by Robin Shepherd
There is something very strange going on in
What vexes them is not so much the use of the passports per se as the fact that the kind of hyserical public furore that we have come to expect whenever a stick presents itself for the beating of Israel has singularly failed to materialise. On the contrary, large sections of the British press have responded with barely disguised awe at the audacious operation that the Israelis had the balls to carry out.
The usual suspects in the Guardian and the BBC look uncommonly isolated. Witness BBC MidEast Editor Jeremy Bowen on World Service Television this morning.
A dour and subdued looking Bowen was asked to reflect on the effect the affair might have on the
Seumas Milne, a regular columnist for the Guardian and one of the most fanatical opponents of
"…instead of setting off a diplomatic backlash, the British government sat on its hands for almost a week after it was reportedly first passed details of the passport abuse. And while the Foreign Office finally summoned the Israeli ambassador to "share information", rather than protest, Gordon Brown could yesterday only promise a "full investigation".
"In parallel with this languid official response, most of the British media has treated the assassination more as a ripping spy yarn than a bloody scandal which has put British citizens at greater risk by association with Mossad death squads. It was an "audacious hit", the Daily Mail enthused, straight out of a "Frederick Forsyth page-turner", while the Times revelled in an attack that resembled nothing so much as a "well-plotted murder mystery". Running throughout all this is a breathless awe at Mossad's reputation for ruthless brilliance in seeking out and destroying
Milne is right. The public mood in
"What the secret agents did — and, critically, what we saw them do — was compelling and breathtaking in its cleverness. Box office, in other words."
And, she goes on:
"It is an unfashionable thing to say, but I have a considerable admiration for the Israeli way of doing things. They want something, they get it. They perceive someone as their deadly enemy, they kill them. They get hit, they hit back. They don't waste time explaining or justifying or agonising; nor do they allow their detractors to enter their country and then afford them generous welfare payments. They just act. No messing. No scruples. Not even a shrug and a denial, just a rather magnificent refusal to debate anything."
But there's more:
"I've felt this way ever since the
"Maybe, as the West becomes increasingly gentle and polite, and pays those monthly direct debits to Amnesty International, we need the Israelis to remind us that the world is not made according to our template. Maybe that is why we are drawn towards tales of uncompromising, ruthless derring-do. How else to explain the veneration of the SAS, the worldwide glut of books and movies on covert operations?
"One last point. Usually, in comedy heist movies, no one gets killed. Somewhere a family is weeping at the death of Mr al-Mabhouh and no one takes any pleasure from that. But the people who die in Mossad operations tend to be, like the Hamas leader, morally compromised. There's a side to us that acknowledges that some assassins' victims may have had it coming to them. So we're appalled, but not so appalled that we don't look forward with relish to the sequel. Ultimately, this is less about siding with the Israelis than loving winners."
There is a lesson in all this, and it is a refreshing one. I spend a lot of time on this website expounding on the depth and breadth of
It doesn't always seem that way, particularly since the elite institutions of this country are so much more in thrall to the thinking of the second of those two alternatives than the first. But there is another
How curious that on precisely the occasion when
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