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‘Good News’ on Holocaust Anniversary

Pierre Klochendler

JERUSALEM, May 2 2011 (IPS) - Israelis woke up in the morning of Holocaust Remembrance Day, switched on their radio, and heard unexpected “good news”.

Local stations broke their special programming marking the commemoration of the Second World War Nazi holocaust with a exceptional address by U.S. President Barack Obama announcing that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda founder and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.

In an immediate official statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the U.S. military operation, calling it a “resounding victory for justice, freedom, and the values shared by all democratic countries fighting shoulder to shoulder against terror.”

The announcement said Netanyahu personally congratulated the U.S. President as well as the U.S. forces involved in the operation. “The State of Israel shares the joy of the American people on this historical day, that of bin Laden’s ouster,” Netanyahu reportedly told Obama.

President Shimon Peres declared, “Bin Laden was the greatest murderer. This is a great achievement for the U.S. security establishment, a great achievement for the President, a great achievement for the free world.”

Yossi Melman, Haaretz’s Intelligence analyst hailed “one of the most important U.S. military- intelligence, as well as psychological-moral, achievements since the end of the Second World War.”

Yet, Melman cautioned, “Despite the moral and psychological effect on bin Laden’s disciples, the assassination of their spiritual leader will not spell the end of the ideal. The escalating extremism that has affected a minority of the Muslim world will not stop.”

The Israeli government was informed of the killing 30 minutes before the White House announcement, Israel Army Radio reported.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman stressed that Israel was not involved in the targeted operation, but warned of “possible revenge actions” by Al-Qaeda sympathisers against Israeli targets abroad. Yet, he pointed out that bin Laden’s killing was no “symbolic action, it will have worldwide repercussions.”

In a video released two days after the 9/11 concerted operations, bin Laden had declared that the suicide attacks were intended to stop U.S. support for Israel.

Long before 9/11, he had already created a linkage between Israel’s policy of occupation of Palestinian lands and his rationale for the founding of Al-Qaeda. “When Palestinian children throw stones against the Israeli occupation the U.S. says they are terrorists,” he declared in a 1997 CNN interview. “Whereas when Israel bombed the UN building in Lebanon (in 1996), while it was full of children and women, the U.S. stopped any plan to condemn Israel.”

A former Israeli security official told IPS that in the past decade since 9/11, Israel has suffered the brunt of “not dozens but of 30,000 terrorist attacks against Israelis.” The official was referring not to Al-Qaeda style attacks but to Israel’s own “war on terror”. At the height of the Palestinian Intifadah uprising for the end to the Israeli occupation (2000-2005), many Israelis were killed in suicide bombing missions carried out by radical Palestinian militants.

Yet, bin Laden’s organisation was also responsible for terrorist operations against Israeli targets. In November 2002, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for three suicide car bombing attacks which blew up the Mombasa Paradise hotel, a popular resort of Israelis vacationing in Kenya, killing 15 people and wounding 80.

In May 2008, bin Laden released an audio tape in which he urged Muslims to break the Israeli-led blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, to no avail. Six months later, Israel launched its onslaught on Hamas in Gaza.

Successive Israeli leaders have painstakingly tried to defuse the potency of the alleged linkage between Al-Qaeda’s attacks and the Israeli occupation. It was then thought that there was a tangible risk that Al-Qaeda could ignite and spread a holy religious war that would complicate the achieving of an already complex political-territorial resolution of the two-pronged Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its religious dimension could be exploited, they feared.

Israel annexed occupied East Jerusalem in the wake of the 1967 War. Located in the walled Old City, the Haram el-Sharif or Holy Sanctuary is considered by Muslims as Islam’s third holiest site, and by Jews as the foundation of the Jewish Temple built by biblical King Salomon, a site most revered by Jews.

At the same time, the Israeli government conveniently used to link the shadowy leader of Al-Qaeda and the tentacles of the borderless brotherhood of radical Muslims to the Palestinian struggle, especially that of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas.

Most recently, an Italian peace volunteer who lived in Gaza was kidnapped and hanged, reportedly by a local Salafist cell. The group that claimed responsibility for the killing had intended to press Hamas to release their leader. The Islamist militants were killed by Hamas in a swift action.

Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have indeed tried hard to disassociate the negative image of fanatic Islam from their national struggle for independence. They also fear that the feeling of dispossession so common amongst Palestinian youth could be counterproductive as it could drive them to enlist in Al-Qaeda.

PA Spokesperson Ghassan Khatib stated that the killing of bin Laden was “good for the cause of world peace.”

As sirens wailed throughout the country, Israelis simply stood in a two-minute silence in schools, offices, in the streets, at crossroads, or beside their cars in memory of the six million Jews murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.

Bin Laden’s targeted killing constitutes the epilogue of a long manhunt against the man who was elevated by the Western world to the realm of “arch-terrorist”, “public enemy No.1”, and a symbol of modern “evil”.

Yet, in a country created by Jewish survivors on the ashes of the Holocaust and engulfed in the pain of remembrance, Hitler consensually retains the terrible title of “worst amongst all evils”.

 
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