The Socialist Unity Network

The terror continues

Jim Jepps

Sheik Yassin assassinated outside Gaza City Mosque Massive protests greeted Yassin's murder Isreal uses Bush's rhetoric on the war on terror

Sheik Yassin, a leading figure in Hamas, was assassinated on Monday outside the busy Gaza City Mosque. The attacks were carried out by an Israeli helicopter gun ship and killed around six bystanders.

Sheik Yassin, who was in his 60's, has been alternately described as a moderate, the Godfather of Palestinian terrorism, a terrorist, a negotiator, and an unwell, wheelchair bound fragile old man.  Yassin was one of the founders of Hamas and was still a leading figure, although it's fairly unclear how active he was recently due to illness. The obituary in the Guardian seems pretty fair but however hard line Yassin was it entirely misses the wider issues.

The state sanctioned assassinations are part of an ongoing war against the Palestinian resistance. Israeli spokesman have declared that they will attempt to assassinate the entire Hamas leadership, although there are no current plans to murder Yasser Arafat - but they refuse to rule this out for a future date.

Many commentators around the world have pointed out that these attacks are illegal, and that if these people are guilty of crimes then they should be brought to trial not murdered by missile in the street. They say this would be the civilised response.

In the three years since the beginning of the Intifada the death toll on both sides of the wall has been horrific, and each military action of this kind deepens the cycle of violence, blocking the route to peaceful solutions.

Every action of state terror produces new recruits for the terrorists, with a renewed anger and vigour. But it would be wrong to see the key actions as ones of bombings and attacks on either side. There is a systematic war of attrition taking place against the Palestinian people. Israel not only pursues a policy of murder, but also of impoverishing and starving the Palestinian population at large.

When the Guardian reports that Al Quaida is growing - well of course it is - the very war on terror has thrown thousands, possibly tens of thousands, into sympathy with those who use violent attacks against civilian and military targets. In fact, this has always been the way of anti-terrorism measures.

The British government and army probably thought that Bloody Sunday would cow those in Northern Ireland that opposed them. In fact what it did was turn a civil rights movement into a civil war movement that harried and attacked them for twenty years and more.

Hamas itself was encouraged in the early 80's in the hope that it would provide a counter weight to Arafat's PLO. Once again oppressive regimes sew dragon's teeth that come come to terrorise and horrify once their usefulness has passed.

When Hamas state that Sharon has "opened the gates of hell" it is part rhetoric and part cold, hard truth. As a policy to make the world a more peaceful place it is doomed to failure. Even papers that normally support Israel have had to admit this. The Financial Times described it as a "very stupid action" and the Telegraph described this as "a very stupid mistake".

Stupid not evil, nor morally wrong, nor any other of the epithets that they use to describe killings the other way round.

These military interventions are part of the problem not the solution. The war that is taking place against the Palestinian people has to end. Only then can we start to ask how do we get out of here? How do we move forward, bringing Palestinians and Israelis together rather than setting them at each others throats for the sake of other people's wars.

March 2004