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 that 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 their mistake.
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, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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