Good Terrorists?

In the aftermath of Israel’s assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, many people have made reference to Hamas’ “extensive social network” and all the wonderful things it does for the Palestinian people. Manish over at Damn Foreigner (whose civilized style and thoughtful viewpoints I greatly respect) notes:

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 90% of Hamas’ approximately $70 million budget goes to “an extensive social services network, which includes schools, orphanages, mosques, health care clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues.” Hamas has two divisions, a political and a militant. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was the head of the political division. He definitely had blood on his hands, there is no doubt, but he had little involvement in planning terrorist strikes. His charitable work made him extremely popular in the Occupied Territories. In fact, the US and other countries didn’t put Hamas on terrorist organization lists until after Sept. 11.

Maybe I’m just crazy, but I see this as a non-sequitur. Even if Hamas gave billions to charity and cured cancer, it wouldn’t counteract the violent deaths of innocent civilian women and children specifically targeted by their terrorist operatives.

In fact, the social network can be viewed as nothing but a way of building political support for their terrorist activities. Quite a brilliant idea, really. Provide food and medical care to Palestinians with one hand while blowing up people with the other.

Does it really matter how directly involved Yassin was in planning terrorist attacks? I think not. He was the longstanding leader of an organization whose primary mission is the obliteration of Israel. They specifically rule out any kind of peace, negotiation, discussion, or compromise. They want one thing: to see as many dead Israelis as possible.

Israel was as justified in removing Yassin as the United States will be in getting bin Laden.

  4 comments for “Good Terrorists?

  1. March 25, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    I’m not in any way trying to address whether Israel was “justified” or not in killing Yashin. If someone murders a member of my family, I could be justified in killing them, but that’s not the way that things are done and I myself would be charged with murder.

    The question I’m asking is basically was it a good idea. And all-in-all, I would say no. Israel has to live beside the Palestinians for a very long time and killing someone who is beloved by them (particularly for the charity work that he does), doesn’t help…particularly, when one considers that Hamas terrorist capability hasn’t been reduced by this killing. Commanders who have specific knowledge and capabilities are another matter.

    It should also be noted that Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood before it, were only a social services agency for a long time. Hamas only developed a militant wing within the last 10 years or so. Also, in spite of rhetoric, Yassin was willing to participate in elections if Israel withdrew (as they are planning on doing) and stop rocket attacks. He has been described as a “moderate” or “pragmatist”, while his replacement is more of a radical.

  2. March 25, 2004 at 5:00 pm

    Ron..I don’t have a problem with Israel trying to disrupt attacks, but my understanding is that much of what they do in the occupied territories is retaliation. Tearing down the homes of the families of suicide bombers only creates further resentment and doesn’t appear to stop people from becoming suicide bombers. We never tore down the home of Tim McVeigh’s father. And as noted, killing Yassin doesn’t prevent any attacks, it only provokes them.

    My point with the social services is that Hamas is popular in the occupied territories due to them. The US government (in the form of the CIA) probably does some pretty nasty things too that we aren’t really aware of. That doesn’t in and of itself make America bad inspite of the good that America does do.

    As to being pledged to Israel’s demise, I think much of it is rhetoric. As noted, Yassin was willing to tone down the attacks considerably as well as participate in elections. As with Hizbollah, I’m sure their influence will wane when Israel pulls out of the occupied territories. Some of the hardliners will want to see Israel’s demise, but they still have to find recruits which will be more difficult to find if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories. Will there ever be complete peace between Israel and Palestine? I doubt it, but there can be relative peace.

  3. Ron
    March 26, 2004 at 12:17 pm

    Tearing down the homes of the families of suicide bombers might fall under the category of “trying to disrupt attacks”. I believe the Israeli’s logic is this: the suicide bombers are not swayed by the possibility of harm to themselves — after all, they plan on dying anyway — so what can be done to encourage potential suicide bombers not to attack Israelis? Perhaps the knowledge that their action will result in the loss of the family home would dissuade them.

    I’m not saying this is right or that it works, but it might explain why the Israelis tear down those homes while we never tore down McVeigh’s father’s house. Since we can’t really prove a negative, there’s no way to tell how many suicide attacks this strategy has prevented.

    Some Arab groups do the same thing, but in reverse. They encourage the suicide bombers by contributing substantial money to their families.

    You’re right about the CIA. They probably do some nasty things that we are not aware of. However, I’m not sure it extends to the level of Hamas and other groups, which is to say a systematic campaign to randomly blow up innocent women and children.

    I would also agree that the CIA’s activities don’t make America bad; but we endeur a lot of hatred and abuse because of it. It’s the price we pay. But we know that and we make our judgement about whether it’s worthwhile and act accordingly.

    Hamas seems to want it both ways. They want to be able to kill women and childred without consequence because they provide social services.

    Regarding the pledge to Israel’s demise being mostly rhetoric, that’s something I had not considered. If it is largely rhetorical, then they are doing their cause a huge disservice with it.

    Israel is going to believe a line like that and take it extremely seriously. The last time Israelis heard political leaders pledge themselves to exterminate the Jews… well, we all know what happened. Hamas and other groups don’t have the ability to do it, of course, but remember we live in a much more dangerous world. What happens if suicide bombers get their hands on “backpack” nuclear or chemical weapons?

    Regarding peace between Israel and Palestine, I think it actually will be achieved one day. It was achieved between Israel and Egypt, and after the wars they fought, who would have expected it?

  4. Ron
    March 25, 2004 at 1:51 pm

    Israel doesn’t kill terrorists solely as a matter of revenge; it’s also aimed at disrupting upcoming attacks. Perhaps it would be more analogous to your killing someone who was in the process of attacking your family. If you kill them when they stop to reload, it’s still self-defense.

    Hamas’ past good works are worth noting, but I still don’t feel they counter the terrorism. In fact, to me it’s the other way around. They have wiped out years of social service goodwill that even the Israeli people would probably respect by embarking on a decade-long reign of terror.

    Your point about it not being a good idea might be completely valid. I don’t know what Israel’s strategy is, but I can only assume that they targeted him for some reason. The article you linked (which didn’t make it into your comment–I have MT set to strip out HTML from comments, but the link is available here: ) points out that Yassin was the founder, key idealogue, and chief strategist. The article also says that “All top Hamas leaders are pledged to Israel’s destruction”. I would assume that included Yassin.

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