Spain's War Against Terror and Double Standards

[Steven Plaut, FrontPage Magazine]

Summary ... The audacity of Spain's move to indict Israeli military officers and political leaders for the "crime" of fighting terrorism and protecting Israeli civilians is beyond comprehension. Given its reign of terror over the years, Spain should be one of the last countries looking to indict Israel for such trumped-up charges.

The same Spanish who condemn Israeli tactics against terror use harsher tactics against their own terrorists.

Spain has been fighting against Basque separatist terrorism for decades and especially against the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna — "Basque Fatherland and Liberty") organization, which seeks secession of the Basque territories from Spain. ETA is considered responsible for the deaths of more than 800 people in Spain, a number that pales in comparison with Palestinian [sic] barbarism. (And Spain has a population almost six times that of Israel.)

Spain's anti-terror campaign made a mockery out of any concern for human rights. Collateral damage and injury to innocent bystanders were regular and common features of the campaign. Anti-terror paramilitary fighters and forces routinely engaged in torture of captured terrorists. Numerous death squads sought out the terrorists and their supporters, quietly exterminating them behind the scenes. The government pretended to have no knowledge of their actions. Government anti-terror personnel kidnapped terrorists and held them without any regard for habeas corpus. Anti-terror militias routinely crossed the borders and snatched terrorists hiding in neighboring countries or killed them there. Bombs were planted in order to kill the terrorists. Many of those killed or tortured were in reality not even members of or connected with any terrorist groups. Many of the anti-terror operations took place in violation of international law and even of national laws. To suppress the terror, the government threatened and pressured other countries to crack down on the refugees and to deport them.

The long bloody campaign by Spain against its own terrorists is of interest in light of the decision by a court in Spain to indict Israeli army officers and political leaders for the "crime" of fighting terrorism and protecting Israeli civilians! A few days ago the Spanish court investigating Israeli leaders for "human rights crimes" in the Israeli battle against Palestinian terrorism decided to continue the prosecution. It plans to indict a number of Israelis, including Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (currently Minister of Commerce, but Minister of Defense back in 2002), General Moshe Yaalon (who was Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff in 2002), Avi Dichter (at the time head of military intelligence), Dan Chalutz (who was commander of the Israeli Air Force), and some others. The Spanish court was responding to a suit by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a group that thinks Palestinians have a human right to murder Jews and engage in terrorism, while Jews have no human right to defend themselves. A different Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, has tried to indict the US and the UK for war crimes in Iraq.

Just what did these nice Israelis do to persuade the Spanish court that it is necessary to prosecute them? And in Spain, no less? In 2002 Israel bombed a building in Gaza in which the Hamas was hiding one of its worst terror leaders, Salah Shahade. Israel destroyed the building, killing the arch-terrorist, and 14 other people died in the explosion, including Shahade's wife and nine children. Shahade had been commander of the Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, responsible for endless rocket and bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. It was arguably the most morally justified assassination since the killing of Admiral Yamamoto during World War II. The Hamas was directly responsible for the death of any civilians in that incident, because of its policy of always sheltering terrorists behind children and civilians.

Ah, Spain, the country whose legacy of crime against Jews is topped only by that of the Germans. Now let's put aside for the moment the impudence of a country like Spain, with its centuries of ethnic cleansing, fascism, Inquisitions, intolerance, collaboration with Hitler, and mass murder, morally hectoring Israel about ITS behavior in its war against genocidal terrorism. One need not recall the centuries of Spanish history to see the Orwellian absurdity in all this. In the 21st century Spain is still fighting terrorism, using tactics that routinely make the human costs of Israel's anti-terror operations look like milquetoast. Spain has never made any pretense of placing protection of human rights or prevention of collateral injury ahead of its desire to wipe out Basque separatist terrorism. Yet it thinks Israel must limit its war against Islamofascist terrorism to goodwill concessions and constructive programs of capitulation.

