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BTL: Israel's Assassinations Triggered Escalating

from the nationally syndicated radio newsmagazine
"Between The Lines"


A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints on national and international issues under-reported in major media For release Dec. 17, 2001


Israel's Assassination of Militant Palestinian Leaders Provoked Latest Series of Suicide Bombings

* Analysis of Sharon's order to liquidate Hamas leader suggests it was calculated to trigger an escalating cycle of violence

Weeks of escalating violence in the Middle East claimed the lives of two young boys ages 2 and 13 years old on Dec. 10 after Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car carrying a man they accused of planning terrorist attacks. The target of the assassination, Muhammad Sidir, who Israelis say was a local leader of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, was wounded in the assault along with his uncle and five others.

Israel stepped up its attacks on Yasir Arafat's governing authority and individuals it suspects of engaging in terrorism after three suicide bomb attacks killed 26 Israeli civilians on Dec. 1 and 2. Contributing to the cycle of violence was the Nov. 23 Israeli assassination of a leader of the militant group Hamas and the deaths of five Palestinian boys killed by a bomb planted by the Israeli Army on Nov. 22. Despite Arafat's arrest of more than 150 Palestinians thought to be connected with terror attacks, Israeli and U.S. officials demanded that he do more to dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of Philadelphia's Shalom Center, who examines the connection between the Israeli government's policy of assassination and what many believe to be the predictable intensification of violence, now stretching into 14 months of conflict.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow: I was recently reading an article that was published in a quite conservative Israeli newspaper, the mass circulation daily Yediot Ahronot which is not a left or even a left of center paper -- it's right of center. (The paper's) major military and security analyst (Alex Fishman,) who has spent years and years and years close to, listening to and working with high officials in the Israeli army and intelligence operations wrote just a couple of weekends ago a front page article which said that the -- whatever you want to call it -- liquidation, assassination, targeted killing of a Hamas leader by the Sharon government, as everybody and the people who did it knew, would trigger the suicide bombings in Jerusalem and in Haifa. The Israeli government knew perfectly well that's what it was going to trigger.

He writes in fact that whoever gave a green light to this act of liquidation -- and we know it had to be Sharon -- knew full well he is thereby shattering in one blow, now listen to this, the gentlemen's agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Under that agreement Hamas was to avoid suicide bombings inside the Green line (Israel's pre-1967 border.) So Hamas in fact had made a deal, and the Israelis knew they had made a deal with Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to stop such bombings. Then came the attack, the killing of the Hamas leader and of course the deal was off. And the Israeli government knew that perfectly well.

In fact one would have to either think that Sharon is abysmally stupid or that he is deliberately choosing a series of actions which then inspire disgusting actions by ultra-nationalist Palestinians, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and so on.

So it's like a conspiracy of "warniks" you might say, a conspiracy of right-wingers -- both Palestinian and Israeli -- who act in such ways as to make it impossible to get peace.

Now why are they doing that? Are they just abysmally stupid? I think they're abysmally stupid in the long run, in that each one thinks they're going to win something out of this. Sharon thinks that if there can be provoked more and more and more violence that Israel will win full control over the West Bank, that the Palestinians will end up in a kind of civil war between themselves and end up totally exhausted, demoralized, many of them leaving, the leadership probably leaving, many of them killed by each other or by Israeli action. And then Israel can establish what Sharon has wanted for 30 years, full control over the West Bank.

Now what does Hamas think it's going to get out of stirring more and more war and preventing a peace settlement? Hamas in the long run wants the mirror image of what Sharon wants. Hamas in the long run wants the shattering of the state of Israel and they think in the long run if this can be kept up, the Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin will become more and more radicalized and alienated from the state of Israel and that Muslims and Arabs elsewhere will finally, finally rise up.

Now, I think both those predictions are crazy; the result is much more likely to be an incredible bloodbath including, very possibly sometime down the line, a nuclear bloodbath in the Middle East. But I think each of those right-wing groups thinks it can win what it still fantasizes as total victory -- "the shattering of the Palestinian people," "the shattering of Israel." They still think can win if they prevent a peace settlement.

Between The Lines: Rabbi Waskow, when it comes to Ariel Sharon and his government, do you think he as the head of state of Israel is capable of making peace with the Palestinians?

Rabbi Arthur Waskow: His whole life history suggests not. His whole life history suggests that he has taken every opportunity he's had to attack, to roll back, to suppress the possibility of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, at peace with Israel on the West Bank. (In the past) he would say the Palestinians should all move to Jordan and they should overthrow King Hussein and that should be the Palestinian state, but leave the West Bank for Israel. He led the invasion of Lebanon in 1980, when there were the first major signs of a kind of non-violent version of the Intifada; what later became the Intifada was beginning to happen in the West Bank and Gaza. He wanted to shatter the infrastructure of Palestinian nationalism, which he thought he could do by attacking the PLO's strongholds in southern Lebanon. That was the basic reason for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, that he was trying to "do-in" the Palestinian structure before it could become, even non-violently, an effective resistance.

I mean it's not just Lebanon, it's not just the Sabra and Shatila massacres, but his whole history. I do not think there is any reason to expect that he would move in a decent direction.

Contact the Shalom Center at (215) 844-8494 or visit their Web site at

See related links and listen to an excerpt of this interview in a RealAudio segment or in MP3 on our Web site at:

for the week ending 12/21/01.


Scott Harris is the executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines, for the week ending Dec. 21, 2001.

To subscribe to Between The Lines Q&A, e-mail

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