Israel, Mossad and the British passports controversy

Will anyone condemn extrajudicial killings?

The Dubai/Hamas assassination/Mossad story continues to dominate the news. Gordon Brown has promised a "full investigation" into how fraudulent British passports were allegedly used by the killers of a senior Hamas commander in Dubai.

The national newspapers went big on it this morning, too. The Independent's front-page headline was:

The moment Mossad agents got their man?

The Daily Mail front page went with:

Terror of innocent Britons named as assassins

It also included a reference to a "Mossad hit squad" in its standfirst.

The Guardian avoided a Mossad reference in its front-page headline:

Dubai killers stole identities of UK citizens

Here's the funny thing: in most of the coverage, the shock and outrage seems to concern the stolen passports and identities, and not the unlawful killing itself. As Paul Lewis and Julian Borger wrote in the Guardian:

The Israeli government would not comment tonight on allegations of its involvement in Mabhouh's killing, which, if confirmed, would trigger a diplomatic row with Britain, and the other three European nations whose passports were used: Ireland, Germany and France.

So as long as suspected Israeli assassins avoid using passports issued by western nations as part of their illegal and murderous activities abroad, that's fine. We can carry on with our lives. Turn a blind eye. The Israelis, of course, have form when it comes to assassinations abroad.

Let me ask you this: can you imagine the reaction if members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard were suspected of assassinating an Iranian dissident living in Dubai, or an Israeli politician or general visting a foreign country?

But Israel's long-standing policy of "targeted killings", or assassinations, is tolerated by the "international community". Western nations have, in a sense, become complicit -- in fact, under Bush and Obama, the US has emulated the illegal and bloody practice in its own so-called war on terror.

Why? Because Israeli assassins, or US assassins, kill terrorists. Baddies. Wanted men. Really? That makes it OK? So which member of the international community will be sending a hit squad to Israel to "take out" that wanted terrorist, Yitzhak Shamir?

UPDATE: Robert Fisk has written an interesting piece on possible "collusion" by western intelligence agencies in the killing.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Photo: Getty
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Fight: Arron Banks versus Mary Beard on the fall of Rome

On the one hand: one of Britain's most respected classicists. On the other: Nigel Farage's sugar daddy. 

Tom Lehrer once said that he would quit satire after Henry Kissinger – him of napalm strikes and the Nixon administration – received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Your mole is likewise minded to hand in hat, glasses and pen after the latest clash of the titans.

In the blue corner: Arron Banks, insurance millionaire and Nigel Farage’s sugar daddy.

In the red corner: Mary Beard, Professor of Classics, University of Cambridge, documentarian, author, historian of the ancient world.

It all started when Banks suggested that the fall of the Roman Empire was down to…you guessed it, immigration:

To which Beard responded:

Now, some might back down at this point. But not Banks, the only bank that never suffers from a loss of confidence.

Did Banks have another life as a classical scholar, perhaps? Twitter users were intrigued as to where he learnt so much about the ancient world. To which Banks revealed all:

I, Claudius is a novel. It was written in 1934, and concerns events approximately three centuries from the fall of Rome. But that wasn't the end of Banks' expertise:

Gladiator is a 2000 film. It is set 200 years before the fall of Rome.

Your mole rests. 

I'm a mole, innit.