Uri Avnery may be one of the most underappreciated of all Israeli political commentators. I don’t read everything he writes, but every once in a while I read one of his columns which captures so perfectly the folly of much of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. His analysis is so spot on that I marvel at his perspicacity. The man is a wonder.
Blood and Champagne, which I first read at Rootless Cosmopolitan, comments on the Imad Mugniyah assassination. Avnery accepts as a given that Israel is responsible. And what is remarkable about his column is that he reviews some of the most significant and historic targeted assassinations which Israel has been responsible for and proves incontrovertibly that contrary to Israeli belief, these acts have not made Israel safer. Davke l’hefech–the acts of vengeance in response have killed far more Jews and Israelis than the original act. Not only that–the assassinations have helped spawn newer and ever more formidable movements of resistance to the Occupation, the Stern Gang, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah being but a few examples.
Here are a few of the most telling passages from Avnery’s essay:
Every reporter, every commentator, every political hack, every transient celeb interviewed on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers, was radiant with pride. We have done it! We have succeeded! We have “liquidated” Imad Mughniyeh!
He was a “terrorist”. And not just a terrorist, a master terrorist! An arch-terrorist! The very king of terrorists! From hour to hour his stature grew, reaching gigantic proportions. Compared to him, Osama Bin-Laden is a mere beginner…
There is and never has been anyone like him. For years he has kept out of sight. But our good boys…have not neglected him for a moment. They worked day and night, weeks and months, years and decades, in order to trace him. They “knew him better than his friends, better than he knew himself” (verbatim quote from a respected Haaretz commentator, gloating like all his colleagues)…
Mughniyeh-the-person has disappeared, and Mughniyeh-the-legend has taken his place, a world-embracing mythological terrorist, who has long been marked as “a Son of Death” (i.e. a person to be killed) as declared on TV by another out-of-use general. His “liquidation” was a huge, almost supra-natural, achievement, much more important than Lebanon War II, in which we were not so very successful. The “liquidation” equals at least the glorious Entebbe exploit, if not more.
True, the Holy Book enjoins us: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth / Lest the Lord see it and it displeases him.” (Proverbs 24:17) But this was not just any enemy, it was a super-super-enemy, and therefore the Lord will certainly excuse us for dancing with joy from talk-show to talk-show, from issue to issue, from speech to speech, as long as we do not distribute candies in the street – even if the Israeli government denies feebly that we were the ones who “liquidated” the man…
In the eyes of the Israeli leadership, the “liquidation” was a huge success. We have “cut off the head of the serpent” (another headline from Haaretz). We have inflicted on Hizbullah immense damage, so much that it cannot be repaired. “This is not revenge but prevention”, as another of the guided reporters (Haaretz again) declared. This is such an important achievement, that it outweighs the inevitable revenge, whatever the number of victims-to-be.
In the eyes of Hizbullah, thing look quite different. The organization has acquired another precious asset: a national hero, whose name fills the air from Iran to Morocco. The “liquidated” Mughniyeh is worth more than the live Mughniyeh, irrespective of what his real status may have been at the end of his life.
Enough to remember what happened here in 1942, when the British “liquidated” Abraham Stern (a.k.a. Ya’ir): from his blood the Lehi organization (a.k.a. Stern Gang) was born and became perhaps the most efficient terrorist organization of the 20th century…
Everybody knows that there will be revenge. Nasrallah has promised this, adding that it could take place anywhere in the world. For a long time already, people in Israel believe Nasrallah much more than Olmert…
Such worries are far from baseless. All the past “liquidations” of this kind have brought with them dire consequences:
* The classic example is, of course, the “liquidation” of Nasrallah’s predecessor, Abbas Mussawi. He was killed in South Lebanon in 1992 by Apache gunships. All of Israel rejoiced. Then, too, the Champagne was flowing. In revenge, Hizbullah blew up the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, as well as the Jewish community center there. The planner was, it is now alleged, Imad Mughniyeh. More than a hundred people perished. The main result: instead of the rather grey Mussawi, the sophisticated, masterly Nasrallah took over.
