Habash’s last laugh

Where does Arab fanaticism come from? Does it come from the mosque? Or does it come from the fanatics' intended targets' refusal to close down the mosque? The death by natural causes of George Habash on January 26 indicates strongly that the latter is the case.

Habash, the founder and commander of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was a repugnant, fanatical, mass-murderer. Habash's terror specialties included airplane hijacking, hostage taking, massacre, assassination, and suicide bombings. Far from an Islamic supremacist, Habash was a Christian.

One of Habash's signature tactics was his use of Nazi-style "selections." After his henchmen hijacked passenger jets, they would walk among their hostages, separating the Jews from the non-Jews, or sometimes the Jews and the Americans from the non-Jews and non-Americans. They would let the non-Jews and non-Americans go, and hold the Jews and the Americans hostage.

Habash was not simply a sworn enemy of the Jewish people, Israel and the United States. He was also the enemy of the Hashemites in Jordan. In August and September 1970, Habash conducted five sensationalist airline hijackings. The hijacked aircraft and his Jewish hostages were sent to Jordan. Habash's hijackings were a central component of the PLO's campaign – backed by Iraq and Syria – to overthrow the Hashemite dynasty and to replace it with a Communist Palestinian Soviet-satellite state. The PLO's aims were only scuttled because Israel answered the late King Hussein's pleas for help and stopped the Syrians and Iraqis from invading Jordan.

Rather than hang Habash, Jordan gave him a home. Habash wasn't buried in a potter's field. Thousands attended his funeral and hailed him as a hero for his massacre of Israelis and Jews. And this, 13 years after Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel.

HABASH'S EVASION of justice for his crimes is typical. In his first term of office, President George W. Bush railed against this harsh reality of non-accountability by referring to it as the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Bush pledged to work to replace Arab bigotry and tyranny which breed fanaticism and embrace terror with tolerance and freedom.

Six years later, Bush is not only ignoring his word, he is undermining it by rewarding regimes and societies that lie to him and systematically break their word to him.

Case in point is Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In his State of the Union address last week, Bush praised Abbas as a leader who "recognizes that confronting terror is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and at peace with Israel."

But two days before Bush reaped such praise on him Abbas declared three days of official mourning for Habash's death in the PA and ordered flags to be flown at half mast for the entire mourning period. Abbas referred to Habash as "an historic leader" and declared his death, "a great loss for the Palestinian cause and for the Palestinian people for whom he fought for 60 years."

Rather than hold Abbas and his colleagues accountable for upholding mass murderers as heroes, Bush insists that they must be given a state before he leaves office. And last month Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paved the way for the international donors' conference in Paris where the international community pledged $7.4 billion in financial assistance to Abbas and his Habash and Arafat worshipping government.

THE US POLICY of ignoring Arab culpability extends far beyond Jordan and the PA. US policies towards Syria and Saudi Arabia illustrate the breadth of the problem. Syria supports and engages in terror, proliferates weapons of mass destruction, allows terrorists and terror weapons to transit its territory en route to Iraq and Lebanon, and has allowed itself to become an Iranian protectorate. Yet the US invited it to the Annapolis peace conference and is planning to sell it dual-use computers.

Saudi Arabia supports Hamas, and al-Qaida. It is warming its ties with Iran. It finances jihadist indoctrination throughout the world. It refuses to increase its oil output to stabilize the world economy. And it has no human rights to speak of. Yet the administration embraces the Saudis as moderates and Congress is poised to approve the sale of $20 billion in advanced weaponry including JDAMS to Saudi Arabia.

BACK IN the days when Habash was hijacking airplanes, there was a hierarchy for not giving in to his extortion. At the bottom were the British, who insisted on giving in. Then came the Americans who thought the British shouldn't give in unless absolutely necessary. Finally there were the Israelis who said that terrorists must never be negotiated with. Period.

Thirty years later, the British are giving extra welfare checks to Muslim polygamists for each extra wife. The Americans are pushing for terror states and Israel is too timid to enforce its laws towards its Arab minority.

