Death Squads

By  Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad


Modern leaders have generally been opposed to the use of assassination out of a fear that its use would eventually backfire against them. It is a testament to the arrogance of Israeli leadership (and their complacent conviction in their invulnerability to world opinion and retribution from victims of their oppression) that they feel free to openly engage in the assassination of the Palestinian opposition. Assassination teams deployed by any other nation in such a systematic program are called "death squads".

With the murder of 64-year-old Mustafa Zibri, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the number of victims of such operations has reached at least fifty. There were twenty-two American civilians in the building in which Zibri was working at the time of the attack, all of whom escaped injury.

Israeli boasts of the "pinpoint accuracy" by which a pair of missiles effected the assassination provoke unsettling questions. Were the three Palestinians killed in the attack deliberate targets of the "pinpoint accuracy" or are the Israelis simply unconcerned about the propaganda fallout of potentially including Americans in their "collateral damage" (the euphemism for innocents killed by Israeli aggression)?.

In past years, concern over U.S. support for Latin American death squads in the "War on Drugs" resulted in legislation addressing the problem, culminating in the Leahy Law within the 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, which states in part (CIFP 2001):

None of the funds made available by this Act may be provided to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights, unless the Secretary determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the government of such country is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.

There is an intolerable contradiction between America's professed policy of opposition to state-sponsored terrorism, exemplified by the Leahy Law, and the U.S. Congress' continuing sponsorship of Israeli violence against Palestinians. There is no clear statement in the U.S. Constitution as to when, if ever, American taxpayer money may be sent to foreign countries. But I'm sure that the funding of death squads, who murder resistance movement leaders combating illegal occupation (let alone innocents, including children protesting the occupation), was never intended.

Neither the U.S. administration, nor Congress, nor We the People…, may close our eyes any longer. Israeli violations of internationally recognized human rights are well documented (in part documented in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices). In addition, the U.S. government's own Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits military and economic assistance to such countries.

Many years ago, during the first Intifada, I participated in a demonstration against the Israeli occupation in front of the Israeli embassy. During a beak in the chanting, I started my own chant: "End aid to Israel!" The Arab-American organizers of the demonstration hushed me. There were certain places you were not supposed to go.

Today, I hope the Muslim-American community has grown beyond that and now realizes that the fulcrum of American influence over Israel is the financial aid given to it - almost $3 billion by the most conservative estimates, and more like $6 billion when aid not identified as such is included. The fatal flaw of democracy is that a small minority can extract a huge amount of wealth from the large majority if the benefits to each member of the minority dwarf the costs to each member of the majority. Six billion dollars divided among four million Israelis is $15,000 per person; divided among the 250 million non-Israeli Americans, it comes to only $24 per person. If you asked 250 million Americans to donate $24 a piece to Israel very few would say yes, but almost none notice that they are being forced to do exactly that.

We Muslims not only have right and justice on our side, we have the self-interest of the American people. Uniting to make our case known is something we have the power to do if we can summon the will.