Opening the Gates of Hell
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Editor, The Konformist
Sharon Opens 'Gates of Hell'
By Evan Derkacz, AlterNet
March 23, 2004
Ariel Sharon has "opened the gates of hell," declared Hamas in
response to the targeted killing on Monday of its founder and
spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as he returned from a mosque
in Gaza City. The inexplicable and widely condemned killing is sure
to spark severe repercussions, not only for the Israeli people but
perhaps for the United States as well.
In its fiery statement, Hamas sets its sights, for the very first
time, on the U.S: "The Zionists didn't carry out their operation
without getting the consent of the terrorist American administration,
and it must take responsibility for this crime ... All the Muslims of
the world will be honored to join in on the retaliation for this
The White House's reaction to the assassination has, as is typical,
been equivocal. On the one hand, National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice hit the news circuit claiming that the U.S. neither
knew of nor pre-approved the planned hit. But then White House press
secretary Scott McClellan refused to issue a condemnation, choosing
instead to regurgitate the official White House line: "Israel has a
right to defend herself." He added, "I would point out Hamas is a
terrorist organization and Sheikh Yassin has engaged in terrorism."
So, does that make killing Yassin a good idea?
That Israel has the right to defend itself is, of course, true. But
to claim that the targeted assassination of a quadriplegic returning
from prayer constitutes "self-defense" is ludicrous. Yassin clearly
has the blood of innocents on his hands and few would deny that he's
a criminal. But to confuse what is justifiable with what is effective
is, in the most literal sense, dangerous. Or as Israeli columnist,
and former member of the Israeli Knesset, Uri Avnery put it: "This is
worse than a crime, it is an act of stupidity!"
There are several theories as to why the Israeli government chose to
kill Yassin, especially at this time. The only line of explanation
that dominates the evening news of course is that Yassin was a
terrorist, i.e. a reprehensible murderer who deserved to die. A
person is stripped entirely of his humanity at the mere utterance of
that word, "terrorist."
But the fact remains - even if we do accept that reasoning - Yassin
wasn't socked away in a spider hole, the focus of a long-standing
manhunt. He lived a public life traveling along a well-known route to
and from the mosque. Sharon could have killed him at any time. So why
Some say the act was motivated by politics. Sharon was considering
the historic step of withdrawing from Gaza, which undoubtedly
incensed the Israeli right. The hardliners believe either that all
the land between the Red Sea and the Jordan river constitute Eretz
Yisrael (the biblical land of Israel which, in their view, still
belongs to Israel) or, at the very least, that no land should be
conceded until terrorism ceases. In that context, a successful and
high profile assassination of a well-known opposition leader would
ostensibly mollify these crucial political allies by playing to
Israeli nationalism and might.
Others claim the hit was aimed toward, or to be more precise, at the
Palestinian general population. Sharon and others in the Knesset may
have feared that a withdrawal of this magnitude could be perceived as
a sign of weakness. Though the Israeli military remains one of the
most powerful in the world, the specter of the holocaust looms large
in the nation's consciousness and plays a powerful role in shaping
its policy. An assertion of military dominance by striking at the
symbolic heart of the Palestinian resistance could quiet fears that
Israel was unable to defend itself.
There's also the possibility - difficult as it may be to imagine -
that Sharon truly believes that assassination is the most effective
strategy for dealing with terrorism. Though he has failed miserably
to date - Sharon's years in office have been among the most bloody in
Israeli history - the Israeli prime minister is unwavering in his
belief that the ruthless application of force will ultimately secure
the Palestinians' submission to Israel's will. The recent string of
assassinations of Hamas leaders is then just one part of this broader
policy of repression.
This discredited argument assumes two thoroughly unsupportable ideas.
First, this strategy assumes that terrorism is sustained primarily by
the presence of a small number of charismatic and powerful leaders
who are successful at recruiting new suicide bombers. Jessica Stern,
a terrorism expert at Harvard University, points out in her recent
book Terror in the Name of God, that terrorism thrives because
humiliation and anger (in this case, at the ongoing occupation)
persist, providing the necessary conditions for recruitment. In other
words, the killing of an esteemed spiritual leader only strengthens
the conditions that created the climate for terrorism to thrive in
the first place.
The second assumption of Sharon's modus operandi is that Palestinians
have no legitimate grievance. Though the violence reaped by Hamas and
others in response to Israeli occupation is truly abhorrent, the
motivation behind their actions remains no less pertinent or valid.
