Selective outrage?
European attitudes to terrorism following Beslan

London - published on 21 October 2004
Beyond Images Ref: 106

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A wave of international condemnation followed the killing by Chechen terrorists of over 150 schoolchildren (and 200 other people) in Beslan on 3 September 2004. In this Briefing we quote condemnations by five senior European politicians. We suggest that their sense of outrage cannot be selectively applied, but should be applied in a consistent way to the terrorism against civilians which Israel faces. (The quotes are from an Associated Press report published on the CNN website on 6 September 2004).

Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson, following Beslan

“… The evil deed of targeting children makes the world understand what times we are living in, how vulnerable our communities are and what types of crimes and terror we have to deal with….”

Our comment: Regrettably, Palestinian groups have been carrying out “the evil deed of targeting children” for the last four years. Hundreds of Israeli children and teenagers have died in Palestinian attacks aimed at civilians, including suicide bombings, machine-gun attacks, car bombings and drive-by shootings. These attacks include (among many others):-

  • The Dolphinarium disco suicide bombing in Tel-Aviv (May 2001) – 21 killed, mainly teenagers

  • The Patt junction suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem (June 2002) – 19 passengers killed, mainly schoolchildren and students

  • Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall suicide bombing, Jerusalem (December 2001) – 11 Israeli teenagers killed

  • Massacre of the Hatuel family (May 2004) – the shooting at point blank range of Tali Hatuel and her four daughters aged 1 to 12 (see Briefing 91)

  • The Nehmad family – suicide bombing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, in March 2002, killing 8 members of the Nehmad family including 6 children (see Briefing 12)

  • Ohayon family, Kibbutz Metzer (October 2002) – night-time shooting by a gunman infiltrator of kibbutz resident Rachel Ohayon as she reads a bedtime story to her sons (4 and 5), who are also shot (see Briefing 22)

  • Suicide bombing of a Number 2 bus travelling away from the Western Wall in Jerusalem (August 2003) – 23 Jewish worshippers killed, including several children and teenagers (see Briefing 68)

Does Swedish Prime Minister consider that the targeting of Israeli children by Palestinian groups “makes the world understand what times we are living in, and what types of “crimes and terror we have to deal with”?

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, following Beslan

“There are no reasons imaginable that could justify taking children, toddlers, babies and their mothers hostages”

Our comment: In 1974 Palestinian terrorists seized 26 Israeli schoolchildren in the northern Israeli town of Maalot, held them hostage, and then killed them all when Israeli forces tried to rescue the children. Palestinian terrorists carried out child hostage-taking 30 years ago.

French Foreign Ministry, post-Beslan statement

“Everyone must mobilise in the fight against terrorism….”

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot on behalf of the European Union:

“We have been confronted with a deep human tragedy…. Beslan shows once again that we have to do everything in our power to confront terrorism…”

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, following Beslan

“Terrorism is something which affects us all and requires us to show complete solidity and unanimity in the way in which we fight it….” (The Times 4 September 2004)

Beyond Images Conclusion

Israeli children are routinely targeted by Palestinian terrorists, deliberately and ruthlessly. When children were killed in Beslan, the condemnations by European politicians were unqualified. Will European politicians and opinion-formers apply consistent standards to Palestinian terrorism, or will they continue to look all too readily for explanations and excuses for that terrorism?

Jack Straw’s appeal to the international community following Beslan to “show unanimity” in the fight against terrorism, and Ben Bot’s rallying cry to do “everything in our power to confront terrorism” should each be applied consistently as the basis for Israel’s right to defend itself.

Selective outrage in the face of terrorism actually fuels that terrorism, by giving those who carry out attacks the sense that outsiders are sympathetic to them.

The reality is that Palestinian terrorism is not the solution to the Palestinian peoples’ plight but, in large measure, the cause of it.