“Russia, France, Britain, Italy Criticize Israel’s “Disproportionate Use of Force”
--AFP headline, July 14, 2006
This week marks the anniversary of a massacre eerily connected to today’s news—the July 18, 1994 terrorist bombing of the seven-story Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 95 people and wounding more than 200. A similar bombing in March 1992 destroyed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people. The governments of Argentina, the US, and Israel suspect Iran of carrying out the attacks through its Hezbollah hit men.
The 1994 terrorist attack—the worst in Argentine history, and the biggest mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust, outside of Israel—should have served as a sobering wake-up call to the kind of rational people who assume there must be logical motives underlying terrorist behavior, or a rational answer to a variation on a familiar question: “Why do they hate…random, unsuspecting Argentine civilians?” Many among us still cannot acknowledge that there is pure, irrational evil in the world, and that there is no negotiating with it.
The term “disproportionate response” dominates coverage of Israel’s current reaction to acts of war launched by Hamas and Hezbollah, terror gangs whose charters call for the destruction of Israel, acting as proxies for Iran, whose president reiterates his genocidal threats every few days.
So it is fitting to look back and ask whether Israel responded proportionately to the Buenos Aires killings and thousands of Iran-financed attacks on Israeli civilians over the past decade.
The answer is no. A proportional reaction clearly would have been to respond in kind—to destroy a heavily populated Iranian embassy and blow up innocent Iranians in Tehran as well as in cities like London and Los Angeles. Instead, Israel acted with stunning disproportionateness, offering to provide humanitarian aid to Iran following its devastating earthquake in late 2003. The Iranian government turned down Israel’s offers of help, thus condemning a countless number of its own people to death simply to spite the Jewish state.
And yet, much of the world either views Israel as the perennial villain, or regards Iran and Israel as what one recent article about Iran’s announced genocidal plans called “two parties to a dispute.” A dispute about what—whether Jews in Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv have a right to live? In advising Israel, the nations currently meeting at the G8 summit would be wise to keep in mind the stated genocidal intentions of Iran and its terrorist subcontractors; and more important, remember that “proportionality” has not been a key consideration in their own reactions to Islamic terror attacks.
For instance, the Russian foreign ministry declared, "One cannot justify the continued destruction by Israel of the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and in Palestinian territory"—this from the same Putin Administration that slaughtered Chechnya Muslims by the thousands in a single military assault in 1999. (Israel has dropped thousands of leaflets warning residents to flee civilian areas used by Hezbollah as terrorist bases in violation of the Geneva Conventions—did Russia take any such humanitarian precautions?) Russia recently killed Shamil Basayev, a Chechnyan terrorist leader notorious for targeting and killing children, yet honors Hamas as a legitimate political entity to do business with, even though its leadership deserves the same fate as Basayev, for the same exact reasons.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Israel to practice restraint after coming under attack on two fronts, yet the Bush Administration was hardly the model of restraint when it reacted to a single day of terrorist attacks by invading two nations at the other end of the planet and overthrowing their governments.
The current administration has maintained a longstanding double standard when it comes to Israel’s struggle against terror. After Israeli forces killed terrorist mastermind Ahmed Yassin, White House spokesman Scott McClellan and UN Ambassador John Negroponte used the same phrase—“deeply troubled”—to describe the administration’s reaction (in contrast to the joyous reaction over the US killing of al-Zarqawi). Even Israel’s nonviolent self-defense in the form of an anti-terrorist barrier met with White House disapproval. As reported in the Forward (October 10, 2003), “The administration has said it may deduct what Israel spends on the fence from loan guarantees... ‘We have made it clear that the fence...is a problem,’ Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Washington Post, in language that has been echoed by Bush.”
Rice’s call for proportionality was echoed by both Italy and the United Kingdom, partners with the US in the war in Iraq, an undertaking that neither its supporters nor detractors would describe as restrained. Tony Blair’s spokesman said of Israel’s recent military response, “The British government hopes that actions will be proportionate.” Yet restraint is easier to preach than to practice—shortly after the Islamic fundamentalist subway-and-bus massacre of July 7, 2005, British police chased down and shot to death an innocent Brazilian man—a horrific yet understandable act in a nation traumatized by terror.
