29/03/2004

Playing dirty politics in the name of Palestinian cause

Vol XXVII NO. 9 Monday 29 March 2004

BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI

Politics can be a dirty game which gets even messier when novices jump on board to play. A few days ago I had the pleasure of speaking to the creme de la creme of political and social society heads in Bahrain to gauge their reaction to Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's murder.

They were all united that it was a cowardly act perpetrated with full US support and that the masses would be enraged. They all warned of the consequences of lack of Arab governments' support for the Palestinian cause - a highly sensational issue for all Arabs. And they spoke about rallies, which they cautioned, may get out of control and turn into riots if nothing is done! Like Bahrain could free Palestine and is not doing anything about it.

What really intrigues me is the outpouring of emotions from these Bahraini reactionaries who represent a broad spectrum of political backgrounds. Secularists and the Islamists shared the same views - if not the same agendas.

The next few days showed that their prophecies were true. There were huge rallies, sit-ins and even riots and acts of sabotage and vandalism.

The question I wanted an answer for is why? What do those little boys who went on a rampage know about the Palestinian cause? What did they know about Sheikh Yassin and his politics? Was it really the murder of Sheikh Yassin which drove them out to the streets or was it something else which needs to be closely examined if we are to overcome this stage of political reconciliation in a calm and dignified manner?

One of the society heads spoke about pent up anger among the young. He brought up every issue under the sun - from lack of job opportunities to discrimination, poverty, vice and concerns about the constitution. What I could not connect then was what has the murder of Sheikh Yassin got to do with all the problems Bahrainis suffer from.

Now I know it was only an excuse to make a scene. I should have known that when one of them told me that there would be a rally staged next to the Seef roundabout. The naive me immediately reacted: Why Seef? It is already congested there and traffic moves at a snail's pace any time of the day or night. His knowing answer was: To draw attention to our plight. To make our voices heard.

We all know that Sheikh Yassin was a terrorist in the eyes of Israel and its close ally, the US - but for all Arabs he is a hero who has literally given up his life to fight for a just cause. It is a shame that such a man is being used as a scapegoat by masked mobsters who only want to make trouble.

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