Inspired, it seems, by an attempt to fill the shoes of the late Robert Fisk, Mid-East columnist Patrick Cockburn provided Indy readers, whose appetite for anti-Israel vitriol, editors understand, is insatiable, with a simply unhinged moral equivalency: the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
The op-ed, “State sponsored assassinations in foreign countries are becoming the new norm – it is simply a form of gangsterism”, begins his piece with a paragraph about Rabin’s murder in Tel Aviv, an assassination, he noted, that “was universally condemned”, before pivoting to the incident outside Tehran on Nov. 27.
Twenty-five years later almost to the day [after Rabin’s assassination], another assassination took place, this time in Iran, of a nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, as he was driving in a car east of Tehran. He was ambushed and killed by a squad of gunmen, alleged to be Israeli, who shot him and exploded a bomb in a car prepositioned at the scene of the attack.
This time there was no international condemnation of the action of what was, going by different accounts, a death squad operating in a foreign country against a foreign citizen. This free pass was because the target was an Iranian and Fakhrizadeh had been accused by Israel of playing a leading role in a secret plan to build a nuclear device. But these allegations were unproven, mostly dated from long ago, and the current activities of the dead man are unclear.
Contrary to Cockburn’s claims, it isn’t only Israel which has accused Fakhrizadeh of playing a leading role in Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon. In 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) identified Fakhrizadeh as a central figure in suspected Iranian work to develop technology and skills needed for atomic bombs. As Reuters reported recently, Fakhrizadeh has “the rare distinction of being the only Iranian scientist named in the IAEA’s 2015 ‘final assessment’ of open questions about Iran’s nuclear programme and whether it was aimed at developing a bomb”.
Cockburn’s carelessness with these facts are actually one of the keys to understanding why his analogy is so absurd.
The reason why there wasn’t broad international condemnation of Fakhrizadeh’s killing was that there is a consensus among the world’s democracies that Iran, led by a repressive theocratic regime, is one of the major state sponsors of terror across the globe, a cause of regional instability, and can not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons – an imperative that takes on greater urgency in Jerusalem in light of continuous Iranian threats to eradicate the Jewish state.
Similarly, there was no widespread “international condemnation” during eight years of the Obama administration when 1,878 US drone strikes were carried out on terrorists abroad. Though there was criticism of the fact that – unlike the strike on Fakhrizadeh where no civilians were reported killed – the US drone attacks (which continued after Obama left office) resulted in civilian deaths, outside the radical left circles, most observers understand intuitively that nations have the right to defend themselves from credible threats to the lives of their citizens.
However, even if Cockburn disagrees with this principle, the analogy he asserts between the killing of Iran’s nuclear bomb expert and the murder of Rabin is simply farcical – no less so than, say, comparing Obama’s drone strikes to the assassination of John F. Kennedy – and serves to advance an agenda often fancied by Fisk: a blurring of the vast moral divide which exists between the Jewish state and its antisemitic, tyrannical foes.
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