Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the co-founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, on Friday, March 19, three days before his assassination. (Photo: New York Times, Elio Colavolpe/Emblema)

See the Dreamer in his wheelchair. A poor man. Paralyzed. Blind to this world. Many Palestinians revered him. He was their truth teller. The Israelis killed him with missiles on his way home from morning prayers.

What did the Dreamer dream? What were his truths?

“In The Name of The Most Merciful Allah…” are the first words of the Covenant he wrote in 1988. “For a long time,” Article 22 of the Hamas Covenant begins, “the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision…With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money, they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money, they formed secret societies such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions, and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money, they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.

“You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere without their having a finger in it…” (Translation courtesy of the Avalon Project, Yale Law School.)

This image of Yassin—and the many stories that accompanied it—are variations on a Western legend about an “Old Man of the Mountain.” In the legend, the Old Man leads a band of young “Assassins”—martyrs to whom he has promised Paradise if they die while killing their enemies. The first Old Man was real. He was a Shiite guerilla leader named al-Hassan Sabbah. Al Hassan and his men captured a Sunni mountain fortress in northern Persia in 1090. That capture began a 160-year long campaign of targeted political/religious killings, carried out by Shiite fida’is (“martyrs”), sent by al Hassan and his successors, against Sunni overloards in Syria and Iraq.

The West’s First Crusade—the one that liberated Jerusalem by slaughtering every Jew and Moslem in the city—coincided with al Hassan’s first campaign of assassinations. Five “Frankish” Crusaders were killed by followers of the Old Man. When the Crusaders returned to Europe, they carried with them Sunni stories—defamatory, exaggerated stories—about the Old Man and his band of drug-crazed Assassins.

For nearly two centuries, Shiite fida’is killed Sunni Abbasids and Saljuquids. Abbasids and Saljuquids killed Shiites. Moslems killed Moslems. One Old Man succeeded another. Until the Mongols of Halgu Khan killed and burned everything and everyone on their way west. Moslems stopped killing Moslems. Until an Egyptian army of military slaves (Mamluks), led by a military slave, stopped the Mongols west of the Jordan River. Then the internecine killing resumed.

The Old Man in this photograph was, in fact, a Sunni. Hamas is underwritten by Sunnis—in particular by Sunni charities in Saudi Arabia. Most of us in the West—us civilians—didn’t notice such an anomaly. “A terrorist is a terrorist.” That’s turned out to be true: the Shiites of Hezbollah, underwritten by Iran, the al-Aqsa brigades of the PLO, underwritten by Saddam’s Iraq—all have made common cause. “The enemies of our enemy is our friend.” And who is their enemy?

In October, 2000, a Hamas suicide bomber—a Sunni martyr—detonated himself in a Sbarro Pizza shop, at the corner of King George and Jaffa streets in Jerusalem. Fifteen people died. One hundred and thirty were injured. Seven of the dead were children. Eleven months later, in August, 2001, another Hamas suicide bomber—yet another Sunni martyr—blew himself up in the same pizza shop. Fifteen more people died. Ninety more people were injured. Six of the dead were children. Five of the dead were members of the same family.

The killings continued. The Dreamer had his dreams. That’s why the Israelis killed him, one morning, on his way home.

Michael Lesy is the author of eight books of literary journalism and photography, includingWisconsin Death TripDreamland, and, most recently, Long Time Coming: A Photographic Portrait of America, 1935-1943. He is a professor of writing at Hampshire College.

“Who Was Yassin?” — The Revealer investigates.

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