Not only did the Olmert government never considered demanding that Abbas apologize for celebrating Habash. The Olmert government couldn't even see the need to condemn the decision by three Israeli Arab MKs, Ahmed Tibi, Jamal Zahalka and Wasal Taha to travel to Amman to participate in Habash's funeral. There they upheld as a hero the man who hijacked an Air France passenger jet to Entebbe in 1976.

This isn't the first time that these three have acted in a seemingly traitorous manner. In September 2006, just a month after Israel's war with Hizbullah ended, Zahalka and Taha travelled to Beirut with former MK Azmi Bishara who has been on the lam since last April after having been indicted for spying for Hizbullah during the war. MK Tibi for his part has openly served as an agent for the Fatah terror organization since 1994.

The Israeli legislators followed up their trip to Amman with a memorial service for Habash in his birth city Lod where they demanded that he be reinterred. Lod's significance in Habash's life is not limited to the fact that he was born there In 1972 Habash ordered the massacre at Lod airport which left 27 Israelis murdered.

The Arab legislators' embrace of a sworn enemy of the country whose laws they took an oath to defend came just ahead of their call this week for a nation-wide Arab strike. Israel's Arab leaders' newest beef is Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz's decision not to indict policemen for their actions in quelling the Israeli Arab riots of October 2000 during which 13 rioters were killed.

Mazuz, who is usually only too happy to appease Israel's Arab leaders, is constrained in this case by the absence of any evidentiary basis for indicting police officers for using undo force in quelling rioters who were throwing firebombs at them and causing general mayhem while targeting Israeli Jews for attack.

THE REASON that even Mazuz couldn't indict anyone is because at the instruction of the Arab MKs, the families of the 13 refused to cooperate with government investigators. They refused to permit autopsies of the deceased. They refused to respond to questioning from Israeli authorities. As one Justice Ministry official told ynet, "In a law-abiding state one does not submit indictments based on speculations and gut feelings. There is one criminal law, and it stipulates clear and strict conditions for indictments that apply to all men and all events."

THE AIM of the Israeli Arab leaders here is clear. By acting contemptuously towards Israeli laws and law enforcement officers, while stirring hatred and mayhem, Israel's Arab leaders are seeking to reach the point where any attempt by Israeli authorities to apply the laws of the land to Israeli Jews and Arabs equally will be perceived as a violation of Israeli Arabs' human rights. The very notion that Jews have the right to assert authority over Arabs is the primary target of their actions. And, like Habash with the Jordanian aut
horities and Abbas, Syria and Saudi Arabia with everyone, Israel's Arab leaders are not being held accountable for their actions.

Today the only place where we see Arab leaders acting with any semblance of accountability is Iraq. There ahead of the anticipated US and Iraqi offensive in Mosul, Iraqi leaders joined American military commanders in the city and pledged to purge it of terrorists. There every day Iraqi military forces are fighting al-Qaida and other terrorist forces with a tactical acumen and commitment that only grows over time.

The reason for the disparity is because Iraq is so far the only Arab society that is being given a real opportunity for freedom. And with opportunity comes responsibility.

That's the thing of it. In the name of Arab rights, Arab tyrants, be they terrorists like Habash or Abbas, or autocrats like Bashar Assad or King Abdullah or Saddam Hussein, obliterate the notion of individual rights and with them, individual responsibility. And in the name of tolerance, or progressive values and peace, Israelis and Americans pretend that Arabs can't be held responsible for their actions because doing so will only make them angry and send them into the arms of the fanatics.

But it is the lack of accountability that does that. It is the double standard, the "soft bigotry of low expectations" that argues against applying laws and international norms equally to Arabs that instills in them a contempt for Israel and the West. And that contempt cultivates fanaticism. Whether they kill in the name of Soviet Communism as Habash did, or in the name of Allah as his friends in Hamas, Fatah, Hizbullah and al-Qaida do, terrorists must be held accountable for what they do. It is our willingness to see men like Habash die in their beds that tells people that it is okay to kill.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.