Saturday, February 16

Assassination as a Deterrent against Terror

Emotions in Hezbollah are running high following the assassination of Imad Mughniya, a militant, terrorist leader responsible for the murder of innocent Americans, Israelis and French as well as members of the Jewish community of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

“Mughniyah has been implicated in many terrorist attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, primarily against American and Israeli targets. These include the April 18, 1983 bombing of the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 63 people including 17 Americans. He was later blamed for the October 23, 1983 simultaneous truck bombings against French paratroopers and the U.S. Marine barracks. The attacks killed 58 French soldiers and 241 Marines. On September 20, 1984, he attacked the US embassy annex building. The United States indicted him (and his collaborator, Hassan Izz al-Din) for the June 14, 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which resulted in the death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem.[10] He was also linked to numerous kidnappings of Westerners in Beirut through the 1980s, most notably that of Terry Anderson, and William Francis Buckley, who was the CIA station chief in Beirut. Some of these individuals were later killed, such as Buckley, who had been brutally beaten beforehand.[11] The remainder was released at various times until the last one, Terry Anderson who was released in 1991.” (From Wikipedia.)

The assassination of Mughniya could have been an Israeli Mossad operation. A hunch tells me that there may have been a number of non-Israeli agencies involved. The possibility that Lebanese anti-Hezbollah groups sought revenge for Hariri’s murder cannot be ruled out. Perhaps it is a coincidence that the assassination of Mughniya took place close to the third anniversary of Hariri’s murder. After all, the US, France and Argentina (maybe even Lebanon) all wish to see this man destroyed. Naturally, Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Nasrallah delivered a rabble rousing, demagogic speech filled with hatred for Israel and threatening its destruction. He also hinted directly that he will hit Israeli targets abroad and Israel’s northern border will come under attack. He accused Israel of the assassination. However, people have forgotten that this firebrand hid deep in a bunker whenever he felt that his life was threatened by Israel. Only occasionally does he come up for air in order to rabble rouse and rally his supporters to the cause of Israel’s destruction.

The wisdom of political assassination as a deterrent against terror is of questionable value. The western democracies have always maintained the presumption of innocence until proof of guilt. After all, this is the basis of the rule of law and the right of all suspects to a fair trial within a reasonable time in an International Court of Law in the case of terrorist crimes of an international nature. Would it not have been preferable to have captured this suspect and given him a fair trial as was done in the case of the notorious Iraqi dictator, Sadam Hussein? This would have involved tremendous time consuming intelligence gathering. Political assassination has not deterred terror in the past. There will always be other dangerous extremists waiting in the wings to take over.

Eventually the truth will be known about the perpetrator of the assassination of Mughniya. Meanwhile the police responsible for the safety of Israeli and US personnel security are on high alert worldwide. This will not deter extremist firebrands from murdering innocent people.

Gaza is living a similar situation. Assassination of Hamas leaders would only create further cycles of violence as other radical Hamas leaders replace those who were killed. There is no shortage of such extremists in Gaza and their motivation is rekindled after each assassination. This would result in further escalation of violence. The financial sources pouring into Gaza to retaliate for Israeli pin-point assassinations would increase.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)'s Weekly Report, during the week of 7 - 13 February 2008, 10 Palestinians were killed and 40 were injured by the Israeli military. Among the ten victims killed included a school teacher and 3 brothers. Of those injured, most were civilians -- 9 women and 8 children. In addition, Israeli forces abducted 82 Palestinian civilians. Obviously the constant cycle of violence between the two sides has to be curtailed. The Qassam rocket fire into Sderot and southern Israel must stop as well as the retaliations resulting in the death and injuries to both sides. After all, it is the innocent Palestinians and Israelis who are victims of this violence.

Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist in theory, in practice it does despite its rhetoric. Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas movement expressed willingness to reach "a state of calm" in the region, saying that any offer or initiative to achieve this "will be considered by his government". He would not have suggested a tahdia” – a period of unlimited calm which could extend over a couple of years. In order to reach that stage, there must be dialogue. No harm has ever occurred when parties to a conflict engage in dialogue. The solution to this problem can only be political.

The problem lies in lack of trust on both sides. If there is a desire for calm by a Hamas leader, this means that recognition is just round the corner. The problem is that this respite from violence could be used as a period for Hamas and its allies to re-arm and to proceed with renewal of terrorist acts in the future. Failure by international observers in the past, to prevent re-arming does not mean that they must be discarded altogether in the future. The inspectors are not given adequate powers to be effective in curtailing violence.

Another severe drawback is the division of Palestine into two entities – Gaza ruled by Hamas and the West Bank ruled by Fatah. If an agreement were to be reached there would have to be coordination between these two entities. Presently, this is lacking. The West Bank is full of Jewish settlements considered part of Israel. The legality of these settlements is questionable. This severe problem really lays the foundation for Israel eventually becoming a binational state or confederation of states for both Palestinians and Israelis. The journalist, Daniel Gavron, wrote an articleIsrael has won!” in the International Herald Tribune where he mentioned similar ideas.

Assassination is not a viable alternative for a political solution. It only perpetuates violence, hate and distrust on all sides.

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