Israel: March 22, 2004


Israeli helicopter gunships used missiles to kill Hamas founder and leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Seven people were killed as they came out of a mosque. Yassin was in a wheelchair, because lost the use of his legs because of a sporting accident when he was 12 (around 1950). He became an Islamic scholar and a believer in Islamic conservatism and solving problems through following religious practices. He was a leader of the Moslem Brotherhood (a radical Islamic group founded in the 1920s in Egypt), but left to found a more radical organization, Hamas, in 1987. The Moslem Brotherhood was already a terrorist organization in Egypt, but the deaths of many Moslems from bombings and other attacks turned the population against them. The Moslem Brotherhood was driven out of Egypt by the early 1990s and many of its members went on to join al Qaeda. Hamas was different only in that it confined its murderous actions for Israelis. Hamas didn't like America, but did not deliberately attack American targets. Yassin believed that all non-Moslems, and Jews in particular, must be driven out of the Middle East, or killed if they resisted. He believed that the Palestinians could only survive if Israel was destroyed. Hamas is also a social welfare agency, raising money for education and health care of Palestinians. However, a lot of the money goes for weapons and terrorist operations, and much of the education is Islamic propaganda promoting hatred of non-Moslems and the recruitment of suicide bombers. Hamas sees itself as better suited to ruling Palestine than the Palestinian authority. Hamas is more popular than the current Palestinian Authority, if only because it is less corrupt and shares more of the money it gets with the population. But many Palestinians are wary of Hamas because of the radical Islam and terrorism.

Many Israelis believe they are more than holding their own against Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations. Deaths from suicide bombings were halved in the last year, compared to the previous year. Israelis can't help but notice that the Palestinian media is still solidly behind the destruction of Israel and the use of terrorism to kill Israeli civilians. Israelis know that the Arabs have a different way of keeping score on the conflict and are trying to keep the terrorism going until the "weaker" (non-Arab) Israelis lose heart and depart. Israelis study history, particularly Arab history, and note that these kinds of low level rebellions rarely last more than a generation (20 years or so.) The following generation is more amenable to negotiation. But it should also be noted that no one in the Middle East forgets a grudge or claim, no matter how ancient. After all, the Israelis point out, the last people to run an independent nation in "Palestine" were not Palestinians, but Jews, over 2,000 years ago. Actually, you could quibble and point out that European crusaders ruled independent states in the area eight centuries ago. But the Arabs remember this period as one of European colonialization, and don't consider today's Jews related to the Israelites of antiquity (but instead are actually Jewish Europeans, despite the number of Jews from Arab nations in Israel). But most Middle Eastern nations are at peace, most of the time, even though many of them have claims on each other and many unresolved complaints. 




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