Global Sympathy for Terrorists
“The day in which I will die as a shahid [martyr] will be the happiest day of my life.” So said the founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, in a 1998 interview. It took six years, but he finally got his wish: On March 22, Israeli forces launched a strike that took his life.
Some news sources reporting on the event used language critical of the Israeli government for killing a powerless cripple in a wheelchair who acted only as the Palestinians’ spiritual leader. The bbc described Yassin as “a frail quadriplegic who could barely see,” with a voice “thin and quavering” (March 22). USA Today has pictures of the remnants of his bloodstained wheelchair on its website.
It seems much of the media would rather cast Yassin as a helpless victim than a man who popularized suicide bombing from his wheelchair and founded an organization bent on Israel’s destruction.
Perhaps they forgot that Yassin—who, incidentally, was wheelchairbound since a sporting accident at age 12—spent many years in an Israeli prison as a murderer.
In 1997, Israel released him from prison in exchange for two Mossad agents on the condition that he not call for further suicide bombings against Israel. He defied this condition.
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that Yassin “personally gave his approval for the launching of Kassam rockets against Israeli cities, as well as for the numerous Hamas terrorist bombings and suicide operations” (www.mfa.gov.il, March 22). No one disputes this claim.
Yassin explained the bombings: “The Jews attack and kill our civilians—we will kill their civilians, too. From the first drop of blood [the bomber] spills on the ground, he goes to Paradise. The Jewish victims immediately go to hell” (Washington Post, March 22).
Earlier this year, Yassin said Hamas was doing everything it could to capture Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips.
Nevertheless, his assassination was broadly condemned. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “Such actions are not only contrary to international law but they do not do anything to help the search for a peaceful solution” (Reuters, March 22). EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the European Union has always condemned “extrajudicial killings,” and added, “In this particular case, I think a condemnation ought to be stronger” (www.cbc.ca, March 22). These comments were typical of leaders all over the world.
Washington openly supported Israel’s actions—but only for a few hours. The Jewish daily Ha’aretz wrote, “When it became evident to the Americans that the Arabs were in a fury and the Europeans were outraged, the administration decided to change its tone and not be depicted as being enthusiastically in favor of the assassination and against the position of the rest of the world” (March 24).