The assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas official in Dubai, almost certainly by a death squad dispatched by Israel’s Mossad, is by no means the first such aggression against the sovereignty of another state. While Israel has literally gotten away with murder thousands of times, was this one killing too far?
Israel has a long, bloody history of murder, sabotage and outright terrorism all over Europe, in Beirut, Tunis, Amman, Damascus and now Dubai. And that is just what we know about. All of this is allegedly in “self-defense” against “terrorism” even though the Zionist movement in Palestine invented the sort of modern terrorism for which the Middle East became known. It started with countless Zionist bomb attacks on Palestinian civilians from the 1930s, often in markets and cafes, the bombing of the King David and Semiramis hotels in Jerusalem in the 1940s claiming dozens of innocent lives, and the murder of UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte. These crimes, on top of the long history of massacres of Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs over the past six decades, were all worn as badges of honor by Zionist leaders including Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir who later became prime ministers.
Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who according to reports personally approved the killing of al-Mabhouh, must have thought it would be a great achievement celebrated by the “civilized” world that is engaged still in a “war on terror.” The so-called “international community,” after all, has helped Israel isolate Hamas and labels it a “terrorist” organization despite Hamas’ diplomatic overtures, repeated offers of truces and ceasefires, and the mandate it won at the ballot box.
Unfortunately it is not working out that way this time. Counting on the usual international complicity was not that unrealistic on Israel’s part. Indeed there has been no clear condemnation of the act of extrajudicial execution of al-Mabhouh, in a hotel room, apparently by electrocution and smothering with a pillow according to The Daily Mail (UK). What has been greeted with indignation is the forging of passports and identity theft.
Meeting in Brussels, EU foreign ministers strongly condemned the abuse of passports, but did not have the courage to publicly name Israel even though several governments including the UK and Ireland had already summoned their Israeli ambassadors. The British and Irish foreign ministers even directly confronted their Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, who was also in Brussels.
Mossad, the Israeli intelligence and international murder agency, has a long history of using fake and stolen passports of countries including Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. It notoriously used fake Canadian passports during the attempted murder of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Amman in 1997. Countries view their passports much like their currencies — their credibility and value must be defended. The lives of their citizens may well depend on it; an Irish, British or German citizen has to be able to travel all over the world without fear that he or she will be suspected of being a Mossad assassin.
Several years ago, New Zealand, a country of three million people, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel over the use of its passports by Mossad. But apart from that example, most countries have been too timid to confront Israel. That Lieberman refused to provide any additional information or even acknowledge an Israeli role in the Dubai attack when he met with the European foreign ministers is a sign that Israel still feels safe displaying arrogance and lawlessness, because it knows the “international community” has never dared to hold it accountable.
This time, however, Israeli arrogance may have exceeded the limits of what has been tolerated so far, and turned what was supposed to be an “heroic” act into a scandal with far-reaching consequences. There are some specific and general factors that contribute to that. First, the crime was committed on the territory of a moderate Arab country whose support for peace with Israel has been practically translated into unofficial bilateral relations. A high-level Israeli delegation had been in the country only days before the Mossad hit squad arrived. Showing so much contempt for a leading moderate Arab state gives a very bad example for any other state that might consider softening its position toward Israel (as the United States had been demanding as “confidence-building measures” for the “peace process”).
A second factor is that Israel mostly used stolen identities of living people, whose very public shock and fear at waking up to find their names splashed over the newspapers and linked to a murder, could not easily be hidden.
A third factor is that the Israeli adventure in Dubai carries the traits of just the kind of terrorist act the world has been mobilizing to fight. Improvements in passport security were introduced in recent years to stop terrorism, but here is a country violating and sabotaging these security measures in order to commit murder.
We cannot assume that the assassination in Dubai will be the straw that breaks the back of Israeli immunity and impunity, but we can be sure that the general erosion of Israel’s standing as a result, particularly of its aggressive recent wars on Lebanon and Gaza, means that what was tolerated by the world more easily five or ten years ago, is less tolerated now. Global public disgust at Israeli actions has reached levels that may require governments who normally prefer complicity and silence to act.
And when there was a “peace process,” Israel’s crimes particularly against Palestinians were ignored in the interests of not damaging relations or slowing momentum toward the hoped-for successful conclusion. But no one today — except the most naive or delusional — believes that there is any peace process. Despite Israel’s efforts to blame the Palestinians, only the most pro-Israel extremists deny that Israel’s aggressive colonization in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the siege on Gaza, is what killed any prospect of a negotiated solution for the foreseeable future.
Consider that just days before the passport affair broke out, Israel was once again pressuring the UK to change its laws to protect Israeli officials from arrest for war crimes should they visit London. Although British officials had publicly expressed shameful enthusiasm to tailor UK law to meet Israeli needs, they may now face real public opposition if they attempt to change it. What interest does the UK have to protect the likes of Tzipi Livni from arrest if the facts and evidence make it necessary?
The truth is that as it becomes desperate, Israel is turning ever more wild and dangerous, not only for its neighbors but for world peace, security and prosperity. Without constant pressure from the Israel lobby, there may have been no invasion of Iraq. Today, it is Israel and its apologists who are constantly inciting confrontation and war against Iran when most of this region wants peace and good relations.
Even if the countries harmed by Israel’s latest brazen act do not hold it properly and adequately accountable — as they must and should — it appears that it is on a path of self-destruction. The great fear is how much more harm it will do to others on the way.
Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This essay first appeared in The Jordan Times and is republished with the author’s permission.