There’s a consensus here that the assassination of Osama bin Laden revealed the
world’s, and especially America’s, double standard toward Israel: When the US
targets a terrorist who killed Americans, they’re dancing in the streets, but
when Israel targets a terrorist who killed Israelis, they wag their finger at
us, if not worse.
I disagree. I think the assassination of bin Laden was
completely justified, while Israel’s targeted killings of Palestinian
terrorists, at least under the current circumstances, are wrong.
difference is that America wasn’t tyrannizing the Pakistanis or Saudis or any
other nation that bin Laden and al-Qaida think they’re fighting for. There are
Muslims who oppose the US military presence in the Middle East, but there are
others who welcome it. The US gave bin Laden and his people no legitimate cause
for any anti- American violence, let alone that of 9/11. Plus, al-Qaida was by
no means laying aside its arms and there’s no peaceful, fair way America could
have convinced it to.
The situation is completely different with Israel
and the Palestinians. Israel is tyrannizing those people, ruling over them by
force – in the West Bank and, from the outside, in Gaza. Every Palestinian hates
it, reasonably enough. No country on earth recognizes our right to subjugate
those people, to deny them their independence.
ISRAEL CANNOT claim that
it is innocent of all provocation to Palestinian violence. What’s more, we do
have a peaceful, fair way to remove that provocation – by giving them their
freedom as soon as possible. By rolling back the occupation and the settlements
as fast as we can manage – unilaterally and/or by negotiation.
don’t do this. We prefer to deal with Palestinian terrorists by targeted
assassination. That’s a totally different story from the Americans’ dispatch of
bin Laden. The problem here is not that the world, or the US, applies a double
standard to Israel, it’s that Israel refuses to see that it commits extreme
aggression against the Palestinians by imprisoning them where they live,
something the US doesn’t do to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or any other
And the key thing, in terms of our right or lack of right to
target terrorists, is that we’re in no hurry at all to give Palestinians their
independence. If we were, but were still being attacked anyway, we would be
entitled to go after the terror leaders. I think the 1993 Oslo Accord, 2000 Camp
David talks and 2001 Taba talks were good-faith efforts by Israel toward a
two-state solution; they took away the Palestinians’ right to use violence and
gave us the right to target those who did.
But now? We’ve made it clear
that we’ll never give the Palestinians independence in Gaza or the West Bank. We
won’t even let them control their own sea coast or air space, never mind build
an army. That’s not independence, that’s subjugation. Meanwhile, we’ve cancelled
all previous offers of West Bank land in return for peace that were made by
prime ministers Rabin, Peres, Barak, Sharon and Olmert.
When this country
was earnest about ending the occupation, we had the moral high ground to fight
Palestinian violence with our own. But in the last few years – beginning with
our post-disengagement policy of blockading Gaza indefinitely, and continuing
with our indifference to the West Bank leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam
Fayyad – we’ve given the high ground away.
By contrast, we’ve gained it
over Hezbollah because we don’t interfere with Lebanon’s freedom and
independence, not since we got out of that country completely, but completely,
in 2000. Since then, if Hezbollah or any other Lebanese attacks us, we have the
right to attack back, and, in extreme cases, to kill whoever’s calling the
shots. After Hezbollah started the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israel was
trying, justifiably, to take out Hassan Nasrallah. And for the first week of the
war, before Israel went overboard, the world was on our side.
because Israel got out of Lebanon without leaving a trace of interference on
that country’s freedom or independence.
We took away any cause for
violence that any Lebanese might have against us, and thus we had the right to
pay back any Lebanese attacker. In the same way, America had the right to pay
back Bin Laden.
But imagine if the US had assassinated Ho Chi Minh during
the Vietnam War. He was responsible for the killing of not 3,000 Americans but
tens of thousands of them, and he, too, was a fanatical believer in a
totalitarian ideology. But if the US had killed Ho during the Vietnam War,
crowds in New York, Washington and the rest of the world would have been
cursing, not cheering. It was widely, rightly understood that America was the
aggressor in Vietnam, and that it had a non-violent, fair way of protecting its
soldiers – getting them out of there and giving Vietnam its
By targeting Palestinian terrorists while refusing to end
the occupation, Israel cannot be compared to the US killing bin Laden. Instead,
it can be compared to the US if it had killed Ho Chi Minh while fighting in
Vietnam – or, closer to home, to Britain when it killed Lehi underground leader
Avraham Stern in 1942, during the British occupation of Palestine/Eretz Yisrael.
The British were wrong to kill Stern because they were wrong to rule this land
in the first place.
For the British, for the Americans, for us or anybody
else, targeted assassinations of the enemy are just fine – when you’ve been
minding your own business. When you haven’t been, they’re a real problem.