Monday, 15 March 2010

Passports "Taken Out" on the Today Programme

When the story of the killing of an alledged Hamas leader, al-Mabhouh, in Dubai broke there were two things that were focussed on: the probablity that this was the act of the Israeli Security Services and that the killers used forged British and EU passports to enter Dubai.

The passports issue has played out over the past few weeks with Israeli ambasadors being summoned or invited to talk to various EU Foreign ministers, and being asked to give undertakings not to abuse EU passports in the same way again. The Israelis have continually stated that it has not been proved that their Forces were involved.

Excitement was generated by visions of a John Le Carre style assasination operation and at one point the normally sober BBC Today programe refered to al-Mabhouh being "taken-out" by Mosad. A thriller term for what was the ending of a unique, individual and entirely real human life.

As Dubai Police gather evidence in their murder enquiry and ask for Israeli co-operation in excluding Mosad agents from their equiries, I wonder if the EU foreign ministers were asking for the right undertakings. Maybe they should have said: "use our passports if you must - but promise not to travel abroad to kill people."

It is clear that in almost any circumstance the killing of an individual without trial or any semblance of judicial process is morally wrong as well as illegal under international law. But I would argue it also makes peace for Israel a more distant possibility.

I grew up in Belfast and my first interest in politics arose was when I saw the destructive cylical violence going on around me. But I ask you to consider what have happened if the state had killed the political leadership of the Republican movement, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness? Where would the Good Friday Agreement have come from? Who could the state have negociated with? Who would have had the political weight to hold the movement together as it ceased it's violence? The small violent Republican splinters who planted a car bomb last month would be just the tip of the iceberg.

Israel has long had a practice of extrajudical killings and there is no evidence that these do anything other than continue the cycle of violence. Going to great lengths to talk to the Hamas leadership rather than going to great lengths to kill them is more likely to lead to peace.