A true martyr of our time and the New York Times article about him "The Nicest Terrorist I have Met", please read at: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/21/opinion/the-nicest-terrorist-i-ever-met.html.
The Nicest Terrorist I Ever Met
By David Margolick
Published: April 21, 2004
Published: April 21, 2004
When I interviewed Abdel Aziz Rantisi a year and a half ago in Gaza, the interpreter who accompanied me made one request: that our cab remain parked conspicuously in front of his apartment, in a quiet and pleasant residential neighborhood there. That way, she figured, the pilots of any Israeli helicopters hovering nearby would see there were journalists visiting, and would hold off killing Dr. Rantisi, then the chief spokesman for the militant group Hamas, at least until we'd left.
Of course, given the vast network of Israeli informants in Gaza and the West Bank, such precautions were probably unnecessary; the Israelis surely knew we were there. Last Saturday night, one such informant was presumably on the line with Israeli intelligence the precise moment Dr. Rantisi left his apartment and got into his car. An Apache helicopter promptly materialized and pulverized the vehicle. A month after succeeding the similarly assassinated Sheik Ahmed Yassin as head of Hamas, Dr. Rantisi, too, was dead. His successor, apparently already selected, has wisely remained unidentified.
This week, as thousands of chanting Palestinians bade goodbye to Dr. Rantisi, a pediatrician by trade, I recalled our visit. A few hours before the interview we'd been with Muhammad Dahlan, then head of security in Gaza for the Palestinian Authority, and the contrast between the two men epitomized the entities they represented. The dapper Mr. Dahlan held a Marlboro in his manicured hand and served us coffee with cardamom in his luxurious office. Dr. Rantisi, on the other hand, wore drab street clothes and sandals. His dimly lighted apartment was just as austere, with a fax machine the only accouterment.
For all of Dr. Rantisi's incendiary rhetoric, there was a surprising serenity to him, the serenity of fatalism and faith. His security was lax. The helicopters could come any moment, he said, but he'd not changed his life; he still lectured every week at the local university, still had his grandchildren staying with him. Shortly after our meeting, as the Israelis started going after members of Hamas' political wing, he, too, went underground and had already survived one assassination attempt when his time finally came. A small crater in a Gazan street undoubtedly marks the spot where he was hit. He managed to reach a hospital before dying.
Entering Dr. Rantisi's home that day, I wondered how I would feel shaking the hand of someone who blew up Jewish children. I wondered, too, how he would feel about giving yet another interview to yet another American Jew, whose objectivity he surely questioned. But even killers can be charming, and reporters are disconcertingly adaptable. There was a gentle affability to Dr. Rantisi. The interpreter quickly became superfluous. He spoke English softly, musically, imperfectly but painstakingly. Though our talk was of targeted killings, he sometimes even laughed.
He described the degradation of occupation: the loss of lives and dignity, the dead Palestinian children, the uprooted trees, the bulldozed land, the desecrated holy places. The ''martyrdom bombings'' were retaliatory, he insisted, responses to Israeli murders and massacres. He spoke the language of the freedom fighter. ''We are doing the same now that the French did to the Germans, and the Algerians to resist the French, and Vietnam to resist the Americans,'' he said. Taken in a vacuum, his reasoning was seductive. One could see how he charmed left-wing European journalists, including a crew of Englishmen there with us.
But there was something sinister and cynical in his choice of words -- or, more accurately, one word: occupation. To most of the world, he knew, occupation was what happened to the Palestinians in 1967, when Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza. The very word suggests temporariness, compromise. But to him and the organization he'd helped found, the occupation dated back not to 1967 and not even to 1948, when the state of Israel was created, but decades before that, to when the Zionists began buying up dunums and hectares of Mandatory Palestine. All of Israel was occupied territory. Dr. Rantisi talked of truces, but they were meaningless. His peace plan was simple: five million Jews should leave. Then there would be peace. Until then, there would be jihad.
To him, all Israeli leaders were alike. Ehud Barak had done nothing for peace, he said. Shimon Peres was every bit the killer Ariel Sharon was, only smoother. And the most dovish Israeli politician of all, Yossi Beilin, was merely Mr. Peres's disciple. (In a sense, Dr. Rantisi was posthumously vindicated, for Mr. Peres was among those who applauded his killing.) To Dr. Rantisi, what differentiated Prime Minister Sharon wasn't his convictions, which were run-of-the-mill Zionist, but his stupidity. With every targeted killing, he said, Hamas only grew stronger; increasingly, its leaders were underground, beyond Israeli eyes. Now, with two of the group's pillars eliminated, Dr. Rantisi's thesis will be put to the test.
''The history will write Sharon is the first one who started destroying Israel,'' he told me. ''And if you will live -- I hope so -- for 120 years, you will see that.'' As he spoke to me, he laughed almost affectionately, as if he really meant it. Imagine that: the future head of Hamas wishing me a long life. All I had to do was to stay off the wrong Israeli bus.
Drawing (Drawing by Jonathon Rosen)