Israel Goes Too Far
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In a development that probably shouldn't shock me, but does, Israel has publicly announced plans to murder people on U.S. soil. The story initially surfaced in a Jan. 15 report by UPI correspondent Richard Sale. Sale reports both the aggressive plan of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency to conduct targeted assassinations in other countries, but also the nonplussed reaction of U.S. officials.
I can't decide if Israel's new policy, or the American lack of outrage, is what disturbs me the most.
For decades Israel has maintained a policy of assassinations, one which has accelerated in recent years as Israel hunted and killed possibly hundreds of suspected or accused terrorists or accomplices of terrorists. Most of these killings took place in Gaza and the West Bank, usually regardless of innocent bystanders. Some spectacularly stupid and tragic incidents have occurred in recent months, including the firing of an American-made Hellfire missile into a crowded apartment block, killing more than a dozen bystanders.
Ostensibly, it is U.S. policy to oppose such assassinations. For example, in November 2002 the BBC quoted State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher reiterating our opposition to such tactics in the Occupied Territories. In almost the same breath, he announced that the CIA-led killing of suspected terrorists--also with a Hellfire missile--was different. "A lot of different things come to play here," he said.
How right he was.
Israel is now citing the U.S. assassination in Yemen as justification for ramping up its own underground antiterror campaign, and they intend to conduct operations within the United States. Richard Sale quotes a former Israeli government official as saying diplomatic constraints have prevented the Mossad from carrying out "preventive operations" (targeted killings) on the soil of friendly countries until now.
"Until now," is an intriguing comment. What exactly is different? Are diplomatic constraints no longer a concern, and if not, why not? Has the U.S. given some signal that it's acceptable to murder people within our borders? If a carload of people are killed by a missile on an American highway, will we shrug and say, "Oh, well, that's the war on terrorism"?
Just as disturbing, UPI was unable to get a single American official to condemn the policy change. The FBI told Mr. Sale, "This is a policy matter; we only enforce federal laws."
So what exactly does that mean? Is the FBI not interested in foreign powers committing acts of murder in the United States? Isn't that what the new FBI is all about?
Of course, some pure speculation is in order, because perhaps Israel was, in fact, given the diplomatic wink-and-a-nudge. After all, we are exporting prisoners to such bastions of human rights as Syria to get down to the serious questioning. Americans don't torture, but plainly the administration sees no reason not to hand over people to other countries for that purpose.
Americans also don't shoot and assassinate suspects, because of that silly doctrine of "innocent until proven guilty." Indeed, despite the sincere efforts of Mr. Ashcroft, we still have all those inconvenient speed-bumps like the Miranda warning, attorney-client privilege, the right to see the evidence brought against you, and the right to counsel. (At least those of us who haven't been labeled as "enemy combatants.")
Instead of going to all that trouble to collect evidence, hold trials and house convicted offenders, what if we just quietly passed some intelligence on to our "friends" in the Mossad and let them take care of it? It's not like we'd be committing assassinations on American soil, it would be those pesky Israelis doing it.
Just remember: what Israel calls "targeted elimination," our laws call murder. Let's hope our government sees it the same way.
Already Israeli and Palestinian Internet hackers have exported their war to America, hacking servers, mail-bombing innocent bystanders and besmirching the reputations of people on both sides of the ideological divide in their conflict. Let us pray they don't export their physical war and its attendant assassinations, car bombs and worse.
It's time for the Bush administration to come down hard on Sharon and his pals. Ariel Sharon, extremist extraordinaire and perpetrator of several documented massacres, is a terrorist in the guise of a head-of-state, no less than his partner-in-hate Yasir Arafat. Unless the administration puts its foot down and holds Israel's feet to the fire, they'll be stupid enough to export their assassination policy to America, and then we'd better all watch out.
Charles Sheehan-Miles, a Gulf War veteran and a co-founder of Veterans for Common Sense, is a former president of the National Gulf War Resource Center and author of the novel, "Prayer at Rumayla" .