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March 26, 2004 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-26

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infrastructure and lost an opportunity
to establish a Palestinian state.
Was Yassin merely the "spiritual
guide" to Hamas and did he lead
merely a "political wing" as opposed
to a "military wing"? Certainly, the
group was not organized along rigidly
hierarchical lines. Obviously, Yassin
did not plan specific terrorist attacks
- in detail. But he did set the policy,
sanction the killings and praise the
attacks. Yassin was as much the leader
of Hamas and responsible for its ter-
rorism as Osama bin Laden is the
leader of Al Qaida and a terrorist.
Moreover, the title of "spiritual guide"
is also the one generally given to the
dictator of Iran and the leader of the
Lebanese Hezbollah group.

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Why did Israel act against Yassin now?
There are two main reasons. First, as
Israel plans a withdrawal from the
Gaza Strip, it wants to show that this
does not mean a retreat or surrender.
To ensure domestic support for the
move and to show Palestinian radicals
that such a step is not an invitation to
escalate terrorism, it is necessary to
show that Israel still can and will
strike against those attacking it.
Second, Yassin is the only unifying
and charismatic leader possessed by
Hamas. Without him, the organiza-
tion is more likely to split and to be
incapable of effective political action,
though everyone knows it can still
carry on terrorist attacks. In large part
because of Arafat's disinterest in disci-
- plining his own men, Hamas's power
is growing. With Yassin as leader it
stood a good chance of taking over
the Gaza Strip. Whatever militant slo-
gans, demonstrations and threats
Hamas can flourish in the immediate
aftermath of Yassin's death, the group
will be weakened by it.
In defending itself during the last
three years, Israel has had to deal with
the fact that its situation is a very
unusual one and hence hard for oth-
ers to understand. International law is
premised on the existence of authori-
ties willing to enforce it. What does a
country do if its neighbor not only
refuses to stop or arrest terrorists
attacking it on a daily basis, but also
actually encourages and supports

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