Yet when it comes to practicing a double standard toward Israel on the terror issue, it is France that appears to occupy a league of its own, practically elevating hypocrisy to an art form. This is revealed in the dramatic contrast between President Chirac’s hostility to the anti-terror policies of Israel (going as far as to embrace terrorists who target Jews), and his iron-fisted response to the young French Muslims who overwhelmingly targeted property, not human life, in the French riots of late 2005:
- On October 28, 2004—five months after Yasser Arafat’s Fatah murdered eight-month-pregnant mother Tali Hatuel and her four young children, execution-style—Chirac wrote a note of encouragement to the terrorist mastermind, who was being treated in a French hospital: “I wish that you could resume as soon as possible your work at the service of the Palestinian people…[France] will always stand next to you.” Yet on November 6, 2005, Chirac vowed to punish all who “sow violence or terror” in France.
- In early 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including dangerous terrorists—the kind of concession that the French government, among others, welcomed as a step toward peace. Later that year, French authorities arrested thousands of young rioters, vowing to prosecute, imprison, and in some cases deport them. Releasing them as a goodwill gesture never appeared to be an option under consideration.
- In July 2004, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier visited Arafat in his Ramallah compound, where he was confined after it was found that he had resumed his involvement in serial murder of civilians. Barnier scolded Israel for limiting Arafat’s freedom of movement: “I’ve seen the situation, and it is not suitable for him nor for the Palestinian people.” Yet the state of emergency declared in France in late 2005 empowered the government to limit the freedom of movement of countless innocent citizens by imposing curfews enforced by imprisonment and fines. It also provided for bans on public meetings, and house searches without a warrant—measures that would be widely condemned as “trampling the Bill of Rights” if they occurred in the United States.
- “…as Jacques Chirac explained to Ehud Barak [in 2000], Israel, being the stronger side, must be the first to stop [the use of force, in its attempts to fight terrorism]” (Yaacov Lozowick, Right to Exist). For Chirac himself, however, being the “stronger” side carried no obligation to be the first side to stop the use of force or make concessions; on the contrary, the stronger side—his side—must dominate, period. Chirac proclaimed, “The law must have the last word. The republic is quite determined, by definition, to be stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear.” As reported by Amir Taheri in the New York Post: “The French authorities hit back, sending in Special Forces, known as the CRS, with armored cars and tough rules of engagement.” The CRS is described as having a “brutal reputation.”
- Although instructions to shoot the elderly wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer and dump him off a cruise ship came from Arafat’s headquarters, Chirac’s reaction to Arafat’s death was to visit the hospital and announce, teary-eyed, “I came to bow before President Yasser Arafat and pay him a final homage…with him disappears a man of courage and conviction” and urge Palestinians to “continue to be faithful to Yasser Arafat’s memory.” An Associated Press report during last year’s intifada in French cities described an atrocity that brought back memories of the Klinghoffer tragedy: “Attackers [in a Paris suburb] doused [a] woman, in her 50s and on crutches, with an inflammable liquid and set her afire as she tried to get off a bus…” Chirac never announced any intention to find those responsible, arrange generous funding for them, and engage in peace talks with them, even though Chirac apparently needed his own peace partners in order to negotiate an end to what his police commanders described as “a state of war.”
- After Israel was forced to hunt down terrorists in Jenin following the 2002 Passover massacre, Le Monde—displaying an obscene form of anti-Israel bias that has become more acceptable and commonplace during the Chirac administration—published a deeply dishonest and bigoted cartoon depicting Israelis as Nazis exterminating the population of the Jenin “Warsaw Ghetto,” further fanning the flames of anti-Semitism at a time when French Jews were being assaulted and synagogues and Jewish schools were being firebombed in epidemic numbers. Yet, although distortions and lies intended to demonize Israel are acceptable in the French media, merely reporting the facts about the French Muslim uprising was deemed inflammatory and therefore censored. “[France’s] largest private television network, TF1, refrains from airing footage of burning cars or buildings…The state-owned television channels, France 2 and France 3, have stopped reporting on the number of cars torched by rioting young immigrants every night…Explaining their restraint, TV execs say that they want to avoid inciting further violence.” (Wall Street Journal)
- As reported by Martin Peretz of the New Republic, “France went into a frenzy to mobilize the countries of the EU at the UN to vote ‘yes’ on the General assembly resolution calling on Israel to take down the security barrier it is building against Palestinian terror.” Yet Chirac surrounded himself with a cozy barrier of protection when he went to lay a wreath in honor of fallen soldiers in late 2005. “Exceptional security measures were taken for Armistice Day ceremonies attended by President Chirac…under the watch of some 3,000 police officers…” (Agence France-Press) On November 16, the same day AFP reported that vandalism had declined “almost down to levels seen before the unrest broke out on October 27,” the French senate voted to extend the nation’s extraordinary emergency measures into 2006. Just to be safe.
