In September 1970, Leila Khaled tried to hijack an El Al flight en route to New York, was disarmed by Israeli security marshals and arrested by British police when the plane landed in London. Israeli authorities asked for her extradition but days later, after a BOAC jet was hijacked on its way to Jordan, British prime minister Edward Heath decided to release her as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
On September 5, 1972, members of Black September broke into the Israeli quarters at the Olympic Games in Munich, killing two Israeli athletes and taking nine others hostage. After a shootout with police, the hostages, five of the terrorists and a West German policeman were killed. The three surviving terrorists were released several weeks later, after the hijacking of a Lufthansa jet. They were received as heroes in Beirut, Damascus, Tripoli and Algiers.
From 1981 to 1991, the Iranian regime led a secret war against France: assassinations of Iranian opposition leaders on French territory, 13 bombings in Paris between 1985-87, kidnappings of French journalists and diplomats in Lebanon. All the arrested Iranian terrorists and intelligence agents involved in the plots were eventually released in a secret deal with Teheran.
In the deadliest suicide attack until 9/11 against American and French peacekeeping forces in Beirut, on October 23, 1983, 241 American servicemen and 58 French paratroopers were killed when two trucks laden with explosives slammed into the respective buildings of their barracks. The Syrian minister of defense, Gen. Mustafa Tlass, later said in an interview, “After the deployment of the Multinational Force, I gathered the Lebanese resistance leaders together and told them: Do whatever you want with the US, British and other forces, but I do not want a single Italian soldier to be hurt... because I do not want a single tear falling from the eyes of [Italian actress] Gina Lollobrigida, whom [I] loved ever since my youth.”
Did Syria, or Iran or Tlass pay any price for the attacks?
On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members aboard. Eleven people in Lockerbie, southern Scotland, were killed as large sections of the plane fell in the town. In January 2001, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, was convicted of involvement in the bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment in Scotland.
In August 2009, the Scottish government released him “on compassionate grounds” to return to Libya as he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer and had “a life expectancy of less than three months.” Col. Muammar Gaddafi thanked Prime Minister Gordon Brown, “my friend,” for interceding with the Scottish government to let the man go. Six months later, where is Megrahi?
THESE ARE only a few examples of the pattern developed by Western powers in dealing with terrorists since the Palestinians began in the late 1960s the wave of what is today called “global terrorism,” which directly led to the al-Qaida 9/11 attacks on American soil, the Madrid 2004 and London 2005 bombings.
All the Arab countries have hosted, nourished and some of them, like Syria, Iraq and Libya, have sponsored Palestinian and Arab terrorist organizations for decades, even when they killed fellow Palestinians, Jordanians, or Saudis, like the Abu Nidal organization did.
How many of these terrorists have been put on trial in Arab countries or are in prison? None! Iran and Syria have hosted, supported and sponsored, since 1982, Hizbullah, Turkish Islamists, the Kurdish PKK, Iraqi terrorists, acting throughout the region and beyond.
Imad Mughniyeh, the mastermind of the attacks on the Marine and French barracks in Beirut and of the bombing of the Jewish community building in Buenos Aires in 1994, for which Interpol issued an international warrant arrest, was assassinated in Damascus in 2008. He was celebrated as a “martyr” by Hizbullah and the highest religious and political authorities of Iran.
Five years ago, Syria was the principal suspect in the UN investigation into the assassination in 2005 of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s current prime minister and Rafik’s son, recently met with Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, in a reconciliation move between the two countries. The investigation, upgraded to a UN special tribunal lost key members and had to release suspects for lack of formal indictments. Some observers believe “international political pressure” has played a role in “slowing down and even rolling back” the search for Hariri’s killers. Can anyone guess which direction the pressure came from? France? The US?
Mahmoud Mabhouh, the assassinated Hamas operative in Dubai, allegedly by the Mossad, was one of the founders of Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam Brigades, responsible since 1994 for dozens of suicide bombings which killed hundreds of Israeli civilians. He was personally behind the kidnapping and assassination of two IDF soldiers in 1989, Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon. He most recently was in charge of the acquisition and smuggling of heavy weapons and explosives to Gaza, in cooperation with Iran.
What bothered Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim during the investigation of Mabhouh’s assassination was not his past terrorist activity, but rather that he had travelled under a different name. “If we had been told of his presence, we would have provided him with the necessary protection,” he told Al Arabiya TV. He added that he believed the Hamas leader was in Dubai for business and not for any kind of arms transactions, but no information about the cameras monitoring Mabhouh’s activities has yet been released by Dubai police.
So for all the noise about who falsified the British, Irish, French, Australian passports
allegedly used by the hit team, there is absolute silence from Dubai about who falsified Mabhouh’s passports.
Western states, who at least understand that they have to pursue and
punish al-Qaida thugs in Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, are silent in the
face of the relentless activities against Israel by Hamas terrorists
travelling freely in the Gulf states. There is also not a peep from
these powers when Hamas and Hizbullah leaders are hosted by their
patrons in Damascus and Teheran, where they join the noisy chorus of
those who profess “the divine promise” to “uproot the Zionist entity.”
The writer is senior research scholar
at the International Institute for Counterterrorism and senior fellow
at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary
Center in Herzliya.