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Iran Uses Terror to Target Civilians, and So Does Israel

Are there special countries that are allowed to assassinate at will, and others who are not?

Gideon Levy

 by Haaretz (Israel)

A great miracle happened in Tbilisi, New Delhi and Bangkok, and alongside that miracle there was ineptitude that flies in the face of Iranian pretentions and ambitions. But the intentions were clear and grave: to take Israeli lives, especially diplomats and other official representatives of the state. That is terror.

The assassinations of the Iranian scientists were no less terrorist, let's admit it. Terror is terror, against diplomats exactly like against scientists, even if the latter are developing nuclear weapons. There is no great difference between an attempt to kill a representative of Israel's Defense Ministry and a strike on an Iranian nuclear physicist. There are nuclear physicists in Israel too and if, God forbid, someone tried to assassinate them, that would rightly be considered cruel terror.

And so anyone who uses these deplorable assassination methods cannot be critical when someone else tries to emulate them. And why should the world denounce Iran's terrorist acts - as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday - and not denounce others? Are there special countries that are allowed to assassinate at will, and others who are not?

Both kinds of countries should be denounced. The methods this time were even amazingly similar. Magnetized explosive devices were stuck on cars, like in underworld hits; not blind mass attacks, but the kind that are directed against the occupants of one car, whose fate is sealed unless miracles and operational incompetence prevail.

People who were impressed with the assassination of the Iranian scientists - and there are many such people in Israel - those who say with a typical Israeli wink that "they shouldn't be mourned" ignore the fact that another harsh, unnecessary bloody cycle has been launched. What possible use can there be in killing one scientist, who is then replaced by three others?

What good was it at the time to kill a key Palestinian terrorist when his place was taken by 10 others? The killer of Dr. Thabet Thabet in cold blood in 2001, a Tul Karm dentist and peace activist who did not deserve to die, also laid the groundwork for the assassination attempt in New Delhi.

The killer of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyeh, an avowed terrorist who deserved to die, may have saved the lives of many Israelis, but put the lives of many others at risk.

That's the way it is in the cruel cycle of assassination wars. But in Israel people who dwell in glass houses are keen to throw stones. Here people are impressed by and cheer Israeli assassinations and no one has questions or doubts, either about their morality or their efficacy. We are allowed.

Here people are shocked by attempted assassinations by Arabs or Iranians, but divorce them completely from the context of Israeli assassinations. How did a columnist in Israel Hayom put it this week? "Attacking Israel is in their DNA." Theirs? And what about us? The writer forgot, and made us forget, our DNA. It, too, supports assassinations, including sometimes of the innocent.

Assassinations of Palestinians have scaled down in recent years and have been carried out mainly in Gaza, and so the hit lists of the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces are now shorter. That's a good thing.

But according to the data of the human rights group B'Tselem, Israel targeted and killed no less than 232 Palestinians in the territories between the beginning of the second intifada and Operation Cast Lead, a period of about eight years. During those attacks,approximately 150 innocent bystanders were killed, including women and children.

These assassinations, most of which did not target "ticking bombs," were acts of terror. They are not much different from the criminal Iranian attempts in far-off Asia. The representative of the Defense Ministry in New Dehli does not deserve to die, but neither did Dr. Thabet Thabet. The Iranian scientists probably did not deserve to die either.

In February 1990, then-Commerce and Industry Minister Ariel Sharon asked the delegates to the Likud Central Committee convention: "Who's for stopping terror?" A sea of hands flew up. Today the question should be: Who is against terror? We will all devotedly raise our hands. But people who are truly against terror must also say: against all terror, against any terror, be it Iranian, Palestinian or Israeli.

© 2021 Haaretz

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy is an Israeli journalist, writing opinion pieces and a weekly column for the newspaper Haaretz that often focus on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. A notable journalist on the Israeli left, follow him on Twitter: @levy_haaretz

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