Chirac’s hard line was already well-established before the Muslim riots of 2005. In 2003, Israel National News reported that he “thwarted a European Union condemnation of a strongly anti-Semitic speech by the Malaysian Prime Minister.” Yet when hate speech occurred within France, the Chirac government’s response went far beyond mere condemnation. “More than three dozen imams whose preachings are violent or do not conform with French values have been expelled since 2003,” the Associated Press reported.
Nor does the current French administration hesitate to use massive deadly force against noncombatants, as they proved in 2004. After Ivory Coast warplanes killed nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker in a bombing raid, the French struck back against the Ivorian military—but the story did not end there. On November 6, 2004, French helicopter gunboats fired on unarmed protestors crossing a bridge in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire; on November 9, French forces fired on another crowd of protestors at a hotel. The final toll was 57 unarmed civilians killed and over 2,200 injured, according to the Ivorian government; French estimates are lower. The French government has rejected all demands for an investigation. And yet…responding to the October 26, 2005, suicide-bombing that killed six Israelis and wounded dozens in a Hadera marketplace, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman warned Israel that protecting its citizens by targeted killings of the terrorists would be “contrary to international law.”
It would be fitting if the G8 leaders were to acknowledge the anniversary of the 1994 blast that leveled the Buenos Aires Jewish community center—a tragedy that deserves the same solemn commemoration as 9/11 in the US, 7/7 in the UK, and 7/11 in India—and take it into account when assessing the nature of the evil that has struck Israel, and what Israel’s response should be. Unfortunately, Chirac will surely not be among the leaders who will acknowledge the Hezbollah threat and react accordingly. As Olivier Guitta noted in his article “The Chirac Doctrine,” “The French government has continued to resist calls not only from Washington and Jerusalem but also from some within Europe to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization, preferring instead to categorize the group as a ‘social’ organization.”
Perhaps the world leaders meeting in St. Petersburg as a new war rages will remember how the Allied leaders responded to the Nazi threat, for the current attack on Israel is eerily identical to Hitler’s aggression. Then, as now, diplomacy was tried for years and failed. Then, as now, the ceding of land for peace only produced further attacks. Then, as now, the aggressors had the same two goals: to exterminate the Jews, and to impose their nightmarish form of fascism on the world. As Hamas terrorists, whose charter calls for genocide of Jews and the eradication of Israel, proclaimed in a recent video, “We will rule the nations, by Allah’s will, the USA will be conquered, Israel will be conquered, Rome and Britain will be conquered.”
Journalist Patrick D. O’Brien, writing at clarityandresolve.com, has aptly summed up the international scope of the threat: “…the future of Western liberal democracy is squarely in the sights of very bad men who want to drag all of us—whether we are liberal, conservative, or centrist, and whether or not we support Israel—into the wretched pit of barbaric medieval theocracy they believe to be God's will. The Sunnis of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Aqsa are in lockstep with Shia Hizbullah to light the fuse in Israel as Iran puts the finishing touches on Allah's fiery final answer to the might of the infidel. The future is here, and there is scant time to shape it into the hopeful image of liberty and justice that our children deserve.”
It is unlikely that there were many calls for “proportionate response” after Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The operative phrase at the time, both as policy and rallying cry, was “unconditional surrender” of the enemy. As author Melanie Phillips recently wrote, “Israel is our collective front line” in the Iran-led war on the free world. If the major world powers will not actively help Israel to defeat Hezbollah and Hamas as decisively as the Allies crushed Germany and Japan, the least they can do is to refrain from pressuring Israel into “restraint” that would not expected of, or practiced by, themselves or any other nation under endless attack.
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