Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 24, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Threat on U.S. Sparks Concern (Fox News/New York Post)
    The Hamas terror group Monday blamed the U.S. for Israel's killing of Sheikh Yassin and called on Muslims around the world to attack America.
    Hamas issued an ominous statement claiming the U.S. gave its "consent" to Yassin's killing and saying the "terrorist American administration...must take responsibility for this crime."
    "Anytime threats are made against the U.S., we take them seriously," an American intelligence responded.

Rantisi Named Leader of Hamas in Gaza (AP/Miami Herald)
    Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a hard-liner who rejects all compromise with Israel, was chosen Tuesday as the chief of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
    Khaled Mashaal, a Hamas operative based in Syria, remains the leader of the group's political bureau, the main decision-making body.
    Rantisi said Hamas would press for more attacks against Israel. Hamas is pledged to Israel's destruction.

    See also Hamas Faces Future Without Yassin - Martin Asser (BBC)
    Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at St. Andrews University, said Sheikh Yassin "was the only person who was able to unify the different strands of Hamas, in the West Bank and Gaza, and abroad, and there is no obvious person who can fill his shoes."
    "Israel has long experience in how to deal with Hamas. It knows how to counterbalance the various factions and where to apply pressure - after all it has the addresses of every single Hamas leader, and it knows where to find them," he says.
    "Every time I met Yassin and other senior Hamas figures, they were consistent about one thing. They will create a Palestinian state by 2022 or 2023, with demography and Islamic revolution in Jordan and so on - everything else for Hamas is just tactical maneuvering," he said.

Ethnic Cleansing, Again - Nicholas D. Kristof (New York Times)
    The most vicious ethnic cleansing you've never heard of is unfolding - a campaign of murder, rape, and pillage by Sudan's Arab rulers that has forced 700,000 black African Sudanese to flee their villages.
    Western and African countries need to intervene urgently. Sudan's leaders should not be able to get away with mass murder.
    Arab raiders, the Janjaweed, are killing or driving out blacks in the Darfur region near Chad.
    "They came at 4 a.m. on horseback, on camels, in vehicles, with two helicopters overhead," recalled Idris Abu Moussa, a 26-year-old Sudanese farmer. "They killed 50 people in my village."
    "They took the cattle and horses, killed the men, raped the women, and then they burned the village," said Abubakr Ahmed Abdallah, a 60-year-old refugee who escaped to Chad.

Key Links

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Back Issues

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush Backs Israel on Self-Defense
    Asked about the killing of Sheik Yassin, President Bush Tuesday defended Israel's "right to defend herself from terror." The U.S. conducted its own targeted killing of a senior al-Qaeda operative in Yemen in November 2002. The U.S. blocked an effort by the Palestinians and Algeria to win adoption of a formal UN Security Council resolution or statement condemning Israel. John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the Arab sponsors of the UN statement refused to "refer to terrorism conducted by Hamas" in the text. Israel's ambassador, Dan Gillerman, said it was an "outrage" that the body has routinely remained silent in the face of Hamas terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, but now it was convening to "come to the defense of...a godfather of terrorism." (Washington Post)
        See also below Commentary: Israel Targets Hamas Leader
    Michael Gove (London Times); Editorial (Detroit News); Uri Dromi (International Herald Tribune); Editorial (Sun-UK); Editorial (New York Post); Editorial (Providence Journal); Editorial (National Post-Canada); Editorial (The Australian); Efraim Halevy (Access/Middle East)
  • Most U.S. Jewish Groups Back Killing of Hamas Leader - Rachel Pomerance
    Most Jewish groups backed Israel's killing of Hamas' founder and leader. "There is more consensus today because of the nature of the issues we're dealing with" - matters of Israeli security, not the details of peace plans, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which issued a news release detailing Yassin's commitment to the destruction of Israel and Hamas' record of suicide bombings against Israelis. (JTA)
        See also U.S. Jewish Leaders Slam Hamas Media Whitewash - Melissa Radler
    "The representations in the media of this guy as a spiritual leader is beyond comprehension," said Malcolm Hoenlein. "This was a preacher of death who was responsible, by the way, for the murder of 38 Americans and hundreds of Israelis." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Sees Yassin Hit as Fruition of Gaza Intelligence Network
    Intelligence experts praised the operation as a great military success. "There is a very, very short time during which we had him in our sights and the decision could be made to strike," a senior military source said. "We were almost there on a few occasions in the past, but Monday the circumstances were good," the source said. "Yassin was a very slippery target because he relied constantly on Israeli reluctance to cause heavy collateral damage. He hid in crowds all the time and it took a while to find this chink in his armor," said former military intelligence officer Eran Lerman. (AFP)
  • Gains by Kin in Iraq Inflame Kurds' Anger at Syria
    The larger-than-life statue of the late president, Hafez al-Assad, that towers over a traffic circle in Qamishliye, Syria, stands hidden beneath a tarpaulin, which residents say hides the fact that antigovernment protesters knocked off its head. Kurdish Syrians, 2 million of Syria's 17 million people, say that watching rights for Kurds being enshrined in a new constitution next door in Iraq finally pushed them to take to the streets to demand greater recognition. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mofaz: Israel Will Target Other Hamas Leaders - Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Uri Ash
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday, "If we will continue, in a determined way, with our strikes against Hamas and other terror groups, with the means I outlined, including action against those leaders, we will bring more security to Israeli citizens." The defense chiefs decided Monday to step up targeted attacks, and have decided to go after the entire leadership without waiting for another attack by Hamas, security sources said Tuesday.
        Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Tuesday that every Palestinian terror leader now knows that "there is no immunity.... Everyone is in our sights." IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday that Arafat and Hizballah chief Nasrallah's responses to Yassin's death showed that "they understand that their turn is drawing near." Director of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi said he does not believe that the attack on Yassin will lead to a significant rise in terror attacks, Army Radio reported Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • IAF Foils Katyusha Attack on Northern Border - Yossi Mizrahi
    IAF helicopter gunships Tuesday attacked a site in southern Lebanon where terrorists were preparing to launch Katyusha rockets against northern Israel. The rockets were destroyed shortly before they were due to be launched and the two Palestinian terrorists preparing the attack were killed. (
  • Generals: We're Whipping Terror - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Judea and Samaria commander Brig.-Gen. Gadi Eisencott said that IDF actions had reduced terrorists' capability to carry out attacks. The 18 successful suicide attacks in 2003 were but a fraction of 418 planned suicide attacks. Head of Central Command Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky noted that terrorist cells today are mostly "mixtures" of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, PFLP, and Fatah-Tanzim supporters. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Israel Targets Hamas Leader

