Gangland violence is making us safer.
That's the message we hear today from Israel's Defense Minister, Shaul
Mofaz, who not only defended the practice of "targeted assassination"
but threatened to use the controversial tactic against Palestine's new Prime
Minister-designate, Ismail Haniya.
"We will continue the targeted killings at this pace," Mofaz stated.
"No one will be immune."
Mofaz's comments were made in response to Israel's air-strike against two Palestinian
suspects yesterday in Gaza City. The attack killed three bystanders"one
child and two teenagers.
The Defense Minister used the attack to warn the new Hamas cabinet that the
same strategy will be applied to leading members of the government if suicide-bombings
in Israel resume.
Is Mofaz right? Is gangland violence making Israelis safer?
There's reason to suspect that he is not only wrong, but that he may be putting
Israeli citizens at greater risk. Targeted assassination is a disastrous policy;
a policy which defines the parameters of extremism and lawlessness.
Let's forget for a moment that innocent people are invariably killed in these
incidents and that these planned executions take place on city streets where
passersby are forever traumatized by bloody state-sponsored murder. Let us simply
address the issue of whether or not the safety of Israelis or anyone else is
ever enhanced by discarding the law and conferring absolute power on the state
to decide who lives or dies?
We already know that hard-right members of the Likud as well as their American
counterparts believe strongly in the practice. The Bush administration has never
wavered in its support for the arbitrary killings even though a botched missile
attack in Pakistan last month by an unmanned CIA-drone killed nine innocent
villagers. The administration stubbornly refused to even issue an apology for
The tragic loss of life never stirred any debate as to whether the practice
was morally or legally justifiable. And, why would it?
The ability to kill according to one's own discretion is a fundamental requirement
of absolute power. What government official doesn't seek that implicit authority?
But how does the citizen benefit?
Are Israelis reassured by a regime that flaunts universally-accepted standards
of international law? Are they soothed by the fact that their own government
disregards the shield the law normally provides for its citizens?
Even a fool can see the insidiousness of state-assassinations. Its corruptive
influence creeps into every area of the body-politic. If assassination can be
justified then why not torture? Why not strip the citizen of every recognizable
defense and allow the state to do with him as it chooses?
Isn't that what targeted assassination means; the end of the law?
It is not surprising that Mofaz would defend the practice; we expect our military
personnel to think in simple terms. But it would be disturbing to find out that
a majority of Israelis actually believe that the state has the inherent right
to exterminate the leaders of a democratically-elected government, or that assassination
is a viable form of foreign policy.
It is not. It is barbarism.
Government-ordered killings are an attack on the underlying threads that knit
civilization together. It's an assault on the basic principle that all people
deserve some protection from the violence of the state. No one is safer when
the law is abandoned.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached