Cultural Revolutions

The Assassination of Yassin

Israel's assassination on March 22 of Sheik Ahmad Yassin, founder of the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip, has prompted Arab calls for revenge against Israeli and American targets.  His funeral in Gaza City, attended by more than 100,000 people, reflected a new tide of militancy throughout the region.  New Hamas leader Abdelaziz Rantissi ruled out any cease-fire with Israel until she ends her occupation of the Palestinian territories.  The leader of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said that his fighters would “take the harshest revenge.”  Several other groups, including Islamic Jihad, have threatened to target Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is reported to have approved the killing.

The killing of Yassin is likely to cement even further the alliance between Palestinian nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism that he devoted his life to fostering.  Until a generation ago, political Islam was an almost unknown phenomenon among Palestinians.  The Arab Nationalist Movement, founded in 1950 by Georges Habache; the Fatah, started by Yasser Arafat eight years later; and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which came into being in 1964, were all secular nationalist organizations with strongly Marxist overtones.  Their slogans were largely devoid of a religious component, and they were treated with some mistrust by Muslim traditionalists.

The...

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