* Before that, Golda Meir ordered a series of “liquidations” to revenge the tragedy of the Israeli athletes in Munich (most of whom were actually killed by the inept German police trying to prevent their being flown to Algeria as hostages). Not one of the “liquidated” had anything to do with the outrage itself. They were PLO diplomatic representatives, sitting ducks in their offices…The result: the PLO became stronger and turned into a state-in-the-making…
* The “liquidation” of Yahyah Ayyash in Gaza in 1996 resembles the Mughniyeh affair. It was carried out by means of a booby-trapped cellular telephone. Ayyash’s dimensions, too, were blown up to giant proportions, so that he had become a legend already in his own lifetime. The nickname “the engineer” was attached to him because he prepared the explosive devices used by Hamas. Shimon Peres, who had succeeded to the Prime Ministership after the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, believed that the “liquidation” would lend him huge popularity and get him re-elected. The opposite happened: Hamas reacted with a series of sensational suicide-bombings and brought Binyamin Netanyahu to power.
* Fathi Shikaki, head of Islamic Jihad, was “liquidated” in 1995 by a bicyclist who shot him down in a Malta street. The small organization was not eradicated, but on the contrary grew through its revenge actions. Today it is the group which is launching the Qassams at Sderot.
* Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al was actually being “liquidated” in a street in Amman by the injection of poison. The act was exposed and its perpetrators identified and a furious King Hussein compelled Israel to provide the antidote that saved his life. The “liquidators” were allowed to go home in return for the release of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin from Israeli prison. As a result, Mash’al was promoted and is now the senior political leader of Hamas.
* Sheik Yassin himself, a paraplegic, was “liquidated” by attack helicopters while leaving a mosque after prayer. A previous attempt by bombing his home had failed. The sheik became a martyr in the eyes of the entire Arab world, and has served since as an inspiration for hundreds of Hamas attacks.
THE COMMON denominator of all these and many other actions is that they did not harm the organizations of the “liquidatees”, but boomeranged. And all of them brought in their wake grievous revenge attacks.
The decision to carry out a “liquidation” resembles the decision that was taken to start the Second Lebanon War: not one of the deciders gives a damn for the suffering of the [Israeli] civilian population that inevitably falls victim to the revenge…
Why, then, are the “liquidations” carried out?
…I suspect that the real reason is both political and psychological. Political, because it is always popular. After every “liquidation”, there is much jubilation. When the revenge arrives, the public (and the media) do not see the connection between the”liquidation” and the response. Each is seen separately. Few people have the time and the inclination to think about it, when everybody is burning with fury about the latest murderous attack.
In the present situation, there is an additional political motivation: the army has no answer to the Qassams, nor has it any desire to get enmeshed in the re-occupation of the Gaza Strip, with all the expected casualties. A sensational “liquidation” is a simple alternative.
The psychological reason is also clear: it is satisfying. True, the “liquidation” – as the word shows – is more appropriate for the underworld than for the security organs of a state. But it is a challenging and complex task, as in a Mafia film, which gives much satisfaction to the “liquidators”. Ehud Barak, for example, was a liquidator from the start of his military career. When the “liquidation” ends in success, the executioners can raise glasses of champagne.
A mixture of blood, champagne and folly is an intoxicating but toxic cocktail.
Avnery has here captured so precisely the folly of this assassination. Israel has gained a measure of revenge for its humiliation in the Lebanon War (Mugniyah is reputed to have been the operational mastermind behind Hezbollah’s success). But at what price? How many Israeli embassies or Jewish synagogues will be bombed in retaliation? Which Israeli minister will be targeted? Which innocent will become the next Jewish martyr?
I feel much like I felt in the run up to the Iraq invasion. Everyone seemed to be chomping at the bit for war. The word from Washington was there was no choice. Sadaam was wholly evil. The world’s security depended on our taking him out. If we didn’t we’d see a mushroom cloud over the horizon some day.
But I was dubious. The more the chorus belli resounded the less I trusted what I was hearing. The same is true regarding Mugniyah’s killing. We will not be safer for his death. On the contrary. We will all as Jews be more vulnerable. And the thinking and decision-making that went into his murder betrays not our strength or a moral victory, but our weakness and vulnerability. For as Avnery says, neither Israeli intelligence which dreamed up the operation nor the Olmert government has an answer to what ails Israel’s security situation. Gilad Shalit is still a captive. Qassams still rain down on Sderot. So killing a terrorist is a substitute for real policy and real answers.
Bill Pearlman says
Basically what your saying is that any Arab terrorist, no matter what he’s done, gets a free pass. Because if one of them goes the “Arab Street” will be outraged. That begs the question. What’s your solution. I’m sure they would like to know in Jerusalem. ( btw not that it registers much with guys like you but the two Israeli soldiers that Hezbollah were holding have been declared dead. I’m sure it was a really nice year for them but what the hell right, just a couple of Jews)
I’m all in favor of these targeted assassinations. They put the terrorists on the run and make them live in fear; the result being that they have less time and mobility to plan their murderous acts.
