with Shaikh Yasin
By Faisal Bodi (aljazeera)
Monday 22 March 2004, 15:33 Makka Time, 12:33 GMT
I had the professional privilege of meeting Shaikh Ahmad Yasin in October 2000, just weeks after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada.
To his enemies he was the epitome of evil, but the man I met was the embodiment of one of the most unequal struggles of our times.
Sitting hunched in a wheelchair in his breezeblock Gaza home, the frail shaikh symbolised the Palestinians' apparently hopeless resistance against the Middle East's military superpower, Israel.
Enfeebled by flu and straining to speak, the Hamas leader explained the second Palestinian uprising as a reaction to the failure of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 to change conditions in the Palestinian territories.
However, the trigger for the popular uprising, according to Yasin, was now Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's intrusion into Al-Aqsa, one of Islam's three holy mosques, and the killings of Palestinians in protests that followed.
Since those early days, the Hamas leader remained the inspiration behind the Intifada, refusing to accept what others felt was a road to collective suicide. Fighting from a much weaker position, the Palestinians must be prepared to accept much greater losses.
Israel's grey area
Israel's militaristic society, he said, had blurred the line between civilians and soldiers.
"The peace that reinforces occupation and settlement and the exiling of the Palestinian people, that is not really peace"
Our brief session ended with a call on Muslims worldwide to continue to help the Palestinians. Firm in his conviction that Israelis could not deliver a just peace he asked Muslims worldwide to "awaken inside themselves the intention for jihad and prepare for it in order to liberate al-Aqsa and Jerusalem when the time comes."
His death has deprived him of witnessing that pleasure, but his legacy of unflinching resistance will inspire thousands in years to come.
Faisal Bodi is a senior editor at Aljazeera.net