The Basques are an ancient people, an actual nation (unlike "Palestinians"), and a thousand times more legitimately entitled to independence and self-determination than are "Palestinians." The Basques gained and lost political independence over and over again throughout history. A significant Basque Diaspora exists, mainly in North America, South Africa and Australia. The Basques suffered from aggression by the fascist forces loyal to Franco during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Guernica, the famous town devastated by Nazi planes sent by Hitler to aid Franco, was one of Basques.

While Basques enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy, Basque separatists set up a number of groups after World War II. The most notorious and most violent is the ETA terrorist group, founded in 1959 to fight for complete independence and separation from Spain. ETA is a Marxist-Leninist group with ties to the IRA and other terrorists. It routinely plants bombs and murders. It especially favors use of car bombs, its first producing carnage in 1985. It kidnaps people and holds them in "people's jails," where they are tortured. ETA is on the American and Canadian official lists of terrorist groups. It is thought to have ties with Columbian cocaine-cartel terrorists.

The anti-terrorist campaign by Spain quickly assumed the form of a "dirty war", using tactics in gross violation of international law. Concern and respect for human rights never interfered with the merciless Spanish pursuit of the ETA terrorists. The war against Basque terrorism was led in the 1980s by the GAL (Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberaci — "Antiterrorist Liberation Groups"), which were little more than death squads. They were illegally set up and run by officials within the Spanish government to fight the main Basque separatist group ETA. Other similar Spanish anti-Basque paramilitary groups operated under other names before GAL was set up.

GAL was financed and protected by the Interior Ministry of Spain. It attacked Basques living in and operating out of France, as well as those inside Spain. Among its more infamous early actions were the kidnappings and murders of ETA members Joxe Antonio Lasa and Joxe Ignacio Zabala in October 1983, and the kidnapping of Segundo Marey in 1984. The first two were tortured by members of the Guardia Civil for several weeks, then stuffed into the boot of a car, and driven 500 miles to Alicante. There they were shot in the back of the head and buried in quicklime.

Numerous senior officials of the Spanish government were convicted in 1997 for their role in the illegal campaign against the Basque terrorists. Among them was a former interior minister in the government of Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez. The Prime Minister was also widely thought to have approved the tactics of GAL. He publicly defended the anti-terror campaign, claiming that "democracy is defended in the sewers as well as in the salons." Gonzalez was forced to resign as head of his party in 1996, in part because of the accusations against him. Other senior Spanish government officials involved with GAL included the director for the Security of the State, the secretary general of the Spanish ruling party in Biscay, the chief of the Police Information Brigade of Bilbao, and other police chiefs.

On April 19 of this year, France, under pressure from Spain, arrested several ETA leaders, including Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso, age 28, the head of the ETA. There are more than 600 ETA members now rotting in Spanish prisons, and 150 more jailed in France. Protests are not being held on Western campuses to set all these "political prisoners" free. 365 ETA members were apprehended just during the last two years.

Spanish hypocrisy is evident not only in its doctrine of "fight terrorism as we say and not as we do," pontificated when it comes to Jews defending themselves. It is no less outrageous when the Spanish lecture Israel about its occupied territories and security fence.

It turns out that Spain occupies enclaves of territory on the northern Africa coast, Ceuta and Melilla, surrounded by Morocco, home to Spanish settlers Morocco does not recognize the legitimacy of these Spanish settlements on its land. Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria have a million times more legitimate right to live there than do these Spanish interlopers in Morocco. The latter are surrounded by ... yes, you guessed it! ... a high security fence, and Africans are not let in. In recent years Africans have been repeatedly killed trying to sneak past the fence. The legitimacy of Spain's possession of these occupied territories is the flimsiest, and the territories are completely unnecessary for Spanish security. The security fences do not keep out genocidal terrorists seeking the extermination of all Spaniards. The same Spaniards demand that Israelis tear down their own security fence.

[ Published: May 12, 2009 ]

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