As for Mugniyah, who cares if he becomes a legend in the Arab world? He’s DEAD, thank the Lord, and he’ll be very hard to replace.
Now, if Mossad could only reach Mash’al, Haniyeh, and Nasrallah…
P.S. The Israeli people are not as stupid as Avnery suggests. They know there will be consequences. They understand that a war is going on with an enemy that will strike any chance it gets, no matter whether there’s some “sensational liquidation” to inspire them.
Bravo Richard! and thanks for the Avnery which was excellent. I always ask the question why these people cannot be captured and put on trial, or even just captured. Especially this one; so many countries wanted him. “Liquidation” makes another martyr, brings stronger more angry talented operatives/terrorists to the fore, and ends up causing the deaths of more innocents. It’s it hard to know if this was indeed revenge and a message or prevention/preemption. I highly doubt the latter.
The response I get is “too difficult”. I don’t buy it. I have to wonder if capture is even contemplated.
Unfortunately the both of you miss the point entirely: if the aim is to decrease terrorism and its offshoots, the policy of targeted assassination is not only a failure, it only fuels more violence towards Israel.
What’s the solution, you ask? It’s been stated many times, even for the most myopic witness: end the occupation, give access to East Jerusalem, porous borders between Gaza and the West Bank, removal of settlements, destruction of the wall? Wasn’t that the agreed upon? A viable Palestinian state? Because the longer it is denied, then the more you will attempt to be a hardliner on “terrorists” since it doesn’t stop the cycle of violence.
Want it to stop? Negotiate the ceasefire with Hamas. If you want them to stop at the expense of more Israelis, keep up the failed policy of assassinations and occupation. I mean, it definitely has stopped Qassams being fired, hasn’t it?
Bill Pearlman says
Actually Joshua targeted assassinations and the wall have worked. But leave that aside for a second. What exactly has been agreed upon, and by who. And what about the so called “right of return”.
A point that has been completely missed by the media and blogoshpere as far as I can tell is the fact that there has been no retaliation by Hizballah along the Lebanon/Israel border or against Har Dov. In the past, such an action would have at least brought on a few mortars against the IDF stationed at Har Dov. It would appear that the last war in Lebanon may have had some benefit for israel after all. Unfortunately, Hizballah, which is purely evil and their Iranian masters see nothing wrong with blowing up targets in third countries and killing hundreds of people with absolutely no direct connection to the conflict like they did in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994. This is not a reason to be intimidated from confronting this terror organization but is why all good people should join efforts to rid ourselves of this organization called Hizballah.
Reasonable people can disagree on the wisdom of this operation, but all must agree that it was beautifully executed without leaving a scratch on any innocent bystanders.
as-salaamu ‘alaikum Joshua. I have been looking into the Jewish blogosphere for some light reading and was recommended to visit your site. However, I am more interested in reading things of a more spiritual nature, could you recommend some Jewish blogs that represent and discuss the religious and spiritual positions of the Jewish community both in the U.S. and Israel. Thank you.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Steve: None of the right-wing commenters appear to have actually read what Avnery wrote because he proves incontrovertiblythat not only will Mugniyah be easy to replace (his replacement has already been announced–though not named for obvious reasons); but there are 100 or 1,000 behind him ready to take his place.
Bill–you didn’t read Avnery. Targeted assassinations don’t work period. They kill 1 only to have 100 of ours killed in return. Plus the targeted killings give rise to new effective terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and the Stern Gang, each bigger & better than whatever preceded it.
@ Amir: Hezbollah could easily strike northern Israel if it wished to. Israeli’s defeat in the Lebanon war has had no deterrent effect. Besides, Hezbollah in retaliation unfortunately has bigger & better things in store for Israel & world Jewry that go far beyond raining a few mortars on northern Israel.
Not quite as b&w as you’re making it out to be. Unfortunately for you & Israel, 1/3 of Lebanon & a good deal of the rest of the Arab world sees Hezbollah as heroic resisters to Israeli Occupation & oppression & will join in its defense. Whether I agree with this view or not, I can certainly see that yours ignores what it chooses to.
