About two months ago a certain incident shook the world. Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who acted as a double agent for Britain, was poisoned along with his daughter Yulia in a Salisbury park. Britain was quick to blame Russia for the act, and 16 countries, including the United States, expelled dozens of Russian diplomats as punishment for the assassination attempt. The rage was vented over the idea of attempting an assassination – the West is extremely sensitive to human life – but even more over the idea that Russia dared to carry it out on British soil.
A few weeks later, another assassination attempt took place, this time a successful one. Twelve bullets hit Dr. Fadi al-Batsh, an electrical engineer from Gaza’s Jebaliya refugee camp, on a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The two assassins rode a motorbike; first it was said to be a BMW. Yesterday it was updated to a Kawasaki. Al-Batsh lectured at the university and dealt, according to reports, with developing weapons for Hamas.
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All eyes were turned to Israel. And what do you know, no state thought of expelling a single Israeli diplomat from its territory, or even of denouncing Israel. As far as the world is concerned, nothing happened, al-Batsh wasn’t murdered, Malaysia’s sovereignty wasn’t breached. Because how can we compare a Russian spy to a Palestinian engineer? Or Britain’s sovereignty to Malaysia’s?
The world’s double standard was burning the midnight oil again: What’s okay for Israel is forbidden even to Russia. Russia is known for its brutal assassinations with poison; Israel is the only democracy, so it’s allowed even to poison (Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in 1997).
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Israel maintained a fake ambiguity, but the winks, nudges, allusions, grins and undercover boasting left no room for doubt: The fine fellows of Mossad had struck again. The government’s biggest braggart, Yoav Galant, said: “We’ll hunt down every one, even to the ends of the earth.” Israel was impressed with the brave act, as it is always impressed by killing Arabs, especially in the dark depths of hush-hush land. From Abu Jihad’s targeted assassination in front of his wife and children, through Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Yahya Ayyash, to the targeted assassinations abroad – a Palestinian drone engineer in Tunis, a nuclear scientist in Tehran, a senior Hezbollah official in Beirut, Samir Kuntar in Damascus and Mahmoud al-Mabhuh in Dubai. Bulgaria is notorious for its poison-tip umbrella assassins, but the tennis players with rackets in a Dubai hotel were heroes.
All these acts are murders, and their perpetrators are hired killers. One could claim they were justified, spared human lives, or punished those who deserved to die, but they were murders. Their perpetrators are walking around among us, some of them rise to great heights. Some assassinations might have been the fulfillment of foolish fantasies by people who dreamed of them since childhood. Some were unnecessary, for every murder victim has a substitute, usually more extreme. The rest of them are just stupid. Murdering Khalil al-Wazir, Abu Jihad – seen as the ultimate in daring (in his bedroom in Tunis) and involving the slaying of one of the important Palestinian leaders who could have become a partner – was idiotic. Moshe Ya’alon boasts of this act to this day. Israel is proud of him. It was murder – punishment, deterrence, prevention or revenge – of the sort carried out by crime families.
Al-Batsh probably dealt with developing weapons, but it is doubtful he deserved to die because of it. None of the fans in the media and the public has any idea what he really did and if he deserved to die. There’s no question about a public discussion of the issue – you can count on the Mossad with your eyes closed.
Thousands of Israeli engineers are developing nastier and much more dangerous weapons than Hamas’ kites – do they deserve to die? Is it legitimate for Palestinians to murder them? A state that sends death squads to the ends of the earth isn’t something to be proud of. In the end, they’re hired assassins.