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Justification for a terror attack

By Danny Rubinstein
27 October 2005

Yesterday`s terror attack in Hadera also includes an important political-propaganda aspect. For every assassination in the territories, there is an understandable Israeli tendency to exaggerate the importance of the person targeted. This was particularly salient in this week`s killing of Luay Sa`adi in the Tul Karm refugee camp. He was described as the most senior wanted man in the West Bank (in Gaza there are more senior targets), and as commander of the Jerusalem Brigades, Islamic Jihad`s military arm in northern Samaria. Israeli spokesmen emphasized that he had plenty of Israeli blood on his hands; he was responsible for attacks that killed 12 Israelis. It is interesting to examine how the Palestinians describe Sa`adi. Is he also a senior figure in their eyes?

Security establishment sources also provided an additional series of explanations for the assassination. It turns out that Sa`adi was killed while on his way to carry out another attack in Israel. That is, he was a ticking bomb. And in addition to this, he was the first one to open fire against soldiers who were pursuing him; they returned fire and killed him.

Sa`adi was a young man of 26, who was imprisoned in Israel for nearly five years, from 1999-2004, after completing his studies. He, along with other prisoners, was released at the beginning of last year in a deal with Hezbollah for Elhanan Tenenbaum.

Within a very short time, therefore, the low-ranking, newly released prisoner became a senior commander who merited being assassinated.

In the spirit of the times, Israeli spokesmen said the top wanted man, Sa`adi, like his Islamic Jihad colleagues in Gaza, who immediately responded to his killing by firing Qassams at Sderot, received instructions for their attacks directly from Damascus. In other words, the infamous regime of Bashar Assad is linked to the attacks and the terrorists who deserve to be killed.

In this context, it is interesting to learn that Palestinian spokesmen have a similar and even greater tendency to exaggerate the importance of those assassinated. While Israeli spokesmen said that Sa`adi was the commander of Islamic Jihad in northern Samaria, the mourning notices in the Palestinian newspapers describe him as the general commander of Islamic Jihad`s Jerusalem Brigades - not only in northern Samaria, but in the entire West Bank.

One can assume that his family (from the village of Atil, north of Tul Karm) is interested in glorifying the name of its son. But there were others who adopted a similar line. This includes, first and foremost, the entire Islamic Jihad leadership. All of them, from local West Bank and Gaza activists to leaders like Mohammed al-Hindi and Nafez Azzam from Gaza and, of course, Ramadan Abdullah Shalah from Damascus, were unanimous in heaping praise on Sa`adi. They called him a supreme commander and daring fighter, whose death is a great loss.

At first glance, it seems like they are collaborating with the Israeli PR effort, which exaggerates the importance of those targeted to justify their being killed. But, of course, they have their own motives for doing so - the most important being to justify reprisal operations.

All spokesmen for terror groups in the territories, including Islamic Jihad, need arguments to justify to their followers the attacks they conduct in Israel. They know that the leadership, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, like much of the public in the territories, does not agree with them. They ostensibly have plenty of arguments: the settlements, separation fence, Judaization of Jerusalem. But given the current atmosphere in the West Bank and Gaza, they need more than that.

If Luay Sa`adi were a junior and unimportant operative in Islamic Jihad, there would be no justification for as serious a response as yesterday`s attack in Hadera, or even the firing of Qassams on Sderot. Therefore, the terror organizations do all they can to portray the assassinated person as a senior figure. If an activist of such elevated rank - the general commander of the West Bank - is killed, it is easier for them to explain to their people why they responded in this way.
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