Actually, every Mosad agent and their Israeli supporters must agree it was beautifully executed. As for the rest of us, we just don’t give a shit about that aspect. In fact, for many of us such a judgement would leave us appalled. You apparently have forgotten or never knew the Midrash about the angels rejoicing at the drowing of the Egyptians in the Red Sea–to which God replies: “Stop, my creatures are dying and you rejoice?” The point of which is that even enemies of the Jewish people are God’s creatures.
Richard Silverstein says
Saifuddin: That’s a wonderful question. Here are a few recommendations: Zackary Scholem Berger, Shalom Rav, Velveteen Rabbi, Semitism.net, Leftorah, DovBear, Radical Torah, Life of Rubin.
…he proves incontrovertibly that not only will Mugniyah be easy to replace (his replacement has already been announced–though not named for obvious reasons); but there are 100 or 1,000 behind him ready to take his place.
Incontrovertible proof? Hardly. Simply finding someone to fill his melted, charred shoes doesn’t mean the replacement can do what Mugniyah, with all his years of experience and expertise, was able to do. He was one of the master planners of terrorism, and now he’s gone. Hats off to whoever got him.
Richard Silverstein says
If you’d bothered to read Avnery you’d discover that Abbas Musawi’s killing led to Hassan Nasrallah. In retrospect, the Israelis would much rather have dealt with Musawi than Nasrallah believe me. Nasrallah gave them a good whipping in Lebanon. And if Israel kills Nasrallah and invades Lebanon again, his replacement will undoubtedly do the same.
Mugniyah’s accomplishments lately are disputed. But no man is irreplaceable including him. And if you think Hezbollah doesn’t have men equally or more competent than him then you are sadly mistaken. Unfortunately, clever killers are one thing that Lebanon & the rest of the Mideast including Israel has in spades.
Praising murder, even the murder of a terrorist disturbs me deeply. You are on notice. That means the next thing you write that I find offensive you’re gone.
No doubt Hezbollah will attempt to assassinate someone on the Israeli side. Then Hezbollah’s supporters will get the opportunity to say hats off for their killing. It’s odious and disgusting.
Bill Pearlman says
Is there a threshold number of Jews that a man can be responsible for killing and get away with it. What would that be? Just because the next guy might conceivably be “worse” doesn’t mean that his guy didn’t deserve to be incinerated. And what was there to deal with Musawi about? Again I ask, is the Rich Silverstein plan that Israel should just keep taking hits from Hezbollah without retaliation. Explain the logic there?
paul malfara says
Thanks for the Avnery. I share your respect and admiration for the man, and I too keep my eyes peeled for his writing. I catch most of his articles. He is a wonder, and he is level-headed, and his analysis is correct; that’s why you never see him in the mainstream media. He is written off by right-wing lovers of liqidation like Bill P. and Steve, but I have to ask them – how many bullets have you taken for Israel? Well, Uri Avnery has taken quite a few, and he still has the good sense to keep the real goal – peace, reconciliation, and a just solution – in his cross-hairs.
I know, Bill, I know. There’s just no peace to be had with those sub-human Palestinians who just want to throw all the Jews into the Sea. Open your mind man!! And Bill, I gave you the solution in quite a few posts over at Phil’s blog – I pasted a long section from Shlomo Ben Ami detailing a just solution.
You told me Shlomo Ben Ami was an idiot. It seems that anyone who wants a just peace is an idiot to you Bill.
Richard, I agree with you that Steve’s wallowing in delight at the murder of a human being, however twisted, is, in itself, twisted. However, I would ask you not to ban him from the blog for such comments. You cannot expect to have a blog with comments and then kick the folks out who you disagree with. Let’s face some facts. Steve is agreeing with Israeli policy here; he’s not creating it. If you kick all the right wingers off the blog, they’ll just go congregate over at the bloody pigeon (whoops, I mean the realistic dove) and talk about how your commentary is rife with self-hating jews and anti-semites!!!!!
And one more thing. You’re entirely correct about right wingers like Bill P and Steve not reading the text before commenting. Richard Witty is the same, and I separate him from the others because he seems to desire a path towards a just peace while at the same time being an apologist for Israeli oppression. When convictions take deep enough root, it seems they last a lifetime.
Avnery might also have noted that, in carrying out targeted assassinations, Israel clearly forfeits the moral high ground (to the extent that it had it in the first place). When you make yourself out to be better than others, as both Israel (“We’re the only democracy in the Middle East”) and the United States are notorious for doing, you are obligated to set the bar high and not sink to the level of your adversaries. One of Tony’s commenters pointed out that targeted assassinations was the sort of thing that Saddam Hussein would have done. If you’ve sunk to the level of Saddam Hussein, you’ve lost, baby.
