Wednesday, March 24, 2004

"... And answer came there none ..."

Isn’t Crooked Timber amazing? Aren’t we all fortunate to live in an era when such mighty intellectual machinery can be set in motion to tackle what is, quite obviously, by far the single most important and interesting question about the death of the Hamas Godfather Ahmed Yassin? And what might that question be? It's this: is “removal” quite the mot juste for the manner of Yassin's going, or is “assassination” the “correct” word because - er, well, because one of the writers at Crooked Timber asserts that it is? Come now: how can anyone fail to be deeply impressed by such sophistication (whether that's to be understood in its 18th-century sense or in its 21st-century sense being, of course, another matter)? How can any of the rest of us bear to go on blogging at all when the greatest minds of the blogosphere have already said all that there is to say?

Yet, somehow, we find ourselves carrying on anyway ... So do the bloggers at the often very interesting Oxblog. One of their number, David Adesnik, prefers, quite unaccountably, to concentrate on the far from purely verbal issues arising from Yassin’s achievement of martyrdom (which, after all, is what he sought, so why aren’t his followers happier for him?):

“... why would Yassin’s death make Israel any less safe? ... when did the P[alestinian] A[uthority] ever accomplish much in terms of controlling Hamas? And isn’t Hamas already trying its hardest to kill Israeli civilians? ... In the short term, there is no question that Israel will be less secure. The killing of Yassin was a direct challenge to Hamas (and Fatah) to show that they are not impotent in the face of Israeli violence. Unsurprisingly, Israelis have chosen to stay home rather than risk becoming the victims of the next terrorist strike. Yet while 81 per cent of Israelis believe that the death of Yassin will lead to more attacks against Israel, 60 per cent of them support it nonetheless. After all, what is the difference if the bombers detonate themselves this week in honour of Yassin, rather than next week in honour of someone else? And there will be a someone else. Hardline statements by Israeli officials suggest that more targeted killings are in the works. For its part, Hamas has chosen two of its hardliners to replace Yassin. (But how moderate are its softliners anyway?) Frankly, I wish there were an upbeat note on which to conclude ...”

Indeed. “Upbeat” wasn’t quite what we felt, either, when we learned from today’s Guardian that Ahmed Qureia, the Palestinian Prime Minister, attended “a memorial rally for Sheikh Yassin in a Gaza City stadium” and called his killing (or removal, or assassination - whatever) an “ugly crime committed by the government of murderers”. What was all that about the Palestinian Authority being committed to dissociating itself from Islamofascism and to making peace with Israel, on the basis of a “two-state solution” rather than the “one-state solution” that Hamas, not surprisingly, favours? (Come to that, how can anyone who is not committed to Hamas’s covenant be so naive, or so callous, as to expect the “one-state” solution to lead to anything but chaos and bloodshed, probably far outstripping what has already been suffered by both Israelis and Palestinians?)

Meanwhile, what of the “moderate” Palestinians, who undoubtedly do exist, whatever the more fanatical supporters of Ariel Sharon may claim? Are they all so intimidated by the gangsters that they no longer even try to speak out? Or is it that the western media don’t bother to interview them any more? Or could it just be that they no longer see any point in speaking out anyway?

No, we can’t answer any of these questions either.

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