Jewish World Review July 31, 2002 / 22 Menachem-Av, 5761

Edward I. Koch

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Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions | Sheik Salah Shehada, a founding member of the terrorist group Hamas and head of its military wing, was recently assassinated by the Israeli Defense Forces.

According to a BBC News report, Shehada "is blamed by Israeli security officials for dozens of suicide bombings during the Palestinian uprising," and for several years, he has been number one on Israel's list of Palestinian terrorists to be taken dead or alive.

At the time of his death, Shehada was in his apartment in Gaza where he lived with his wife and children. A "smart bomb" from an Israeli jet pulverized Shehada's home and two neighboring residences. Fifteen people were killed and Palestinians allege that 150 civilians were injured as a result of the air strike.

Because of the civilian casualties, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being criticized for authorizing the strike. The most vocal critics outside the Arab world are the Europeans. To me, this criticism is another example of anti-Israeli bias.

Shehada was the reputed heir to Sheik Ahmed Yassin, spiritual head of Hamas in Gaza. On many occasions, Yassin called for the deaths of all civilian and military Israeli wherever they might be found. Israel did to Shehada what Shehada had been doing to Israel. Under the U.N. Charter, Israel has the right of self-defense.

Doesn't Israel then have the right to capture -- dead or alive -- Palestinians who have murdered or planned the murder of Israelis, particularly when the Palestinian Authority refuses to arrest them? Doesn't the United States, in exercising its right of self-defense, have the right to capture -- dead or alive -- Osama bin Laden? Most people, myself included, support our efforts to capture and, if necessary, kill bin Laden. We should also support the Israelis in their efforts to combat terrorism.

The difference between terrorism -- the deliberate killing and injuring of civilians to achieve a political goal -- practiced by Hamas and the self-defense actions of the Israel Defense Forces is as clear as the difference between tyranny and democracy. Hamas admits that it seeks to kill Israeli civilians wherever they are. Its suicide bombers have primarily directed their efforts at civilians in malls, cafes, restaurants and buses.

Israel, on the other hand, targets individuals that it and the Israeli Attorney General have identified as participating in terrorist acts.

Shehada was the person responsible for the greatest number of Israeli civilian casualties, estimated to be in the hundreds. He was the center of Hamas terrorism.

Civilians were killed in the Israeli attack on Shehada, but should a terrorist be able to avoid capture or death by using civilians as shields? Is the Israeli military barred from firing or bombing his home because innocent civilians may be injured? Isn't the terrorist responsible for placing innocent civilians at risk?

Why don't European leaders and mobs that are now denouncing Israel ever use the same language, anger and energy in demonstrating support for Jewish civilian targets of Palestinian terrorism? Particularly outrageous is the biased news coverage of the BBC which almost nightly denounces Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon while glossing over Palestinian atrocities.

Why the double standard? I suspect it is because Jews in the popular perception are not supposed to fight back, and certainly not to engage in military battles and win them. Over the centuries, and especially during the Nazi era, millions of Jews silently went to their deaths in Europe, defenseless and without friends. As Jews were led into the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps, they prayed chanting God's name.

Now they have an army, a country and a friend in the U.S. Their young people know they have no choice but to fight if their families are not to be expelled from Israel or, even worse, murdered by the Palestinians and their Arab allies.

Israel doesn't have to apologize for protecting its people from Hamas and every other terrorist group bent on destroying the Jewish state. The European nations that collaborated with the Nazis and delivered their own Jewish citizens to the SS resent that Jews now have a homeland and are defending it. Rather than come to terms with their guilty past, many Europeans now find solace in falsely accusing Israel of doing to Palestinians what they themselves actually did to Jews.

European critics of Israel should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions, rather than trying to sabotage Israel's efforts at national survival.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Edward I. Koch