Though it's seldom if ever mentioned in the major U.S. press (it's
actually more common in the Israeli press), the Israeli occupation of
Palestine is the longest standing occupation in the world. More than
60 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line (making less
than $2 a day) without clean water or enough food; endure endless and
humiliating checkpoints every day as they struggle to make a living;
and watch Israeli soldiers kill innocent friends and family with
The U.S. media, however, seems unable to go beyond the twisted logic
of Ariel Sharon, as mimicked by Bush, Powell and Rice, that "once
they stop the terrorism, they can have a state."
No one doubts that the act will spark a new round of bloodshed in the
Middle East, where the killing has united the Palestinians and most
Arabs in grief and rage. There have already been reprisals of course.
Palestinian militants fired rockets at a checkpoint and one man
managed to stab several Israelis with a knife. Also, it shouldn't go
without mention that Palestinians, rioting in the streets, were shot
and killed, including a 13-year-old boy.
But this is likely just the beginning. There will be suicide bombings
as surely as spring approaches. Sharon's fist-pumping policy of
assassination and brutality, far from quieting the Palestinians, has
only strengthened their resolve.
Worse, Yassin's death has strengthened the very organization that it
was supposed to punish. Danny Rubinstein, writing for the Israeli
publication Haaretz, calls the assassination a victory for
Hamas: "The more Israel hits Hamas leaders and rank-and-file members,
the more their popularity climbs. In tandem, they become increasingly
immune to operations by the (Palestinian Authority's) security force,
since any such operation would only be interpreted as treacherous
collaboration with Israel."
Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia's ability to negotiate has been
severely compromised. Palestinians, distraught with anger and grief,
are unlikely to be sated by negotiation and its largely invisible
steps toward statehood - with no historically validated reason to
maintain that hope in any case. As hope for a Palestinian state dies
the rising tide of desperation will make recruitment a snap for
Assassinating the leaders of extremist groups only increases the
sympathy for extremist views among Palestinians. And that brewing
resentment will inevitably spill beyond Palestine's eroding borders.
The Associated Press reports, "Thousands of Palestinians in occupied
Iraq vowed to avenge Israel's killing of Hamas spiritual leader
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, saying the battle against the 'enemy' was now in
a decisive phase."
Perhaps now that America has chalked up another sworn enemy as a
result of Sharon's failed policies (both echoed and supported by
Bush), voters in both nations will wake up and consider the roots of
Palestinian resentment. Considering the enormous financial and
military support provided by the U.S. government, the power to create
a viable and thriving Palestinian state - and to remove the
conditions that make terrorist recruitment easy - lies in our hands.
But given the current administration's track record, just broaching
the subject of building a genuine peace will be considered as nothing
short of "appeasement."
Evan Derkacz is an Editorial Fellow at AlterNet.
Opening the gates of hell
By Mathew Maavak
Online Journal Contributing Writer
March 26, 2004 - The world has been set ablaze, and we are only
beginning to feel its fiery wrath. The assassination of Hamas founder
(Sheikh) Ahmad Yassin has to be the latest exploding tinderbox and it
certainly won't be the last. It came in the wake of Sept 11, the
bloody, unabated Afghan campaign, the illegal invasion of Iraq and
its never-ending aftermath, the hyped hunt for Osama bin Laden, which
later shifted to his deputy, the Madrid bombings and now this!
George W. Bush prides himself as a "war president" - the kind that
never faced battle - and his war party knows that his only trump card
for election happens to be "terror" itself.
The US economy is bleeding, though very significantly Bush's
corporate alter ego in Wal-Mart topped the Fortune 500 list. The
badly needed taxes of the elite are being waived at a time when the
US budget deficit has reached historic proportions. Even if there was
a wealth tax now - and that will never, ever happen - there is no way
to narrow this gap soon. The solution so far has been to deprive the
economically depressed of whatever little benefits they had to
support a horribly expensive war and military build up. This cost-
cutting trend is generally indiscriminate and cross-sectional, unless
they impinge on the super-rich, the US military complex, or the
There is no way this president [sic] is going to be elected on any
issue. From healthcare, economic management, foreign policy to
education, George W. Bush has proven himself to be the most
shamelessly inept US president. He can thrive on only one thing -
bloodshed, and fear.
