Dahu Khalfan Tamim now has a world-class reputation for detective work. The head of the Dubai police swiftly determined that Hamas’s Mahmoud Mabhouh did not die of natural causes at the five-star Bustan Rotana Hotel on Jan. 20. He was assassinated.

Let’s for the sake of argument grant that Israel did away with Mabhouh; that he was not killed by Iran or over some intra-Palestinian dispute, and that clues pointing to Israeli culpability are genuine.

Mabhouh certainly deserved to be assassinated by Israel. Hamas declared war on Israel. And he co-founded its military wing and was personally involved in the (separate) 1989 killings of IDF soldiers Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas.

Mabhouh was a key link in the unlawful syndicate which delivers Iranian weapons to Gaza. He was apparently tasked with importing an arsenal that would make life hellish for Israelis living in metropolitan Tel Aviv. He was, perhaps, Hamas’s equivalent to Hizbullah’s Imad Mughniyeh, whose car blew up in Damascus two years ago.

YOU CAN tell a great deal about the moral compass and political leanings of a society by observing its reaction to the Mabhouh liquidation.

There is unease in Europe because the purported assassins identified by Dubai were travelling under forged French, German, Irish and British passports; and identities of Israelis with dual-citizenship were utilized.

Even The Times of London, whose editorial page has been sympathetic toward Israel, expressed chagrin over the affair, saying this country had shown poor regard for the “future security of British passport holders overseas.” Frankly, there is little reason to think that the tradecraft employed in this assassination – which we will not second guess at this stage – jeopardizes anyone.

Actually, what troubles us is the question of whose passport Mabhouh was traveling under and why he was allowed to enter neutral Dubai on gun-running business.

Of course, that’s not how the British see it. The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen warned that if Israel had used British passports for “nefarious” purposes – meaning sending Mabhouh to his Maker – Bowen expected, or would it be more accurate to say, hoped for, “a crisis” in relations between London and Jerusalem.

The Guardian quoted a Foreign Office mandarin as gloating: “Relations were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now.” The paper then grumbled about the British government’s “supine” response to the assassination, editorializing against the government’s proposal to lift the threat of lawfare. The Guardian wants visiting Israeli ministers to continue to worry about facing Palestinian-inspired “war crimes” charges.

With the British media delighting in the assassination-passport kerfuffle – a Daily Mail headline screamed: “Dragged into a Mossad murder plot” – Menzies Campell, a routinely anti-Israel elder of the Liberal Democrats, declared that “Israel has some explaining to do.”

An anyway beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown intoned: “We have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” Sentiments echoed by Opposition Leader David Cameron.

The most encouraging view – paradoxically – came from Robert Fisk, the Independent’s inveterate Israel-basher: He suspects that London and Paris colluded with Jerusalem in Mabhouth’s assassination, in a reprise of the 1956 Sinai Campaign. That explained, he wrote, the flawless biometric passports.

What an uplifting (if improbable) scenario: MI6 and the Directorate-General for External Security working in tandem with the Mossad to stop Iranian arms from reaching Hamas.

PERHAPS the shrill reaction in some (though certainly not all) British quarters is not rooted purely in anti-Israelism. Chances are that at least parts of the British intelligentsia and media would have reacted similarly if the man in that hotel room had been Osama bin Laden... or Adolf Eichmann. And this pigheaded refusal to acknowledge that sometimes the ends do justify the means reflects a moral impoverishment that’s not limited to Britain.

Some pundits here have also gone wobbly, asking whether the Mabhouh hit was worth the trouble; others are rashly calling for the resignation of Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

In fact, removing a Mabhouh or a Mughniyeh – agents of evil engaged in sensitive compartmentalized work – significantly disrupts Hamas and Hizbullah. It sows distrust within enemy ranks. And it forces whoever replaces them to dissipate their energies just trying to stay alive.

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