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Interview with Hamas

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    Hamas Set for Change? Interview with Hamas Member Muhammad Nazal 27/03/2004 Muhammad Nazal Many might have argued that the floor was indeed shaken underneath
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2004
      Hamas Set for Change?
      Interview with Hamas Member Muhammad Nazal


      Muhammad Nazal

      Many might have argued that the floor was indeed shaken underneath
      Hamas, if not Palestinian resistance as a whole. On the domestic
      level, the departure of the movement's founder and spiritual guide
      Sheikh Ahmad Yassin set the ground for a number of questions over the
      future of the movement and its reaction to the assassination. On the
      regional and global level, Muslims from around the world have
      considered the assassination a direct attack on their dignity,
      resolve and the quest for freedom, symbolized in the person of Sheikh

      IslamOnline interviewed Mr. Muhammad Nazal, a member of its political
      bureau, for an answer to many of the questions raised over the future
      of Hamas resistance; its forms, means and leadership. Is Hamas on the
      verge of fundamental changes affecting its future with Israel

      IOL: In view of the recent assassination of the Sheikh. How do you
      think it will affect the future leadership of Hamas? Will there be
      significant changes in the management of the organization?

      There will be no changes in the strategies of Hamas. As for the
      leadership of the movement, Dr. Rantissi has been chosen to be in
      charge of leadership in Gaza, as for the prime person in charge now,
      he is Mr. Khaled Meshaal the chairman of the political bureau, as no
      changes had undergone to his post.

      The management of Hamas is not centralized. Sheikh Yassin was a
      father figure to us all. He was the spiritual guide of the movement.
      Yet the management of the movement has always been defused, and
      Rantissi and Meshaal have always been important leading figures in
      this regard.

      IOL: There are many observers who noted that the assassination of
      Sheikh Yassin will in fact lead to further radicalization of Hamas.
      Some fear the possibility that the group will disintegrate into
      separate factions that will become more focused on militancy, which
      could affect other services in the organization. Your comments?

      There is no reason for such fears, such fears are only the hopes of
      the Zionist enemy, they thought that by assassinating Sheikh Yassin
      they would create a gap or disorder in the movement.

      Radicalization? Hamas has never been a radical movement, it is an
      institutionalized movement with a clear agenda, and its policy is
      carried out in accordance with the consensus of the majority of the
      Palestinian people.

      IOL: Sheikh Yassin was a father figure to all Palestinians. How will
      Hamas fill this void?

      Surely, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin was an important symbol to the
      Palestinians, yet this doesn't mean that the Palestinians are unable
      to create new leaders. The Palestinians introduced to the world a lot
      of leaders that carried the cause and strife.

      IOL: In the statement by Qassam brigades following the assassination,
      there was an unclear announcement that the duty to take revenge for
      the life of the Sheikh is now the duty of all Muslims, not just
      Palestinians. Are they suggesting that Muslims everywhere are now to
      take militant operations from all around the world?

      Of course not, we advise all Muslims to take their role in military
      operations against the Zionist enemy, but only inside Palestine. If
      there are people able to cross the borders and enter Palestine they
      are asked to answer this call for Jihad as soon as possible.

      IOL: What are the chances of the resistance moving to out of
      Palestine's borders? Do you plan on targeting Zionist interests all
      over the world?

      No, the policy of Hamas is to fight inside the Occupied Territories

      IOL: Will Hamas change its outlook now to include enmity towards the
      US directly? Is it likely to participate in operations that are
      directed at US interests?

      It is not our policy to target American interests; our resistance
      will be only against Zionists.

      IOL: But wasn't the Sheikh assassinated with US armaments? Do you not
      feel that the escalation against the US itself might serve your

      It is true that the USA is the prime supporter of the Zionist entity,
      but we don't see that it is wise to open more than one front; our
      fight against those who occupied our land is legally, ethically and
      politically accepted.



