Commentary Magazine

The Double Standard Haunting Europe

AP Photo/Peter Dejong

As many have already noted, the spree of recent Islamist terror attacks across Europe feel reminiscent of some of the Palestinian attacks that Israeli civilians have been enduring for decades. And as Europeans confront this wave of violence, they are fast adopting the same means that Israelis have been forced take when trying to defend themselves. Yesterday, when an Afghan migrant and Islamic State devotee in Germany began attacking commuters on a busy train, he was quickly shot and killed by security. Similarly, the horrific truck attack last week in Nice was only brought to an end when the French police shot and killed Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who also appears to have been linked with ISIS.

When comparable knife attacks and car rammings have happened in Israel, security forces there acted similarly. Of course, on many occasions, Israel’s border police and army have managed to shoot and merely disable assailants. But when that has not been possible, Palestinian attackers have been shot and killed in an effort to save the lives of Israeli civilians in immediate harm’s way. It would seem morally obvious that sometimes this is what has to be done to bring a terror assault to the swiftest possible conclusion.

Yet Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom had an objection to Israelis defending themselves in this way. In January, when allegations were made in the Swedish parliament that Israel was perpetrating “extrajudicial executions” of Palestinian attackers, Wallstrom gave credence to these allegations. “It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability,” she said. By the same standard, we should now expect to hear Sweden’s foreign ministry call upon their French and German neighbors to undertake investigations into the circumstances under which the German train and Nice attackers were killed.

Wallstrom’s talk of bringing about “possible accountability” is especially galling. The notion that it is members of Israel’s security forces who should be interrogated and punished for acting to neutralize a terror threat is an unspeakable moral inversion. But, of course, in the event that there was serious reason to believe that wrongdoing had been committed by a member of the security services then that would be a legal matter. And sure enough, on the one occasion where there have been legitimate grounds for concern—the case of Sergeant Elor Azaria, accused of shooting and killing a Palestinian assailant said to have no longer posed a threat—charges have been pressed and a court case is underway.

The notion that there should be a sweeping investigation into all such incidents, however, grants an appalling moral victory to the terrorists and seeks to invalidate the legitimate means available to a democratic society seeking to stave off a wave of vicious terrorism. After all, there have been countless cases where Israeli police or soldiers acted to disable assailants without fatal consequences. The most notable example being that of 13-year old knife attacker, Ahmed Mansara. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed Mansara had been “executed” by Israeli forces. As it turned out, the boy was actually being treated in an Israeli hospital.

Nevertheless, the question is not one of whether Wallstrom’s comments about Israel were acceptable; we already knew that they were not. Rather, the question here is whether the Swedish foreign ministry is going to be consistent because a standard has now been set. As such, Margot Wallstrom has a choice on her hands. Either she can come out and call for equivalent investigations into the actions of the German and French police—and provoke popular and diplomatic fury from across Europe—or she could not hold European countries to the same standard she holds Israel to, and in doing so confirm that she operates a bigoted and discriminatory attitude toward the Jewish state.

When Wallstrom made her comments in January many will have assumed the latter to have been the case. But if she cares to, recent events have now provided her with an opportunity to prove otherwise.

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