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memri
May 1, 2018 No.
7450

Following The Murder In Malaysia Of Palestinian Engineer Fadi Al-Batsh, Hamas Supporters Debate Whether To Act Against Israel Abroad

On April 21, 2018, Palestinian engineer Dr. Fadi Al-Batsh was killed in a drive-by motorcycle shooting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat wrote that he was an outstanding researcher, expert in electrical engineering and rocket manufacture. It added that he had been living in Malaysia for a decade, after being sent there by Hamas to complete his studies, that he was acting secretly on behalf of Hamas, and that this was known to only a few Hamas leaders.[1]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Khaled Al-Batsh, a relative of Dr. Fadi Al-Batsh, accused the Israeli Mossad of assassinating him;[2] Hamas itself accused Israel of assassinating him, describing him in its announcement of his death as "one of [Hamas's] righteous knights and sons."[3] During a condolence visit to the family's home in the city of Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip, Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya called on the Malaysian government to investigate the murder, noting that doing so would "reveal the involvement of the Mossad organization in the assassination."[4] He added that those behind the killing "will certainly yet pay the price,"[5] and added, "The battle with Israel has moved outside the occupied lands."[6]


Photo on Hamas website of "the martyr engineer Fadi Al-Batsh, assassinated by the treacherous hand in Malaysia." (Source: Hamas.ps, April 21, 2018)

At an April 26, 2018 Hamas military ceremony at the Rafah crossing to receive Al-Batsh's body, Haniya said: "The criminal hands sent against the martyr Al-Batsh will be cut off." Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya said at the ceremony: "Oh occupation, the accounts between us have become heavy. The day of punishment will necessarily come."[7] Hamas official Osama Hamdan said that Hamas would closely follow the murder investigation conducted by the Malaysian authorities, but also stressed: "We in Hamas know that Israel is targeting Arab and Palestinian scientists."[8]


From the Hamas Interior Ministry photo album of the military reception for Al-Batsh's body at the Rafah crossing (Source: Moi.gov.ps/Home/Gallery_Photo/114415,  April 26, 2018.

Al-Batsh's killing, and Haniya's statements that "the battle with Israel has moved outside the occupied lands," sparked a debate within Hamas on the question of whether it too should act against Israel outside Palestine; to date, its declared policy has been to refrain from doing so. The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, reported on April 23, 2018, that associates of Hamas were now seriously considering "moving some of the battle against the occupation outside of occupied Palestine."[9] However, the London daily Rai Al-Yawm, which is owned by Palestinian journalist Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, assessed that most Hamas officials oppose anti-Israel activity abroad.[10]

The argument within Hamas was reflected in articles published following Al-Batsh's killing on websites identified with the movement. Some writers argued that Hamas's silence over the alleged assassinations of its scientists was encouraging Israel to continue killing them. They wrote that Hamas should respond in kind to Israel's activity, that is, by harming Israeli interests and individuals abroad, since this was the best possible way to stop Israel from carrying out these killings. Others warned that Hamas activity against Israel abroad would likely boomerang, harming both Hamas and its relations with the countries in which it operates.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that voices within Hamas have called for also acting against Israel abroad; however, as noted, Hamas has not yet done so.[11]

This report will review the arguments within Hamas for and against acting against Israel outside of Palestine. 

Supporters Of Hamas Activity Against Israel Abroad: We Must Act In Accordance With The Principle Of Reciprocity

Following Al-Batsh's killing, several columnists in newspapers identified with Hamas and writers on Hamas websites called on all the Palestinian resistance organizations to change their policy and respond to Israel's alleged assassination of Palestinians abroad in kind, that is, by striking at Israelis and Israeli and Jewish targets abroad.

