For the second time in just over a month, Israeli forces assassinated the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas. Killed on Saturday was Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi who took power last month following the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The Bush administration–as well as Sen. John Kerry–backed Israel’s right to defend herself, but the UN and EU condemned the killing. [includes rush transcript]
Israel has sparked massive international outcry following its assassination this weekend of the new Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi in Gaza. His car was hit by rockets fired from an Israeli military helicopter. The United Nations, the European Union and several nations called the killing a clear violation of international law. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan labeled it an extrajudicial killing. Far from condemning the killing, the White House issued its standard statement calling for restraint on all sides.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday and appeared to support the assassination. In reaction to the news of Rantisi’s killing, Kerry said, "I believe Israel has every right in the world to respond to any act of terror against it. Hamas is a terrorist, brutal organization. It has had ten years to make up its mind to take part in a peaceful process. They refuse to. Arafat refuses to. And I support Israel’s efforts to try and separate itself and try to be secure."
Kerry also came out in support of President Bush‚s endorsement last week of Israel’s plan to keep illegal settlements and Bush‚s assertion that Palestinian refugees should not be allowed the right of return. Kerry said he completely supports Bush on these issues. Bush made the statements in a press conference last week with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Meanwhile in Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians marched through the streets in a funeral procession for Rantisi. Hamas says a new leader in Gaza has been appointed but his identity is being kept secret for security reasons. The organization has vowed a "volcano of revenge" against Israel for the deaths, saying in a statement "revenge will come a hundredfold for the blood of Rantisi" and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Hama spiritual leader who was assassinated by Israel last month. Meanwhile, in a statement on Israeli Army Radio, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon congratulated his army for the assassination, while another Israeli official said Israel also planned to kill another Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal as soon as the opportunity arose.
- Lamis Andoni, independent journalist who has been covering the Middle East for 20 years. She has reported for the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times and the main newspapers in Jordan. She is a professor at the Graduate School in UC Berkeley.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now at KPFA’s studios in Berkeley by Lamis Andoni; she is an independent journalist who has been covering the Middle East for 20 years. She has reported for the "Christian Science Monitor," the "Financial Times" as well as main newspapers in Jordan. She is currently teaching at the Graduate School of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley. Welcome to Democracy Now!.
LAMIS ANDONI: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to begin with the Occupied Territories in Gaza, your reaction to the assassination of the Hamas leader.
LAMIS ANDONI: It’s typical of Israeli policies. Instead of facing the real problem, although the decades it has either tried to expel Palestinian leaders or kill them, so it comes even at — it’s ironic because it comes at the anniversary of the assassination of the head in 1988 and the arrest of the very popular young leader Marwan Barghouti three years ago. I think Israel is provoking a big confrontation in liberty so. The reaction will not just be against Israel, but against the U.S., because combining this with what’s happening in Iraq and with the Bush endorsement of Sharon’s position, and his — also his declaration he implicitly endorsed the Israeli policy of fighting terrorists between courts and defending itself between courts, that gave the whole Arab world, not just the Palestinians, the understanding that it was a green light to Sharon to kill Rantisi and others. This is how it has been interpreted, and Sharon knows that by killing Rantisi, it would not stop violence. Because if he wants to stop violence, he has to look at the actions of Israel and his own soldiers. I think that the U.S. is seeking — is getting even more directly involved than ever. I have never seen in the Arab world before, although the U.S. has always been held accountable for what’s happening, but the U.S. especially with what’s happening in Iraq and President Bush’s declaration, the confrontation has never been as before between the U.S. and the Arab world because of Bush’s actions. I mean, everybody used to say the U.S. and it’s true, the U.S. sanctions Israel. This is different. Now the U.S. has unequivocally disregarded any pretense, dropped any pretense for even the appearance of moderation, to act as the direct colonizer of the Arab world, especially Palestine and Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: What about those who have condemned the assassination as an extra judicial killing, like Japan, like Britain, like Germany, like France?
