Yassin: Profile of a Dirtbag

WaPo has an extensive profile Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Founder of Hamas

Sheik Ahmed Yassin was founder and spiritual leader of the radical Islamic group Hamas, which has become the prime Palestinian force waging war against Israel through suicide bombings and scores of other attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

How did he justify the killing?

“First of all,” Yassin said in a 1998 interview with The Washington Post, “these are not suicide operations.” Islam forbids suicide. “We are protecting ourselves,” he said.

“The Jews attack and kill our civilians — we will kill their civilians, too,” Yassin explained. “From the first drop of blood [the bomber] spills on the ground, he goes to Paradise. The Jewish victims immediately go to Hell.”


He rose to prominence in the 1980s when Gazans turned increasingly toward a fundamentalist brand of Islam, encouraged at times by the territory’s Israeli military occupiers, who saw Islamism as a political rival and counter-weight to Yasser Arafat’s exiled Palestine Liberation Organization.

But after the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, against Israeli rule broke out in December 1987, Islamic militants quickly sought to take a leadership role. Yassin helped found Hamas — the Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement — which preached destruction of the Israeli state and quickly spread from Gaza into the West Bank. The group is on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

Besides its adherence to what it called “armed struggle,” it also gained support because of its charitable activities in the slums of Gaza and its reputation for incorruptibility.


“A man may demand his rights in two ways — one in peace and one in jihad,” he said in a high, raspy whisper, referring to the Islamic concept of holy war.

Hamas was founded on the ideal of military resistance, and Yassin defended suicide bombers as “martyrs who seek life for themselves after death, and a life for their people after their martyrdom.”

Israel’s obliteration as a nation, he said, “is an expectation in the future. I say this from my reading of history.

” . . . Islam gives me the right to behave with my enemy as my enemy behaves to me,” he said. “If he kills civilians, it is our right to kill their civilians.”

Hamas returned to prominence after the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. More than 950 Israelis and 2,800 Palestinians have been killed in the violence that has ensued since.

Yassin has been the guiding force and inspiration for the movement. He has never swerved from his demand for an Islamic state in all of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, although in recent years he has said Hamas would be willing to settle temporarily for an independent Palestinian state in the formerly occupied territories and leave to the next generation of Palestinians the task of, as he put it, “liberating” the rest of the country.

Despite his physical frailty, Yassin was a charismatic and fiery preacher who attracted a sizeable following to his dark, cramped home in Gaza City. He could vary his language from impassioned rhetoric laced with Koranic sayings to simple, straightforward declarations. His modest house, where he and his wife had raised 11 children, stood in marked contrast to the affluent lifestyles of many PLO leaders.

Ah, yes. A prince of a man.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OF Jay says:

    The Gray Lady makes him out to be quite the saint too.

  2. Another detail conveniently left out of these obits: one would never know from reading them that Yassin planned to Talibanize the Holy Land — a plan that included the liquidation of secular Palestinian leaders — after getting rid of Israel. A prince, indeed.