by Iqbal Siddiqui (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 13 2003-10, Sha'ban, 1424)
Hamas leader Shaikh Ahmad Yassin said on September 24 that Hamas, Palestine’s leading Islamic movement and the most popular political group among Palestinians, would not accept any suggestion that it should disarm or declare a truce.
Addressing the media at the Al-Mujamma Al-Islami Mosque near his home in Ghazzah City, Shaikh Yassin insisted that Hamas remains totally committed to freeing Palestine through jihad, and that it would not be diverted from its path by Israel’s campaign of assassinations of its leaders and members. Shaikh Yassin himself was slightly injured in a missile strike in Ghazzah on September 6.
"There is no place to talk about a truce because the enemy is continuing his aggression, killing and settlement activities", Shaikh Yassin said. He also said that "He who carried a bomb and blows himself up is destined for paradise."
Responding to suggestions by new Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia that Hamas and other Islamic movements should disarm voluntarily in response to Israeli demands that the Palestinian Authority disarm them as a prerequisite for progress on the ‘road map’ peace process, Shaikh Yassin said that "The weapons that our people carry are to defend our land and our people, and no-one can confiscate them."
"We can talk about disarmament only after liberating the land. Otherwise the taking of weapons means surrender and defeat."
Shaikh Yassin was speaking during a month in which the Israeli authorities have deliberately targeted Hamas leaders and activists in a tacit recognition of who their greatest enemy among the Palestinians really is. When he spoke, thirteen Hamas activists had recently killed by Israeli missile strikes in densely populated civilian areas in which an even greater number of civilians were also killed. Hamas, meanwhile, demonstrated its determination not to be defeated, and to maintain its pressure on Isreal, with a series of attacks on Israeli targets.
All this has happened while the US, Israel’s close ally and sponsor – as well as the world’s sole superpower, whose mediation is supposed to be essential for any peace deal to be effective – maintains the fiction that the road map peace process remains relevant, and continues to blame the Palestinians for its failure.
In truth, the resignation of former Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian prime minister was the final confirmation that the American-Israeli strategy of promoting an alternative, malleable Palestinian leadership had failed. This failure has been blamed on Abbas’s inability to rein in Palestine’s jihad movements, and on Yassir Arafat’s supposed refusal to work with him. Both of these analysis are inaccurate; the jihad movements did in fact declare a unilateral ceasefire to give the road map a chance, even though they were understandably sceptical of its chances; this ceasefire was ignored by Israel and therefore suspended. Arafat, while certainly reluctant to cede power to Abbas, was in truth doing no more than reflecting Palestinian opinion when he criticised Abbas’s performance.
The real reason for Abbas’s failure to deliver what the Israelis wanted was precisely the same as the reason that Arafat failed to so when he had his chance during the Oslo peace process: because the Israelis are simply not willing to make any concession whatsoever to Palestinian aspirations, or even to stick to the commitments they do make. The unavoidable conclusion, which all but the most one-eyed of observers reached a long time ago, is that the Israelis have in fact no interest in peace, preferring to maintain the present level of conflict as a pretext for continuing its attacks on Palestinian civilians and the expansion of zionist-controlled territory through settlements and the redrawing of the ‘green line’ by its notorious wall.
While Israel has targeted Hamas activists and civilians by ever more brutal and ruthless attacks, it has diverted attention from its war crimes by focusing again on Yassir Arafat. By blaming every problem they have on him personally, and threatening to expel him from Palestine, or even to assassinate him, they have added new life to a political career that seemed dead. Western commentators are describing this as a gross mis-judgement on Israel’s part, but others suggest that it may be a deliberate strategy to ensure that Palestinians continue to regard Arafat as their leader, even though he has failed them so many times, and has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to serve the Israelis to further his own career.
Considering that Israel’s alternative might be having to deal with Shaikh Ahmed Yassin, it would be entirely understandable if they deliberately boosted Arafat’s standing and popularity instead.