Posted: 29 March 04 | Last modified: 2 April 04
Hamas was founded in 1987 and wrote its charter in 1988. Also in 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said that Israel had a right to exist. The Hamas charter says that they have brotherly respect for the PLO, but that "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
Recently, the Israeli government killed Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas. Hamas and Yassin routinely use violence to try to reach their desire of destroying Israel. The Israeli government thinks that killing this one man will make Israeli citizens safer.
Hamas and Yassin explicitly wanted to kill Israeli citizens and soldiers. Yassin encouraged suicide attacks, and might have planned them. The Israeli government feels that it should be able to defend itself with violence. This has some validity. As examples, violence was necessary to evict Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait; and, police officers must often use violence to arrest criminals.
But, this killing doesn't really fit the above examples. Yassin was not participating in a government and Israel did not try to arrest him.
When trying to decide if Israel should have killed Yassin, one has to know if Palestine is a state. If Palestine is a state, then Israel violated the borders of Palestine to kill a Palestinian citizen. This is usually a bad idea. Besides killing someone without a trial (an extra-judicial killing), the Israeli government broke basic international law by invading another country.
Sheik Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas in 1987. Israel convicted him of killing two Israeli soldiers in 1989 and sentenced him to life in prison. After he was released in 1997 in a prisoner exchange, he resumed his leadership role of Hamas.
However, Israel does not consider Palestine a state. The government has said that it will eventually recognize a Palestinian state, but that has not happened yet. Sadly, that also does not justify the killing. If Palestine is not an official state, then Israel is the official government of the area where Yassin was killed. Imagine the American government using helicopter gunships to kill Ted Bundy. No matter what one thinks of Ted Bundy's actions, we still want our government to arrest criminals, not assassinate them.
Remember that Israel arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced Yassin in 1989. He was in an Israeli prison for eight years. If he was such a menace, why did they let him out of his life sentence? Furthermore, why didn't they arrest him again?
If Palestine is a sovereign state that refused Israel's requests to arrest Yassin and hand him over for trial, then maybe his killing is justified. However, Israel does not recognize or treat Palestine as a state, so they cannot use this as their logic.
Does it matter that killing Yassin may not have been the best choice? In other words, must we require that all leaders and governments be perfect? No, unfortunately government leaders are rarely the brightest citizens. Leaders in a democratic society are typically startling mediocre in their ability to find the best course of action. So, was killing Yassin a good option even if it wasn't the best option?
No, even Israel doesn't think that killing Yassin will reduce the violence against Israeli citizens. They are increasing security, because they expect violence to escalate. If Yassin was singularly responsible for organizing attacks against Israel, then attacks could not escalate after they killed him.
Another problem with this situation is that the reasons for the violence are not obvious. Both sides use violence because they do not trust the other side enough to use peaceful tactics. But, what are they really fighting over? Are they fighting only because they don't trust each other? Doesn't that seem a little silly? Do you ever punch people in the face only because you don't trust them? (I hope not.)
|2003||United States||Israel||West Bank|
|People in poverty||12.7%||18%||60%|
The real reason for the violence is poverty; the average Palestinian living in the West Bank lives like a dog compared to the average Israeli living just 60 kilometers away.
Palestinians are angry at their poverty. In the US, we have electricity and water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the West Bank, both are scarce. The West Bank is the size of Delaware, but most Palestinians are not allowed to leave because all of the borders with Israel and Jordan are heavily guarded. Since they can't leave, trade is severely restricted, which leads to massive unemployment. It is extremely difficult to grow food in this area of the desert, and there is no place to fish.
Because of these conditions, international aid contributes more to the economy than the entire gross domestic product.
So, these poor and hungry people look across the border and see the wealth of Israel. They hear the stories from their grandparents about how they Palestinians were evicted from their homes when Israel formed after World War II.
Some Palestinians think that violence will help to change this situation. They think that they can kill enough people to get food, money, and security. For some, this is a natural thought, but it is wrong. I am totally against the use of violence (and terrorism) to help the Palestinians. There are non-violent effective means to change their situation. Besides obvious and well-known examples like Gandhi, we can look to the examples of The Philippines, South Africa, and the Berlin Wall.
Young, single men perform most of the suicide attacks. They have no money, no rights, and no future. They do not see any way to change the system besides violence.
The fastest and easiest way to reduce the violence is to reduce the number of people that are willing to blow themselves up. The current strategy of the Israeli government is to kill the people that help make the bombs and prevent people from crossing into Israel. Even if it is possible to do this, the suicide bombings might decrease, but the violence will not stop. The basic reasons for the violence will still exist, so it will take on a different form.
Since the Israeli government cannot kill all of the men, maybe they should try to get them all married. Married Palestinians very rarely blow themselves up. I can't think of too many strategies a government can use to make everyone get married.
The best strategy is to create economic growth in the occupied territories. If all of the young, single men in the West Bank had jobs, money, and a future, then why would they want to blow themselves up? Maybe they would still hate Israel, but they would want someone else to do the dirty work.
Source: CIA World Factbook archives.
There are many ways for the Israeli government to promote economic growth. I don't want to debate which ideas are the best. The main point I would like to make is that an economic strategy is vastly superior to a military strategy, because it solves the root cause of the violence - poverty.
Killing Yassin will not help Israel. Unless the Israeli government manages to kill all of the Palestinians, violence will not solve their problems. Compassion, equality, and justice are the only paths out of this hell.
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