  • Shed No Tears Over the Killing of the Sheikh of Hate - Michael Gove
    On May 27, 1942, the British government pulled off one of its most daring wartime coups in the heart of Nazi-occupied Europe. A team of four agents trained by MI6 succeeded in assassinating Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia whose brutal rule had earned him the title, "the Butcher of Prague." Like Heydrich, Sheikh Yassin was the intellectual organizer of a mass murder campaign directed against Jewish civilians. Hamas, the organization he set up in 1988, has been responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths.
        BBC correspondent Zubeida Malik described Sheikh Yassin as "polite, charming and witty, a deeply religious man." Some people in the BBC may consider it witty to call for the elimination of the Jewish people from their homeland. Others might consider it the charming hallmark of a deeply religious man to recruit, incite, and inspire young men to kill civilians. I may risk putting myself out on a limb in the media community saying this, but I'm afraid I find the ambition to wipe Israel off the map repellent, the worship of death indefensible, and efforts made to halt Hamas's uncompromising campaign of terror completely understandable. I can no more mourn Sheikh Yassin's death, in all conscience, than a Briton could have shed an honest tear for Reinhard Heydrich.
        What would have been more likely to hearten Heydrich's comrades in arms at his funeral in June 1942? International condemnation of reckless British action and a global demand that Winston Churchill resume talks to tackle Germany's longstanding grievances? Or an implacable commitment to fight democracy's enemies until those bent on genocide laid down their arms? (London Times, 23 Mar 04)
  • Hamas Sheik Earned His Violent Death - Editorial
    Israel scored a victory in the global war on terrorism Monday by finally dispatching Sheik Ahmed Yassin. The death of the cleric, one of the most deadly men in the world, brings a welcome end to a career built entirely on perfecting the use of terror to influence the political process. He was the criminal mastermind behind Hamas, recruiting pitifully gullible Palestinians to strap on suicide bombs and aiming them at innocent Israeli civilians. He was responsible for picking the places where the bombs went off, and frequently his targets were selected to intentionally kill and maim Jewish children.
        This man was as evil as they come, a spiritual brother of Osama bin Laden. He worked to subvert every attempt to bring peace to the region and had openly committed himself to the destruction of the Jewish state. Yassin was not a political leader; he headed a terrorist organization. There is no distinction between what Hamas does in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and what al-Qaeda did in New York on September 11 and is suspected of doing in Madrid earlier this month. Yassin got exactly what was coming to him. Israel owes no apologies for his death. (Detroit News)
  • How Else is Israel Meant to Deal with Terror? - Uri Dromi
    I wouldn't take any lectures from hypocritical Europeans on how to deal with terror. Especially not from the French, who, when faced with the Algerian terror in the 1950s, resorted to wide-spread torture, or from the British, who tried to calm down the Middle East by bombing villages and by hanging people right and left. I would listen to Brigadier Sir Robert Thompson, the legendary expert on counterinsurgency, whose wise advice was to never waste time on chasing just the guerrillas, but rather to target the more important figures: the political instigators, because they are the root of all evil.
        What was Israel supposed to do when a man was sitting in Gaza and masterminding the killing of its civilians? Appeal to the High Court of Justice in the Hague and wait until a Dutch policeman knocks on Yassin's door and serves him an arrest warrant? Letting Yassin carry on with his terrorist leadership would have meant the death of many innocent Israelis in suicide attacks, followed by the death of many Palestinians in Israel's subsequent reprisals. The writer is the director of international outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Proper Target - Editorial
    Being "spiritual leader" of Hamas is not like being the Archbishop of Canterbury. Ahmed Yassin was a Godfather of Terror, the man who founded the Palestinian killing machine and the inspiration for more than 50 suicide bomb attacks on Israel. Critics of Israel say that country has aborted the peace process. They're wrong. Over the years Palestinian bombers have repeatedly blasted peace hopes to smithereens - taking hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women, and children with them. Why did Foreign Secretary Jack Straw go weak at the knees over Yassin's death? He said Israel's action was "very unlikely to achieve its objectives." Wrong: it has achieved its objective because one more terrorist mastermind is dead. (Sun-UK)
  • Death of a Terror Kingpin - Editorial
    Sheikh Yassin was up to his eyeballs in blood. It's hard to see how his removal from the equation is anything but a step forward for peace in the Middle East, at least in the long term. And a step forward for the rest of the world, as it will serve to remind would-be terrorists that some of their enemies fight back. Prime Minister Sharon had little choice but to take the action he took. (New York Post)
  • Spare Us the Lecture - Editorial
    Sheikh Yassin's expressed mission was to destroy Israel and replace it with a fascist Islamic state - a paradise for those who enjoy stoning people for adultery, where women are discouraged from reading or writing, where there are few political or social liberties, and where the media are largely a propaganda machine, rife with exhortations to kill the Jews. Welcome to the Dark Ages. When one side's aim is the destruction of an entire state, and the other side has the effrontery to try to defend itself, mayhem is inevitable, but appeasement makes matters worse. (Providence Journal)
  • To Kill a Terrorist - Editorial
    No one need shed a tear for the sheikh. No major Hamas bombing or missile attack on Israel was carried out without his personal approval. And there have been many. Sheikh Yassin was an enemy combatant, a man who has marked himself as fair military game through his decision to dispatch dozens of killers into Israel. What is "excessive" about dispatching an arch-terrorist along with three aides and bodyguards? No one outside Yassin's entourage was killed. To us, this sounds surgical rather than "disproportionate." Few terrorists deserved "martyrdom" more than Yassin. In the long run, his death will make the Middle East a safer place. (National Post-Canada)
  • Israel Acts to End a Road Block to Peace - Editorial
    While there is little chance that the killing of Yassin will end the terror, the brutal reality is that Israel has nothing to lose. His death will demonstrate Israel is not an inert target and that it will do more than try to catch the suicide bombers before they strike. Despite the denunciations of Israel's action, practical Palestinian politicians who know the Jewish state cannot be destroyed will not regret the death of Sheikh Yassin. His death is one small step along the path away from perpetual war. (The Australian)
  • The Targeting of Yassin and the Threat of Terror - Efraim Halevy
    Sheikh Yassin was directly involved in operational activity in the terrorist field against Israel. He was directly involved in briefing certain people who then went out and carried out terrorist acts. The removal of Yassin removes from the scene a key figure in the field of terrorism. It's the removal of a very, very extreme leader...who to some extent set the tone - and a very bad tone - for the region as a whole. The writer is former head of the Israeli Mossad. (Access/Middle East)
  • Observations:

