Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Hand of Hamas 2

Sometimes a news article provides confirmation of a guess that is almost too good to be true. Radio Netherlands lends evidence for two crucial Belmont Club assertions. First, that the assassination of Hamas chieftain Yassin would destabilize Hamas because it is the nature of a gangland organization to wobble when it loses its boss. Second, that Hamas will seek to maintain the firewall between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Global War on Terror.

Radio Netherlands

Belmont Club's Transition

Who is the leader in Gaza? It's not clear how much unanimity there is regarding Abdel Aziz Rantisi's taking the position left vacant by Sheikh Yassin, who was killed on Monday in an Israeli helicopter attack. It was Mr Rantisi himself who came forward with the news that, in accordance with the organisation's internal regulations, he had taken over the leadership of Hamas in Gaza.

But another leader, Mahmud az-Zahar – generally regarded as a more moderate figure than Mr Rantisi – said that Hamas will organise an internal selection procedure to choose a new leader once the period of mourning for Sheikh Yassin is at an end. The conflicting statements may be an indication that the unanimous fury within Hamas following the killing of Sheikh Yassin has made way for a distinct lack of unanimity as to how to proceed now he has gone.

The frenzy in the Gaza strip tonight probably has less to do with the preparations to strike back at Israel then a frantic attempt to locate the secret bank account numbers that Sheik Yassin may have had in his possession.

The Israeli strike against the terrorist top tier exploits the weakness inherent in terrorist organizations which are unstable alliances based on a delicate balance of internal intimidation. None of them, the Palestinian Authority included, are either transparent or accountable. They are exceptionally vulnerable to changes in their leadership. They can stand the loss of any number of teenage fighters or youthful suicide bombers without much damage but are rocked -- as Yassin's death illustrates -- by death at the top. Twenty million Soviet casualties in World War 2 were a statistic, but the death of Stalin marked the end of an epoch. Had the Israeli missile simply incinerated a 19-year old Hamas illiterate foot soldier it would have been another day in Gaza, hardly worth the notice of the press, but since its target was the terrorist leadership the moral calculus elevated it to a sacrilege. Yet it does not alter the fact that the foreign offices of Europe will be scratching their heads tonight to see who the letters of condolence to Hamas should be addressed to. Perhaps they should wait until a new leader climbs to the pinnacle of the bloody pole before bowing at his feet.

Radio Netherlands

Belmont Club's Hand of Hamas

In an interview with Australian television, the same Mahmud az-Zahar said there is "no connection between al-Qaeda and Hamas," and that the Palestinian organisation "concentrated their activities on the occupied territories in Palestine". But he added that it was the duty of every Islamic movement in the world to avenge the murder of Sheikh Yassin.

However, this does not appear to mean that Hamas is about to start actively looking to link up with al-Qaeda as some earlier statements, made immediately after the death of Sheikh Yassin, seemed to suggest.

Another prominent Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Sayyed Siyyan, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that it was not Hamas' policy to target the United States or its interests.

Since Hamas does not have much of an international reach and there is an urgent necessity to 'teach America a lesson', the actual act of vengeance has probably been farmed out to a better positioned affiliate group, under some reciprocal arrangement, to strike in Hamas' name. That explains why the direct warnings have emanated from an Al Qaeda affiliate called Abu Hafs al-Masri, the same outfit that claimed the Madrid bombings and which Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis thinks is actually an Islamic PR group based in London. ...

One possibility would be for another group like Hezbollah, which is known to have connections in the US underworld, to mount an attack on its behalf. Something. Anything. That would ironically suit Sharon's book better than Yassin's. It would directly couple Hamas and Fatah to Al Qaeda and by transitivity connect them with the band that gave us September 11. By goading Hamas beyond tolerance, Israel will have succeeded in coupling the Arab-Israeli conflict directly to the Global War on Terror. The repercussions of a Hamas-sponsored attack on America will be felt by its fund-raising charities in Europe, such as the Holy Land Foundation in Germany, the Al Aqsa Foundation in Belgium and Holland and the Comite de Bienfaisance et Solidarite avec la Palestine in France.

Some pressure point has been touched which suggests that terrorism does not recoil from the loss of retarded teenage fighters who, for thirty dollars are told to hurl themselves against the IDF so much as blows upon persons who are specifically guilty, who deal in murder wholesale rather than retail, and who as a consequence, are considered important men of the world.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
-- from Wilfred Owen