Rattling the Cage: There’s no double standard

By targeting Palestinian terrorists while refusing to end the occupation, Israel cannot be compared to the US killing bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Osama bin Laden 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
The 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.
But we 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 country.
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.
That’s 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 independence.
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.