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Monday, September 06, 2004

DEBKAfile - World Muslim Brotherhood Calls to Arms to Thwart Gaza Evacuation



At 78, the fiery Egyptian preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a household name in the Muslim Arab world, commanding great respect as a leading theologian and star status for his religious phone-in program over Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arabic television station.
Jailed repeatedly in his home country for inciting religious violence, he operates out of Qatar as a member of the supreme Shura council of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in most Middle East countries, and heads a European Islamic canonical law council. In his broadcasts, the radical preacher publicly champions suicide terrorism against Israeli civilians. All the same, British law enforcement authorities saw no need to hamper Qaradawi’s activities when he landed in Britain this week.

The business that brought him to London is revealed here exclusively by DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources. The preacher placed before a World Muslim Brotherhood conference a working document drawn up at “a secret meeting of the movement” somewhere in the Middle East, calling on all brethren in the Muslim world to rise up and foil Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and, most of all, to combat any potential Egyptian or Jordanian role in its implementation. The Brotherhood was exhorted to resort “to all means available.”

The London conference endorsed the resolution and stressed its importance by adding: “No power can prevent the Brotherhood from thwarting this scheme, even if it entails direct and open confrontation with the governments of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The struggle will be uncompromising.”

This is the first time in many years that the Muslim Brotherhood, ideological soul-mates of al Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist organizations in the Middle East and Europe, has crossed the line between radical doctrinal rhetoric and operational violence, threatening Israel, the Palestinian areas - and Arab governments too - with a campaign of terror.

This sensitive information was relayed to two White House officials, Stephen Hadley and Elliot Abrams, when they met Sharon and other Israeli officials in Tel Aviv Tuesday, July 13, according to DEBKAfile’s political sources. It explains the sudden absence of Egyptian emissaries from contacts with Sharon on the future of his disengagement initiative. Cairo, ever prone to Islamic fundamentalist outbreaks, is loath to take the lid off a fresh wave, especially during the potentially volatile period of regime transition from the ailing president Hosni Mubarak to his son Gemal. Jordan is likewise playing down its support for Sharon’s plan. King Abdullah has enough worries from the danger of Iraqi guerrilla war spillover and clandestine al Qaeda activity without giving the Muslim Brotherhood’s broad and influential Jordanian membership a pretext for opening yet another front against the throne in Amman.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami and factions of the popular resistance committees, are bound by the Brotherhood’s decision to fight tooth and nail against Egyptian or Jordanian attempts to establish a security presence in Palestinian areas. This circumstance leaves former Gaza strongman Muhammed Dahlan with little option but to shelve his dreams of ruling the territory and return to his studies in London.

According to our Middle East sources the Muslim Brotherhood found ten reasons for their change of course:

1. Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will relieve the Israeli government of a heavy burden.

2. It will thrust the Palestinian leadership to the sidelines of government in the two territories. Already Arafat is forced to pretend to kowtow to Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman.

3. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak offered Sharon guarantees to preserve calm in the Gaza Strip after Israel’s withdrawal.

4. Instead of opening the way to further major Israeli withdrawals on the West Bank, Sharon’s disengagement will slow the process down.

5. The West Bank’s future will be up for grabs and Israel will have a free hand to exercise its will in the territory including finishing the construction of its defense barrier.

6. Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip would turn the clock back to the discredited solution-in-stages resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

7. The disengagement plan would reduce any Palestinian state that does emerge to the status of Arab protectorate rather than independent state.

8. Political or government changes in Israel could cause the plan to be ditched at any moment before or during execution.

9. Egypt was refused guarantees specifying Israeli political and military conduct in return for Cairo’s assistance in implementing disengagement.

10. All these considerations lay bare the perils inherent in Sharon’s plan and underline the urgency of thwarting it any price.

The prime minister’s office in Jerusalem is fully aware of the new terrorist peril posed by the many-branched Moslem Brotherhood and the almost certain loss of Egyptian and Jordanian security forces as vital props for keeping Palestinian terror in check. Yet Sharon shows no sign of being put off his determination to push ahead, and opposition leader Shimon Peres, co-architect of the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, continues to intone that withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is essential to Israel’s security. Neither have made any reference to the fact that the terrorist threat emanating from land evacuated by Israeli forces will have intensified manifold with the new Muslim Brotherhood threat. Al-Qaradawi will no doubt take full advantage of the broad Arab audience his popular program enjoys to propagate his message of violence far and wide.