Richard Silverstein says
I did read the entire text and my comments still stand.
Also, I’m not a right-winger, though everyone here is so quick to fix that label on anyone who disagrees with them. Also, I’m not twisted. I’m a realist and, yes, there are many “Palestinians who just want to throw all the Jews into the sea.” If you don’t know that, you’re not listening.
You’re right about Richard and his threats to ban people (“Yahwol, Colonel! I promise to keep silent and toe the Silverstein line!”). He should be embarrassed swinging the big stick the way he does but he clearly enjoys it. He’s a bully by nature.
I am here (“everyone here is so quick to fix that label”) and not fixing any label on you. Please note that you do that too when you say “everyone here”. I don’t know, I am new here, but I don’t like labels either.
This last comment by Andy exemplifies best what is wrong with the moral education young people get today (I’m assuming he’s young because I don’t believe a person over say 30 could have made that comment, correct me if I’m wrong). This targeted killing is the most moral one that can be made to the extent that killing someone in war is moral. Hizballah and Israel are clearly at war. Mugniyah is clearly a military target with a lot of blood on his hands including those of civilians with no connection to the conflict (if the reports about him are correct) and the killing was done with precision so that innocent bystanders were not killed. It was done in the capital of a nation hostile to Israel wich harbors it’s enemies not to mention assists them.
Saddam Hussein used chemical gases to kill thousands of Iraqi citizens. There is a little bit of a difference there. If the worst Saddam Hussein had done was the targeted assasination of an Iranian military man during the Iran/Iraq war, then he wouldn’t be Saddam Hussein.
And Richard, I wasn’t rejoicing at his death in my comment but on the execution (so to speak). The proper analogy would not be the Egyptiand sinking but the Red Sea Parting and then closing in on them. That was pretty awesome, and is still talked about today. In fact Hollywood has tried to recreate that scene many times. I’m not putting this at the same level, I’m merely referring to the analogy that you made.
Richard Silverstein says
There are countless tens of thousands of Diaspora Jews who hold extremly right-wing views about Israel & yet consider themselves perfectly liberal within the context of their own nation’s political spectrum. Steve is doubtless such a person. He is of course right-wing in an Israeli context but doesn’t know enough about Israeli politics to know that.
I would suggest that celebrating the death of other human beings is twisted whether you do it or the director of the Shin Bet does it.
Clearly, Steve wants to be banned. If he didn’t he wouldn’t have added the gratuitous insult. He accuses me of being a Nazi merely because I insist in my own blog that he not celebrate the death of another human being. The height of disingenuousness.
I’m going to affirm standards here that refuse to concede to the impulse to view one’s enemy as diabolical, evil or villainous. If Steve wants to go there he can go somewhere else to do it.
Richard Silverstein says
I understand yr pt. But I still think that rejoicing in the cleverness of the “execution” of an assassination plot is ghoulish. And the act of killing was not moral in any sense. Not even in a pragmatic sense. I’ll be publishing Ronen Bergman’s new NYT op ed column reaffirming Avnery’s pt. about how Israel has actually refrained fr. assassinating Hezbollah leaders basically since 1992 because its leaders realized how high the cost would be in retribution. It is a sign of the weakness & desperation of Barak & Olmert for reestablishing their deterrent credibility that they’ve resorted to an act which will undoubtedly result in the deaths of further innocent Israelis & Jews.
And as for Bill’s question to me about Hezbollah. The answer isn’t getting into a shitting match w. Hezbollah about who can kill the most, the quickest. The answer is to negotiate an end to the conflict altogether by sitting down with Syria & Lebanon & resolving it. Until the Israeli gov’t does this there will never be peace on either side no matter how many Mugniyahs are killed.
This is from the associted press
Richard, you said
I cannot understand your position which does not see the man responsible for these two bombings as evil, regardles of what others have done (including the US and/or Israel) which you may consider equally evil but are presently beside the point. I am referring specifically to the man responsible for the murder of these 114 people who were not collateral damage of a military target and have no direct connection to the conflict other than being Jewish (particularly the Jewish center).
