Editorial: Ignoring the Obvious
Jul 30, 2012 | Colin Rubenstein
The explosion that ripped through a tour bus full of Israeli tourists in the seaside resort of Burgas, Bulgaria on July 18, killing six people – including a pregnant woman – was only the latest in a series of terror attacks perpetrated against Israelis abroad over the past decades.
Unfortunately, despite the Herculean efforts of Israel’s intelligence services, it will likely not be the last. However, it is not too late for the world to learn a crucial lesson from the atrocity, the internalisation of which might potentially prevent a catastrophe of a far greater magnitude.
Assessments from Israeli and US intelligence agencies are reportedly of the unanimous opinion that Hezbollah, operating under instruction from its Iranian sponsors, was responsible for the suicide blast.
Hezbollah’s preferred method of operation – to strike at “soft” Israeli and Jewish civilian targets abroad, is as cowardly as it is predictable. July’s attack in Burgas was only the most successful of some 20 planned or executed attacks that Israeli intelligence have confirmed as linked to Hezbollah or Iran over just the past year.
It was no mere coincidence, too, that the Bulgarian attack coincided, to the day, with the 18th anniversary of Hezbollah’s bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and wounded 300.
Officially, the US and Bulgaria have reserved judgement on Iran’s culpability in the bombing pending the outcome of a lengthy investigation. In contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been as clear as humanly possible that Teheran, through its proxy Hezbollah, is implicated in the attack, telling Fox News that “we know with absolute certainty and not a shred of doubt that this was a Hezbollah operation.”
To further bolster the case against Hezbollah, one of their operatives arrested in Cyprus just days before the Bulgarian blast was reportedly found with information on tour buses carrying Israeli passengers, a list of places in Cyprus favoured by Israeli tourists and flight schedules of Israeli airlines that land in Cyprus – materials bearing an uncanny resemblance to the sort of information that security officials surmised had been cultivated by the terrorist at Burgas.
The question has been asked why Iran, already under international scrutiny for its rogue nuclear program, would risk drawing further heat to itself by sponsoring a proxy terror war against Israel at this time. While some analysts have suggested the Iranian campaign may well be a hot-headed and knee-jerk response to targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and military officials that have been blamed on Israel, others say the attacks may be provocations intended to ignite a regional conflict that would serve as a diversion away from Iran’s nuclear program.
But part of the reason why Iran has no fear of paying a political price for such attacks is that they have rarely been forced to do so in the past. Iranian-sponsored attacks in various countries, including India, Thailand, Kenya and Argentina, seem to have had insignificant effects on Iran’s relations with these states. In some cases, even the direct perpetrators escape significant punishment.
The wider world often seems prepared to write off Iranian terrorism against innocent civilians in foreign countries as just business as usual. A classic example in the wake of the Bulgaria outrage was the EU’s shameful refusal this month to add Hezbollah to its terror blacklist. The EU’s excuse was that Hezbollah has a political wing active in Lebanese politics and also provides social services. So it does. Apparently having these functions makes it acceptable to blow up embassies, tourist buses, community buildings, schools and hotels and murder innocent people based on their ethnicity in numerous countries around the world.
Meanwhile, some make excuses for this violence by claiming they are “tit-for-tat” responses to Israel’s alleged involvement in the killing of Hezbollah terror coordinator Imad Mugniyeh as well as a number of Iranian nuclear scientists. It should go without saying that, even if such allegations are true, there is no comparison. We are not dealing here with combatants or scientists building illicit weapons of mass destruction, but innocent civilians deliberately targeted.
There is no doubt that nonsensical responses like these are based on the politicisation of an issue that demands to be weighed above politics.
Contrary to these cynics, the Israel Government has stressed the need to “name and shame” Iran today for its terror sponsoring ways, especially owing to the urgency to draw conclusions regarding its behaviour vis-à-vis its illicit nuclear program.
As Netanyahu stated, “I think these acts, these attacks on a busload of tourists, including a pregnant mother, tells you what kind of people we are dealing with. Now, imagine these people who are capable of doing anything, imagine them possessing nuclear weapons. People who gun down innocent people, will send suicide bombers… who threaten to annihilate Israel, who murdered diplomats, who have taken over your embassy, you want these people to have atomic bombs?”
The Prime Minister is absolutely correct. It’s time the world started seeing the Iranian Islamist regime for what it is – a perennial terror sponsor and serial offender that has not slowed its race to illegally develop nuclear weapons one iota in spite of years of negotiations, pleading and cajoling, veiled threats and sanctions.
The deaths caused by terror attacks are, for its victims, by their very nature a senseless destruction of human life. But the crime in Burgas risks being compounded should the world fail to heed the lessons of the attack and continues to deny, ignore, excuse or downplay the overwhelming reality of international Iranian terrorism, and refuses to hold those responsible accountable.