    Targeting Terrorists - Legal Aspects (Israel Foreign Ministry)

    • The targeted killing of terrorists must be regarded as an exceptional measure, appropriate only in extraordinary circumstances. However, in cases in which there is an imminent and genuine threat, and in which there is no practical possibility of preventing such attacks by other means, it is permissible under international law.
    • No state is required by international law to remain passive in the face of armed attacks. The right of self-defense is a cardinal principle of customary international law, which also finds expression in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
    • States are entitled to take proportionate action in defend their citizens from an imminent armed attack. Over the past three years, terrorists operating from within Palestinian areas have murdered 945 men, women and children and maimed thousands.
    • The state exercising the right to self-defense must weigh carefully any potential civilian casualties and limit its action to the minimum necessary to bring the security threat to an end.
    • The use of such phrases as "assassination" and "extra-judicial killing" is demagogic and inappropriate. "Assassination" describes the murder of a prominent person or public official for political ends. The targeting of terrorists focuses on the role of the individual in the murder of innocent civilians and has as its goal not political motives but the saving of life.
    • "Extra-judicial killing" implies that an alternative legal recourse is available and has been deliberately ignored. On the rare occasions that Israel targets terrorists, it is precisely because no legal recourse is available. As such, the policy is no more extra-judicial than any individual using force to defend themselves from attack.

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