Norman Weinstein says
A present moment is the result of a previous moment and of one to come; trapped in time’s flowing stream, it is ever moving, ever elusive, in a sense not even existing. There is thus time used and unused, and our present, to mix metaphors badly, is caught in the grip of time’s vise, an experience that can be painful, especially if what we are and do at any disappearing moment seems simply absurd and dishonest, lacking in a logic that might help us make a little sense of whatever we are, do and believe. All this is a rather roundabout way of saying, in light of Uri Avnery’s words and reactions to them, both opposed and accepting, that perhaps if only those who absorb, automaton-fashion, whatever official Israel says, does, accomplishes vis à vis the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world could take an honest look over used time, called simply enough “the past”, they might begin to realize how dangerous, sad, tragic, and false is their lock-step acceptance – a toxic support. The greatest difficulty of their looking back is to do so honestly, without the subsequent mythology and propaganda that have since 1948, and before, helped fuel Israel’s modus operandi and casus belli.
When in 1948, and actually before, Israel was fighting its War of Independence, it was doing so at a time when, following the Allied victory of WW II, throughout the world powerful winds of change were blowing; indeed, hurricanes. Colonialism was either dead or dying. People all over the world, including the unwashed, were infused with the spirit of Roosevelt’s stirring Four Freedoms. It was not the most propitious of times to expropriate someone else’s land, claim it for your own, and proceed to expand it in any way possible, both through blood and dollars. Indeed, it was all such an inappropriate time that in order to make it more palatable both to perpetrator and foreign observer, myths and propaganda had to be generated, and quickly as well as continuously, as indeed they were to the Nth degree.
Thus did Arabs only come to Palestine when those invaders, the Jews, made the deserts bloom; during the ’48 war Arabs willingly fled their homes, believing they would return to something better after their enemy had been liquidated; the conquerors were a tolerant and benevolent force, improving the lot of the poor, oppressed, benighted native inhabitants; there was always in Palestine since Biblical times some Jews, and the Jewish nation had never relinquished their God-driven claim over the land of the Bible. In fact, as meticulously laid out in the book FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL, Palestine was in reality a non-Arab piece of real estate falsely proclaimed by the Arab world at large as essentially theirs. And so it went, and goes, at best half truths and ersatz realities absorbed into the psyche even unto a visceral, unchallengeable acceptance of it all as the truth and nothing but the truth. And of my various citations, certainly one of the most egregious examples of thoroughly premeditated propaganda is FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL by Joan Peters, a long, complex piece by a faux scholar of faux scholarship and genuine propaganda, footnoted ad nauseum, a work well discredited and one that to this day stinks of ethnic pre-cleansing, as those German Nuremberg Laws of 1935 began setting up other ethnicities for things to come. And of course, to clinch it all, there was the reference to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, when England magnanimously offered someone else’s land, or a good chunk of it, to someone else whose land it wasn’t – the gift of a shirt off someone else’s back.
All of the above statements might seem terribly unfair to a people who have shed blood, worked beyond comprehension, expended uncountable sums of money, and even suspended their morality to create this land of their own. However, there is yet one enormous problem that tends to counterbalance much of Israeli suffering and effort and the identification of the Arab as the ultimate villain of the drama. Simply put, the inexpressible horror endured by European Jews during the Nazi regime was a creation by, for and of Europeans, with some indirect assistance from Canada and the United States, neither of which nation wished to accept and possibly absorb Jewish refugees from the horror, soon to become the Holocaust. America accepted a few, of course, especially those scientists who could prove quite useful, but for the greater numbers there were those racist quota laws of the 1920s still on our books and enthusiastically enforced. Remember the “St. Louis” in 1939, sent back to Europe with its Jewish cargo after attempting vainly to dock first in Cuba and then at different American ports? What I’m saying is that the Jewish tragedy of tragedies was a monster of the industrial Western world. Yet, with the war over and no place really for thousands of survivors, Palestine seemed to be the natural haven to receive these traumatized people; and, largely led by our country, the world generally accepted the establishment of the State of Israel as the answer to a hideous problem – again, the gift of a shirt off someone else’s back. Certainly the Arabs didn’t want them, Palestinian or otherwise, claiming that this problem was hardly a Middle-Eastern creation. Then of course did the Bible raise it significant head and justify the history of the next six decades with its “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.
