July 4, 2002 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 101

The Palestinian Debate Over Martyrdom Operations Part II: A Palestinian Communiqué Against the Attacks

July 4, 2002
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 101

Recently, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds published a communiqué with some 500 signatories, among them leading Palestinians such as Professor Sari Nusseibah [and his wife Lucy], Hanan Ashrawi, Mamdouh Nofal, Ziad Abu Ziyad, and Hashem Abd Al-Razeq. The statement called for a stop to military operations harming civilians in Israel, s they produce no results except for an increase in the hatred between the two peoples and the destruction of the possibility of living side by side in peace in two neighboring states.[1]

Professor Nusseibah: Version I
In an interview with the Arab-Israeli daily Al-Ittihad, Professor Nusseibah explained the reasons behind the communiqué: "We must turn to means that serve our goal – which is to remove the occupation and get rid of its barbaric acts of repression. We do not think that murdering Israeli civilians serves our just, human goals; it turns the well-known murderer who destroys villages, murders children, usurps lands, and banishes people, into a victim who markets himself to the world, seeks support, and justifies his barbaric acts against us. Whatever the cruelty of the enemy, who has not a trace of human characteristics… Palestinians must not sacrifice their moral values in addition to their body. We must cling to human, moral values and standards, because our strength lies in our adherence to values and morality."[2]

Professor Nusseibah: Version II
On the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera, Professor Nusseibah explained the reason behind the communiqué in a another way. Appearing on the same panel with head of the Hamas politbureau Khaled Mash'al, and Umm Nidal, the mother of Muhammad Farhat, [who appeared in a video sending her son to commit a martyrdom attack][3] – Professor Nusseibah said that the [signatories'] objections to military operations referred only to operations against civilians within Israel: "There is a general consensus that we naturally support resistance in general and resistance to the occupation in particular. [There is a consensus] that there is no life under occupation, and that most of the Palestinian people is very much prepared to martyr itself to achieve liberty and independence and to restore its honor. I [too] agree to this. There are different kinds of resistance. There is armed resistance and there is unarmed resistance, which is legitimate resistance. Then this resistance can be public and be popular [such as the kind] in which the Palestinian people engaged throughout the many years of occupation. Similarly, within the framework of armed resistance there is resistance for attack and resistance for defense. [Now] martyrdom operations are [another] kind of resistance. There is on the one hand martyrdom for defense, like the heroes who martyred themselves to defend their land and their homeland in the Jenin camp, or the martyr hero Fares Odeh who fell victim to the soldiers of the occupation, and on the other hand there is martyrdom in an attack. Even in martyrdom in an attack, a distinction can be made between martyrdom in an attack directed against military targets and one directed against civilian targets."

"In our [communiqué], we referred to this kind of martyrdom – the armed operations with explosives [targeting civilians in Israel]."

"I wish to emphasize that we did not condemn [the operations] and did not appeal to the emotions. We appealed as brother to brother, to consider this issue, and so there will be a genuine [re-]evaluation of the issue in which every thinker and all those concerned would participate, so as to examine the benefit and the damage of operations against civilians within Israel."

Referring to Umm Nidal's pride in and justification of her son's martyrdom, Professor Nusseibah glorified her, saying: "When I hear the words of Umm Nidal, I recall the [Koranic] verse stating that ‘Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.'[4] All respect is due to this mother, it is due to every Palestinian mother and every female Palestinian who is a Jihad fighter on this land. I do not wish to mix political statements and political commentary with the respect every Palestinian feels for every Jihad fighter and for anyone who truly thinks that there is no life under the occupation, except in freedom and dignity."[5]

A similar statement by Professor Nusseibah appeared on the Arab news site Albawaba: "The communiqué that I, along with hundreds of others, signed was clear. We did not address our brothers in the various resistance factions to chastise them, or to condemn them, or depict the resistance as terror, or to de-legitimize it. None of these words appeared in the communiqué … [Our] aim was to convey a message that there is a need to reexamine the benefit of the [martyrdom] operations within Israel in the context of the goals we seek to accomplish."[6]

The PA's Response: Version I
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz[7], Yassir Arafat said that he supported this communiqué. The PA's Response: Version II
In an unusual move, the PA's mouthpiece Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily discredited the list of names on the communiqué stating that the paper checked the names and found that some were children under 10, others were deceased or mentally ill people and it also included Egyptian actors.[8]

A Counter Communique'
150 Arab intellectuals, among them many Palestinians, issued a counter communiqué supporting suicide/martyrdom attacks. This communiqué stated: "What is required today from the Arab Palestinian people, of all factions, is to resist the occupation and remove it from our land by all ways and all means, primarily [through] armed struggle with all weapons that can be found, in response to the Zionist military machine armed with American weapons and an overt bias against our people, our cause, and against all the causes of the Arab world."[9]

[1] Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority), June 19-22, 2002.

[2] Al-Itahad (Israel), June 20, 2002.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch An Interview with the Mother of a Suicide Bomber. In an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Umm Nidal stated: "Because I love my son, I encouraged him to die a martyr's death for the sake of Allah... After the martyrdom [operation], my heart was peaceful about Muhammad. I encouraged all my sons to die a martyr's death, and I wish this even for myself."

[4] This is not a Koranic verse, but a Hadith (tradition ascribed to Muhammad), about mothers being the that mothers are the highest beings, such that even Paradise is beneath their feet.

[5] Al-Jazeera television (Qatar), June 29, 2002.

[6], June 24, 2002.

[7] Haareatz, June 21 and this also appeared in the PA daily Al-Ayyam on June 24, 2002.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), June 26, 2002.

[9] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 30, 2002.

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