Let’s not overreact to Mossad’s hit on a terrorist
In the latest development in the fake passport controversy, Britain has expelled a senior Israeli diplomat and demanded a public assurance that Israel will not misuse British passports again.
This is in response to Israel’s Mossad spy agency allegedly killing a Hamas leader in Dubai in January, with the assassination team using forged foreign passports, including at least three from Australia.
However, you don’t have to be a chest thumping, Alexander Downer-like armchair warrior who relishes assassination to realise that western countries, including Australia, are overreacting.
The Australian Government last month berated Israel over the issue and act like an aggrieved child against whom a gross injustice has been committed.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith summoned Israel’s ambassador to express his “grave concern” about the issue and stated that abusing passports would not be the “act of a friend”. The Prime Minister blustered that if the forgery allegations are true then Israel is treating Australia with “contempt”.
In the United Nations, Australia retorted by abstaining from backing Israel over allegations of war crimes in Gaza, despite previously siding with it.
Australia’s and Britain’s disproportionate response mirrors that of New Zealand, which five years ago temporarily cut diplomatic ties with Israel after two alleged Israeli agents tried to obtain a false Kiwi passport.
The three Australians used as identity pawns have every right to be angry but they’re the victims, not Australia.
Australia’s response lacks perspective when you look at the bigger picture of the middle east, terrorism and Israel’s right of self-defence.
Israeli killed a known terrorist. The United States, under both George Bush and Barack Obama, have regularly done the same thing in Afghanistan with the use of unmanned drones high in the sky. Assassination is an unfortunate reality in a messy region.
By practicing terrorism, you forfeit the right not to be assassinated. Why should someone live when at some future stage they’ll be responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians? It may be crude utilitarianism but this assassination probably achieved the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
And there’s merit in Israel conducting targeted assassinations, even in foreign countries, rather than indiscriminately bombing the West Bank and Gaza. This leaves a trail of innocent victims, human misery and counter-productively increases enmity towards Israel.
Clearly assassination opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical and pragmatic questions. Is Israel now more secure? Do Israel and the region ultimately benefit? Or does it just fuel the cycle of violence in a region tragically full of violence? These are all serious questions requiring serious debate and none of this has been evident in Australia.
Western government’s can’t condone the forgery of their passports but they don’t have to make a diplomatic song and dance about it either. Israel should have been rebuked in private and not in public and some perspective should have been retained.
There’s plenty of reasons to criticise Israel, such as over an at times brutal occupation of Palestine and its settlement over-reach. But passport forgery isn’t high on the list. In the greater scheme of terrorism and Israel’s national security, it’s a minor issue.
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