- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

On June 10, Israeli army helicopters fired seven rockets into the car of Abdel Aziz Rantissi, a Hamas leader in Gaza. Unfortunately, the Israelis missed him. After the first rocket Rantissi leaped out of the car, leaving his son to crash into a wall, killing two bystanders.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters shortly after the failed Israeli assassination attempt was announced that President Bush was “deeply troubled” by the attack. He shouldn’t have been. The 57-year-old Dr. Rantissi was trained in the West as a pediatrician, but along the way he made a midlife career change. Today his speciality is murdering women and babies — as long as they are Jews.

The president and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, freshly appointed as the administration’s chief operations officer for implementing the Middle East “road map,” would do well to listen to what Dr. Rantissi has to say about Israel, Palestinians and Jews. He and his Hamas brethren make no bones about their real beliefs.

From his hospital bed in Gaza, Dr. Rantissi told reporters Hamas would strike back yet again. “I am telling Sharon and all the Israeli murderers: You don’t have any security unless you leave the country,” he said. “There will be no single Jew in Palestine. We will fight them with all the power that we have.”

Think that’s just the ranting of a wounded man, understandably angry after someone has just tried to kill him? Think again. Dr. Rantissi told me the exact same thing when I interviewed him at length some six years ago in his Gaza office.

I was curious when I met him about the rising tide of suicide bombers, who suddenly burst onto the scene in 1994, shortly after Yasser Arafat set up his Palestinian Authority in Gaza under the Oslo Accords. I asked him what could possibly motivate young men to take their own lives, just to kill Jews. “They know that these bombings are the same as fasting and observing Ramadan,” Dr. Rantissi told me. “They increase their blessings with God.”

Dr. Rantissi’s words might seem odd to Americans or Europeans, but they make perfect sense to Palestinians and other Muslim Arabs who have been fed the steady diet of anti-Semitic filth that state-sponsored preachers throughout the Middle East have been doling out to the faithful for the past two decades.

Fasting and observing Ramadan are two of the Five Pillars of Islam, which the Prophet Mohammed exhorted his followers to observe. In the hierarchy of traditional Islam, prayers performed during Ramadan are believed to have a greater intercessionary value, as do prayers uttered in one of the Two Holy Mosques in the Arabia Peninsula.

It is a testament to just how perverse the terrorists and their supporters have become to learn that murdering innocents has been elevated to this same level by Dr. Rantissi and by other senior Muslim clerics I interviewed over the past year for an upcoming book, “Preachers of Hate.” And yet, that is precisely what Dr. Rantissi meant when he said that by carrying out a suicide attack, young Palestinians could hope to “increase their blessings with God.”

Think of it: Murder has become the sixth pillar of Islam, according to the terrorists. Where are the Muslim leaders to denounce this?

When I met Dr. Rantissi, in late 1997, the Clinton administration was pressing the Israelis to make fresh concessions to the Palestinians despite the sickening rounds of suicide attacks that snuffed out young lives in schools, discotheques, restaurants, and on buses across Israel. The assumption the U.S. made at the time was that an improvement in Palestinian living conditions — more money, more jobs, fewer roadblocks, and fewer reprisals by Israel — somehow would decrease the tension.

A similar dynamic was set in motion after the June 4 Red Sea summit, when Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas pledged to crack down on terror if only the Israelis would improve living conditions for Palestinians and dismantle “illegal” settlements.

Hear Dr. Rantissi’s response to this eminently reasonable, Western logic. “The Jews should go to America and make their state there,” he told me. “It’s a big land, and millions of Jews are already there. This is the only solution. Establish Israel in America. There is no room for Jews and Palestinians to live together.”

Dr. Rantissi also told me that he believed the Holocaust was a Jewish invention. “Any massacre that may have occurred in Europe was because of the corruption of the Jews,” he said in his clean, well-lit doctor’s office in Gaza. “We believe the Jews will spread corruption until the end of time. The Koran says this in Al-Isra’a.”

I have spent many years of my professional career reporting from the Middle East and Europe, interviewing Muslim clerics who roundly reject such beliefs. But today, their voices have been drowned out by the terrorists.

Examining the sewer of hate from which Dr. Rantissi and his terrorist friends have oozed has been the most painful investigation I have ever conducted. And yet, I believe Americans and especially our leaders would do well to listen to the terrorists before they lead us and the Israelis down the garden path to sure death and damnation.

In seeking to assassinate Dr. Rantissi and other Hamas leaders before they murder others, Israel is doing as America has done in Afghanistan in Iraq. These people are ticking time bombs and have recused themselves from any partnership for peace.

Kenneth R. Timmerman’s latest book, “Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America,” is forthcoming from Crown Publishers in New York.

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