Fayez Abu Shamalah, columnist for the Filastin daily, which is identified with Hamas, wrote: "The Zionist Mossad has become expert in elimination, killing, and assassination, and also in recruiting local collaborators for these ignoble missions. Proof of this are the serial [assassination] incidents that indicate that the Zionist Mossad apparatus is operating in complete confidence and serenity, and fears no repercussions or Arab reactions [for the assassinations]... Why shouldn't we respond to the Israeli Mossad [operations] in the same coin, and why shouldn't there be a Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic response when every distinguished [Palestinian or Arab] expert is a target? Why shouldn't the response come outside [the borders of] Palestine, when the Palestinians and Arabs are being attacked outside the land of Palestine?...

"We demand from the Palestinian organizations and from the national [Palestinian] leadership a response that is within reach and appropriate for the options [available to the Palestinians], including filing a complaint with the UN, the Arab League, and the human rights organizations, with the aim of documenting the [Israeli] aggression and registering the incident in international circles, so that the Arabs and Palestinians will not be chastised when a response comes. The response must be outside the borders of Palestine: in Malaysia itself, in India, in China, in Saudi Arabia, in Guatemala, in the UAE, in Jordan, and in Cyprus. Let the incident define itself, and let it hint at the perpetrator, without any [official] declaration of it – exactly as the Zionists do.

"The response outside Palestine will be the most painful to the Zionists' interests, since they are financiers spread out all over the world [from whom Israel] benefits. [They] invest and profit, they have construction, technology, and agricultural companies, petroleum initiatives, and institutions scattered the length and breadth of the world. Persecuting [the Zionists] will threaten their stability. Strike them everywhere you find them,[12] and do not declare [this officially]. Hurt [them] quietly. Your enemy will recognize [your] fingerprints [but] will be able to do nothing against you, since it is they who started the terror operations outside the occupied Palestinian lands."[13]

Dr. Yousuf Rizqa, another Filastin columnist, a former advisor to Isma'il Haniya, wrote: "The Palestinian resistance factions err in allowing the Israeli Mossad to assassinate the scientists and leaders of the Palestinian people in Arab and foreign lands, without bothering [Israel] and punishing it in accordance with the principle of reciprocity... As I have said in previous articles, [according to] ancient and modern Jewish thought, assassinations are useful. In the past, they tried to murder the Prophet, and they have assassinated [Fadi] Al-Batsh and dozens of other scientists, from Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, and other places. This poses a challenge to the Palestinian factions, with regard to how best to protect the scientists and the members of the Palestinian leadership [residing] outside the country from assassination by the Mossad.

"The answer to this question lies in the Quran verse on blood vengeance, according to which blood vengeance assures life.[14] Accordingly, there is no value in the political statement that we do not operate abroad, because this statement tempts the Mossad to completely take over the overseas arenas and to murder whenever and wherever it pleases. Therefore, there is no escape but for the Palestinians to reexamine the [rules of the] game and to consult the Quran and Arab heritage in this matter. Self defense and acting according to the principle of reciprocity are legitimate, form [part of] the foundations of international law, and apply everywhere. As long as countries cannot successfully thwart the Mossad attacks against innocent scientists, they will have to agree to the consequences of these vengeance operations."[15]

Mustafa Al-Sawwaf, columnist for the Hamas mouthpiece Al-Risala, wrote: "The series of Zionist assassinations of Palestinian leaders and scientists abroad continues. This means that the occupation is not deterred from carrying out its crimes anywhere in the world, without [a need for] taking into account any [possible] reaction, or the [fact that it is violating the] sovereignty of the countries [where they carry them out]. Some of these countries may be coordinating with the occupation in [various] stages of the planning and execution of its operations... [because] the reaction of the countries that have served as arenas of assassination is not in line with the severity of the crime of assassination, as if it [the assassination] had been coordinated with them... [and as if] since it concerns a Palestinian, and particularly a member of the [Palestinian] resistance, it is not a terrible thing, as far as these countries are concerned, that the Zionists are violating their sovereignty, and they even allow them to enter their territory in order to carry out assassinations and assist them at the highest echelons. This is true, for example, for Tunisia, the UAE, and Malta.

