Thursday, July 20, 2006

Terrorism Is Terrorism Is Terrorism

The Times reports that certain groups in Israel have commemorated the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the King David Hotel, at the time the headquarters of British rule, by the "resistance" group Irgun, led by Menachem Begin. 92 people were killed in the blast on July 22, 1946. Netanyahu joined the celebrations, defending the attack against charges that it was terrorism.
Yesterday Mr Netanyahu argued in a speech celebrating the attack that the Irgun were governed by morals, unlike fighters from groups such as Hamas.

“It’s very important to make the distinction between terror groups and freedom fighters, and between terror action and legitimate military action,” he said. “Imagine that Hamas or Hezbollah would call the military headquarters in Tel Aviv and say, ‘We have placed a bomb and we are asking you to evacuate the area’.”

I've got a good deal of respect for Netanyahu, but this claim is rather despicable, in poor taste and, most of all,m poorly timed as Israel is trying to convince the West of the moral rectitude of its fight against Hezbollah. Netanyahu's rhetoric here mirrors that of the Palestinians. Supporters of this attack would likely make two claims to try and distinguish the Irgun attack from "terrorism." The first being that they called ahead of the attack to give warning and allow evacuation of the hotel (the British deny having received advanced warning, but no matter). The second claim likely used to distinguish this attack from "terrorism" is that the attack targeted military, not civilians.

Both of these claims are nonsense. Groups like ETA and, to a lesser degree, the IRA often gave advanced warning of their attacks to allow for evacuation. Is ETA not a terrorist group? Is the IRA not a terrorist group? Second, if you claim it wasn't terrorism because it only targeted military (of course, it killed government officials - civilians - but perhaps they think that is alright too), then you also do not consider the attacks on US and French forces by Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s to be terrorism. Nor do you consider the attacks on the Khobar Towers in 1996 or the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole to be terrorism. Notice Netanyahu didn't use this excuse, because he knows it's completely wrong.

The attack was 60 years ago. Long enough in the past that it could have been forgotten by both sides, but not long enough that it didn't bring back old memories that should have been left in the past. Britain and Israel have good relations now, and Israel needs the West in its fight against the terrorists that threaten us today. The King David Hotel bombing could have been left in the past. At the very least, given the current situation in Lebanon, these individuals and groups could have allowed this anniversary to pass by. That they decided to drag it back into the open, expecially given current events, was in extremely poor taste and exhibits an alarming lack of moral clarity from those who should have known better.


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