Six weeks ago, a remarkable scene played out at the US National Defense University in Washington.
In the middle of President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech on US counterterrorism policy, a protester from a far-left group interrupted the commander in chief and repeatedly heckled him, calling for the immediate release of terror suspects being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Clearly perturbed, Obama attempted to silence the troublemaker while sticking to his remarks, in which he sought to emphasize that only after a caseby- case review would the US release detainees who had been cleared of terrorist involvement.
Of course, someone jeering at a politician and disrupting his address is hardly in and of itself an extraordinary event. But what made the incident so compelling was that it highlighted the dissonance between American policy on handling terror suspects and the policy it demands of Israel.
After all, within a few weeks of Obama’s speech, US Secretary of State John Kerry was back in the Middle East for yet another visit, reportedly pressing Israel to free over 100 convicted Palestinian terrorists in line with demands made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In other words, America continues to hold in detention those it suspects of being involved in terror, even as it asks Israel to release those tried and convicted of murdering the innocent.
This is sheer, unabashed hypocrisy, which has unfortunately typified Washington’s policy. Put simply, there is a stark and appalling double standard at work.
Take for example the Obama administration’s efforts to launch peace talks with the Taliban and the Afghan government. Despite its intense desire to find a diplomatic solution to the Afghan conflict, Washington has repeatedly rejected the Taliban’s insistence that it free captured members of the movement as a precondition to talks.
As The Washington Times reported on June 18, “The Taliban ditched US-led efforts to make peace in March 2012, citing the Obama administration’s inaction on its demand to release five high-value Taliban detainees from the US military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”
And last month it was reported that the US had turned down similar Taliban demands in the run-up to the opening of official negotiations.
So while it steadfastly refuses to set terrorists free as a gesture to start talks, Washington nonetheless expects Israel to do just that. And what makes this particularly reprehensible is that Obama and Kerry appear to be going along with Abbas’s demand that Israel release 103 Palestinians serving time for crimes and terrorist acts committed prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords, most of whom have blood on their hands.
This includes Palestinians who took part in especially brutal attacks, such as the one that was carried out in September 1990 against Amnon Pomerantz, a 46-year-old electrical engineer on reserve duty who made a wrong turn in his car while driving through Gaza. Pomerantz ended up in a refugee camp and was surrounded by a mob of Palestinians. Instead of offering him directions, they stoned him until he fell unconscious, before proceeding to set the vehicle on fire, chanting and cheering as Pomerantz was burned alive.
And then there are the two Palestinians who firebombed an Israeli passenger bus on October 30, 1988, murdering Rachel Weiss and her three young children along with David Delarosa, a soldier who attempted to rescue the Weiss family.
Abbas is also demanding freedom for Salah Ali Hader Razeq, who stabbed 64-year old historian and winner of the Israel Prize Professor Menachem Stern to death on June 22, 1989.
It is simply unthinkable that Israel should be expected to pay a price in order to get a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas. If peace is truly in the interest of both sides, then there is no reason why the Palestinians should charge an entrance fee to the negotiating room.
Moreover, letting bestial killers walk free is neither a gesture nor an act of good will. It is in fact a breakdown of justice and morality, one which weakens the law and order upon which society is based.
Releasing convicted terrorists is an offense to the memory of the victims and an insult to their grieving loved ones, and it has no place as part of the negotiating process.
This is something that Washington readily understands when it comes to those who kill Americans.
But clearly, with regard to Israel, the Obama administration has a very different message for the government in Jerusalem: do as we say, not as we do.