International law must prevail

Targeted assassinations are illegal and contribute to civil unrest.

On Monday, Israel assassinated Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin. It was the highest-level assassination Israel has carried out in three and a half years, and it sparked immediate condemnation from Palestinian groups, the Egyptian government, the European Union and the United Nations, among others. The policy of institutional, targeted assassinations clearly violates international law and defies the global need for transparent, accountable systems of justice.

As a result of his role in the murder of hundreds of innocent people, Yassin was arrested, tried and convicted to a life sentence in 1989. The Israeli government later released him in a concession to Jordan. Targeted murders of high-level leaders do not guarantee the dissolution of their organizations, nor can they replace an effective system of justice.

On the contrary, Yassin’s death launched renewed promises of retaliation among allied extremist Muslim groups and vows of support from Palestinians and a broader Arab community. Yassin’s murder virtually guarantees the collapse of the peace process despite important and promising bilateral and international support for the recently developed Geneva Accords.

In this case of retributive violence, Israel was reportedly retaliating against two recent Hamas-led suicide bombings. The attacks were intended to show Hamas’ ability to hit guarded targets in addition to typical soft targets such as buses. Israel responded by murdering Yassin.

The problem of retaliation must be addressed from an international perspective, particularly in light of increased global terror.

Israel must show sensitivity to two realities – first, the great number of Palestinians who are disillusioned, impoverished and vulnerable to extremist philosophies; and second, the masses of Palestinians and Israelis not allied with extremists who will now suffer the consequences of increased unrest. The Israeli government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and follow international law. It must also show sensitivity to the effects of officially sanctioned assassinations. Today’s global politics demand accountability even in regard to seemingly local or national actions. It is up to all of us to adopt sound policies, based on clear evidence, that support the diminution of terror and equal protection of innocents.