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May 1993 Issue [Readings]

Killing Collaborators: a Hamas How-To

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From a clandestine videotape made last summer by the Squads of Ez ed-Deen el-Qassam, the military arm of Hamas, the Islamic Palestinian group that in the past three years has risen to prominence in the Israeli-occupied territories. The squads, which number about 100 men each, are responsible for having killed about a dozen Israeli soldiers and settlers in the past year; last December the Israeli government deported 415 Palestinians to Lebanon in response to the kidnapping and execution by Hamas of an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip. The videotape, which is intended to recruit and inspire followers of Hamas, has been covertly copied and passed among Palestinians in the occupied territories. It is more than four hours long and contains news reports of Hamas attacks on Israelis, instructions on handling weapons , and interviews with members of the squads and with blindfolded Palestinians accused of collaborating with the Israeli security forces. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed during the intifada for “collaboration,” a term that can include anything from working for the Israeli military to informing on other Palestinians. The speaker whose statement appears below is one of the leaders of the squads. Translated from the Arabic.

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. My name is Yasser Hammad al-Hassan Ali. I live in al-Nusseirat [a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip]. I was born in 1964. I finished high school, then attended Gaza Polytechnic. Later, I went to work for the Islamic University in Gaza as a clerk. I’m married, and I have two daughters.

The Squads of Ez ed-Deen el-Qassam are the only group in Palestine explicitly dedicated to jihad. Our name may be new, but our apparatus  has been in place for years. Our primary concern is Palestinians who collaborate with the enemy, which we regard as one of the most dire problems facing the Palestinian nation. Our enemies have dedicated themselves to luring as many Palestinians as possible down the path of collaboration. Many young men and women have fallen prey to the cunning traps laid by the [Israeli] Security Services.

Since our enemies are trying with all their might to obliterate our nation, cooperation with them is clearly a terrible crime. So our most important objective must be to put an end to the plague of collaboration. To do so, we abduct collaborators; intimidate and interrogate them in order to uncover other collaborators; and expose the methods that the enemy uses to lure Palestinians into collaboration in the first place. In addition to that, naturally, we confront the problem of collaborators by executing them.

We don’t execute every collaborator. After all, about 70 percent of them are innocent victims, tricked or blackmailed into their misdeeds. The decision whether to execute a collaborator is based on the seriousness of his crimes. If, like many collaborators, he has been recruited as an agent of the Israeli Border Guard—attacking his own people in demonstrations, shooting and killing innocents—then it is imperative that he be executed at once. He’s as dangerous as an Israeli soldier, so we treat him like an Israeli soldier.

There’s another group of collaborators who perform an even more loathsome role—the ones who help the enemy trap young men and women in blackmail schemes that force them to become collaborators. I regard the isqat [the process by which a Palestinian is blackmailed into collaboration] of a single person as a greater crime than the killing of a demonstrator. In the latter case, a person is killed, and that’s it. But in the case of isqat, the collaborator has created a new enemy soldier. If someone is guilty of causing repeated cases of isqat, then it is our religious duty to execute him.

A third group of collaborators are responsible for the distribution of narcotics—hashish, cocaine, heroin, and the like. They work on direct orders from the Security Services to distribute drugs as widely as possible. Their victims become addicted to cocaine, for example, and soon find it unbearable to quit and impossible to afford more. So they collaborate in order to get the drugs they crave. The dealers, who lead many people to isqat, must also be I executed.

In the squads, we have developed a very careful method of uncovering collaborators. We can’t afford to abduct an innocent person, because once we seize a person his reputation is tarnished forever. We will abduct and interrogate a collaborator only after evidence of his guilt has been established—never before. If after interrogation the collaborator is found guilty beyond any doubt, then he is executed.

There was one collaborator, named Ahmad al-Ashqar, against whom several people had testified. Ordinarily, their testimony alone would not have been sufficient cause for us to abduct him, but in this case, the charge was so serious that we had to act. He owned a photo studio that was being used to take photographs of people in compromising situations, photographs that were then used to blackmail the subjects into collaborating. Allowing such a business to continue would have been too dangerous. We had to act immediately and interrogate him; every day we delayed would have produced more victims.

In many cases, we don’t have to make our evidence against collaborators public, because everyone knows that they’re guilty. But when the public isn’t aware that a certain individual is a collaborator, and we accuse him, people are bound to ask for evidence. Many people will proclaim his innocence, especially members of his family, his neighbors, and his friends, so there must be irrefutable proof before he is executed. This proof is usually obtained in the form of a confession.

At first, every collaborator denies his crimes. So we start off by showing the collaborator the testimony against him—written accounts of surveillance of his activities, taped accusations by other collaborators in his network. We tell him that he still has a chance to serve his people, even in the last moment of his life, by confessing and giving us the information we need.

We say that we know his repentance is sincere and that he has been a victim. That kind of talk is convincing. Most of them confess after that. Some others hold out; in those cases, we begin to apply pressure, both psychological and physical. Then the holdouts confess as well. Only one collaborator has ever been executed without an interrogation. In that case, the collaborator had been seen working for the Border Guard since before the intifada, and he himself confessed his involvement to a friend, who disclosed the information to us. In addition, three members of his network of collaborators told us that he had caused their isqat. With this much evidence, there was no need to interrogate him. But we are very careful to avoid wrongful executions. In every case, our principle is the same: the accused should be interrogated until he himself confesses his crimes.

A few weeks ago we sat down and compiled a list of collaborators who are active in al-Nusseirat and the neighboring camps, to decide whether there were any collaborators who could be executed immediately, without interrogation. And although we had hundreds of names of collaborators against whom two or more witnesses had testified, still, because of our fear of God and of hell, we could not mark any of these men—except for the one I just mentioned—for execution.

When we execute a collaborator in public, we use a gun. But after we abduct and interrogate a collaborator, we can’t shoot him—to do so might give away our location. That’s why collaborators are strangled. Sometimes we ask the collaborator, “What do you think? How should we execute you?” One collaborator told us, “Strangle me.” He hated the sight of blood.


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