|Israel Resource Review
||23rd June, 2002
Confession of an Israeli
analyst of Islam and Arab statecraft: I believe
Research Associate, Department of Arabic, Begin-Sadat Center
Bar Ilan University
On May 15, 2002, Yasir Arafat addressed the Palestinian Legislative Council
in Ramalla. The occasion was the 54th anniversary of the Nakba ("the
disaster" of Palestine, i.e. the establishment of the State of Israel on May
15, 1948). In his speech Arafat referred to the suicide attacks against
Israeli citizens, stating that these attacks "do not serve our cause, but
rather subject us to angry criticism on the part of the international
community". Arafat called upon the Council to deal with this problem (which has aroused serious discussions among Palestinians and Arabs in general)
from the vantage point of the "Hudaybiyya Conciliation Accord, out of our concern for the patriotic and national interest of our [Palestinian] people and [Arab] nation, in order to strengthen worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian people and its cause".
What is behind this reference to Hudaybiyya? It conveys the following twin messages.
- "The Hudaybiyya Conciliation Accord" was an agreement which the Prophet
Muhammad signed in the year 628 A.D. with the infidels of his tribe, the
Kuraysh. He did so upon their refusal to join the community of Islam, when
he realized that he could not defeat them militarily. Two years later,
having consolidated his power, he attacked Holy Mecca, slaughtered the men
of his own tribe and torched all the symbols of their heathen culture.
- Islam regards the actions of the prophet as religiously sanctioned models
for the behavior of the faithful. In fact, the authorized collections
(Hadith) of Muhammad's acts and pronouncements are among the important
sources for the Islamic authorities of every generation in deciding
questions of religious law. Thus, the prophet's way of treating his
agreement with the Kuraysh is perceived as the ideal procedure for Muslims
when dealing with non-believers: When Muslims cannot impose their will for
expanding the rule of Islam by force, they are permitted to sign temporary
agreements with the non-believers. Such agreements are to be kept until
Allah grants a sufficient increase in Muslim power. At that point the
faithful are allowed (or obliged) to break the agreements and to impose
Islamic terms on the infidels. Why else would Allah have granted them the
power to prevail?
In referring to Hudaybiyya, Arafat meant exactly this: Any agreement with
Israel is -- in his eyes -- no more than a Hudaybiyya Conciliation Accord.
This is eminently clear to anyone who reads the Islamic sources, preferably
in Arabic. (Internet sites in English tend to portray a rather conciliatory
picture of Islam, for Western consumption, by rephrasing Islamic messages.)
The proof for this is inherent in the second message of the quotation from
Arafat's speech. Suicide attacks at this juncture are not condemned as vile
inhuman acts but are held in abeyance because they are presently incapable
of advancing Palestinian goals. At present, the Palestinian cause can best
be served by avoiding international condemnation and by promoting the
encouragement and sympathy of the world community.
What does Arafat mean? That suicide attacks are evil and should be removed
from now on from the arsenal of legitimate weapons in the struggle against
Israel? Not at all. If anything, recruitment and training of shahids is
accelerating. What he advocates for the near term is a change in the modus
operandi. Does he promise not to use suicide attacks again? By no means.
Does his most recent call to desist from attacks upon civilians remind us of
his record of broken promises made to Rabin (1993), Netanyahu (1996) and in
many public declarations between 1993 and 2000? They do indeed.
As a student of Arab politics and as a Zionist with personal past
involvement with efforts to promote peace and understanding between Israelis
and Arabs, I do indeed believe Arafat's message: he does wish to come to an
agreement with the Israelis, but, as he points out to his followers, any
agreement with non-Muslims, such as a commitment to stop suicide attacks, is
simply a modern version of Hudaybiyya. As such, in accordance with Islamic
principles which form the basis of the political culture in the Arab sphere,
such a commitment may (or must) be broken at the right time. Clearly, before
long, when in Arafat's judgment suicide attacks will again be helpful to the
Palestinian cause, he will once again call upon his followers to go out and
sacrifice their lives in Israel's streets ('millions of shahids marching to
Great tragedies have occurred in international affairs when governments try
to understand potential enemies in terms of their own political culture. The
events of September 11 can serve as one recent example. Israeli ignorance of
Islamic traditions and Arab culture have brought about many serious
political and military setbacks, from the surprise attack which started the
Yom Kippur War (October 6, 1973) to our lack of realism all through the Oslo
process, 1993-2000. We shall continue to disregard the Islamic tradition
only on pain of more naive dreams, by Israeli and Western leaders, dreams
which are totally detached from the Middle Eastern reality, a reality which
is becoming increasingly colored by the Islamic brush.
Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Phone: +972 54 778 908
Department of Arabic and research associate of the
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies
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A Child Describes A Terror
Attack On Her Home Which Resulted in the Murder of her Mother
and Three Siblings
Eli Bardenstein and Sharon Solomon
"My mother and I were watching television on
the upstairs floor. Suddenly we heard shots."
