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Civilian deaths in attack on terrorist leader unacceptable



Published: Fri, July 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Just as Ariel Sharon must have anticipated the reaction to his provocative visit to the Temple Mount -- accompanied by Israeli troops -- two years ago, surely Israel's prime minister must have known that a military strike against a Palestinian terrorist that resulted in civilian deaths would give the enemies -- and even the friends -- of Israel an opportunity to condemn the Jewish state. Never mind that Palestinian groups revel in the suicide murders of Israeli civilians, which Middle East leaders can't bring themselves to speak out against. Israel cannot afford to fight that kind of fire with fire.

No one should deny Israel's right to go after terrorist leaders -- after all, the United States is following a similar policy in its pursuit of Osama bin Laden and its threats against Iraq's president Saddam Hussein -- but critics of Israel need little reason to stoke up their propaganda machines. Israel does itself no favors by playing into their hands

Double standard a fact of life

Much of the world shows little revulsion for the images of ordinary Israelis -- one of the most recent Palestinian attacks killed a baby, her father and her grandmother, among many others -- murdered by terrorist bombers intentionally attacking civilians. But that indifference changes to outrage when Israelis strike back.

Thus, the bombing of a Gaza neighborhood that killed Hamas military chief Salah Shehadeh and 14 others was bound to engender a massive outcry against the Israelis, and for good reasons.

It is hard for a people to call for sanctions against terrorist acts, when that people is perceived of engaging in the same kind of action. Rightly or wrongly, Israel is also expected to be above the targeting of civilians. And finally, the killing of innocents can do nothing to advance the course of peace -- although, the horror expressed by many Israelis at the Gaza attack may move the government toward mitigating the tight control Israel has exerted over the West Bank.

But for now, Israeli citizens can only wait for retaliation and the "serious escalation" promised by the Palestinan foreign minister. An elderly rabbi was shot to death yesterday.

The goal for Israelis and Palestinians must be some kind of normalized relations, which cannot be achieved so long as children of either side are lying dead in the streets. Sharon must understand this.




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