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Assassination

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The outpouring of protests over the assassination of a terrorist in Dubai is another case of hypocritical anger and symptomatic of a complete loss of moral compass.

From a Jewish ethical point of view, if someone is trying to kill you, you have every right to disable or remove the threat in any way you can (preferably without killing). If this threat comes from a country, then you attack the country. If it comes from an army, you attack the army. If it comes from an individual, you attack that individual. And when in doubt, your safety comes first. In no way do I compare the removal of a threat, to torture which is always wrong. I have yet to be persuaded that torture ever provides accurate information that other means of interrogation cannot.

In the past you could settle a war by sending two champions to fight in single combat and the two armies didn’t need to massacre each other. Alexander didn’t offer the Persians that option. The niceties of medieval warfare and chivalrous challenges were relevant to knights in armor. The tactics of terror are altogether a different matter. There are no Geneva Conventions of Terror.

The rules of international law are all well and good if you dealing with someone who feels bound by international law. But not where an enemy organization explicitly and uncompromisingly calls for your destruction. In the asymmetrical modern battlegrounds around the world today where there are no rules of chivalry or legitimate combat or separating civilians from combatants. It is a matter of kill or be killed. If one is facing an enemy who is buying arms to use against civilians, assassination is a legitimate form of self-defense. So is confiscating a boatload of arms heading for enemy shores.

It is indeed dangerous to argue that just because assassination has been and is being used by states and individuals therefore it is legitimate. If the USA, and indeed Britain, practiced it once with regularity against regimes they disliked, they are nowadays a little more concerned with appearances. Usage is not a moral argument, but self-defense is. Even if world public opinion thinks everyone can defend himself, apart from Israel.

As for infringing sovereignty and due process of law, what happens when the perpetrators are protected by regimes which tacitly support their aims? What happens if everyone else is not standing up for justice? Was Israel wrong to ignore International conventions to land in Entebbe and rescue hostages? Has anyone ever suggested Von Stauffenberg was wrong to try to assassinate Hitler? Would the USA be wrong to assassinate Bin Laden? Why should not Israel target those who carried out terrorist attacks against its citizens on Israeli soil and beyond?

It is argued that this is a reasonable deterrent, to warn potential attackers that for the rest of their lives they would remain wanted, hunted, and potential targets. Although it hasn’t worked too well as a deterrent judging by the numbers increasingly willing to blow themselves up.

The protests in Europe are really a smokescreen for NATO and USA assassinations by drone in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Civilians are killed in collateral damage or by errors of arms and information. Why have I not heard anyone suggesting that NATO forces be charged with Crimes against Humanity? Why can China get away with oppressing its minorities and the Tibetans, and the UN and most world governments simply kowtow to them? Why are both the USA and Europe so craven towards Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab world? It is money and politics stupid, not morality, not justice, not fairness.

Israel was and is used as the scapegoat for all Arab and Muslim woes. Blame the Jews, blame the Israelis, and this will deflect criticism from barbaric, incompetent rulers. Now the disease has spread to Europe. Your economy is in a mess? Find a distraction. Blame Israel for everything. Make a huge issue over forged passports.

Actually the tactics that were used in Dubai are behind the game. Things have progressed. With modern surveillance and passport technology, using old Cold War methods gives too much away. Remote control, drones–these are the new tactics and indeed Israel excels at them. That is why I am not convinced this was not the work of Fatah, even if some Israelis might have helped.

I hate violence and war. I wish it would all go away and we could all live in peace, and Israel could spend the money on education, health, and welfare that it now has to waste on arms. But wishing never won anything or got Nazis to go away.

No, of course two wrongs do not make a right. A great rabbi living in Spain 800 years ago said, “If the law is not applied fairly and equally to all citizens, it cannot just bind one part of the population and not the other.” And if that was true of Christian Spain, it is also true where the Nations of the World do not apply one fair and equal standard across the board. Two wrongs do not make a right. But, conversely a right is not necessarily wrong!

13 thoughts on “Assassination

  1. With due respect, the issue that has enraged the Western allies is the misuse of passports rather than the assassination. Using your own analogy, it's a bit like the US sending its drones to attack Pakistan while painted in Israeli air force colours. The misuse of allied consular documents is a serious issue and Israel does not seem to have taken the lesson from its similar affront to Canada several years ago. In the end, its not whether the allies should be annoyed that matters – they are – and the use of these documents was badly judged and worked to Israel's disadbantage. Poor judgement shown – a fact that probably also upsets its allies.

