- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Sheik Ahmed Yassin, good riddance. No R.I.P. for this gravestone. The ghosts of hundreds of Jews would tell you that he lived only too long.

This is what nearly everyone is thinking this morning, but few want to say so. Speaking ill of the dead is not a Judeo-Christian thing to do, even when we’re glad that the old scoundrel is at last with Ol’ Scratch.

The sheik was buried yesterday amidst a riotous explosion of gunfire, weeping and wailing, and with military honors. Thousands of Palestinian students of the mortician’s gruesome arts crowded close to his open coffin carried over the heads of the mourners, pressing in to inspect what was left of him. The military rites mocked the honor of real soldiers, who in other cultures and other traditions do not demonstrate manly valor by killing children.

The Europeans, who never see a terrorist they can’t make excuses for, are as noisy as a tree full of magpies this morning, eager to cluck-cluck, point with faux piety and view with manufactured alarm the slaying of the “spiritual leader” of Hamas, who plotted the murder of hundreds of innocents. Some spirit. Some leader. But even the British felt compelled to scold the Israelis and sigh wistfully over the “peace process.”

Ah, yes. The peace process, a process that is to peace as Velveeta is to cheese. The chief of foreign policy for the European Union produces a tear or two, as if squeezing a small Bermuda onion in his pocket, to show us that he feels particularly bad: “This is very, very bad news for the peace process.”

The Europeans, in fact, quickly ran out of words to express their sadness and had to use some of them twice. The Russians are “very, very concerned.” The Polish foreign minister, who seems just about over his mourning for the dead of Madrid, is afraid the killing of the sheik may have “very, very negative consequences.”

Condoleezza Rice, the White House national security adviser, had the grace to restrain herself while thinking of something diplomatic to say about something she couldn’t reasonably regret but had to sound as if she feels at least a small remnant of rue. “Let’s remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization,” she said.

Indeed, even the European Union, in a spasm of truth-telling, once said that much about Hamas.

Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, said the obvious — “Israel has the right to defend itself” — but quickly entered the ritual “but, but.” Said he: “But it is not entitled going for this kind of unlawful killing, and we therefore condemn it.”

We can play the “but, but” game, too, and therefore ask the obvious: But if Israel is entitled to defend itself against the lawless killing of civilians who have never offended even a single Palestinian, why is Israel not entitled to dispatch the lawless killer? If Osama bin Laden is fair game, why should Ahmed Yassin, or any of the other leaders of the Palestinian terrorists be immune to justice?

Ahmed Yassin never attempted to hide who he was or what his goals were. This may have been a distortion of courage, or it may have been merely cunning exploitation of carefully cultivated hatred. He founded Hamas 25 years ago to oppose all compromise, all attempts to forge peace for the Middle East, all efforts to bridge differences between peaceful Muslim and friendly Jew. Not for him “the brotherhood of the Abrahamic faiths.”

The Hamas charter was written in the rhetoric of hatred of Jews, employing the vilest of anti-Semitic language. He sprinkled a few shekels through the Palestinian villages, not in a spirit of godly concern for those in need, but to identify, recruit and manipulate the young he needed for his ranks of suicide bombers. When he was jailed briefly by the Israelis a decade ago, Yasser Arafat pleaded for his freedom, assuring the Israelis that Yassin was a man of peace, a “spiritual leader” after all, who would work to subdue the violence. Once freed, as an Israeli gesture to the negotiations at Oslo, he hurried off to Saudi Arabia to collect money from our dear friends in Riyadh to finance the weapons for his armed struggle. Forty months of unrelenting murder and mayhem against Israeli civilians followed.

The Middle East is a very, very dangerous place, and nobody has a clue what to do about it. That’s why the words “peace process,” which everyone understands are all but meaningless, have become the mantra of diplomats. “You could look for other options from now until the crack of doom,” says Chris Patten, the commissioner for external relations for the European Union, “and you wouldn’t find anything more sensible than the road map.” Until then, we can blame the Jews.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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