27 March 2004

Lee Kuan Yew gives warning to Islamic moderates
AFP , Singapore
Sunday, Mar 28, 2004,Page 4
Moderate Muslims must take a stand against religious extremists, Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said, warning that failure to do so would lead to Islam being "hijacked."

In an interview with the BBC's East Asia Today program Friday night, Lee said the silence of moderates over deadly bomb attacks such as the ones in Bali and Madrid made it appear that only the US and its allies were fighting extremists.

Lee said "the crux of the battle, really, is between moderate and extreme Muslims."

However, moderate Muslims were "keeping out of sight" at the moment, he said.

"But if Madrid, 9/11, Bali and so on keep going on and the moderates in the Muslim world keep silent, either condone or duck the issue, then there is a danger that the West may begin to feel, that really, there are no champions to counter these terrorists," Lee said.

"That would become a very dangerous problem," he said in the interview.

"I am saying that moderates in the Muslim world, by not being able to take a stand and take the lead and start the argument with the extremists in the mosques, in the madrasah [religious schools], they are ducking the issue and allowing the extremists to hijack not just Islam but the whole of the Muslim community."

The former premier said there was a danger the war on terror would widen the differences between Islam and the West, but this could be prevented if the moderates made their stand clear.

"Let's take 9/11 or Madrid," he said, referring to the September 11, 2001 airborne attacks in the US and the March 11 bombing in the Spanish capital that killed 190.

"If nobody except Europeans and Americans and those who are already committed condemn this -- I mean if all Muslim countries stay silent or Muslim groups stay silent -- then there is the danger that the Europeans and Americans may come to the conclusion, 'Look, there's really nobody on the other side that's standing up against this evil.'"

(Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore to independence and served as its first prime minister)
Fatah confession sheds new light on Arafat's terror links
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
A confession by a member of Fatah's armed branch in Nablus has shed new light on the extent of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's involvement in terror. The terror suspect told Shin Bet security service interrogators that money he received from Arafat was used to purchase weapons and to carry out shooting attacks in the West Bank.
Raaf Mansur, from the Nablus area, was detained by Israel Defense Forces soldiers last February. Mansur headed a wing of Fatah's military branch, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. His cell was responsible for attacks in the Nablus and Jenin areas.
Letters confiscated by Israeli security forces from Mansur's home included pleas sent to Arafat for money to fund armed activities. Mansur told interrogators that his appeals to Arafat resulted in a monthly NIS 7,500 payment to him. The allocations continued up to the time of Mansur's arrest.
Mansur explained that the money was delivered via Abed al-Fatah Hameil, who serves as a financial adviser to the PA chairman. Mansur and Hameil met several times in Nablus. Mansur presented a list of his cell members and, after reviewing the names, Arafat's assistant delivered the funds.
Hameil would confirm the militants belonged to Fatah and that they were dealing with "military activity." In a few instances, Hameil helped find work for Mansur's men in the PA apparatus.
Mansur confessed to involvement in shooting attacks in the West Bank (he claimed nobody was injured in them) and to sending his men to throw Molotov cocktails at IDF vehicles and settlers on roads east of Nablus. Arafat's money, he explained, was used to finance the purchase of firearms for terror cells and to cover expenses incurred in the armed activity.

25 March 2004

Newsday.com: Palestinian Intellectuals Urge Calm:
By Associated Press
March 25, 2004, 4:48 AM EST

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Sixty prominent Palestinian officials and intellectuals urged the public Thursday to refrain from retaliation for Israel's killing of a Hamas leader, saying it would ignite more bloodshed that would hurt Palestinian aspirations for independence.
A half-page advertisement in the PLO's Al-Ayyam newspaper called on Palestinians to lay down their arms and turn to peaceful means of protest to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The ad reflected growing sentiment among many Palestinian leaders and intellectuals that military struggle is not helping the Palestinian cause. Thousands of Palestinians have died during three and a half years of fighting with Israel.
Hamas' founder and spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Monday, prompting an outpouring of outrage on Palestinian streets. Hamas has promised to strike back, saying even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a target.
Hamas has carried out dozens of suicide bombings over the past three and a half years, killing more than 300 Israelis, according to Israeli officials.
The intellectuals who signed Thursday's ad -- including lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi and Abbas Zaki, a leading member of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement -- said such revenge attacks would lead to a strong Israeli retaliation and further hurt the Palestinian cause.
The group called on the public to 'rise again in a peaceful, wise Intefadeh (uprising.)' While saying the 37-year occupation must be brought down, they asked the public to reconsider the benefits of a violent struggle. "
Finally, something worked! This is the most promising news I have heard out of the Middle East in a long time. It doesn't look like Hamas will agree with this view, however they did at least withdraw their threat to retaliate against the United States (assuming they are telling the truth). Instead they are reinventing the Passion Play, Palestinian Style.