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>Israel Faxx
>JN Oct. 17, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 190

Swiss Banks to Publish Accounts, New Money Found

Swiss banks, accused of hoarding Holocaust victims' money, said Thursday they would publish a second list of dormant accounts containing $12.4 million, bringing the total found so far to about $52 million. The list, to be published Oct. 29, for the first time includes the names of 10,000 Swiss citizens with dormant accounts opened before 1945 and worth almost $8 million.

Interview with the Sheikh (Pt. 2)

By Al Pessin (VOA-Gaza)

The spiritual leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas said in an interview he is not prepared for any long-term settlement with Israel, but might agree to stop attacks on civilians. Israel is open to the idea, but differences are wide on how it might be implemented. In a second report on his interview with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Al Pessin reports from Gaza on the Islamic background of the sheikh's positions, and just what influence he has among Palestinians.

Dozens of men crowd the sheikh's receiving room. They bend over to kiss him as he sits in his wheelchair, and they gently shake his paralyzed right hand. He smiles and greets them in his raspy voice, weakened by his paralysis, and he strains to hear as they try to speak loud enough to overcome his hearing problem.

He tries to be pleasant as he endures the jostling of the men who lift him into and out of the van that takes him around Gaza. His head rolls back and his chest heaves with laughter when someone makes a joke. When a reporter announces he will ask a difficult question, the sheikh cocks his head and says wryly, "We'll see."

And while thousands of Palestinians are happy to strain to hear his every word, in any language, he apologizes to a visitor about his English. "I studied one year in Ein-Shams college, English, but now, because of the years, I (laugh) cannot speak good."

Physically, Yassin is weak, but during a half-hour interview, he demonstrated he is mentally on top of complex issues -- stating his positions forcefully without politically painting himself into any corners. He leaves open the possibility of short-term compromise. But he says in the long term, Israel must go.

And in terms of political power, Yassin at first demurs, but then makes clear Hamas would live up to any agreement he might reach. He says all the Hamas fighters are Muslims, just like he is. And he says any agreement he reaches would be in keeping with Islam's principles -- such as an end to attacks on Israeli civilians in exchange for an end to Israeli policies he sees as detrimental to Palestinian civilians.

He says devout Hamas fighters would naturally follow such an accord. But it is entirely unclear whether Israel would meet his demands, even with an end to suicide bombings on the negotiating table.

And Yassin pointedly rejects the view of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said during her visit to the region last month that there is no "moral equivalence" between Hamas suicide bombings and Israeli policies such as demolishing Palestinian houses and confiscating some Palestinian identity cards.

The sheikh says it is the Palestinians who have been wronged, and asking them to stop attacking Israelis who have taken their land is like asking the United States to give up some of its land in order to stop some group from attacking Americans. He says the United States has killed hundreds of thousands of people, including civilians, in wars fought to protect its interests. And he asks why the United States should ask the Palestinians to act any differently.

Some analysts, including some Palestinians, believe Yassin's return to Gaza two weeks ago after more than eight years in an Israeli prison, represents a challenge to the leadership of Yasir Arafat.

However, the sheikh says he is determined not to "desecrate the purity of Palestinian unity" in spite of what he calls Israeli and US pressure to do so. He speaks of Arafat with respect and even affection. And he welcomes the relatively calm life the people in newly autonomous areas are enjoying.

But the sheikh also makes clear he will not accept a situation in which the Palestinian Authority tries to prevent Hamas from doing whatever it feels it must do, including attacking Israelis.

The sheikh says he refused to call for an end to attacks when he was in the Israeli prison, and he will continue to refuse -- with God's help, he says, -- as long as the occupation continues.

Yassin says even if his brother took his land he would fight him, so he is not about to let anyone else take his land. The sheikh tells a story to illustrate his point.

He says a man once went to the Prophet Mohammed and asked, "if someone tries to steal from me, should I let him?" And the prophet answered "No." The man asks, "but what if he fights me?" And the prophet says "Fight him back." "But what if he kills me?" asks the man, and the prophet says, "Then you will go to paradise." "And what if I kill him?" the man asks, and the Prophet says, "Then he will go to hell."

Therefore, Yassin says, it is the Palestinians' right to fight for their land, and that is what they will continue to do.

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