I would hope that Israel, aided and abetted, and if necessary kicked in the seat of the pants, by its patron, an enlightened United States, if ever to be, will consider historical (not necessarily Biblical) reality and, using this to help inspire the incredible amount of intelligence, sensitivity, and understanding we know exists among the Israeli people, perhaps, just perhaps, we might witness another kind of activity that can make us as fellow Jews thrilled and profoundly proud, not for Israel’s indisputable military courage and expertise, proven time and again, but rather for an intense and honest quest for a truly just peace that might lead to a more acceptable kind of history, a quest that will no doubt require far greater courage and expertise than the military kind ever would.
gary solomon says
are the actions of isreal a surprise?…very often the abused child becomes the abuser..true friends of isreal would see this behavior as very harmfull to that state…this is dreadfull now not only am i ashamed to be american
(iraq) but also embarrassed to be a jew
As an American, I am also — even more — concerned about potential blowback against the U.S. (since it’s widely known Israel could not have done this without U.S. permission).
Avnery mentions the assassination of Sheik Yassin in 2006. Although Americans weren’t told of the connection, the famous hanging of the four Blackwater “contractors” from a bridge in Iraq nine days later was at least partially a response.
“Muqtada al-Sadr pledged, “As the martyr Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said, Iraq and Palestine have the same destiny.” … Pamphlets were distributed at the scene which declared the attack against the four men as having been carried out in the name of Yassin. … A group known as the “Phalange of Sheikh Yassin” claimed responsibility for the attack, and that the deaths of the four men were meant as a “gift to the Palestinian people.””
And from those hangings sprang the disaster of Fallujah.
Richard Silverstein says
I go back & forth on this issue. But after reading yr comment I’d concede that Mugniyah’s actions were evil. But despite this, I don’t see rejoicing in his death as Steve did as decent or humane.
As I wrote in my latest post about the Bergman NYT column, Mugniyah was undoubtedly a scumbag. But my point is less concerned with Mugniyah and more concerned with whether this act will benefit anyone in the long term. It won’t. It will only result in the deaths of scores of others. I know you care about the spilling of Jewish blood as I do. How does the spilling of so much more Jewish blood get us anywhere?
Besides, it won’t deter Hezbollah. It will only make Hezbollah stronger in the long term. So strategically the assassination is bankrupt.
Amir, Suzanne is right. A civilized country would have
(a) apprehended Mugniyah,
(b) charged him with specific offenses, and then
(c) put him on trial with an initial presumption of innocence.
If I’m supposed to apologize for my ‘Bill of Rights’ view of justice, don’t hold your breath, folks.
Andy. killing Mugiyah was not a case of extra judicial justice. He was not tried and sentenced to death in absentia. It was part of Israel’s war against Hizballah, him being one of their top warrioirs. Whether they are wrong or not, only time will tell, but whoever gave the order to kill him did it because he thaught it would weaken Hizballah or perhaps prevent an attack he was in the process of planning or carrying out.
As far as apprehending him goes, I suppose apprehending him in a foreign sovereign country would also be deemed uncivilized by you, so your scenario is completely irrelevant.
Richard Silverstein says
Not at all. Eichmann was apprehended in Argentina & brought to Israel for trial. Apprehending a terrorist is a sovereign country is a breach of sovereignty, but I think most of the world would excuse this if it is done in the furtherance of international justice.
paul malfara says
You’re going overboard now.
“Apprehending a terrorist is (sic) a sovereign country is a breach of sovereignty, but I think most of the world would excuse this if it is done in the furtherance of international justice.”
What’s your definition of “terrorist”, and what’s your definition of “international justice”?
The world excused Israel for drugging and apprehending Mordechai Vanunu in Italy. Does he fall into your definition of “terrorist”? Did this further “international justice”?
Pressure from Organized Jewish groups led to the deportations of Ernst Zundel from the US to Canada and eventually to Germany, where he was jailed…for speaking his mind. There’s no need to even examine what he was saying, beyond the so-called “Shouting fire in a crowded theater” exception, so Bill, don’t try to call me a Holocaust denier. I’m defending an American’s right to free speech only, not Zundel’s views.
Richard, Does he fall into your definition of “terrorist”? Did this further “international justice”?
The west is so full of hypocracy. The Brits won’t even board an El-Al plane to arrest an Israeli General – even after an arrest warrant has been issued. That’s in their OWN country, and they won’t follow their own laws.
paul malfara says
Here’s a link and a few quotes to the story of the Isreali General. Now think carefully and ask yourself this question. Can you see the British allowing a 90 year old Nazi war criminal, or any other person with an outstanding war crimes arrest warrant to leave their territory? What gives?
“The war crimes arrest warrant was issued by senior district judge Timothy Workman, after an application by British lawyers acting for Palestinian victims of the demolition in 2002, in Gaza.
