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Jewish World Review April 21, 2004 / 30 Nissan, 5764

Joel Mowbray

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Hamas leadership is not the job for anyone wishing a long life


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Hours after an Israeli missile claimed the life of Hamas head and co-founder Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the terrorist organization released a statement promising "100 unique retaliations" that would shake "the criminal entity."

Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniya told more than 70,000 mourners at Gaza City's largest mosque, "Every time a martyr falls, Hamas is strengthened."

But as the kids on the playground would say, Hamas is just talking trash.

Amid all the hyperbole about "exploding a volcano of revenge" and what not, Hamas refused to name its new leader. They're afraid. "They" is the appropriate term here, not "it" as in the group, because Hamas' leaders all know their deaths are imminent.

Hamas' reticence notwithstanding, media reports were quick to identify the new terrorist leader: Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, Rantisi's second in command and the personal physician to the late Sheikh Yassin, who met the same fate as Rantisi nearly a month ago.

Zahar has to know he's next.

None of this is particularly good news for terrorist masterminds, but it is great news for more than just Israelis. Young Palestinians should feel safer already.

Hamas' hierarchy has been so busy trying to avoid their own deaths that they haven't had nearly as much time to send little Abduls and Kareems to theirs.

Even if you want to take Hamas at its word that it really is devoting itself to "100 unique retaliations" instead of trying to find "100 unique undisclosed locations," the terrorist group was no less determined to kill Jews last month (or last year) than it is right now.

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After the targeted killing of Hamas' "wheelchair-bound" spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin on March 22, threats were aplenty. Hamas promised to "kill hundreds of Zionists on every street, in every city and everywhere in the occupied lands."

Only, it hasn't happened. That's not to say that Hamas won't be successful in killing more Israelis, but it most likely won't be as successful as it has been.

With Hamas leadership preoccupied with staying alive - even Yassin essentially lived underground in the months before his death and Rantisi went to great precautions as well - strategy and attack coordination are bound to suffer.

In fact, that has already happened. The lone suicide bombing since Yassin's death was over the weekend, on the same day Rantisi got to test that 72 virgins theory. Only one Israeli died.

This month free of suicide bombings came not on the heels of a truce or a peace agreement, but after Hamas had pledged to "open the gates of hell."

The reason should be obvious: terrorism is not, and never has been, a grass-roots, bottom-up movement. It is a top-down indoctrination industry that relies on brainwashing and a handful of key organizational leaders.

The young Palestinians who blow themselves up in the name of "martyrdom" (and getting their families huge paydays) do nothing more than detonate. The bombs are built for them, and the date and location of the attacks are chosen by the likes of Yassin and Rantisi - and, of course, Yasser Arafat.

What Israel is attempting is to cut off the head of radical Islamic terrorism. Will this work? It's hard to say what the exact impact will be, but it certainly can't make things any worse, no matter what many so-called experts have predicted.

It is impossible to radicalize further a population that has been brainwashed since childhood not just to hate Jews but to kill them. It starts with the textbooks, if not with "delightful" nursery rhymes, and then teens and adults are fed a daily dose of such swine through the Arafat-controlled Palestinian media.

And lest we forget, Hamas' stated goal is to eliminate the Jewish state. So if its members need the killing of their leaders to stick to their original goal, that can only mean they were slacking off before. Which we all know, sadly, was not the case.

With its leaders marked for death, Hamas might not succeed in getting what it wants. But at least Rantisi did.

Soon after his predecessor Sheikh Yassin died, Rantisi said, "We will all die one day. Nothing will change. If by Apache or by cardiac arrest, I prefer Apache."

Thankfully, his wish came true.

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JWR contributor Joel Mowbray is the author of "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security". Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Joel Mowbray.