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Europe

German Press Review: A Blow to Peace in the Middle East

German newspapers on Tuesday roundly condemned the assassination by Israel of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and predicted an escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Had Sheikh Yassin made a peaceful exit from this life, no one from Ramallah to Amman would have mourned him, Berlin-based Die Welt wrote. As it is, however, his violent death has forced even moderate Palestinians into false solidarity with Hamas and turned Gaza into a hornet’s nest, the paper added.

The tz in Munich wrote that the rocket attack on Sheikh Yassin didn’t just liquidate a man, it was directed against a symbol. The paper contended that, like Osama bin Laden, the paraplegic Sheikh has long been more myth than criminal - and that this is the biggest danger posed by this illegal and politically stupid action. Yassin the martyr is far more dangerous than the living Sheikh was, the paper added. It warned that the coming escalation in violence threatens not only Israel, but also the whole Western world. Ariel Sharon, the daily wrote, has no political vision whatsoever. He can’t see beyond the next attack, and in failing to do so, he’s gambling with the future of Israel.

Surely no one can claim to be surprised by this latest act of violence, the Düsseldorf-based Westdeutsche Zeitung wrote. It wasn’t the first state-sponsored murder, nor the first attempt to kill Yassin. Yet here we stand, speechless, before the ruins of the so-called ‘peace process’ our leaders keep assuring us they’re working on, despite all evidence to the contrary. Once again, the paper wrote, we take refuge in assurances and appeals, knowing full well that they reach no one and are meant only to appease our conscience.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung remarked that we shouldn’t feel any misplaced sympathy with Sheikh Yassin. He sent the suicide bombers, and he had the blood of hundreds of innocent Israeli children, men and women on his hands, the paper warned. But it agreed with a comment by the Polish foreign minister that creating the image of a wheelchair-bound person killed in a rocket attack was probably not the best way of improving Israel’s security.

Cologne’s Stadt-Anzeiger too wrote that anyone who uses state-of-the-art weapons technology to kill a paralyzed man in a wheelchair on the open street can no longer claim that this is legitimate self-defense against terrorists. The paper acknowledged that Yassin was of course a dangerous man despite his disability, but added that it’s an illusion to believe that this murder could improve the chances of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Frankfurter Rundschau feared that the assassination of Yassin will give radical Islamist groups the edge in the power struggle with Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. After this, the paper wrote, we can assume that the Palestinian security forces won’t even begin to try and disarm Hamas. The paper predicted even more chaos in the autonomous regions, which could lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority with Hamas stepping in to fill the power vacuum.

Yassin’s death won’t weaken Hamas, commented the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, but will strengthen and further radicalize it. Yassin was a man of terror, the paper wrote, but you could at least negotiate with him, over a ceasefire agreement for example. The paper went on to say that Yassin was considered the only one who could control his organization, and that with his murder, Hamas has been unleashed.