I noticed a suspicious silence among donkeys over this Monday's big news, the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. Does this mean a gut feeling of indifference or even satisfaction but a politically correct silence with occasional obligatory words like, “Violence does not stop violence?” Or contrarily you root for Yassin now that he is a 'martyr?'
After all, Iranian secular intellectuals are too familiar with clerical fascism to describe it as 'spiritual leadership.' Yassin was as much a spiritual leader as our own illustrious Fallahians and Jannaties and Rafsanjanis, not to mention Khomaini himself; mullahs with so much blood on their hands that it would take an eternity for an International tribunal to try to execute some kind of justice on them. Yassin could have stopped blowing up busses and restaurants and libraries in Israel if he wanted to. But he sanctified holly terror as a way to martyrdom and heaven.
Incidentally, have you noticed that Iranian newspapers, including the reformist ones, never report on the deaths of Israeli citizens, less they might arouse some sympathy for Israel? Has there been any reformist figure or public intellectual in Iran openly and courageously condemning the murder of Jews in Israel or anywhere else in the world?)
Of course, Yassin assassination would exacerbate the holy terror and we will possibly witness more mayhem and suicide bombings in Israel and around the word. Paradoxically it nourishes political Islam. Abu Abeer, another Palestinian militant leader, just said, “They have opened the gates of hell. For us, everything is now permissible after this assassination.”
Yes, for Islamists everything is permissible. From a pragmatic point of view, condemning this kind of assassination by the Israeli death squads is similar to condemning the US bombing and occupation of Iraq (and the mission of Task Force 121 there and in Afghanistan – CIA target assassination of oppositional figures): it does not bring peace nearer and it does not make anybody feel more secure.
But if one day you wake up and hear the news of one of those big fish 'spiritual' leaders of the Islamic regime, say a Fallahian or Jannati, being surgically removed from the face of the earth, would you shed tears for him? I know a few Iranian souls who rooted for Saddam when he was caught in the rat hole with lice in his bushy hair. “May you join the martyrs and the prophets in heaven, you are a martyr,” Yassir Arafat said, reciting Muslim prayers for Yassin. Does anybody agree? Do you feel the same way? I don't.
No wonder donkeys are subdued. The events of past few days evoke complex and conflicting emotions and thoughts. On the one hand we have no illusions about Yassin as a fundamentalist clergyman of “Salafi” persuasion. Very much like his messianic Jewish and Christian counterparts, he condones, indeed, advocates terrorism and shows no interest in political compromise based on somewhat diminished expectations. As such, he is a dangerous and irresponsible political leader. On the other, he has come to symbolize, for a variety of reasons, the anger and frustration of the underdog in an unequal and bloody war of independence.
I just noticed I am speaking of Ahmed Yassin in the present tense; which brings me to my second point. He is not gone. He is made into a martyr, thanks to the folly of Israeli hawks bent on committing what the international community has repeatedly condemned as “extra judicial executions”.
In my eyes, Ahmed Yassin was a human version of a decoy duck, you know, the wooden replicas hunters float to fool the flock to descend; a paraplegic frail old man in a white garb, looking like some Hollywood director's vision of Moses: the fearless fanatic preacher calling his people to walk with him into the desert.
He spoke and preached out in the open, as if daring the Israelis to put him out of his misery; so hundreds of thousands of oppressed, frustrated, humiliated, unemployed, and angry youths could add another poster to their superstar martyrs gallery and try snug dynamite belts on for size. Israelis took the bait; as a result Israel is less secure, Palestine is more desperate, and some factional political points are scored as a right wing government proposes to relinquish Gaza. It is all so disheartening.
But we know all of this. May be that is why we are silent. There is nothing here we don't know and very little on which we would disagree.
Mahmoud Sadri Associate Professor of Sociology Texas Women's University
Both Abdee and Mahmoud make excellent points. The situation in Israel/ Palestine does indeed appear hopeless, and the ceaseless violence of both sides repugnant. To me, the Islamization of the Palestinian resistance has been the most dispiriting aspect of all, though of course Israeli intransigence and various machinations have a lot to do with turn in the nature of the movement. And what kind of a spiritual leader religiously condones or even encourages suicide bombings? I can only constrast his “spirituality” with that of Desmond Tutu or the late and lamented Oscar Romero of El Salvador.
I think Iranian leftists and liberals have a distinctive perspective on these matters, and it is rather a pity that our focus on Iran keeps us from sharing our views to a broader international audience. For example, I have been concerned that much of the progressive commentary in the aftermath of the Madrid terror attacks focused on the US/UK war and occupation of Iraq, the injustices of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the need to end war and occupation.
This is entirely appropriate, but what about condemning the violence of Islamists? There has been a tendency to play down the Islamist challenge and a reluctance to acknowledge the threats to human rights, women's rights, and norms of non-violence on the part of militant Islamists. I know this first-hand from having attended a meeting of the anti-war coalition here in London last fall, where several speakers explicitly denied that Islamism was a real problem.
And at the huge anti-war rally in London last November, I was most disheartened to hear a speaker from the Muslim British Association lead the crowd into chants of “Allah-o Akbar”. (Massoud had already told me that this was likely, as he had heard the chant at a previous demonstration.)
Since for us, allah-o-akbar conjures up images of marauding hezbollahi in Iran (in addition to which, it is the war cry of violent militants everywhere), I may be forgiven for having decided against attending the more recent anti-war demonstration in London.