      Blood on a Wheelchair
      Ahmed Yassin - The Man Who Revived a Nation

      By Kareem M. Kamel
      Researcher - International Relations


      "The West demands from us that we stop the resistance. Instead of
      asking the occupiers to leave our land, they ask us to surrender to
      the occupierÂ… The peace that reinforces occupation, settlements, and
      the exiling of the Palestinian people, is not really peace."1 -
      Sheikh Ahmed Yassin

      "Yassin's martyrdom is a new beginning for the resistance, jihad, and
      Intifada and will have repercussions and consequences far more
      dangerous than this usurper entity [Israel] has so far seen."2 -
      Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah Secretary General

      Sheikh Ahmed's assassination was met with Palestinian vows of revenge.

      Throughout history, wars, revolutions and peace treaties were always
      regarded as major harbingers of social and political change. An often
      overlooked force for transformation has been political assassination.
      In many cases where influential leaders or figureheads were
      assassinated, a cascade of interrelated consequences and events
      usually occurred, far exceeding the expectations of those who
      committed the assassination itself. In this respect, one must note
      how the 1914 assassination of the heir to the Habsburg throne,
      Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by nationalist Serbs set in motion a series
      of unstoppable events that resulted in World War I - a tragic
      conflict in which millions died.

      For millions of Muslims, the assassination of Hamas leader and
      founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin represents a watershed event, perhaps
      signaling a turning point in the Arab-Israeli struggle and in the
      overall Western-Muslim conflict that has recently taken on global
      proportions with the US' declared "war on terrorism." It is worthy to
      note that even some Israeli officers referred to the event as a
      transformative one, equivalent in its importance to Sharon's visit to
      the al-Aqsa mosque which sparked the current Intifada in September

      Perhaps the most telling account of Yassin's martyrdom and its
      possible repercussions came from an editorial in the International
      Herald Tribune, which read: "The assassination of Sheikh Ahmed
      Yassin, a figure whose symbolic stature on both sides of the Arab-
      Israeli conflict far surpassed the actual potential of his paralyzed,
      feeble body, is certain to become one of those pivotal events around
      which passions and hatreds coalesceÂ… Sheikh Yassin was already an
      icon in the Arab world, now he is a martyr."4


      Yassin seared into the Palestinian consciousness that death to harm
      an occupier is glorious.5


      Israel's assassination of Sheikh Yassin was met with Palestinian vows
      of revenge. Senior Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi
      suggested: "The battle is open and war between us and them is open.
      They are the killers of prophets and today they killed an Islamic
      symbol." Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of the Fatah organization,
      called for "war, war, war on the sons of Zion. An eye for an eye.
      There will be a response within hours, God willing."6 Tens of
      thousands of Palestinians, fist raised in anger, chanted: "By blood,
      by sword, we sacrifice for you!" as they mourned the death of the
      enigmatic Palestinian leader, killed by Israeli missiles in a predawn
      airstrike as he returned home from prayers in a nearby mosque.

      Arab television channels replaced scheduled programs with live
      coverage of Yassin's funeral. Mourners among a crowd of 200,000
      reached out to touch the flag-draped coffin in the biggest turnout in
      Gaza since Arafat's triumphant homecoming in 1994 after interim peace
      deals with Israel. A few hours later, a statement published on an
      Islamist website purporting to be from al-Qaeda urged retaliation
      against the US and its allies for Israel's assassination of Ahmed
      Yassin.7 However, the swiftest military response to Israel's crime
      came from Hizbullah, whose fighters fired rockets and mortar shells
      at Israeli military outposts in the occupied Cheb'aa Farms on the
      Lebanese-Israeli border. Near Tel Aviv, a Palestinian man attacked
      three Israelis with an axe, causing minor injuries. Other scattered
      outbreaks of violence left at least five Palestinians dead and caused
      dozens of injuries as protesters clashed with Israeli troops.

      Israel's extra-judicial killing of a frail quadriplegic as he left a
      mosque in the early hours of the day was no doubt the ugliest
      expression of state terrorism, the act of a mafia rather than a state
      governed by responsible leaders educated in civilized international
      norms. However, this was not an unexpected move by the bloodthirsty
      government of Ariel Sharon, given regional and international silence
      at Israel's daily atrocities in the Palestinian territories. The
      heavy-handed US military presence in the Middle East and the mild
      response of Arab governments to Israeli carnage most certainly gave
      Sharon the "green light" to proceed with his trail of terror.

