Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Guitar Blogging

Marc Ribot.

Terrorists And Freedom Fighters

This is contemptible:
Dozens of Palestinian students from the youth division of Fatah, the mainstream party led by President Mahmoud Abbas, gathered here on Thursday to dedicate a public square to the memory of a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history. [...]

The woman being honored, Dalal Mughrabi, was the 19-year-old leader of a Palestinian squad that sailed from Lebanon and landed on a beach between Haifa and Tel Aviv. They killed an American photojournalist, hijacked a bus and commandeered another, embarking on a bloody rampage that left 38 Israeli civilians dead, 13 of them children, according to official Israeli figures. Ms. Mughrabi and several other attackers were killed.

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism.

Indeed it does.

But, of course, so does this (from 2006):
[Israeli] rightwingers, including Binyamin Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister, are commemorating the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of British rule, that killed 92 people and helped to drive the British from Palestine.

They have erected a plaque outside the restored building, and are holding a two-day seminar with speeches and a tour of the hotel by one of the Jewish resistance fighters involved in the attack.

The controversy over the plaque and the two-day celebration of the bombing, sponsored by Irgun veterans and the right-wing Menachem Begin Heritage Centre, goes to the heart of the debate over the use of political violence in the Middle East. Yesterday Mr Netanyahu argued in a speech celebrating the attack that the Irgun were governed by morals, unlike fighters from groups such as Hamas.

“It’s very important to make the distinction between terror groups and freedom fighters, and between terror action and legitimate military action,” he said. “Imagine that Hamas or Hezbollah would call the military headquarters in Tel Aviv and say, ‘We have placed a bomb and we are asking you to evacuate the area’.”

Yes, imagine they did that -- does anyone think it would make a lick of difference? That Israel wouldn't still treat it as terrorism? That Israel wouldn't raise a fuss when the Palestinians honored the attack with a plaque and a celebration fifty years later?

As for the "Irgun weren't terrorists, they were freedom fighters" nonsense, it's worth pointing out that the World Zionist Congress thought differently. In December 1946 the organization voted to strongly condemn the terrorist activities in Palestine and "the shedding of innocent blood as a means of political warfare" by the terrorist groups Irgun and the Stern Gang. But I guess Bibi's coming from a different place...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Will Obama Hand the Cheneys - And Al Qaeda - A Victory?

The Washington Post reports that "President Obama's advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal," reversing Attorney General Holder's plan to try him in civilian court:
Marine Col. Jeffrey Colwell, acting chief defense counsel at the Defense Department's Office of Military Commissions, said it would be a "sad day for the rule of law" if Obama decides not to proceed with a federal trial. "I thought the decision where to put people on trial -- whether federal court or military commissions -- was based on what was right, not what is politically advantageous," Colwell said.

When he announced his decision to close Guantanamo Bay prison, President Obama said this:
"This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our Founding Fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard."

If the Obama administration abandons its effort to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in civilian court, it would represent a significant capitulation by President Obama to his political enemies, and a betrayal of his supporters who took seriously his promises to bring America's anti-terrorism policies back within bounds of the law.

It will also represent a significant propaganda victory for Al Qaeda, who crave the status and recognition that treating them as "soldiers" in a "war" bestows, and would love to be able to show the world that Obama, just like Bush and Cheney, will cast American principles aside when faced with a threat.

President Obama should understand by now that no matter how much he reaches out his hand to his neoconservative critics, they will never unclench their fists. They'll just look for a new place to strike. The president's struggle to cultivate bipartisanship is admirable. But a bipartisan consensus in favor of fashioning a new legal framework for dealing with an age-old problem -- terrorism -- is worse than worthless, it's an admission to Al Qaeda, and to world, that our existing insitutions aren't strong enough to deal with it, and that we'll abandon our core values when it gets hard.

Cross-posted from Wonk Room.