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A blog on terrorism, democracy and international politics

Monday, April 19, 2004

Yet another volcano of revenge 

A seismic event of astounding proportions has been unleashed in Gaza. After the assassination of Hamas leader Dr Abdel Aziz Rantissi, Hamas 'vowed "we will explode a volcano of revenge"' according to The Australian today. One wonders whether this is the same volcano of revenge predicted weeks ago when Rantissi's predecessor Ahmed Yassin was killed; or will the volcanos spew their vengeance on Israel one after the other? I do not mean to joke over dead bodies, but there is a point to be made here. The reason why Hamas' threats ring hollow and are ignored by Israel is that before Israel attacked Yassin and Rantissi, Hamas was already doing everything in its power to kill as many Jewish citizens as possible, with the stated aim of killing or deporting all of them. The volcano has already erupted, spewed its lava, and become a fact of life. To switch to a different metaphor, Hamas played its last cards months ago, and now has recourse only to absurd bluff as Israel repeatedly trumps it.

Various world leaders condemned the assassination, just as they lamented the attack on the pitiable wheelchair-bound Yassin. To put it in perspective though, the USA has had a crippled President and Indonesia a blind one. Nobody patronises Stephen Hawkings the way they fawned over the late Ahmed Yassin.

Those who want to remember Yassin and Rantissi as hapless victims should remember some things Rantissi said:
"The word ceasefire is not in our dictionary."
Israel will "never know security."
"We will fight them until the liberation of Palestine, the whole of Palestine."
(and what does that mean for the people of Israel?)
"By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine."

Some argue that Yassin and Rantissi were not military targets, being political leaders - after all, they issued political statements and organised social infrastructure. But what is new about this? Several days ago Usama bin Laden issued a political statement, and during the 1990s he heavily invested in infrastructure (particularly agricultural infrastructure) in the Sudan, putting his company, al-Hijra Construction, to work.

But at the same time, "Sheikh" Usama bin Laden was the spiritual leader of a worldwide terrorist movement, directing the murder of westerners across the globe - just as "Sheikh" Ahmed Yassin was the spiritual leader of Hamas, directing the murder of Jews in Israel.

Each spiritual leader also had an intellectual right-hand man. Oddly enough, both men - Dr Rantissi and Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri were paediatricians trained in Egypt.

Speculations also abound about the role of Abdullah Azzam in both organisations, however Rantissi's "the word ceasefire is not in our dictionary" could have come from Azzam's lips.

Take a close look at al-Qaeda and Hamas - two Jihadi Salafi organisations following the path of the Muslim Brotherhood's Sayyid Qutb. How do they differ? Hamas kills jews in Israel, whereas al-Qaeda kills Americans in America and Europeans in Europe. Now we come to a central aspect of the division between "old Europe" and neo-Conservatism. After September 11, the world heard George W Bush declare that war would be waged on terrorism. Not al-Qaeda, note - but terrorism. "Old Europe" chose a more narrow conflict - while al-Qaeda would be fought tooth and nail because it threatened Old Europe, Hamas and various terrorism-sponsoring states would be absolved. The overthrow of Ba'athist Iraq, which funded terrorism against the Jews in Israel and an assassination attempt against George Bush Senior, was for Old Europe not a war on terror - because Iraq could not be seen to be connected to al-Qaeda, or seen to be a direct threat to Paris or Berlin.

The difference between "Old Europe" (a mindset that is not confined to Europe) and neo-conservatism (a mindset not confined to the United States) is the difference between short-sighted self-interest on the one hand, and the far-sighted vision that seeks to secure self-interest through a wide-ranging and positive vision.

If al-Qaeda routinely attacked French citizens, and attempted to assassinate Jacques Chirac, does anyone doubt that France - the country that bombed an environmentalist vessel in the harbour of its ally New Zealand - would attempt to 'assassinate' Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri? Would the leaders of civilised countries condemn France for its "illegal" and "irresponsible" attack, blame France for the "inevitable wave of vengeance amongst the Islamists" or cry over poor old bin Laden, who walked with a stick?

It's time we all took a good look at our prejudices.

I will never rejoice at the loss of a human life, but by no means will I mourn the deaths of those vicious criminals, Yassin and Rantissi.
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