leaders like Rantisi will become a force to reckon with in the post Yassin era. The Hamas declaration to take their jihad to the door of the US has added a new dimension to the lethality of this new phenomenon. The Al-Qaeda factor will soon become very visible. There are many Hamas watchers who think that exiled Hamas leaders - Khaled Meshal and Imad al-Alami in Damascus and Osama Hamdan in Beirut will now play an important role in carrying out the threats against the US and other non- Israel targets. These exile leaders will also try to compensate for the reduced Hamas capability in West Bank and Gaza. They will, according to experts, will try to recruit Israeli Arabs in Galilee.

One thing is certain, new Hamas leadership, in order to prove that it can fill the shoes of Sheikh Yassin will try to unleash a new wave of terror against the Israelis. If it succeeds in achieving its terrorist goals, it will gain tremendous ground in the PA territories. Palestinian Authority, at least, for now, will lose its capacity to control the affairs effectively. There will be many more homicide bombings and there will be an increase of violence in the other areas of the region also.

On the brighter side, Hamas's rise may prompt PA to see the wisdom in cooperating with Israel. It will definitely want to use the Israeli experience in dealing with Hamas. According to Dr. Ranstorp as quoted by BBC, "Israel has long experience in how to deal with Hamas. It knows how to counterbalance the various factions and where to apply pressure - after all it has the addresses of every single Hamas leader, and it knows where to find them." In the long run, Yassin's assassination will surely prove to be a positive event and will pave the way for a stable and democratic Palestine.

(The writer is editor-in-chief of Pakistan Today, a California-based weekly newspaper, president of Council for Democracy and Tolerance and adjunct fellow of Hudson Institute.)







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