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Staying Silent About Arab State Terrorism


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Threatening civilians is a traditional mode of state terrorism in parts of the Muslim world. A second type of state terrorism – the murderous one – has increased significantly.

A few among many examples: On July 11, Syrian soldiers shot and killed 10 participants in a funeral procession in the town of Homs. During the funeral of Kurdish leader Mashaal Tammo on October 8 in Qamishli, Syrian security forces fired indiscriminately at the crowd and killed five mourners and wounded three. A day later, 24 Copts were killed and more than a hundred wounded by Egyptian security forces in Cairo.

One can add many more examples of homicidal state terrorism in Arab countries, including Libya and Yemen. The principle remains the same: Arab government forces not only threaten their own civilians but also kill them intentionally.

A third type of state terrorism is the attempt to murder foreign civilians abroad. Recent examples were the planned attacks on the Saudi ambassador and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, both ordered by Iran.

Murderous state terrorism has extremely vicious precedents. In 1982, the Syrian regime of President Hafez Assad killed at least ten thousand people – actually, probably a multiple of that – in the town of Hama. The murdered were mainly civilians.

In 1988, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force released poisonous gas over the Kurdish city of Halabja in Northern Iraq, killing thousands. Even more murderous was the Al Anfal campaign that year in which an estimated 100,000 Kurds in Northern Iraq, mainly civilians, were killed by Iraqi forces.

A major case of homicidal terrorism conducted in a foreign country by a Muslim state was that of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish AMIA center in Buenos Aires. Eighty-five people were killed and 300 wounded. It was the largest attack on Jews outside of Israel since World War II. In 1992, there was the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in which 29 people were killed. The attackers were never found.

Only in 2006 were Iran and Hizbullah formally charged with the AMIA murders by the Argentinean prosecutor. Among the eight suspects whose arrests were requested by Argentina was former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani. Another of the accused was Iran’s defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi. After he visited Bolivia this past May, the Bolivian government apologized to Argentina for having invited him.

Threatening to use violence against foreign civilians is yet another type of state terrorism. Syrian President Bashir Assad told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmad Davotuglu at the beginning of October that if Syria were attacked by NATO, Syria would shoot hundreds of missiles and rockets at Tel Aviv. Assad said he would also call on Hizbullah to launch an intensive rocket and missile attack on Israel.

This also has its precedents in the Muslim world: In 2001, then-Iranian President Rafsanjani threatened to annihilate Israel with an atom bomb.

To deflect attention from the widespread state terrorism in the Muslim world, some Arab leaders attack Israel instead. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan accused Israel of state terrorism during his trip to Africa in May.

A few weeks ago at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting, Syrian UN envoy Faisal al-Hamwi said that according to Syria’s state news agency SANA, Israeli human rights violations reported by Palestinians proved “the reality of state terrorism practiced by Israel.”

And two extreme leftist Norwegian doctors, Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, published a book claiming Israel had entered Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in order to kill women and children. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and former prime minister Kare Willoch lent them credibility by contributing back-cover blurbs.

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About the Author: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (2000-2012). He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.


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