Look how his popularity soared after Sept 11. The American people
forgave him for all his cowardice and shortcomings, and he rode a
crest of bloody retribution. This is a man who knew of Iraq's non-
complicity in Sept 11 and yet wanted - and got - Saddam. While the
elusive Osama bin laden kept up his videotaped messages, UN missions
and Kofi Annan's office itself were bugged over an impending war
brazenly justified by Sept 11. You call this America's moral fury or
the nefarious scheming of a murderous lot not really concerned with
avenging their dead?
Pakistani soldiers are now dying in their attempt to hunt down al
Qaeda's leaders, just as US soldiers are being killed on a war forged
on non-existent WMD. Why has the spotlight moved from bin Laden?
September or October would be the ideal time to announce his death,
or more unbelievably his capture. During that short time leading to
the November balloting, public euphoria will drown out even the most
stentorian questions of 9/11 skeptics. Give them a longer time, and
the doubts will swirl, unless Wall Street goes ballistic. All
indicators point to a new presidency.
George W. Bush can only be elected on a platform of terror. There has
been a build up in violence elsewhere and the president [sic] repeats
this fact for Americans, who, have been left unscathed on their home
soil since 9/11. In a nation that is still strongly insular and
inward-looking, the wars of others have little impact at home. The
death toll of US GIs are still at a manageable level but the
mismanaged budget is biting on a big scale. People are already
getting fed up with their gradual loss of liberty, and again this
points to one thing - Bush may be on his way out. The solution?
Enter Hamas, an organization that had vowed never to strike targets
outside of Israel. They have kept their word. There have been no
terrorist operations directed at the United States so far. That will
surely change. From those impoverished hellholes in the West Bank and
Gaza, Palestinians are in an incendiary mood. Even incarcerated Arab
prisoners in the Israeli prison complex of Ketziot rioted. Within
hours, many have volunteered for suicide missions, giving Ariel
Sharon the perfect war pretext to grab all of Palestinian territory,
instead of "trying to score a decisive victory against Hamas ahead of
a possible Israeli withdrawal from Gaza." (AP, March 22). The latter
is what you call a fat chance.
Judging from the scale and the intended response of this
assassination, the violence in the Occupied Territories will increase
manifold, possibly dwarfing the Intifada and suicide bombings in
terms of destruction, death, and global instability. Israel is now at
war, and it is no longer one of attrition. Arab capitals will be
worried about their frenzied, disgusted citizenry. The leaders of
Egypt, Jordan, Syria and its proxy Lebanon are particularly
vulnerable. Sharon can certainly help by firing a rocket or two from
across the border. This raging fire has to be doused quickly
or "terror" will reach the gates of many capitals, and US cities.
The hellhounds have been unleashed from all sides. The United States
is now a definite target and the fear will be ratcheted up. Sept 11
didn't involve Palestine, Saddam was truly hated by many Arabs, but
now, a religious figure, seen as sanctioning retaliation only against
his immediate aggressors has been killed. How do you think the Muslim
world will react? His people were crushed, their slums in a permanent
state of piled debris. Yassin sanctioned terror and suicide bombings
yes, but he was no "Palestinian bin Laden" despite whatever cheap
shot Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz takes.
Many Muslims loathed bin Laden more for his Wahabbi obscurantism than
Sept 11 (there is a lot of doubt about this ex-CIA agent, even in the
West) and Saddam only becomes an Arab poster boy when he is attacked.
Many are aware that their Islamic credentials don't match up. The
Palestinian problem however, is an evergreen issue, which rankles
Muslims everywhere, all the time. And not just Muslims! The fallout
from this murder is unimaginable. And how did the 'war president"
initially react? He didn't!
The State Department said officials were in touch with Israeli and
Palestinian authorities. Here is the bloodless response from someone
hardly anyone heard off. "The United States urges all sides to remain
calm and exercise restraint," said spokesman Lou Fintor,
significantly someone not very familiar to the outside world, hinting
at the sort of priority or the not so-subtle prior acquiescence given
to this deliberate escalation in violence. Where were the others? In
their war complex, waiting for things to explode before promising
revenge, and more war. Tony Blair can do his poodle routine, again!
The only party, which, stands to benefit from this, is the Axis of
Warmongers (US, UK and Israel). They knew the consequences of this
killing long back. Some innocent people are going to die soon. In
fact, it's usually the innocents who die. Our warmongers don't care.
They are waiting, waiting . . .
Copyright © 2004 Mathew Maavak
Mathew Maavak publishes a journal called the Panoptic World. He can
be reached at mathew@....