extensive discussion has already taken place in Israel regarding the
cost-benefit ratio of Yassin's assassination. But the question of justice
has hardly been raised.
According to international law, the execution of any person in an occupied
territory is not allowed. The Geneva convention, born out of the horrifying
experience of the second World War, sets limitations on the use of force
even in times of war. The convention distinguishes between war and a state
of occupation. Its fundamentals are, first, that occupied people are
"protected", and that the occupier is responsible for their safety. Second,
it determines that the occupied people have the right to fight for their
liberation. International conventions are one of the means people have
developed for self-preservation. Without them, there is a danger that the
human race would annihilate itself - first the strong would wipe out the
weak, and then each other.
During its 37 years of occupation, Israel has already violated every article
of the Geneva convention. But what it did now is unprecedented. As Robert
Fisk stated it in the British Independent, "for years, there has been an
unwritten rule in the cruel war of government-versus-guerrilla. You can kill
the men on the street, the bomb makers and gunmen. But the leadership on
both sides - government ministers, spiritual leaders were allowed to
survive." Even when the leader advocates violence and terror, the norm has
been that he may be imprisoned, but not killed.
Ahmed Yassin viewed himself as struggling against the occupation. As
reported in Yediot Aharonot, his demand was a full withdrawal of the
Israeli army from the occupied territories, back to the borders of 1967. In
1993, Hamas agreed to the principles of the Oslo accords, but did not
believe that Rabin would translate these principles into action, and urged
the Palestinian people to remember that the occupation was not yet over.
During the iron-fist period of Barak and Sharon, Yassin proposed a long term
'hudna' (cease fire), but he also believed that Israel would never end the
occupation of its own will. "The enemy understands only the language of
war, bombs and explosives" - he preached to his followers, and declared that
"every Israeli is a target for us".
The Geneva convention recognizes the right of the occupied people to carry
out armed struggle against the occupying army, but not to use terror against
civilians. Terror has no moral justification, and is not defended by
international law. But it is necessary that we Israelis examine ourselves
in this regard as well. What other way do we leave open for the Palestinian
people to struggle for their liberation? Along the route of the wall in the
West Bank, a new form of popular resistance has been formed in the last few
months. Palestinian farmers whose land is being robbed sit on the ground in
front of the bulldozers, accompanied by the Israeli opponents of the wall -
the veterans of the Mas'ha camp. What could be more non-violent than this?
But the Israeli army shoots at sitting demonstrators, like in Tiananmen
The Israeli army blocks all options of non-violent resistance from the
Palestinians. With the arrogant elimination of a leader and a symbol, as
he was leaving a mosque, the army knowingly created a new wave of violence
and terror. It is hard not to get the impression that terror is convenient
for Sharon and the army. It enables them to convince the world that the
Geneva protections do not apply to the Palestinians, because they have
terrorists in their midst, and that, therefore, it is permitted to do
anything to them.
Since September 11th, as part of its “war against terror,” the
U.S. has been pushing to destroy all defenses provided by International law.
But even the U.S. has not yet dared to publicly execute a
spiritual-religious leader (of, for example, the Taliban in Afghanistan).
Now Israel has determined, with the U.S. blessing, that even this is
permitted. Under the military rule, Israel has become a leading force in
the destruction of the very protections that humankind has established, out
of World War Two, for its own preservation, protections that we too may need
one day, as history has already shown us.
Tanya Reinhart is
Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. She is author of
Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948 (Seven Stories
Press, 2002), one of the most important books on the Israel-Palestinian
conflict to date. Visit her website:
article appeared in Yediot Aharonot, March 30, 2004, translated from Hebrew
by Netta Van Vliet.
Behind Israel's Assassination of Yassin? by Neve Gordon
A Malignant Tumor onto the World: Israel and Its Self-Defeating Actions
Who Won World War II? By Ran HaCohen
Quiet On No Front by Salik Farooqi
Sharon's One Way Track by Ahmed Bouzid
Murder Plain and Simple by Reuven Kaminer
Israelis Promulgate Extrajudicial Murder and the US Looks On by Sherri
Other Articles by Tanya Reinhart
"Disengagement": A Pacifier for the Majority
The Complex Art of Simulation
Guaranteed Failure of the Road Map
The Lilliputians Are No Longer Tiny People
Palestinians Don't Even Have Weather
Academic Boycott: In Support of Paris VI
A Vote for Mitzna is a Vote for Sharon
The Penal Colonies
The Propaganda Battle