FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Strategic Motives

by NEVE GORDON

 

Jerusalem.

A few hours after the Israeli military assassinated Hamas’s spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, I entered the classroom in order to teach my politics of human rights course. Everyone had already heard about the extra-judicial execution, so I asked my students whether they felt safer. The response was unanimous: they all felt more vulnerable.

A day later, Ephraim Halevy, former director of Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, stated on Israeli television that in the near future the terrorist threat would certainly increase. It would take a while, he argued, before the situation would return to the level it had been prior to the assassination and that in the long run the threat was unlikely to decrease as a result of the execution.

Considering that Yassin’s assassination will exacerbate the violence in the region and thus further endanger Israeli citizens, one might ask why the government authorized the operation.

Israeli commentator Oded Granot seems to have an answer.

A day following the assassination, he noted that the Hamas and Fatah (the largest party within the Palestinian Authority) were on the verge of reaching a cooperation agreement regarding the distribution of authority in the Gaza Strip. The two major political factions in the Strip wanted to ensure that there would be no internal strife and that joint control would be assumed over the region if Prime Minister Sharon went ahead with his plan to dismantle the Jewish settlements and withdraw Israel’s troops. Israeli officials, Granot added, feared that if such an agreement was signed then the Bush Administration would veto all Hamas assassinations. Israel consequently decided not to take any chances and killed Yassin.

Even if Granot is right, the question regarding the Israeli government’s objective still stands.

One explanation is based on the assumption that Sharon actually intends to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and that he killed Yassin in order to advance this end. This view is informed by three major hypotheses.

First, “Sharon does not want to replicate his predecessor’s mistake.” Unlike Israel’s rapid withdrawal from southern Lebanon, which many conceived as an act of defeat and cowardice, Sharon wants to create the impression that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza is in no way a result of pressure applied by the Hamas. Accordingly, the assassination is both a symbolic act and an attempt to weaken Hamas’s infrastructure. One may accordingly expect that in the coming months the Israeli military will accelerate its operations in the Gaza Strip.

Second, Sharon hopes that Yassin’s assassination will help him garner support within his own Likud party, both because his popularity is waning and because many of allies are against any withdrawal from Gaza. The execution of the Hamas leader, whose group is responsible for hundreds of Israeli deaths, demonstrates to Sharon’s political partners that he is still “attuned to Israel’s security needs and will not hesitate to use all the means necessary to ensure it.” The new Sharon is still the old Sharon.

Finally, according to this explanation the attack’s objective was to create chaos in the Gaza Strip so that following the withdrawal internal strife between the Palestinian factions would erupt.

Those who think that Sharon authorized Yassin’s assassination in order to abandon his withdrawal proposal also employ this last point. Sharon, according to this explanation, hopes to use the chaos he has engendered and the violent reaction that will surely follow as a pretence for keeping Israeli troops and settlements in the Strip.

While only the future will tell which explanation is more accurate, Yassin’s assassination has a number of direct effects.

It will certainly lead to a series of bloody attacks against targets within Israel and perhaps even abroad. While the Hamas’s ability to strike against Israelis has in no way been jeopardized, the perpetrators’ will to carry out attacks is surely much greater than it was before the execution.

In addition, the assassination has widely broadened the frontiers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by accentuating its religious dimension. Muslims from Jakarta to Cairo have vowed to avenge the cleric’s death.

While these two effects have been mentioned in the media, commentators have ignored that the Israeli attack will likely deal a harsh blow to the recent emergence of a Palestinian non-violent resistance movement. The three-and-a-half year-old Palestinian uprising, known as the Intifada, began changing its character about two months ago: from a struggle based on violent resistance led by relatively small groups of militants to a massive non-violent grassroots movement.

The impetus for this mobilization is the rapid erection of the separation wall. The protesters use the same techniques developed by Ghandi and Martin Luther King, with hundreds of demonstrators standing or lying in front of bulldozers, chanting songs and waving flags. Although the military has been ordered to disperse the protesters, using tear gas, clubs, and, at times, even bullets, every day in the past weeks more and more Palestinians (alongside a few Israelis and internationals) have joined the ranks. For a moment it appeared that the Palestinians had adopted a tenable strategy which could actually threaten Israel’s occupation.

Yassin’s assassination will probably weaken the non-violent resistance and empower those who favor violent retaliation against Israel. Thus, ironically, Israel’s operation has actually strengthened the legitimacy of Hamas’s military wing.

NEVE GORDON teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University and can be reached at neve_gordon@yahoo.com.

A different version of this article appeared in In These Times.

 

Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail