Friday, October 07, 2011

From Israel’s Bus 300 Affair to the Al-Awlaki Assassination

From Israel's Bus 300 Affair to the Al-Awlaki Assassination

Posted By Steven Plaut On October 7, 2011

It is perhaps the ultimate irony that the Israeli "Bus 300" affair is
once again popping up in the media just days after the al-Qaeda
terrorist with the US passport, Anwar al-Awlaki, was liquidated by a
drone in Yemen. Many of the points being raised in debate over the
killing of al-Awlaki are the same as those long raised regarding the
Israeli "Bus 300 Affair." In both incidents terrorists were summarily
executed by the intelligence agencies of democratic nations, without
trial and "due process." Both cases are being exploited by the enemies
of those democracies to paint them as "inhumane regimes."

In the Bus 300 Affair, intelligence agents from Israel's Shin Bet
liquidated two terrorists captured after hijacking a bus full of
civilians, mainly women, and threatening to blow them up. The
al-Awlaki affair is far fresher in everyone's mind. Many on the Left,
joined by Ron Paul and some fringe members of the Right, are grumbling
about how al-Awlaki was liquidated "without proper due process and
trial." The eminent professor of law from Berkeley, John Yoo,
probably made the best case for the killing, writing in the Wall
Street Journal:

Yet, from the howls on the left, you would never know that President
Barack Obama had won another victory in the war on terror. Even as
details of the operation leaked out, critics claimed that our
government had "assassinated" an American citizen without due process.
… Worse yet, they get the rights of a nation at war terribly wrong.
Awlaki's killing in no way violates the prohibition on assassination …
[A]ssassination is an act of murder for political purposes. Killing
Martin Luther King Jr. or John F. Kennedy is assassination. Shooting
an enemy soldier in wartime is not. In World War II, the United
States did not carry out an assassination when it sent long-range
fighters to shoot down an air transport carrying the Japanese admiral
Isoroku Yamamoto. American citizens who join the enemy do not enjoy a
roving legal force-field that immunizes them from military reprisal.
President Abraham Lincoln confronted this question at the outset of
the Civil War.

Almost all of the commentators and bloggers who roll their eyes in
mock horror over the execution of the two terrorists in the "Bus 300"
affair refuse to report what actually happened there.

On April 12, 1984, four Arab terrorists who had entered the Israeli
Negev from Gaza commandeered an Israeli civilian bus filled mostly
with women commuters returning home to Ashkelon from their jobs in Tel
Aviv. There were pregnant women among the victims. The terrorists
seized the bus and attempted to drive it towards the Egyptian border.
They were armed with knives and explosives and threatened to blow up
the entire bus with its passengers if stopped. They crashed through
road blocks and were pursued by military jeeps. The bus eventually
was stopped near Gaza City.

The incident took place just a few years after the massacre of bus
passengers by terrorists in another incident along Israel's main
coastal road. Holding the Bus 300 passengers as hostages, the
terrorists demanded the release of 500 jailed terrorists, threatening
to murder the captives if their demands were not met.

The next morning, an Israeli SWAT team stormed Bus 300 and freed the
passengers. Two of the terrorists were killed in the operation. One
Israeli woman on the bus died in the crossfire and seven others were
injured. The Israeli military announced that all four terrorists had
died in the operation. Later it turned out that two of the four had
actually been captured alive and were executed by intelligence agents
on the spot. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
in Syria took credit for the attack, although Israel claimed that
Arafat's Fatah terror organization was responsible.

The incident turned into a "scandal" when an Israeli newspaper called
Hadashot (owned by the radical leftist Haaretz publishing house; it
has since closed), edited by one Yossi Klein, defied Israel's military
censor (which censors news reporting about some sensitive military
matters) and published a photo of one of the captured terrorists being
led away. (Originally published with faces of intelligence officers
blackened out.)

In the aftermath, several Israeli intelligence officers were indicted
for their roles in "covering up" the execution of the two captured
terrorists. All officers would be either exonerated in court or
granted presidential "pardon" before indictment. Careers were damaged
more by the negative publicity than from formal judicial actions. The
head of the Shin Bet at the time was forced to resign. One
intelligence officer named Ehud Yatom proudly boasted of his role in
eliminating the terrorists. He later served as a member of the
Israeli parliament (the Knesset).

An official commission of inquiry then examined activities and
procedures of the intelligence agency.

The Bus 300 affair continues to generate public debate in Israel. It
returns to the headlines whenever any of the figures involved are in
the news, such as when Yatom was to be appointed director of the
Israeli Parks Authority. There have been films, documentaries and
plays about the incident in Israel and elsewhere. The latest is a
Hebrew film recently released titled "A. – Liquidate them!" and it is
generating a lot of public debate.

The Israel far Left has long exploited the incident as a bludgeon
against the supposed "human rights abuses" by the intelligence
services. Yossi Klein, the same bloke who broke the law by running in
Hadashot the photo of the captured terrorist being led away, has been
exploiting the attention he is suddenly again getting and denounced
the Shin Bet for engaging in things that are "immoral and illegal," in
his opinion (Haaretz, October 4, 2011). He has been backed by some of
Israel's most seditious self-hating leftist extremists.

Both the al-Awlaki killing and "Bus 300" actually serve to illustrate
the underlying problem concerning the nature of terrorism.
Terrorists are not soldiers, do not behave as soldiers, and when they
are captured they are not protected by international treaties
regarding prisoners of war. They do not wear uniforms and they
explicitly target civilians for purposes of creating mass panic and
demoralization. By targeting civilians, they defy all norms of human

At the same time they are not civilian "criminals" and so are not
entitled to the protections and niceties of the judicial system, from
Miranda warnings and legal representation to due process in courts.
Terrorism is neither civilian "crime" nor is it military activity by
soldiers. It is something else, something unique, sui generis.

It is absurd for terrorists to be processed and treated like common
criminals, and it is just as absurd for them to be treated as
prisoners of war. That is why Guantanamo base, waterboarding,
kidnapping terrorists to third countries, and all the rest are methods
that are perfectly sensible parts of anti-terrorism policy, even if
they would be prohibited when dealing with common criminals and with
military prisoners of war.

To put it bluntly, terrorists should be summarily executed, unless
there is some special strategic reason not to kill them (such as
extracting intelligence). Try to imagine that some of the hijackers
involved in the 9-11 attacks had actually been overpowered and
captured by security personnel that fateful day and then the would-be
hijackers had been summarily executed. Or imagine that Osama bin
Laden had first been captured alive and only then executed by American
security forces, after intelligence was extracted from him. Captured
terrorists serve as open invitations to other terrorists to engage in
more terrorism in order to gain their release. John Wilkes Booth was
not read his rights nor provided with legal counsel.

Summary execution of terrorists makes a moral point, that by their
actions terrorists have forfeited any expectation of "due process" in
court and of ordinary protection due to military prisoners of war.
Just as we honor and proclaim publicly the merit of our heroes and
role models, so it makes perfect sense for us to exhibit our disgust
and revulsion with terrorists by liquidating them.

While executing terrorists theoretically risks situations where
innocent people could be killed in error, should proof ever emerge of
such a case occurring, those involved in the error or crime can be
indicted. But the burden of proof that an innocent person was so
killed in an anti-terrorism operation would be upon the prosecution.

The Shin Bet agents who summarily executed the two Bus 300 terrorists,
captured while threatening to blow up a bus full of civilians, behaved
properly. The terrorists involved indeed deserved to be summarily
executed. The agents should have been proclaimed heroes, promoted and
awarded medals.

Those who express "anguish" and "horror" at such extra-judicial
executions are people who prefer that terrorism thrive and flourish.
Execution of terrorists makes them feel squeamish and uncomfortable.
Their comfort is more important to them than preventing more 9-11s and
more mass murders of civilians by terrorists in the Middle East.


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