LAMIS ANDONI: The difference between these countries and the U.S. is that the U.S. is carrying out its own extra judicial kills. So, and the Israeli press has been making a point of it, that Bush cannot criticize the killing of Hamas leaders or any Palestinian leader when that he are doing exactly the same thing. So —
AMY GOODMAN: Where?
LAMIS ANDONI: In Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen and in Iraq. I mean, the way they’re talking about Sadr, capturing or killing him, this is extra judicial. The U.S. is leading the way now in extra judicial, and Israel fears that it’s been absolved from any responsibility, and that is alarming to all of the world. I mean, they are both acting above the rule of law, and I think other countries are very worried, also, of an exclusion in the region. We are seeing signs of it. I mean, in Jordan, the government — the opposition is very strong. In Egypt it’s the same. I think either the U.S. is underestimating the feeling of solidarity from Iraq to Morocco to all of the Arab world, or it wants such an exclusion to destabilize the whole region.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Lamis Zandoni, a independent journalist covering the Middle East for 20 years. She teaches at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley. I wanted to switch for a moment to Iraq, and what is happening there. What’s reported here in the United States is that this is the deadliest month for U.S. Troops since 1971 in the Vietnam War. As for Iraqis who have been killed, we don’t know the numbers. They’re saying in Fallujah perhaps more than 650 Iraqis.
LAMIS ANDONI: Yeah. I mean, and it’s difficult still to know how many Iraqis have been killed, especially that the U.S. has this policy of killing what it calls enemy targets whether they are — whether they are combatants or not, and the story of Fallujah has been under-reported, as you know, in the press. However, what I want to emphasize here are two things. If there were any Iraqis that had any hopes or any illusions about the role of the U.S., this has been unmasked the last month. And I think more and more Iraqis are ready to join the resistance and we have been seeing many indications that the more the killing continues, and they hear what Bremer is saying and the threats, the more people are willing to join the resistance. In Fallujah, they accuse people, they claim it’s the hotbed for foreign fighters. This is nonsense. I want to remind the audience that even "The Los Angeles Times" in September — in September, Tracy Wilkinson did an investigation in Fallujah, and she concluded that the resistance is home-grown and there are more and more people in Fallujah who are like the sons and husbands of Fallujah who are taking up arms. I think people are connecting from the south of Iraq to the north of Iraq to join the resistance and we’re going to see more of that, and more of attacks on American soldiers.
AMY GOODMAN: Lamis Andoni, Friday, Muqtada al Sadr gave a sermon from his stronghold in Al Cue Fa. He said he would not disband the Mahdi army and called for the United States to leave.
LAMIS ANDONI: I think even though some Iraqis would like all of the militias to be disbanded, nobody would act upon the U.S. orders to disband a militia because it’s a certain so-called army, because its leader defied the U.S. Occupation. I mean, what’s happening here is that the American media or most of it as well as, of course, the American government, are trying to portray Sadr as this isolated person who has no support whatsoever. And that Ayatollah Sistani has every interest in getting rid of Sadr. This is totally false and it’s a big lie, because the highest Shia authority led by Sistani in Najaf has made have made several statements that have gone unreported in this country; that they opposed turning over Sadr, that if they had a problem with Sadr it’s between them; and that they condemned the occupation forces for what it did in Fallujah and warned against the storming of Najaf. So the American people are really being misled on the truth of how people feel about the attack on Sadr in Iraq. And if they capture or kill Sadr, the fears of the British commanders about Basra will be realized. So far, that did not happen because the Sustanii believes it was premature for such an uprising to start. He was afraid of bloodshed because he was afraid of the firepower of the U.S., but it’s not because he opposes an uprising.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us. She is an independent journalist who has been covering the Middle East for 20 years. She’s reported for the "Christian Science Monitor," the "Financial Times" and the main newspapers in Jordan; currently teaching at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkekey.