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memri
October 20, 1999 No.
51

On Suicide Bombings.

The September attempts to carry out suicide bombings inside Israeli cities (Tiberias and Haifa) prompted a debate between Bassam Abu Shareef (a well-known ex-PFLP activist who joined Arafat’s ranks in the eighties) and an Islamist writer, Fahmi Al-Huweidy (an Egyptian who lives abroad and writes extensively in Arab papers).

Responding to Abu Shareef's criticism of the attempted suicide bombings, Al-Huweidy blamed Abu Shareef for giving up the struggle against the Israeli occupation and failing to distinguish between the victim [meaning – the Palestinians] and the criminal [i.e. the Israelis].[1]

Abu Shareef, a prominent figure in the PLO leadership, explained and justified his objection to the attempted suicide bombings in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds.[2]

"I have not lost the distinction between the victim and the criminal," Abu Shareef stresses time and again. "Fahmi Huweidy knows my past in the [Palestinian] struggle and should know better.[3] However, it may – and does – happen, sometimes, that a leadership makes mistakes that turn both its warriors and the whole Palestinian people into the victims of their own leadership."

"One cannot tie each and every individual Israeli to another beginning with the highest rank in the hierarchy to the last infant [in order to make them all responsible and justify the killing of them all]" states Abu Shareef, "…The Nazis occupied [many] European and other countries and repressed their people. Does that mean that it is permitted to slaughter each German [just for] carrying the nationality of the Nazi state? Is it the right of the Muslims of Kosovo to slaughter every Serb?"

"I have not changed my convictions nor my loyalties," continues Abu Shareef, "I have not changed my path, nor have I given up the struggle for defeat and surrender [to the Israelis] … However, I believe that the struggle against the occupation has a variety of ways and need not necessarily be through armed operations."

"Those who fight the occupation by means other than giving their lives [i.e. suicide operations] are no less fighters. Some [have been] in the occupation's prisons for over twenty years. Others, such as Au Jihad, Kamal Udwan, Ghassan Kanafani, Abu Yousef Al-Najjar, Abu Iyad etc. [were assassinated]."

"Hizbullah's heroes struggle daily against the Israeli occupation in south Lebanon and yet they have reached an agreement [with Israel limiting] the targets they may attack [to exclude civilian ones].[4] This is why they acquired the [respected] image of a warrior who fights the occupation soldiers and not women and children, so that no one – no matter how much he supports Israel – can utter a condemning word against Hizbullah's struggle to liberate South Lebanon."

"The choice of target," asserts Abu Shareef, "is the factor [that] determines whether an operation is harmful or beneficial to the nation… I support the struggle but not operations that harm our people and turn us into a victim… How could Huweidy fail to understand my words and [falsely] turn them into a position that objects to the struggle."

"When bombs are blown-up in a vegetable market and injure no one except a few Arab and Jewish elderly," asserts Abu Shareef, "Our people's cause is harmed because they [the Israelis] become the victim of such acts. But when the soldiers of the occupation are engaged – the opposite happens."

"Huweidy was wrong [to blame me]," Abu Shareef continues, "even by sheer logic. No one in his right mind can regard [my] objection to the type of target… as an objection to the struggle against occupation as a whole, or [even] as [a sweeping] objection to martyrdom operations [i.e. suicide bombings]."

"Once again," concludes Abu Shareef, "I say to my [friend] Huweidy: I do not mistake the victim for the criminal; nor do I blame the victim. I support the struggle against occupation [in a way that] will benefit our people and their cause and he can be certain that regarding the essence of the struggle against the occupation he can trust me. I do not focus only on one side of the picture [as he claims]. What I say is that there are no other sides to the blowing-up of infants, women, and elderly except the negative sides. They only make the Israelis more extreme and it only justifies their deeds against us in world public opinion. Why give Israel this weapon when other targets are so clearly [present]?"


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arabic daily, September 13, 1999

[2] Al-Quds, a Jerusalem-based Arabic daily, October 1, 1999

[3] Abu Shareef hints to his personal involvement in terrorist acts in past years.

[4] Abu Shareef is referring to the informal agreement reaches between Israel and the Hizbullah to refrain from bombing civilian targets. The agreement was reached after the Grapes of Wrath operation in southern Lebanon in 1996.