Under British law, war crimes should be treated so seriously that even if they are committed abroad, UK courts have jurisdiction to try suspects.”
Even Eichman’s capture was denied at first by Israel. I suggest you go to the wikipedia page on Eichman and read the part called “international dispute over capture”.
Here is a link to UN Security Council Resolution 180 from 1960. If Eichman wasn’t a Nazi but was merely a Hizballah man, the language would have been much harsher against Israel.
That should say resolution 138
Richard Silverstein says
Paul: I specifically mentioned Eichmann, not Vanunu nor Zundel. I think the Israeli prosecution & persection of Vanunu is despicable. I think Mugniyah & Doron Almog, the general to whom you referred, are cases that would rise to a sufficient order of magnitude to justify usurping sovereignty. I’ve written about Almog here & I’m in favor of bringing those who’ve engaged in criminal conduct to justice whether they be Hezbollah or IDF officers.
Amir: Israel’s case would be much stronger if it would hand over a Mugniyah to international justice, rather than Israeli justice. If there had been an international court & Israel had handed Eichmann over to it I don’t think there would be any outcry whatsoever over violation of sovereignty.
For the record, Amir, if a person commits a crime in country A, and then flees to country B, then I am opposed to the criminal having any sort of ‘sanctuary’ in country B. At least if it’s a serious crime, go get him.
I didnt go through the entire thread but I have one thing to say….the policy of Israel is CORRECT….I just wish the Indian Govenment had the same kind of guts.U say killing one terrorist incites more violence here in India sparing one incites more violence …… which is correct? at least there is some fear when u retaliate back
Rabid Dogs should be put to sleep there’s no ifs n buts about it
Richard Silverstein says
There is more than enough fear on both sides of this conflict. Fear doesn’t resolve conflicts or settle disputes. Negotiation does. The I-P conflict shows that tit for tat revenge produces nothing & settles nothing–except producing more fear as you correctly note.
Good for you to have such confidence in your ideas. As for me, I choose to see Israel’s enemy as human beings ;& not dogs. Seeing them so will never produce an end to the conflict as I wrote above. I hope there are not too many like you in India, otherwise your country will never solve its own regional conflicts with insurgent forces.
Rowan Berkeley says
I am disappointed to see that when Amir brings up this completely unsubstantiated charge, Richard kow-tows to it:
“This is from the associted press : Israel blamed Mughniyeh for the 1992 bombing of its embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 29 people. Argentine prosecutors linked him to the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people.”
Rowan Berkely: You comment is strange as though you haven’t even read the post itself. I’m not the one to bring it up. The charge was part of the Avnery article he quotes and Silverstein referred to it in his post. In fact it is the essential premise of the post that asserts that Israeli targeted killings always boomerang. If Hizballah was not responsible for those bombings than the whole post and Avnery’s article loses its strongest argument. This is why Silverstein writes: “How many Israeli embassies or Jewish synagogues will be bombed in retaliation?” And the charge is not “completely unsubstantiated.” In fact it is much more substantiated than the charge that Israel was behind the Mughniyeh killing since absolutely NO evidence has been put forward to back that claim.
Richard Silverstein says
Rowan: You misunderstood me or else I didn’t make myself clear. I don’t call Mugniyah a murderer for the bombings in Argentina since responsibility for those crimes is still in dispute. The Nation has published a convincing expose claiming that Hezbollah was not involved. I’m inclined to agree.
I was referring to Mugniyah’s other terrorist actions against U.S. and Israeli interests including bombing the U.S. embassy, etc. Of course, Mugniyah engaged in these crimes seeking to avenge similar crimes performed by Israel and the U.S. against allies of his. It’s really a vicious circle.
Rowan Berkeley says
I see another post on here which goes into considerable detail about Mughniyeh’s supposed responsibility:
but I simply refuse to take the uncorroborated word of Israelis on such things. I am not going to spend much time worrying about this particular detail. I worry more about the general stance of the various unofficially official leakists, like Bob Baer, and what sort of rubbish they may be feeding us now which we don’t even notice because our preconceptions still accord it a free pass.
Mughniyeh wasn’t incinerated.His body was hurled by the explosion into the lobby of an apartment building.He died before medical help could reach him.The incineration nonsense was started by some which think he’s still alive.
Though I must add there was a bit of hurry in taking his body away.Leaves one to ponder.We may never find out if he’s dead or alive.No DNA or med exam of his body.I find it all very mysterious.