Avia, 13, recalls the night of horror at Itamar, from her bed at Petah
Tikvah's Schneider Hospital.
"I turned off the television and got under my parents' bed. Mom went
downstairs, and then it got quiet. Someone came into the room and I saw his
legs. I thought it was my brother, but then he started speaking in Arabic,
and I realized he was a terrorist. He shot at the rooms next door and then
sat down near the bed and replaced a clip. Suddenly someone fired. It got
dark in the house. I heard soldiers coming, they threw a grenade, but
nothing happened. When they threw the second grenade, I was hit in the
stomach, and then the terrorist went out of the room and went into the
bathroom. The soldiers asked if I could see him, I said I couldn't, and ran outside."
"I was taken to an ambulance, and from there to a helicopter and I was
flown to the hospital."
Boaz Shabu, the father, said that on his way home from work he heard
about the terror attack in Itamar. "I called home, and I called my wife's
cell phone, and there was no answer. There was no answer on my son Neria's
cell phone either. I knew that terrorist had gone into my house. At the
army base I called again, this time from an unlisted phone, and then they
told me that it was my house. I said that I'm the father. When I got to the
house, soldiers kept turning my head around, so I wouldn't see the bodies.
I said I want to see Rachel and Tzvika, and it was a very hard sight to see."
Boaz does not know yet whether they will stay in Itamar. "What is
certain is that I will never ever go back to that house. At most, I'll go
to another house in the community," he said. Whereas Avia said, "I don't
know if I want to go back to Itamar."
At his room at Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer, Assael Shabu recalls the
terrible night. "My brother Avishai and I were watching television. The
terrorist came in and started shooting at us. The bullets hit Avishai and
missed me. I hid under the pillow and that's how I was saved. Only when the
soldiers came into the house, did they find me."
Assael, who lost his mother and three of his brothers, was seriously
injured. He was evacuated to the hospital where he underwent an operation
and his leg was amputated.
Yesterday, at around 6:00 a.m., Assael woke up for the first time and
asked his aunt where his mother is. Later he told his aunt that he saw the
soldiers rush into the house and yell, "There are dead people here." He
said he knew his brother Avishai had been killed because he could not hear
The relatives by his bedside have not yet told Assael that his mother
and two other brothers were killed in the terror attack.
Today, Assael's sister Avia is to be transferred from Schneider Hospital
to Sheba Hospital, so that the two siblings can be together.
This piece ran in "Maariv" on June 23, 2002
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Israeli Intelligence Shares
Data With US Concerning Arafat's Direct Involvement in Latest
conveyed to the US up-to-date and extremely detailed
intelligence which demonstrates Yasser Arafat's personal
involvement in the recent terror attacks in the heart of Israel,
including last week's terror attacks. Shortly thereafter,
President Bush called Prime Minister Sharon and expressed
understanding of Israel's right to defend itself.
Early Thursday morning, Washington time, a special Israeli envoy arrived
at the offices of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and
hand-delivered the Israeli material to her. The material included decisive
and clear-cut evidence illustrating the connection between Arafat and the
terror attacks. Israeli security establishment officials also presented the
same documents to the CIA representatives in Israel.
A senior American source said that the prime minister gave instructions
to transmit the intelligence immediately after a telephone conversation he
had with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday evening,
in which he reiterated the personal link between Arafat and terror attacks
in the heart of Israel. The source said that the material was immediately
passed on to President Bush himself. The source also divulged that the
detailed information that Israel conveyed to the administration in
Washington played a major role in the green light from the American capital
to Jerusalem to embark on a comprehensive military operation in PA
territory. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer also said that Israel has a
right to defend itself.
Furthermore, the American source said that the Israeli material gave the
Washington administration officials a further reason to postpone President
Bush's speech, at least for the time being. "The material shown to the
Americans made them have second and third thoughts about the speech," said
the senior source.
The source also said that the material reinforced the American
understanding that the Israeli demand to select an executive prime minister
for the Palestinian Authority instead of Arafat, is a basic demand from
which Israel cannot shift.
For the present, it seems that the Americans will continue supporting
Israel with regard to a military operation in the Palestinian cities, and
will hold off on the diplomatic speech at least until President Bush
returns from the meeting of the G-8 leaders in Canada this weekend.
This piece ran in Maariv on June 23, 2002
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Glorifying Suicide Bombers: Now
a Secular Vision of "Palestine"
Correspondent, Yediot Aharonot
On Wednesday, at French Hill in Jerusalem, the
Palestinians reached a new record of dubious worth: the 120th
suicide bomber since the beginning of the el-Aksa Intifada on
September 29, 2000. And this is still not the end. Hamas
promised, in a pamphlet distributed on Tuesday after the suicide
attack on the Gilo bus, to begin a suicide attack offensive
described as, "Suicide attackers from every direction -- suicide
attackers in a chain, one after the other."