      The Bush administration's first response came from National Security
      Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who refused to condemn the killing, instead
      rationalizing it by pointing to Yassin's "terror" connection,
      suggesting that the US had not set any "red lines" for Sharon's
      behavior.8 After all, the US was already aware that Israel wanted to
      eliminate Sheikh Yassin from the simple fact that it had already
      tried and failed to assassinate him last year.

      Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi now controls Hamas in Gaza.

      Interestingly, the timing of the attack came just weeks after Sharon
      announced his intention to implement a disengagement plan in which
      Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza. In fact, a team of top
      Israeli officials, including Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weisglass
      and national security chief Giora Eiland, was headed to Washington to
      discuss the withdrawal plan with American officials. The recent
      strike against Hamas' leader was supposedly intended to prevent a
      situation where Hamas can claim that Israel is withdrawing from Gaza
      under pressure from the organization, just as Hizbullah had claimed
      after Israel's unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. In
      this regard, Yassin's assassination can be seen as part of an
      Israeli "offensive" before its expected disengagement. Following
      Yassin's assassination, Israeli security sources declared that Israel
      will try to kill the entire leadership of Hamas, irrespective of
      further attacks by the militant group. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul
      Mofaz declared Hamas a "strategic enemy of Israel," and an Israeli
      ministry spokesman added that "it is very important to weaken Hamas
      in view of the application of the separation plan."9

      More importantly though, there was a sense of Israeli confidence that
      Washington would not oppose the operation since both it and Pakistan
      are in the midst of an extensive military campaign on the Pakistan-
      Afghanistan border to capture al-Qaeda leaders. Sharon may have
      believed that if the Americans can kill, arrest and torture hundreds
      of Islamists and send them overseas to cages in Guantanamo Bay, they
      would definitely not object to the assassination of a single man in
      Gaza. Indeed, the assassination of Sheikh Yassin was reminiscent of
      the US assassination of an alleged al-Qaeda lieutenant in Yemen by a
      missile launched from a CIA drone in November 2002, exhibiting the
      same disregard for the norms of international behavior.

      Yassin - The Man and the Message

      Perhaps one of the most influential leaders in the history of the
      Palestinian resistance movement, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was an
      exceptional ideologue, motivator, strategist, and inspiration for
      thousands of Palestinians yearning for independence. The frail and
      ailing Yassin, although himself the picture of physical
      powerlessness, probably did more than any other figure to sear into
      the consciousness of young Palestinians the notion that death sought
      in order to inflict harm upon a hated occupier is glorious.10

      Since his early days, the Hamas leader was the inspiration behind
      both the 1987 and 2000 uprisings, refusing to accept the pessimists'
      objections to what they felt was a road to collective suicide. Yassin
      always asserted that since the Palestinians were fighting from a much
      weaker position, they must be prepared to accept much greater losses.
      In his mosque sermons and teachings, Yassin repeatedly portrayed
      suicide attacks as a divinely inspired means for the helplessly
      oppressed to strike at a powerful oppressor. The elderly sheikh
      insisted that Israel is a militaristic garrison state which had
      blurred the line between civilians and soldiers, explaining that
      Hamas did not exclusively target Israeli "civilians," except in
      direct retaliation for the death of Palestinian civilians. He saw
      this as a necessary tactic to "show the Israelis they could not get
      away without a price for killing our people."11


      Yassin asserted that the Palestinians must be prepared to accept
      great losses.


      The current Intifada, which erupted in September 2000, represented
      the ultimate vindication of Yassin's thinking. Islamist, nationalist
      and secular Palestinian movements scrambled to follow Hamas' suicide
      bombing strategy, with every movement boasting of its martyrs and of
      its willingness to sacrifice its sons for the larger goal of national
      liberation. For mainstream Palestinians, "martyrdom" remained the
      ultimate goal - a concept repeatedly invoked at every Palestinian
      mass rally and in videotaped messages left behind by suicide

      Born in 1936 in Majdal near the coastal town of Askalan, in what was
      then Palestine under the British mandate, Sheikh Yassin's political
      views were forged at a time of humiliation and defeat for the
      Palestinians.13 Father to eleven children, the elderly sheikh belongs
      to one of many families expelled from their homes by invading Israeli
      forces during the first Arab-Israeli conflict of 1948. After a
      childhood accident left him a quadriplegic, he devoted his early life
      to Islamic scholarship and studied at al-Azhar University in Cairo,
      the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was there that he
      developed the belief that Palestine is Islamic land "consecrated for
      future Muslim generations until Judgment Day," and that no Arab or
      Muslim leader has the right to give up any part of this territory.