"The Palestinian resistance forces continue to adhere to the old strategy of not transferring the conflict outside the borders of the land of Palestine – making it easier for the occupation and [allowing] it to act undisturbed, without paying a price in line with the severity of its crimes. Therefore, it murders and assassinates in all ways that actualize its aspiration to get rid of anyone who it thinks poses, or will in future pose, a risk to it by helping develop the various capabilities of the resistance...

"Is the [Palestinians'] policy of making do with the Palestinian arena for confronting the occupation still effective, in light of the fact that the latter continues to carry out its crimes that harm [our] officials, our scientists, and our various capabilities? Or will the recurrence of the occupation's crimes prompt the resistance to act in accordance with the principle of reciprocity and to launch against [the occupation] a battle similar to the one it is waging [against us] in the international arenas? The occupation understands only the language of force and reciprocity, and as long as the world remains silent in the face of the crimes of the occupation [being carried out] against us in its arena, we must disregard the reaction these countries are likely to have in the event of harm to Zionist officials and scientists on their soil.

"It is not... that [our] options are insignificant compared to those of the occupation, but that this, together with [our] silence and the lack of response has begun to provide the occupation with many opportunities to carry out its policy of assassinations, as long as it does not receive the appropriate punishment – neither from the countries in which its crimes are carried out, nor from the Palestinian people and its resistance... Accordingly, I call on the resistance to change its old policy and to employ the same policy that the occupation employs. True, the situation is difficult, but world public opinion has begun to shift...

"At the same time, there is no need to make an announcement when response operations are carried out, and if the situation requires it, it is [even possible] to condemn the response operations, and distance the blame from the Palestinian side, even if the evidence indicates that it is the one who is benefiting from the assassination of one of the occupation's officials and scientists, but with no way of proving who carried out the operation... One response [in the form of] assassinating an [Israeli] scientist, politician, or military commander will guarantee that the occupation will reconsider how it operates. If it is not deterred, then let us implement a policy of a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye, and the one who starts it is the one who is to blame.

"We must act wisely with regard to the severity of the reactions and to the choice of countries [where such operations are carried out]... Recruiting collaborators and helpers isn't supposed to be difficult, so we must begin doing so, and not leave our scientists and officials to be assassinated without punishing the occupation, wherever it may be."[16]

Opponents Of Hamas Activity Abroad Against Israel: Such Activity Will Cause Tensions With The Countries In Which We Operate  

On the other hand, two columnists for the Hamas mouthpiece Al-Risala argued that Hamas had no need to change its policy to begin acting against Israel abroad, because this would likely harm it in the countries in which it is operating.

For example, on April 23, 2018, Wisam Hasan Abu Shamala wrote on the Al-Risala website: "The Mossad has been tied to many crimes [against] and assassinations [of] Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic figures... In recent months we have witnessed several assassination attempts: a successful one in which the Mossad murdered the [aviation] scientist Tunisian martyr Muhammad Al-Zoari,[17] the failed assassination attempt against Muhammad Hamdan in Lebanon,[18] and the likely assassination  of scientist Fadi Al-Batsh in Malaysia. According to most indications, it is highly probable that some [or all of] these targets, were connected to the Palestinian resistance, specifically to Hamas and its military apparatus, the Al-Qassam Brigades, which in fact announced that the martyr Al-Zoari was one of them... and [additionally] Hamas announced that Al-Batsh was a member. [In this instance], Hamas has settled for condemning the occupation [for assassinating Al-Batsh], and so far has not addressed the murder of its men [with any operation abroad], and in line with its policy that restricts its confrontation with the occupation to the land of Palestine and refrains from using foreign arenas... Will Hamas continue to adhere to this policy, or, in the next stage, will we see it turn around? What options does Hamas have for contending with the Zionist policy of liquidations?...

"[If] the Palestinian resistance, specifically Hamas, [chooses the] option of responding to the killing of its men [with an operation carried out] abroad, this would contribute to deterring the enemy. On the one hand, this option would restrain the occupation's wild behavior of attempting assassinations, and expand the attrition to several arenas, beyond just Gaza and the West Bank. However, on the other hand, [Hamas operations abroad] would restrict Hamas's activity in various arenas, on the individual and institutional level, and would cause tensions in Hamas's relations with the countries on whose soil the attack on the enemy is carried out – particularly in light of the enemy country's [i.e. Israel's] international relations [with these countries – which would lead to tremendous pressure on these countries [from Israel] that would have ramifications for the Palestinians in general, and for Hamas in particular.