Fatah, the Marxist PFLP, and of course the Islamic Jihad, have
all adopted suicide bombing as a strategic weapon. GSS
commanders say that the production of bomb belts is not quick
enough to equip the number of volunteers waiting in line to
120 suicide bombers, men and women, do not constitute a fringe
phenomenon. They are a sign of a societal norm, a reflection of a new
Palestinian culture. This is a phenomenon that enjoys the support of the
Palestinian street and leadership, not only in public opinion polls but
also in the expressions of happiness after each attack, at the funerals for
the suicide bombers, in their pictures on every street corner and in the
songs praising them. [ . . . ]
In recent months the chorus of praise has also been joined by the
mothers of the suicide bombers. More and more mothers chose to be
hotographed with their son the suicide bomber before he leaves for the
mission, to congratulate and encourage him. Last Saturday, before Mahmud
Hassan Abed of the Sheikh Raduan neighborhood in Gaza left for a suicide
mission at Dugit, he had his picture taken with his mother and a
Kalashnikov. After he was killed, his mother did not mourn -- on the
contrary, she celebrated, distributing sweets to relatives. The mother of
Hamza Samoudi, who blew up the bus at Megiddo on June 5, was proud of her
son: "Hamza wanted to get me into Paradise . . . He is taking women, the
beautiful girls of Paradise, he lived and died as a hero, a blessed hero."
On the Palestinian street these mothers are known as Hansa, after Hansa
the daughter of Amr, who lived in the time of the Prophet Mohammed and
became a role model, a kind of Palestinian "Hannah and her seven sons."
Hansa took part in the battle of Kadesiya, one of the most important of
Mohammed's battles, and encouraged her four sons for fight even if it cost
them their lives. According to the Koran she told them, "Remember that the
eternal world (Paradise) is better than this transitory world."
They Know What They're Doing
This new heroic culture has lead to an upheaval: suicide bombings are
not viewed as attacks caused by despair, disappointment or in revenge, but
as acts of hope. The goal of a suicide bomber is not killing for the sake
of killing, but as a means to break Israel's power of endurance -- to
undermine society, to shatter the economy, to remove the Sharon government
and to force Israel into accepting the Palestinians' conditions for the
permanent solution. The Palestinians feel that have already created a
small earthquake that has cracked the social and economic walls in Israel.
They believe with a bit more effort they can cause Israel's collapse.
Hamas leaders said this week, "the suicide bombers are the strategic
weapon for reaching deterrence and balance. The Palestinians are creating
a new life through the gate of suicide bombings."
It is worth taking a look at the human profile of the suicide bombers.
In Gilo it was Mohammed el-Ghoul, an MA student at A-Najah university in
Nablus, which has earned the title of "suicide college." Over 30 of them
have come from this academic institution. Around half of the 120 suicide
bombers have university education, another 35% have high school education,
and the rest have elementary school education. In other words, these are
not rash and unstable people, but suicide bombers who know very well what
weapon they are using.
It Will Reach Europe Too
Salah Shahada, commander of the Hamas military wing, said this week in
an interview on the organization's Internet site that the rush of people
wanting to become suicide bombers indicates mental health and is not a way
of running away from a situation of despair and frustration. He laid down
four principles in the process of choosing suicide bombers: "religious
devotion -- observing prayers, charity and good deeds. Parental
satisfaction -- we check if the young person is liked by his family and
that he is not the only breadwinner, we don't take single children. His
ability to complete the assignment and most important, we ensure that the
suicide act be such that it motivates more suicide bombings and encourages
jihad among the public."
In Palestinian terminology, even officially, nobody talks about suicide,
but about sacrifice. Even Sari Nusseibeh and Hanan Ashrawi, who on
Wednesday released an opinion calling to stop these acts, called the
suicide bombings "military acts whose goal is against Israeli civilians."
The Palestinians have a sense of being pioneers. Arabic television has
helped them spread this sense to Arab countries. Clerics from all over the
Moslem world, led by Sheikh Kardawi of Qatar, considered the greatest of
religious rulers, have given their blessing to these acts, including by
women. Even Sheikh a-Zahar, Mohammed Tantawi, has bowed to pressure and
issued a ruling that views suicide bombings as legitimate from a religious
aspect. Arafat's mantra "millions of shahids marching to Jerusalem" has
become the slogan at demonstrations in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. In marches
of support of the Intifada in Germany, France or Belgium, children march
with dummy explosives belts. "If these is no war against this cancer, it
is liable to spread to Europe too," security sources said this week.
Only on Wednesday night, after the terror attack at French Hill, when
the sword of exile was placed at his neck, did Arafat realize that he was
liable to end his career as president of Palestine. Only then he called on
his people to stop the terror attacks against Israeli civilians. But his
call came too late, after the phenomenon of suicide bombers has become
rooted -- thanks to him as well -- and he no longer has the ability to put
a stop to this norm.
This piece ran in Yediot Aharonot on June 21, 2002
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