Hellfire Indeed, Mr Sharon!

By Farish A. Noor

According to early reports from the scene of the murder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the 67-year old quadriplegic spiritual leader of the Palestinian movement Hamas, was killed by an hellfire missile fired from an American-made attack helicopter, dispatched to its fateful destination by none other than the leader of Israel Ariel Sharon.Hellfire indeed, Mr Sharon – for the retribution that is sure to come can only be described in mythic, biblical terms. If the Zionist regime currently installed in Tel Aviv believed that it could end the nightmare existence of ordinary Israelis – bound as they are by the politics of their own government that has pursued a hateful agenda towards the Palestinian people – via such force of arms, they ought to think again, for as the enraged members of Hamas have proclaimed: “Your nightmare is just beginning”.

Analysts have asked the most obvious question: Why kill Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was widely seen as a moderate and who was prepared to make some concessions on the question of Israel’s borders as they were set in 1967? And the killing of Sheikh Ahmed follows in the cowardly killing of yet another Hamas moderate, Ismail Abu Shanab, who was thought to be the one most likely to work towards a settled compromise. 

The killing of Sheikh Ahmed and Ismail Abu Shanab now leaves Hamas bereft of moderate faces, opening the way for the rise of more radical elements and leaders like Abed al Aziz Rantisi, who has consistently blocked the way to negotiations and who has stated time and again that Hamas must not relent in its attacks and suicide bombings in Israel. But in the twisted mindset of the Zionist hawks, the further radicalisation of Hamas is precisely what the doctor ordered, to help Ariel Sharon’s government save face before growing international criticism of human rights abuses by the Israeli army and the proposed Israeli wall project.

One can immediately see the warped logic at work: From the outset Israel has wanted to demonise and distort the Palestinian struggle as nothing more than senseless terrorism – overlooking the fact that the biggest terrorist state in the region is none other than Israel itself, America’s closest strategic ally in the region.

When the PLO was beginning to make gains and received international recognition abroad, it was the Israeli state, along with its covert intelligence and para-military agencies, that sought to divide the Palestinians by creating splinter groups and radicalising the politics and discourse of the Palestinians in general. Towards this end, Israel not only welcomed the emergence of Hamas, but even went as far as helped it to arm and finance its activities, with the hope that it will eclipse the more mainstream PLO.

Since its foundation in 1987 (by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin), Hamas has been played off against the PLO and till today the Arab territories are divided between the areas controlled by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement (mostly in the West Bank) and Hamas. It was only the predominantly Shia Hizbullah movement that did not fall into the trap laid by the Zionists, and they never made any concessions or worked with Israeli agencies.

Following the Oslo peace accord of 1993, Yasser Arafat found himself a victim of Israeli duplicity: Having made concessions and promises to the Israeli regime, he secured little in return and this failure was pounced upon by the leaders of Hamas and Hizbullah. The Zionist strategists had little else to do but keep this low-level intra-Arab conflict on the boil, hoping that it would reduce the numbers of the Arab freedom fighters, and keeping them at bay. It was a case of ‘divide and rule’ politics taken straight out of the colonial government’s guidebook. But despite their attempts to play off the PLO, Fatah, Hamas and Hizbullah against each other, the Israelis failed to note that the Palestinians were basically Arabs and had more in common with each other than their Israeli adversaries.

The Zionist hawks, motivated and guided by their own myopic realist logic, also failed to note that these so-called ‘terrorist’ groups were genuinely popular; that they were providing aid and services including education and medicine in a society that had been dislocated and torn apart by the Israelis themselves.

Thus rather that dividing Palestinian society even further, it was these groups that glued Palestinian society together, giving ordinary Palestinians a sense of common identity (in many cases across religious lines), hope for the future and a nationalist goal to fight for. Hamas, which the Israelis hoped would topple or cripple other groups like Fatah and Hizbullah, ultimately helped to create a society in the ruins of what was once the Palestinian state.

Its religio-political discourse in turn gave its followers and members a reason to live and a reason to die: In the end the Hamas suicide bomber became the ultimate modern signifier for the nihilism of the times and the moral degradation of the Israeli state, his act of self-destruction a final blow against an oppressive force that could not be countered by other means. Analysts argue that Ariel Sharon ordered the killing of Sheikh Ahmed for he knew that in the wake of the Israeli pull-out of Gaza there would be a power vacumm that would soon be filled by Hamas and other groups.

These groups in turn represented a threat to Israel not simply because they were committed to a war against the colonising Zionist state, but by virtue of their continued existence they proved that the Palestinian spirit was still alive and that the Palestinians were capable of constructing a working parallel society of their own.

Hamas is now in a state of crisis, and the move towards a more radical and violent politics is certain. Apart from putting into peril the Peace Process, the Israeli government and Ariel Sharon have shown that they could not care less for the muted words of counsel emanating from Washington. Washington in turn denies that it knew anything of the planned attack and murder of Sheikh Ahmed, but can the American government deny that it was the USA that helped finance, arm and train the Israeli war machine in the first place? Where did the Israeli attack helicopters and hellfire missiles come from, if not the USA, so-called ‘cradle of democracy’ that is trying to democratise and reinvent the Middle East?

The final cost, however, will be borne by innocent people on all sides: Hamas has vowed a counter-attack of gigantic proportions and events such as these will ensure that the Arab lands remain fertile ground for groups like al-Qaeda and their ilk. And if the Arab-Muslims are radicalised even further, who would the West have to blame, if not Ariel Sharon and his Zionist government, who have been their closest allies and clients for so long? end.

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