      Back in Gaza, Yassin founded his own movement, al-Mujama al-Islami,
      in the 1970s and began to recruit young activists. The Iranian
      Revolution of 1979, the rising tide of Islamism throughout the Muslim
      world, and the presence of the exiled secular Fatah leadership in
      Tunisia allowed Yassin to set up a more radical Islamic movement -
      Majd al-Mujahideen.

      Yassin was arrested for the first time in 1984 for the illegal
      possession of weapons and explosives, but released a year later,
      after which he worked to create Hamas, the name of which is an
      acronym for "the Islamic Resistance Movement."14 In 1989, Sheikh
      Yassin was arrested by the Israelis and sentenced to life
      imprisonment for allegedly ordering the killing of Palestinians who
      had collaborated with the Israeli army. He was eventually released in
      1997, in exchange for two Israeli agents arrested in Jordan during an
      attempt to assassinate another Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal.

      Hamas was able to build support by offering material help through the
      charitable funding of schools, clinics and hospitals that provide
      free services to families in distress.

      New Hamas head Khaled Meshaal has already survived an Israeli
      assassination attempt.

      Since its inception in December 1987, Hamas has carried out the
      majority of attacks against Israeli targets, becoming the Zionist
      state's most lethal enemy. Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to
      exist, and its long-term aim is to establish an Islamic state on pre-
      1948 borders. Sheikh Yassin was a staunch opponent of the 1993 Oslo
      Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, repeatedly
      declaring his movement's opposition to all Western peace initiatives
      which do not restore the Palestinians' full rights.

      Despite his attempts to maintain good relations with the Palestinian
      Authority (PA), there were several attempts by the PA to restrict his
      activities. In December 2001, one man died in clashes with
      Palestinian police after Sheikh Yassin was placed under house arrest.
      Shooting erupted again in June 2002 when Palestinian police
      surrounded his house. In September 2003, the Israeli army attempted
      to kill Sheikh Yassin while he was at the house of a Hamas colleague
      in Gaza.

      The Living Martyr - Consequences & Prospects

      Perhaps the most immediate consequence of Sheikh Yassin's
      assassination was the outpour of anger throughout the Islamic World
      and the revival of street protests in many Arab and Islamic capitals.
      The assassination took place only a few days after international
      protests commemorating the first anniversary of the beginning of the
      US campaign against Iraq. This ultimately added more anti-US and anti-
      Israeli sentiment to popular rage at the continued US occupation of
      Iraq. Interestingly, even in Iraq, where the US is relentlessly
      trying to establish a pro-US government and win the hearts and minds
      of the public, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets deploring the
      US and Israel for the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.


      Yassin's assassination is likely to lead to the further
      radicalization of Hamas.


      Iraqi outrage over Yassin's killing was not only confined to
      the "Sunni Triangle" that has nurtured the insurgency against the US
      and its allies. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Shi'ite spiritual
      leader and the single most influential person in Iraq, called on
      Muslims to unite against Israel, while the more militant Shi'ite
      cleric Moqtada al-Sadr offered the Palestinians "moral and physical
      support."15 In an already tense transition process, the extent to
      which the US is viewed as complicit in an Israeli action that has
      enraged Iraqis will not make the task of US soldiers and officials
      there any easier.

