The Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2004


By Michael Freund

The world was made a whole lot safer this past Monday, when Israeli helicopters eliminated Hamas arch-terrorist Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in a pre-dawn strike in Gaza.

The removal of this villain, whose warped ideology brought about the deaths of hundreds of innocents, was a heroic and just act, one that should be celebrated as an important milestone in the global war on terror.

Despite his innocent demeanor, Yassin was a monster, an evil man hell-bent on sowing death and destruction. As head of Hamas, he spent the past decade disseminating hate, dispatching suicide bombers and targeting innocent Israeli men, women and children.

Don't fall prey to the media's attempts to label him a "spiritual leader." There is nothing spiritual about a mass murderer of Jews and there is nothing holy about someone who sent Palestinian children to detonate themselves as human bombs.Yassin was a menace both to Israel and the West. Under his tutelage, Hamas carried out some 425 terror attacks in just the past three and a half years, killing 377 Israelis and injuring more than 2,000 others.

He brazenly declared that "all Israeli people are targets" and insisted that, "All of Israel, Tel Aviv included, is occupied Palestine. So we're not actually targeting civilians."

Yassin rejected Israel's right to exist and repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state. Just three months ago, in a December 2003 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, he denied the possibility of coexistence, telling his interviewer that if the Jews insisted on having a country of their own, "They could set up a state in Europe."

Less than two years ago, shortly after Palestinian terrorists carried out a bomb attack at the Hebrew University, Yassin told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera that, "Israel was born in violence and it will die in violence. The Jews have no right to the land of Palestine."

Yassin was an equal-opportunity hater, directing his venom not only at Israel, but also at the West. Last year, after the US invasion of Iraq had begun, he repeatedly called on the Iraqi people to carry out suicide attacks against British and American forces. At a March 28, 2003 rally in Gaza, Yassin urged Iraqis to "continue their jihad, and to use all possible means to achieve victory against the British and American enemies."

Though they would never admit it, the Palestinians themselves will also benefit from Yassin's demise, if only because he can no longer spread his poisonous and lethal philosophy among them.

BUT DESPITE his horrific record, much of the world was quick to condemn the killing of Yassin, with everyone from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Kofi Annan to the Japanese government coming down hard on Israel for having the nerve to defend itself.

But let them say what they wish, because it matters not one whit. The fact is that we can all take pride in this bold demonstration of sovereign Jewish power, in the ability of the State of Israel to hunt down and punish those who would follow in Hitler's footsteps.

Israel's critics must finally realize that the era of pogroms is over, that the Jew will no longer cower in fear from his adversaries, or seek protection from others. We have returned to the world stage, we have every right to defend ourselves, and that is what we shall do.

The long arm of Jewish justice took care of Sheikh Yassin, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon deserves nothing but praise for having the courage and the good sense to do so.

The elimination of Sheikh Yassin is on par with the capture of Saddam Hussein and the removal of Taliban leader Mullah Omar from power. It marks a turning point in the war on terror, the purging of yet another fanatical chieftain from the world stage.

And it also signifies Israel's determination, like that of Washington, to confront its enemies and take the war to their own backyards, if need be.

Let the cynics and naysayers grumble all they wish. There is never a "wrong" time to eliminate a killer of Jews, or to strike a forceful blow against terrorist thugs.

Whatever the diplomatic or security fallout might be, Israel has done the right thing, at the right time, and to the right person.

On Monday morning, shortly after Yassin was killed, his associate Ismail Haniyeh confirmed his death, telling reporters that he had always hoped to die as a martyr.

"This is the moment Sheikh Yassin dreamed about," he said.

This is one case, at least, where we can all be grateful that the Hamas leader's dream has finally come true, courtesy of the IDF.

The writer served as deputy director of communications & policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office under former premier Binyamin Netanyahu.