--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."