      Domestically, the immediate consequence of the assassination would be
      the increase in the strength and influence of Hamas in the
      Palestinian street, and an equal increase in popular disillusionment
      with the PA after it appeared incapable or unwilling to protect
      resistance leaders despite its numerous security organizations and
      international connections. As a result, the PA would find it
      increasingly difficult to act against Hamas - actions like collecting
      weapons, arresting militants, or preventing the firing of Qassam
      rockets, will be politically dangerous for the PA.16

      Another possible consequence of the assassination would be that
      Hamas, lacking a clear cut leadership, would gradually split into
      more radical factions, as happened to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
      after Nasser's execution of Sayyid Qutb. Those factions usually
      create their own ideologies and mode of operation that is usually
      more radical than, and independent of, their parent organization.
      Mainstream Palestinian movements have so far avoided any public
      alignment with al-Qaeda. However, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi announced
      that Hamas had opened a special account with Israel, calling the
      assassination of Yassin a declaration of war on Islam.17 Al-
      Rantissi's threats could materialize if several leading cadres of the
      Hamas movement decide to align themselves with al-Qaeda's global
      objectives and strike at Israeli, Jewish, or American targets

      In any case, the most certain result of Yassin's assassination would
      be the radicalization of Hamas and the sidelining of moderates within
      the movement. One also has to remember that Israel's assassination of
      Ismail Abu Shanab in Summer 2003- the most pragmatic of all Hamas
      leaders - severely restricted the moderate line within Hamas. The
      most recent manifestation of the movement's radicalization was the
      choice of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi - perceived as the most radical of
      all Hamas leaders and one who refuses any form of compromise with
      Israel - as the new leader of the movement in the Gaza Strip.


      The assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin no doubt represents a
      turning point in the history of the Arab-Israeli struggle and in the
      larger global conflict between the West and the Muslim world. The
      occupation of Muslim lands, the support for "friendly tyrants," and
      now, the systematic cold-blooded killing of Muslim icons of
      resistance, will definitely fuel the cause of radicals in the Middle
      East and silence any possible voices of moderation. For millions of
      Muslims, Sheikh Yassin was, and always will be, a symbol of
      resistance, piety, and self-sacrifice. Interestingly, his legacy of
      resistance and steadfastness had a ripple-effect throughout the
      Islamic world that far surpassed his frail figure. Perhaps his
      assassination was the wake-up call needed for many Muslims to rise
      from their present slumber. One only has to remember how the
      assassination of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1989,
      led to the radicalization of Arab-Afghans and the establishment of al-
      Qaeda. Indeed, living martyrs usually come back to haunt their

      Kareem M. Kamel is an Egyptian freelance writer based in Cairo,
      Egypt. He has an MA in International Relations and is specialized in
      security studies, decision- making, nuclear politics, Middle East
      politics and the politics of Islam. He is currently assistant to the
      Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo.


      1- Faisal Bodi, "My Meeting with Sheikh Yasin," Al-Jazeera (English)
      March 22, 2004

      2- Hussein Dakroub, "Hezbollah Guerillas Attack Border Area,"
      Associated Press March 22, 2004

      3- Amos Harel, "Hit May Mean `Low Intensity' Conflict is Over,"
      Ha'aretz March 23, 2004

      4- "A Death in Gaza," International Herald Tribune March 23, 2004

      5- Laura King, "Yassin Instilled the Passion for Glory of Martyrdom,"
      Los Angeles Times March 22, 2003

      6- Andrew Roche, "Yassin Killing Provokes Muslim Fury, US Disavowal,"
      Reuters March 23, 2004

      7- "Al-Qaeda Vows Revenge," Al-Jazeera (English) March 22, 2004

      8- Tony Karon, "How Israel's Hamas Killing Affects the US," Time.com
      March 23rd, 2004

      9- "New Strike on Hamas by Israel is Expected," International Herald
      Tribune March 23, 2004

      10- Laura King, "Yassin Instilled the Passion for Glory of
      Martyrdom," Los Angeles Times March 22, 2003

      11- Faisal Bodi, "My Meeting with Sheikh Yasin," Al-Jazeera (English)
      March 22, 2004

      12- Laura King, "Yassin Instilled the Passion for Glory of
      Martyrdom," Los Angeles Times March 22, 2003

      13- "Sheikh Yassin: Spiritual Figurehead," BBC News

      14- "Frail Foe of Israel," Al-Jazeera (English) September 6, 2003.

      15- Tony Karon, "How Israel's Hamas Killing Affects the US," Time.com
      March 23rd, 2004.

      16- Ze'ev Schiff, "No Withdrawal Under Fire," Ha'aretz March 23, 2004.

      17- Zvi Bar'el, "Now Hamas Could Align with al-Qaeda," Ha'aretz March
      23, 2004.



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