Assassination Isn't Self-DefenseHartford Courant Editorial August 30, 2001
Israel's government is not persuasive in arguing that it is acting in self-defense when it kills Palestinian leaders it describes as terrorists.
The most recent use of the misguided policy of assassinations was the airborne missile attack by Israeli forces Monday that took the life of Mustafa Zibri, one of the top leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The attack on Mr. Zibri might have had even worse consequences. His headquarters was on the third floor of an apartment building housing many civilians, including 20 American citizens living temporarily in the occupied territories. Fortunately, none was hurt.
This was not self-defense. It was the calculated killing of a Palestinian leader that violated international law - the Geneva Conventions - and the norms of conduct expected of a civilized nation.
Governments should not be in the business of killing national leaders. When the United States attempted taking out foreign leaders through covert actions, it was justifiably and universally criticized. Israel should be held to no less a standard.
Moreover, Israel's use of U.S.-supplied aircraft in that raid and others against Palestinian security headquarters probably violated this country's Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of American weapons to legitimate defensive purposes. The Bush administration should make a legal determination of whether Israel is breaking that law.
Israelis understandably are tired of suicide bombings and the shelling of their neighborhoods by Palestinians. But assassinations do not serve the cause of peace.
Terrorizing tens of thousands of civilians is not a sensible way to fight terrorism. Surely Prime Minister Ariel Sharon doesn't believe that he can extinguish Palestinian aspirations and their fury by tightening the noose with military occupation. What, other than heightened tension and more bloodshed, has his policy produced?
Even the Bush administration, which has routinely sided with Israel, condemned Israel's recent aggression.
It is time to get back to the peace table. The Palestinian Authority must crack down hard on radicals who plot attacks on Israeli civilians. Israel must stop the quarantine of Palestinians in their villages and homes and withdraw its troops from land it occupies. Those actions on both sides will create an atmosphere for talks.