When Israel killed Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, much of the world condemned the action. But when the U.S. killed Osama bin Laden, the reaction was quite different.
MONTREAL – On March 22, 2004, a rocket fired from an Israeli helicopter gunship terminated the life of the terrorist leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. As expected, world reaction was swift and almost unanimous in its condemnation of Israel.
Yassin, a founder of Hamas, was a virulent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demagogue who repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state. Among his more memorable statements are “Reconciliation with the Jews is a crime” and Israel “must disappear from the map.”
In 1989, Yassin was arrested by the Israelis for masterminding the abduction and murder of Israeli soldiers and was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in 1997 he was released in a prisoner exchange on the condition that he refrain from continuing to initiate suicide bombings against Israel.
In violation of the terms of his release, Yassin resumed his leadership of Hamas and immediately started a campaign of suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets. After years of masterminding several appalling terrorist attacks on Israel, his reign of terror was finally brought to an end by the helicopter attack in 2004.
In a display of unwarranted antipathy to Israel, and a denial of its right to self-defence, countries of the world united in condemning the Jewish state. A brief survey:
The European Union issued a statement condemning Israel’s “extra-judicial” assassination of Yassin.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the assassination as a violation of international law.
The UN Human Rights Commission passed a resolution condemning Israel. It was approved by 31 votes in favour, two against (the United States and Australia) and 18 abstentions (including most of the EU countries.)
French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hervé Ladsous said: “France condemns the action taken against Sheik Yassin, just as it has always condemned the principle of any extra-judicial execution as contrary to international law.”
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called it an “unlawful killing.”
Japan called Yassin’s killing a “reckless act” that “cannot be justified.”
New Zealand called the assassination counterproductive to Middle East peace efforts.
Malaysia called the killing of Yassin “state terrorism” by Israel and claimed that it would “only escalate further the cycle of deadly violence.”
In contrast, the same countries, so quick to beat their breasts in moral outrage at Israel’s actions, have reacted quite differently to the assassination of Osama bin Laden by the United States:
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, reflecting generally positive reactions among EU leaders, said, “we have woken up to a more secure world.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The death of Osama bin Laden … is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism.”
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy praised the “tenacity” of the U.S. in tracking down the al-Qaida leader and described his death as “a major blow to international terrorism,” adding that victims of al-Qaida terrorism “received justice today.” Foreign Minister Alain Juppé opined that bin Laden’s death is a “victory for all democracies fighting the abominable scourge of terrorism.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that bin Laden’s death would “bring great relief” around the world.
Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said: “I pay respect to the U.S. officials concerned.”
Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he hoped that the death of bin Laden would help bring universal peace and harmony.
Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno hailed the death of bin Laden as “a very important advancement in the war against terrorism.”
Ahmed Yassin was responsible for some 425 brutal and cowardly attacks on Israel civilians carried out by Hamas. At least 377 Israelis were murdered and 2,076 wounded in the 3½ years preceding his death.
Comparing the number murdered in Israel by Hamas to the number murdered in the World Trade Centre on 9/11, a rough calculation shows that approximately one in 18,500 Israelis were killed, while the comparable figure was one in 102,000 Americans. Yet to its great shame, the world laments the death of the murderer of Jews while lauding the U.S. for assassinating bin Laden.
It is time for the world community to abandon this double standard and to accord to Israel and Jews everywhere the same right of self-defence that is claimed by every other people on the face of the globe.