Question: Who was Osama bin Laden?
If you said something like the worst genocidal criminal since Adolf Hitler, the man personally responsible for the 9/11 attacks, which killed some 3,000 innocent people, not to mention other heinous terrorist attacks around the world, you’re correct.
Question: Who was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin?
If you said the founder and spiritual head of the terrorist group Hamas, the man responsible for countless suicide attacks and marketplace bombings against civilian targets, killing Jews and non-Jews regardless of the passports they held, you are again correct.
But while much of the world (certainly not all), celebrated the elimination of bin Laden last week by a team of specially trained U.S. Seals, news of Yassin’s death on March 22, 2004 — he was killed in an Israeli air force assault — was not met with the same enthusiasm. In fact, it was just the opposite. World leaders excoriated Israel for what they repeatedly referred to as a “targeted assassination.”
Kudos to The Israel Project for bringing this outrageous double standard to light.
Here are a few stark examples.
• Following bin Laden’s death, United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon lauded the attack as a turning point in the world’s struggle against terrorism. Yet after Yassin’s death, Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, condemned the Israeli attack, saying, “such actions are not only contrary to international law, but they do not help the search for a peaceful solution.”
• European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton “congratulated” the United States following President Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death. She said the attack “reduc[ed] the threat posed by terrorists.” But following Yassin’s death, the E.U. took aim at Israel, saying “it is not … entitled to carry out extra-judicial killings.”
• While the Vatican did not “rejoice” at news of bin Laden’s death, as its spokesman said, he noted that the al-Qaida leader’s end is a reminder of “each person’s responsibility before God and men.” After Yassin’s death, however, the Vatican said it “unites with the international community in deploring this act of violence that cannot be justified in any state of law.”
There are several other examples, but you get the point.
Both men were terrorists with blood on their hands; both preached jihad; both were taken out in targeted assassinations.
So what’s the difference between bin Laden and Yassin? Al-Qaida and Hamas?
Hamas, led by Yassin, targeted Israel; al-Qaida, led by bin Laden, targeted the rest of the Western world.
Yassin’s attacks were generally confined to Tel Aviv discos, Galilee bus stops and Jerusalem pizza shops. Bin Laden went after skyscrapers in New York, subway stations in London, resorts in Bali, embassies in Africa.
We don’t criticize world leaders for supporting the bin Laden attack. They were right to do so.
But they were categorically wrong for vilifying Israel for taking out Yassin — the real villain in that case. By supporting targeted assassinations now, only because their countries are now targeted, too, their hypocrisy is on full display.
Yes, Yassin was a blind, wheelchair-bound cleric, but those disabilities had nothing to do with his real power. Like bin Laden, he preached intolerance and murder, commanding thousands of followers. Like bin laden, he was responsible for crimes against humanity. Like bin Laden, he deserved to be brought to justice, and he was.