by Barry Rubin
There has been a huge international controversy about the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a leading Hamas terrorist, in
1. Generally speaking, media coverage almost never (in Europe) or only minimally (in the
“Mr. Mabhouh had a role in the 1989 abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers, and was also involved in smuggling weapons into
It would seem that there would be more discussion of the deeds of such people so they are not portrayed, at least implicitly, as innocent victims. Readers could weigh the assassination against their crimes, which would otherwise go unhindered and unpunished. Mabhouh was probably in
2. As long as Western states do nothing to help bring Hamas or Hizballah terrorists to justice, and since Israel has no way of getting these people before a court, it has no option other than the extra-judicial one. Remember that an Israeli cabinet minister is more likely to face prosecution in the
Some European countries--
This point of international culpability in letting certain terrorists escape or function isn't brought up, explained, or seriously discussed: What do you do if specific people are attacking you and there’s no other option to stopping them? If the
3. There is a cliché when talking about counter-terrorism to the effect that getting a specific individual doesn’t matter as there is always someone to replace him. But in terrorism, as in other aspects of life, there are more effective and less effective individuals. Since Israel eliminated Hamas’s master bombmaker—who not only made bombs but trained others--in 1995, less capable people replacing him in that line of work have managed to blow themselves up a lot.
The terrorist Imad Mugniya, who someone killed in
Mabhouh was in a similar position, the top Hamas arms’ procurer who enjoyed the trust of the Iranians and who knew how to get lots of rockets and other equipment quickly and consistently.
These are not people who merely carried out a specific attack but those who make possible the staging of dozens of attacks.
Of course, terrorism doesn’t go away—expecting that it will do so is a Western act of wishful thinking—but the point is to reduce the number and effectiveness of attacks, and thus the number of casualties.
There are other advantages to eliminating key terrorist operatives. Often it can spark factional conflicts which make terrorist groups spend more time on internal battles. It also sparks mistrust among terrorist partners. If Mugniya can be assassinated in the neighborhood of
Indeed, though outsiders may understate this reality, there is more than a seed of suspicion planted. Perhaps
By the way, although it doesn’t seem to make the headlines so much, other countries including the
Proposition One: if you truly understand that the terrorist groups are going to try to kill you no matter what you do, it removes the fear of making them angry.
Proposition Two: If you know the world is going to criticize you no matter what you do, it removes the fear of making them angry.
But what’s at issue here is not revenge for past attacks but the prevention of future ones, a very careful and well-informed thinking through of what actions would weaken terrorist adversaries and save the lives of the civilians they are aiming to kill.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.