The anti-terror campaign made a mockery out of any concern for human rights. Collateral damage and injury to innocent bystanders were regular and common features of the campaign. Anti-terror paramilitary fighters and forces routinely engaged in torture of captured terrorists.
Numerous death squads sought out the terrorists and their supporters, quietly exterminating them behind the scenes. The government pretended to have no knowledge of their actions. Government anti-terror personnel kidnapped terrorists and held them without any regard for habeas corpus. Anti-terror militias routinely crossed the borders and snatched terrorists hiding in neighboring countries or killed them there. Bombs were planted in order to kill the terrorists.
Many of those killed or tortured were not members of or connected with any terrorist groups. Many of the anti-terror operations took place in violation of international law and even of national laws. To suppress the terror, the government pressured other countries to crack down on the refugees and to deport them.
The above three paragraphs describe the anti-terror crackdown by the democratic country of Spain in the last years of the twentieth century. Spain has been fighting against Basque separatist terrorism for decades and especially against the ETA organization, which seeks secession of the Basque territories from Spain. ETA is considered responsible for the deaths of more than 800 people in Spain, a number that pales in comparison with Palestinian barbarism. (And Spain has a population almost six times that of Israel.)
The long bloody war by Spain against its own terrorists is of interest in light of the decision by a Spanish court, in response to a lawsuit brought by a Palestinian group, to indict Israeli army officers and political leaders for the “crime” of fighting terrorism and protecting Israeli civilians.
Just what did these Israelis do that persuaded the Spanish court it was necessary to prosecute them – and in Spain, no less? In 2002 Israel bombed a building in Gaza where one of Hamas’s worst terror leaders, Salah Shahade, was hiding. The building was destroyed and the arch-terrorist and 14 other people were killed, including his wife and nine children.
Shahade was responsible for endless rocket and bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. It was arguably the most morally justified assassination since the killing of Admiral Yamamoto during World War II, and it is Hamas itself, due to its policy of sheltering terrorists behind children and civilians, that bears responsibility for the deaths of any alleged non-combatants in that and in all other Israeli retaliatory strikes.
Ah, Spain – the country whose legacy of crimes against Jews is topped only by that of Germany.
Put aside for the moment the impudence of a country like Spain – with its centuries of ethnic cleansing, fascism, Inquisitions, intolerance, and collaboration with Hitler – morally hectoring Israel about its behavior in its war against terrorism. One need not recall the centuries of Spanish history to see the Orwellian absurdity in all this.
In the 21th century Spain is stillfighting terrorism, using tactics that make Israel’s anti-terror operations look positively milquetoast by comparison. Yet it thinks Israel must limit its war against Islamofascist terrorism to goodwill concessions and constructive programs of capitulation.
The Basques are an ancient people, unlike the Palestinians. The Basques repeatedly gained and lost political independence throughout history. They suffered from aggression by the fascist forces loyal to Franco during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Guernica, the city famously devastated by Nazi planes sent by Hitler to aid Franco, was Basque.
While Basques enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy, Basque separatists set up a number of groups after World War II. The most notorious and most violent is ETA, a Marxist-Leninist group founded in 1959 to fight for complete independence and separation from Spain. ETA is on the American and Canadian official lists of terrorist groups.
Concern and respect for human rights never interfered with the merciless Spanish pursuit of ETA terrorists. The war against Basque terrorism was led in the 1980s by GAL or Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberaci?n (Antiterrorist Liberation Groups) – little more than death squads illegally set up and run by officials within the Spanish government to fight ETA.
GAL was financed and protected by Spain’s Interior Ministry. It attacked Basques living in and operating out of France, as well as those inside Spain. Several Spanish government officials were convicted in 1997 for their role in the illegal campaign against the Basque terrorists. Among them was a former interior minister in the government of Socialist prime minister Felipe Gonz?lez. The prime minister publicly defended the anti-terror campaign, claiming that “democracy is defended in the sewers as well as in the salons.”
On April 19 of this year, France, under pressure from Spain, arrested several ETA leaders, including Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso, the head of ETA. There are more than 600 ETA members now rotting in Spanish prisons, with 150 more jailed in France.
Spain’s hypocrisy is evident not only in its doctrine of “fight terrorism as we say and not as we do,” pontificated when it comes to Jews defending themselves. It is no less outrageous when Spain lectures Israel about its “occupied territories” and security fence.
It happens that Spain occupies enclaves of territory on the northern Africa coast, Ceuta and Melilla, surrounded by Morocco, home to Spanish settlers. Morocco does not recognize the legitimacy of these Spanish settlements on its land. The Spanish interlopers in Morocco are walled in by – yes, you guessed it – a high security fence. Africans are not let in and in fact a number have been killed trying to sneak through.
The legitimacy of Spain’s possession of these occupied territories is flimsy at best, and they are completely unnecessary for Spanish security. But don’t expect the UN or Western “peace activists” to utter a peep about that anytime soon.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.