"The choice of escalating the hostilities with the occupation and expanding them to more than one arena requires a supportive, or at least a balanced, regional and international environment... This is something that does not exist at this time, which is characterized by a rapid march toward normalization with the occupation as a precondition for the stability of the [Arab] regimes and for recognition of their legitimacy. Therefore, it is unreasonable that at this stage Hamas, and the Palestinian resistance in general, would choose the option of attacking the enemy abroad. Thus, the more reasonable option that remains is to threaten to harm the enemy when the time is right..."[19]

Also on April 23, columnist Ibrahim Al-Madhoun explained in his column for Al-Risala that the Palestinian resistance would not respond to Al-Batsh's murder outside Palestine: "There is no explanation for the murder of Fadi [Al-Batsh], other than the barbaric evil of Israel and its envy of [Al-Batsh's] excellence in science, invention, and discovery. [This is because] the occupation is interested in drying up the minds of the Palestinians, and persecuting them...

"This crime will not go unaddressed, and sooner or later the occupation will pay the price. The best response to this crime is developing [Palestinian] minds, and nurturing and protecting young scientists and outstanding individuals. For this reason, the resistance will not move the reaction [to these killings] outside of Palestine, and will not be drawn into this bullying."[20]

 

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 22, 2018.

[2] Amad.ps, April 21, 2018.

[3] Hamas.ps, April 21, 2018.

[4] Hamas.ps, April 22, 2018.

[5] Palinfo.com, April 23. 2018.

[6] Maannews.net, Samanews.ps, April 22, 2018.

[7] Hamas/ps, April 26, 2018.

[8] Aljazeera.net, April 21, 2018.

[9] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), April 23, 2018.

[10] Raialyoum.com, April 23, 2018.

[11] For more information about Hamas calls to attack Israeli interests abroad, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7317, Article In Hamas Mouthpiece Calls To Expand Arena Of Fighting With Israel To Include Its Interests Abroad, February 5, 2018; MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1152, Hamas Prepares For Next Military Confrontation With Israel, April 16, 2015; and MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5371, Senior Hamas Official: The Resistance Is Entitled To Attack Israel's Embassies, Interests, And Officials Worldwide – And The Interests Of Its Allies, Headed By The U.S., July 19, 2013. Additionally, on March 11, 2018, Dr. Mustafa Al-Lidawi, a former senior Hamas official, called for action against Israel abroad in an article titled "The Proliferation of Resistance Fronts and Multiple Platforms for the Struggle," Alqassam.net, March 11, 2018.

[12] A reference to Quran 2:191, "And kill them wherever you overtake them," Quran.com/2/191-201?translations=20.

[13] Felesteen.ps, April 21, 2018.

[14] Quran 2:179, "And there is for you in legal retribution [saving of] life," Quran.com/2/179-189?translations=20.

[15] Felesteen.ps, April 22, 2018.

[16] Alresalah.ps, April 23, 2018.

[17] Muhammad Al-Zoari, a Tunisian aviation engineer who pioneered the Hamas drone program, was killed December 15, 2016 in Tunisia. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1300, A Decade Of Jihadi Organizations' Use Of Drones – From Early Experiments By Hizbullah, Hamas, And Al-Qaeda To Emerging National Security Crisis For The West As ISIS Launches First Attack Drones, February 21, 2017.

[18] Muhammad Hamdan, brother of senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan, lost his leg when his car was blown up, in Sidon, Lebanon in January 2018.

[19] Alresalah.ps, April 23, 2018.

[20] Alresalah.ps, April 23, 2018. It should be noted that in his column, Al-Madhoun denied that Al-Batsh was a member of Hamas, even though he was officially recognized as a member by Hamas itself.