As Boston was mourning its victims of terror yesterday, a Parisian suburb was planning a gala fete for terrorists. Among those slated to be honored at tonight’s ceremony in St. Denis are Allam Kaabi, convicted of assassinating Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001, and Salah Hamouri, convicted of plotting to assassinate Israel’s former Sephardi chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef. Both are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who were released in 2011 as part of the exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
Though sponsored by a private organization, the ceremony is to be held in a building owned by the municipality, thus lending the town’s imprimatur to it. And, adding insult to injury, it’s slated to be graced by a representative of Amnesty International: Evidently, this self-styled human rights organization has no problem with targeted killings of Israeli civilians, though it objects vociferously to targeted killings of terrorists.
I can’t conceive of any Western city lending its aegis to a ceremony honoring, say, al-Qaeda terrorists–at least, not without sparking a major outcry from its countrymen. But as this ceremony once again demonstrates, even people who find terrorism against anyone else beyond the pale are often willing to make an exception when the victims are Israelis. And that holds true far beyond France.
Indeed, nobody better demonstrates this truth than the great lady who was buried in London today. Eulogies for Margaret Thatcher justly lauded her as a friend to the Jewish people, a friend to Israel (she was the first British premier ever to make an official visit there), and an uncompromising opponent of terror. Yet despite all this, she had no qualms about making an exception for terrorists who targeted Israelis: In 1980, Thatcher abandoned her previous insistence that the PLO renounce terror and signed onto the EEC’s Venice Declaration, which called for involving the PLO in any Israeli-Arab peace process. Thereafter, her government maintained official contact with the PLO.
This was eight years before Yasir Arafat officially renounced terror in 1988 (that he was lying, as the post-Oslo carnage later proved, is a different story). Indeed, the PLO routinely shelled communities in northern Israel from its Lebanese strongholds throughout the early 1980s, which is why Israel went to war to oust it from Lebanon in 1982; and in 1985, Palestinians hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship and murdered a wheelchair-bound American just because he was Jewish. Yet none of this caused Thatcher to change her mind: In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, she justified engaging with a terrorist organization on the grounds that the PLO was “an important factor in the area.”
It’s hard to find a rational explanation for why so many people tolerate terror against Israelis even as they excoriate it against anyone else. But by so doing, they are undermining both the battle against terror and the universality of the most fundamental human right of all–the right to life. Because if it’s OK to murder Israelis for the sake of a cause, then it’s okay to murder anyone. All that’s left to argue about is the validity of the cause in question.