  2. An excellent article, Jeremy. As for the "misuse of passports", Anonymous must know that secret services worldwide use passports in this way. He also makes the assumption that it was the Mossad which carried out this attack. Well, I'd like to know which Israeli agents took off for Tehran after the killing – brave men/women indeed!
    Personally, I don't care who did the murdering so-and-so in: the world is a better place without him.

  3. Apropos of this subject, may I recommend the article by Andrew Roberts "Israel is no more rogue than America" in The Financial Times of 2nd March 2010.

  4. The notion that the economic meltdown was responsible for the controversy over forged passports is ridiculous. These were not merely fake passports but rather forged passports of real foreign citizens whose lives were put at stake. Your inability to comprehend or respect that is incredible and puts you in the domain of a blind apologist.

  5. As a Sri Lankan I can empathise with you Jeremy. This is the same kind of grief we get from the West for having wiped out the Tamil Tigers from our land – in our case also it is politics, specifically that large Tamil populations in the West wield substantial voting power.

    (Your nation helped us in terms of military hardware during the war – so thank you Israel!)

  6. Thank you, Leila. Yes indeed, forging passports surely is no big deal when compared to human life!

    And thanks for the reference. It is indeed an important article.

  7. Anonymous:

    Interesting comments, thank you, but doesn't almost every drug dealer, money launderer and his friend use forged travel documents nowadays? And is THAT such a terrible crime against humanity?

    J

  8. Anonymous:

    I certainly agree that putting other peoples lives in danger is completely unacceptable, but that was not the nub of the EU complaint! As for being an apologist, I certainly am. But not, I hope, without justification, and certainly not blind–otherwise how do you explain those of my blog posts that do criticize Israeli policies?

    J

  9. Even though I feel no sympathy towards those who seek to advance their cause through use of violence, I can't help but place Israel in the same boat. All this speculation puzzles me. If Israel is not involved, why not just say so instead of this 'no comment' (read: "it was us") routine?
    More importantly, the annoyance with Israel. It seems that Hamas is criticised for nearly everything they do. So, perhaps it is to demonstrate some token gesture towards non-partisanship that Israel is reprimanded now. Given other decisions by Bibi and Co, is anyone surprised that Israel will continue to lose moral ground?

    MK

  10. MK:

    How can you compare violence used in self-defense? Have you forgotten the declarations of war made against Israel? The Khartoum Declaration, etc., etc?

    And as for being coy, surely in a world where an overwhelming majority is lined up against you, where honesty simply does not exist in diplomacy, a great deal depends of bluff and secrecy.

    I dont like (Israeli) politics and I sometimes despair of human incompetence and cupidity but for all its mistakes, arrogance and corruption Israel is unfairly judged. I think it should be judged nevertheless. But I'm not going to allow prejudice and biased to make me feel bad about a Jewish right to self-determination and self-defense.

    J

  11. Are you serious Jeremy? Self defence? Is Hamas a threat to the existence of Israel? Most certainly, demonstratedly, NOT. Is it a threat to Jews or Judaism? Absolutely not. If we, even for a brief moment, accept the repugnant argument that murder and massacre is ever an option for a rational human being, and that the pretext of self-defence makes that option permissible, then surely Hamas, rather than Israel, would be better placed to make such a claim. You may remember the statistics of the last bit of electioneering/war where 13 Israelis and 1300 Gazans died. There just isn’t a case for self-defence.
    Nevertheless, I do appreciate that this provides Hamas with just the right amount of vitriol to mount more attacks, which in turn will help to highlight the external threat, ‘poor Israel is surrounded by mighty enemies’ concept. That should prove helpful in keeping the money coming in. Besides the fact that this is blatantly immoral and against everything that Judaism stands for, it only helps to keep those corrupt politicians, you say you dislike, in positions of policy and power. These few run this country as if it was their own little playpen, and rules, laws and even niceties be damned. As I’m sure you know as you’ve spent time in Israel. End result, continued attacks from Hamas, same life under threat in Israel. 1313 dead, but business as usual in Hamas and the Knesset.

    MK

  12. There are two different sides to your comments.

    You will I trust agree that there is a declared state of war between Hamas and Israel, whether it is balanced, symmetrical or not is irrelevant, it takes only one man with a dirty bomb and bingo. Under these conditions I believe that if you believe someone is buying arms to use against you Jewish Law and morality allows you to strike first.

    I was not addressing the issue of whether or not Israel could have should have done more to negotiate with Hamas and forestall the initial rockets and then the war. Of course both sides are at fault in my opinion but on balance and over the last sixty years I think Israel has been the lesser of the evils.

    J

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