Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has accused Israel of “extrajudicial executions” of Palestinian terrorists. The minister said, in the country’s parliament, that Israel has a right to defend its citizens, but went on to clarify that such defence should not include “extrajudicial execution” and accused Israel of a “disproportionate” response.
It is a familiar refrain from the European community, a place where Israeli products are being labeled as part of a boycott strategy, sometimes by vigilantes in makeshift uniforms patrolling shops and applying stickers to Israeli goods. Israel has a right to defend itself, in the world’s eyes, up to and until it actually begins to defend itself.
The issue is confused by some outside observers. It is true that Israel is a democratic state that respects the rule of law. But it is also a country at war with radical Islamist terrorism. There are, certainly, laws and judicial recourse for crimes, but when a murderous act is in the process of unfolding, the first objective of security forces is to end the situation. Certainly, the next objective should be ensuring that judicial process takes precedence by, for instance, shooting in the leg or otherwise disabling the attacker through non-lethal means. From half a world away, it is hard to judge the actions of frontline security personnel (or, at least, it should be more difficult than it seems to be) but we would hope that response is balanced with preservation of life and the addressing of crime through Israel’s admirable system of judicial oversight.
At the same time, we should be cognizant of double standards.
Remember just over a year ago, in October 2014, a terrorist murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and then proceeded to Canada’s Parliament Buildings, where he was taken down, fatally, by the sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers.
Vickers became a national hero. He was not condemned by the government of Sweden or anyone else. The Canadian government was not pilloried for “disproportionate” force or “extrajudicial execution.”
No, there are two sets of rules in this world. One set for Israel which, despite all the threats and existential challenges it faces, is expected to maintain the world’s highest standards – actually, ludicrous standards – of engagement, while everyone else gets a pass, including the tyrants whose governments currently sit on august bodies like the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Predictably and correctly, Israel’s foreign ministry lambasted the Swedish politician’s comments, dismissing them as “scandalous, delusional, rude, and detached from reality.”
“The [Swedish] foreign minister suggests that Israeli citizens simply give their necks to the murderers trying to stab them with knives,” the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement. “The citizens of Israel and its security forces have the right to defend themselves. In Israel, every person who commits a crime is brought in front of a judge, including terrorists. The citizens of Israel have to deal with terrorism that receives support from irresponsible and false statements like that.”
The Swede’s comments are not unusual, although they are particularly flagrant. They are of a type we have seen repeatedly when Israel faces an upsurge in terrorism. The attitude it depicts reflects more concern for the murderers than it does for their victims. Rare is the word of support or empathy for Israel’s untenable position facing down individual terrorists incited by their government and society to stab, drive over or otherwise murder Jews.
The Swedish foreign minister’s words really speak volumes about where Europe’s sympathies lie these days.