UPDATE: In reporting today’s terror attack in Bulgaria, I wanted to emphasize that there is, as yet, no hard evidence pointing to Iranian involvement. Indeed, my trusted Israeli source confirms this as does this Israeli security source quoted by Ynet (Hebrew). Even Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli-Iranian who is highly critical of the Iranian regime, counseled caution:
“It’s far too early to conclude who was behind the bombing in Bulgaria today,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iran expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. “For now all we have to go on are assumptions, and a list of credible suspects.”
He did not rule out Al Qaeda, recalling the deadly attack on Israeli tourists at a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002.
UPDATE I: A Bulgarian media outlet reports that the prime minister is now saying the terror act was committed by a suicide bomber, and was not the result of a bomb placed in the luggage compartment:
The man [the bomber] was taped by the airport security cameras…He can be seen walking around the premises for at least one hour. According to initial information he is Caucasian, with long hair, dressed in sports attire.
His body is the most torn by the blast and this is the main reason for investigators to believe he is the perpetrator of the attack.
His ID papers were found on him. They included a US passport and a drivers license from the state of Michigan, which is believed to be fake.
An FBI database check has not found an individual with such documents. It remains unclear how he obtained the fake passport, and how and when he entered the country.
An Israeli tourist bus was bombed at the airport of the Bulgarian resort of Burgas today. Haaretz reports that seven are dead. Bibi Netanyahu has blamed Iran for the attack. Pres. Obama has condemned it as “barbaric” terrorism. Before I get into the meat of what I want to say, I condemn unalterably the targeting of civilians in such attacks. Any regime that would engage in this behavior has crossed the line and deserves nothing but opprobrium. If Iran is the culprit, that goes for them. I would favor holding them accountable before the international criminal court, just as the author of any act of terror should be.
But I have a serious problem with much of the reporting about this incident. That is, that there is absolutely no context offered about why this incident may’ve happened. Adding context doesn’t excuse the act. But without context there can be no sense of true justice. Without context, the authors of the deed appear merely cruel and subhuman. With context, a fuller picture emerges and the killers, no matter how heinous, are seen as human beings possessing all the emotions of human beings, including the will to revenge.
If Iran bombed the Israeli bus, what motivated such an attack? Anyone reading this blog knows about the long string of terror attacks against Iran over the past few years. They’ve included bombings of airplanes, military bases, and the murders of five Iranian nuclear scientists. I’ve condemned all of these attacks. But almost no Israelis have done so.
As no less a figure than Meir Dagan has said (and contrary to the nonsense spouted by Netanyahu and the like) Iran is a rational actor. It is a nation-state with interests just like any other. If you trample on Iranian interests they will not sit back politely and say: hit us harder. Just like Israel, the U.S. or any other state, they will contemplate the costs and benefits of various responses to violations of their interests and sovereignty and take what they consider to be appropriate action. In other words, if Israel engages in what Iran views as an act of terror against it, then Iran is likely to respond in kind.
We can argue till the cows come home about whether the Iranian regime is evil incarnate, or whether Iranian scientists are legitimate targets for terror attacks by Israel, or whether Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear bomb permits such attacks against them. But the fact of the matter is that Iranians are just as human as Israelis or anyone else. When the PLO attacked Israeli athletes at the Olympics, the Mossad tracked down every one of the Palestinians (except one) and murdered them. Israel has just a finely tuned need for revenge as Iran. Further, Iranian blood is no less red (to use a Talmudic phrase) than Israeli.
You say that Iran’s pursuit of a bomb (if that is indeed what Iran is pursuing) renders it an enemy of humanity? OK, Israel has nearly 400 such weapons and they make Arab regimes sweat bullets. What’s good for the goose has to be good for the gander. Israel cannot expect it will enjoy such a nuclear monopoly forever and that no Muslim country will try to emulate it. To believe such a thing as Israel’s leaders and general do, is simply delusional.
I warned here that Israeli terror would summon a response from Iran. Now, it’s possible that the chickens of Israeli violence have come home to roost. Today, is a tragedy for Israel and all of us who hate terror. But let’s remember that Iranian blood has been shed too by the gallon. Let’s mourn victims of terror whether they be Israeli or Iranian. If you cannot mourn victims of Iranian terror then you have no right to scream at those of us who mourn all the victims, including the Iranians.
Returning to the issue of context: Bibi has reminded the world that today is the 18th anniversary of an attack on Buenos Aires’ Jewish community. He’s attempting to link Iran to both that attack and today’s. First, let’s remember that a number of actors have been accused of involvement in the earlier attack including Iran, Hezbollah and Argentines as well. Read Gareth Porter’s terrific Nation essay which attempts to penetrate the morass of claims and counter-claims regarding this. No one has been conclusively proven to have committed the act.
But let’s accept the theoretical claim of Iranian or Hezbollah involvement. Did they kill for the sheer love of killing, or was there a historical context to the act? Let’s remember, as I’ve just written in a post here, that in 1992 Israel murdered Abbas Musawi, and his wife and children in the first aerial targeted assassination (which became a predecessor of the current U.S. drone counter-terror policy). Musawi at the time was the newly elected leader of Hezbollah.
IF Iran and Hezbollah organized the 1994 Argentine bombing, they did it for a reason. Their own blood had been shed previously. For those who accuse me of committing the sin of moral relativism, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. If Israel wants to murder Iranian scientists is it permissible for Iran to murder Israeli scientists? If Israel wants to murder the leader of Hezbollah, is it permissible for Iran to murder Israel’s prime minister? Any reasonable person would answer no to these questions. Which means that Israeli terror is no more permissible than Iranian. When I hear those who call for revenge and spilling of Iranian blood calling for the same when Iranian blood is shed, then I’ll be more at peace with the moral contradictions in which all acts of terror place us.
There will be loud calls for Israel to launch the full-scale attack against Iran that many of us have anticipated with dread. I hope that despite his ideological extremism and fondness for substituting military action for diplomacy, that Netanyahu will not take this opportunity to strike. If he does, all of us including Israel and especially Iran will pay a very heavy price.