June 11, 2003

When I was in grade school, spelling traumatized me. I couldn't get the knack -- all those exceptions. "I" before "e" except after "c," except for weigh and weird. The rules have so many exceptions, that even the exceptions have exceptions. I still get heart palpations just thinking about it. That's probably why I studied international politics in college -- it's so much easier than spelling.

On the world political stage, there is only one exception and it's the same for each rule. It's called, "Except when you're targeting Jews." Let me explain how it works.

Take for example targeted assassinations, like the first lightning strike in the recent war against Saddam Hussein, which was followed up with more targeted strikes against Saddam, his sons, and others such as "Chemical Ali." These hits were hailed as masterstroke by the media. U.S. leaders said that they were instrumental in shortening the war.

On the other hand, when Israel pursues terrorist leaders with targeted strikes, they are criticized by the world community as excessive and provocative. That is because Exception #1 of World Politics states: Targeted killings of terrorists are okay, except when the terrorist is killing Jews.

Civilian casualties? This week, the Associated Press reported there were over 3,200 civilian deaths in the recent Iraq war. The United States government says as much as they have tried, civilian deaths are unavoidable because the Iraqi military is breaking the rules of Geneva Convention by deploying in civilian areas.

It was just a year ago that an Israeli Air Force jet dropped a bomb on a Gaza apartment building housing Salah Shehadeh, the commander of Hamas who had ordered scores of terrorist acts. In the bombing, 15 civilians perished. Israel was severely rebuked.

Obviously the IDF never read Exception #2 of World Politics: Civilian deaths are to be avoided, but cannot be criticized when the enemy is using civilians as human shields... except when you are targeting someone who is killing Jews.

There is another rule which relates to terrorism. Everyone knows that September 11 was terrorism, that the Bali nightclub was terror, that the airline shoe bomber was a terrorist. Terrorism is defined as "intentionally targeting civilians to advance a political cause." Simple, right?

But open up you local paper and see how perpetrators of the following attacks are described: bus bombing in Jerusalem, Seder massacre in Netanya, Bat Mitzvah shooting in Hadera, shopping mall bombing in Haifa. Instead of "terror," the media uses terms like "militant" and "activist."

Which brings us to Exception #3 of World Politics: Do not hesitate to call terrorists "terrorists" -- except when they're targeting Jews.

And then there's the whole issue of eliminating terror from our global landscape. After September 11, President Bush declared war on terrorists and "all who harbor them." The issue is black and white. There is no negotiating with terrorists. After the recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, Vice President Cheney declared, "The only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it. There's no treaty that can solve this problem. There's no peace agreement, no policy of containment or deterrence that works to deal with this threat. We have to go find the terrorists."

Throughout the 1990s, Yasser Arafat enjoyed full immunity, despite not arresting terrorists, stopping funding or confiscating weapons. Under his watchful eye (and often with his signature), Palestinian terror groups organized, trained, armed -- and killed hundreds. And now as the road map begins, Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas has declared that he will not forcibly disarm Hamas, preferring instead to work with them so that they agree to go along (temporarily) with the diplomatic route.

This week, faced with 53 separate terror alerts, Israel finally decided to take out Hamas co-founder and terror chief Abdel Aziz Rantisi. After the missile strike (which Rantisi narrowly escaped), world condemnation of the IDF was resounding; President Bush called Israel's action "troubling."

It highlighted Exception #4 of World Politics: Weed out and fight terrorism wherever you may find it... except if the terrorists are targeting Jews.

Without knowing these basic exceptions to the rules of world politics, how can anyone make sense of the Mideast situation? If only spelling were so easy...