The moral limits of dealing with terrorism

Ahead of Gerry on Jesus on C4 tomorrow, the commentator Geoffrey Wheatcroft writing in the Independent, identifies racism as a reason for applying double standards to terrorism. In summary, Israel gets away with assassinating a Hamas official in Dubai because he’s “black”. Wheatcroft goes on to draw comparisons with Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams and the actions of Tony Blair. Two questions arise; Israel and Hamas are still in conflict, whereas the UK and the IRA have stopped. Does that make a moral difference? How is morality served now, today, by trying to bring them to book? My answers come easily enough but they weigh on the spirit. Adds: I see Dewi and I posted more or less simultaneously but at least we offer different extracts.From Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Our differing approaches to terrorism

“Some years ago, the contrarian Belfast journalist John O’Farrell (not a Protestant unionist) was writing about the career of Martin McGuinness, which had taken him from head of the IRA to minister of education. As O’Farrell said, thanks to the Belfast agreement and settlement, “the children of Northern Ireland will have their futures in the hands of a man who, if he were a Serb, would be indicted at The Hague”.

Or try another comparison, the respective fate of two terrorist leaders. One is a white Catholic Irishman, the other a dark-skinned Muslim Palestinian; one is asked to present a programme on Jesus, the other is brutally bumped off – an assassination which, like all such by Mossad, will never be publicly condemned by the US. Suppose that, at the height of the IRA violence, Adams and McGuinness had been the objects of “targeted killing” by MI6. It’s interesting to speculate what the American reaction would have been.

The British media are sometimes accused of a bias against Israel. But would Channel 4 ask an unrepentant Islamist terrorist who had killed ordinary Israelis to present a programme on the Prophet Mohamed?”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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