Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Addenda to yesterday. Yassin was not just a 'spiritual leader'. I quote from today's Haaretz, Israel's foremost liberal paper:

"Yassin was the founder, leader, spiritual authority and strategic planner both politically and militarily for Hamas, and was known as the "sheikh of two intifadas" to all the activists from the lowest ranks to the highest."

I also didn't mean to suggest he'll be easily replaced:

"It is clear to all that nobody will fill his shoes, nobody is capable of filling all the roles he held. And it is already evident that a collective leadership for the organization will have to be formed. It will have to be based on those high up in Hamas who have so far survived Israel's campaign to eliminate the entire leadership, starting with the killing of Ismail Abu Shnab, who headed the pragmatic line in the organization."

It doesn't, of course, stop them sending terrorists. But what I failed to realise fully yesterday is that this assassination was meant first and foremost as a message, to be understood against the backdrop of Sharon's proposal to withdraw from Gaza. The killing was meant to say, "We may be taking our troops and settlers out of the Gaza strip, but this isn't a surrender. Just to prove we're not weak, to prove that terror doesn't bring victories, we're going to kick you in the teeth on the way out. We can do this and worse - anytime we like." The vital thing, according to this school of thinking, is not saving lives but rather making sure that terrorism is not 'rewarded'.

It gets us nowhere. Justice remains justice, even if its component parts coincide with the aims of extremists.

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