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A Window into the Culture of Shahada By: Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch | Thursday, August 02, 2007

A recent article in the Hamas newspaper, commemorating the anniversary of the death of the commander of its suicide terror branch, is a window into the culture of Shahada, martyrdom for Allah.

Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, the commander of the Al-Qassam Brigades suicide terror branch of Hamas, was killed by an Israeli air strike five years ago. He is credited with creating the current military infrastructure of the Al-Qassam Brigades, which has killed hundreds of Israelis. Its targets were almost exclusively civilians -- 30 people at the Park Hotel in Netanya at Passover in 2002, 21 young people, mostly teenagers, at the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2001 and 15 Israelis at the Sbarro pizza parlor in Jerusalem in 2001, to name just a few of the group's massacres.

A July 23rd article marking the anniversary of his death in the official Hamas newspaper, Al-Risalah, reveals the ways in which he organized and encouraged those he sent on suicide missions.

The article says that from the moment he was released after 20 years in an Israeli prison, he dedicated his life to organizing the Al-Qassam Brigades and uniting disorganized efforts into a single military-style operation. He encouraged his men to innovate, and as soon as he saw that a particular type of action would serve this movement – such as the firing of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel – he made this part of his strategy.

Suicide bombing at Park Hotel, Netanya, on Passover night, March 27, 2002: 30 killed,
140 injured, 20 critically

Sheikh Salah made a point of being with his men at crucial moments, even two days after he was married. When he sent off a suicide bomber, he would sit with his fellow terrorists until it was time for "parting from the Shahada-seekers," and wait for the announcement that the operation had been carried out. As soon as the attack was confirmed, he would personally go to the family of the suicide bomber to inform them of the operation, bless them and say, "Peace has come."

The article also shows the way Hamas members see their success in Gaza – first as a victory against Israel after the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, then as a victory against the Fatah leadership: "Gaza was purified twice. The first time from the occupation… and the second time from the tails of the occupation and its agents."

Finally, it emphasizes that the life of a single individual is not as important to the Islamic movement as "values and a way." According to one of Sheikh Salah's colleagues, the fact that the leader educated thousands of budding terrorists makes up for the fact that he wasn't
alive to see Hamas's success in Gaza.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

On the fifth anniversary of his death as a martyr – the blood of Salah Shehadeh lit the lights of victory and ability

Allah is his goal, the prophet is his leader, the Quran is his law, and the Shahada [martyrdom] is his wish...He has just been released from prison and immediately returned to Jihadist work…he did not rest a moment from developing and improving the military action…

Al-Risalah newspaper met with the residents and with the wife of Sheikh Shehadeh and with Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri…

The resident Tamer said: "Today we are reaping the fruits that the general commander of Al-Qassam planted when Gaza was purified twice. The first time from the occupation a year and a half ago, and the second time from the tails of the occupation and its agents, who were satisfied to be chess pieces in the hands of the enemy," and said that he would have wanted Sheikh Salah to witness those two events, "but it was enough for him to die as a Shahid [martyr]"… and said: "The Islamic movement is not built on people but on values and on a path," and he clarified that the absence of Sheikh Shehadeh is compensated by the thousands of students who were educated by him…

The resident Yamen Abu Hasanayn said that Sheikh Salah was characterized by initiative, responsibility and skepticism… "He organized the military action and developed it in a time when there was heavy pressure on military work by the cursed Oslo leadership." And said: "He encouraged the men to innovate… if he saw that a certain action served the military apparatus he adopted it, as happened with the first Qassam rocket firing…

Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, said: "…after he was released from prison where he served 20 years, he turned right away to military action, and worked to organize the military chains of the movement in one apparatus and develop it until it reached where it reached, that is ‘The Shahid Az Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades’… He built this apparatus in a structured way, so that it could last and get to this level."

Al-Risalah turned to Majdah Kneyta, the second wife of Sheikh Salah, whom he married two months before his death as a shahid… Um Abd Al-Rahman [the wife] remembered how Sheikh Salah was assiduous for action for Allah… He refused to stay in place without acting, especially at a time when he was wanted by the occupation… He would go out every day and meet with the men and operate in the territory. "And, for example, when he would part from the Shahada-seekers [martyrdom seekers – suicide bombers] he would go up to them and stay with the men, and when it was announced that the operation [was done], he would go, himself, to the house of the shahid and inform them [the family] about it and bless them…"

Two days after his wedding, he went out to meet the men. She said: "He always made sure to purchase weapons, and if he found a bullet, he would take it and tell them: ‘This is a trust, and we need every bullet’… [then his second wife said:] He always persisted in carrying out the deeds of the messenger of Allah [Muhammad]… in every thing, in eating and in drinking and in action." And she said he always persisted in parting from the martyrdom-seekers and blessing the messenger… and would stay up until he got word of the operation, and said: Now ‘peace has come.’"
[Al-Risalah, July 23, 2007]

Itamar Marcus is the founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch. He was appointed by the Israeli government to be the Israeli representative (communication specialist) to the Trilateral (Israeli-American-Palestinian) Anti-Incitement Committee established under the Wye Accords. From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Marcus served as research director of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, writing reports on PA, Syrian, and Jordanian schoolbooks. He holds a BA in political science from City College of New York and an MA in Hebrew culture from New York University. Barbara Crook is associate director and North American representative of Palestinian Media Watch. She teaches at the School of Journalism and Communications at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She holds an Honors BA in English literature from Queen's University, an MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and is a Southam Fellow at the University of Toronto.

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