Celebrations at the killing of Osama bin Laden in the streets of New York are as unjustified as they were in East Jerusalem and Nablus following the 9/11 attack on the twin towers. Vengeance does not bring peace or justice. Though the details of the US operation which resulted in Bin Laden’s death are not yet known, it is a source of regret that he was not captured alive in order to stand trial. The biggest tragedy, however, is that the United States government, supported by the British government, frittered away so quickly the sympathy and support of the world after 9/11. Instead of mobilising that sympathy in support of justice, it pursued a war that killed and terrorised hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians masquerading as a war against terror. The world has been made less safe and less free at every step in that campaign. Far too many will now hail Bin Laden as a martyr.
We will now see the development of a mythology of demonisation which will also prove counter-productive, as people around the world and especially in the middle east observe continued American double standards — support for dictatorship in Bahrein and Saudi Arabia, for example, and the toleration of the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Expect frequent (but thoroughly mistaken) comparisons with Hitler, building on the coincidence that Bin Laden’s death was announced by President Obama on the same day, 66 years later, that Hitler’s death was announced.
One potential casualty of the polarisation that will result from the killing of Bin Laden is Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas and one of two disputed Prime Ministers of the Palestinian National Authority. He is reported to have said:
We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs. We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.
Whilst Left Futures does not in any way endorse the labelling of Osama Bin Laden as a “holy Arab warrior”, nor would we want a potential partner for peace in Israel/Palestine, now formally reconciled with Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah president of the Palestinian Authority, to be penalised for his statement. In its failure to back the cause of Palestinian self-determination and to oppose the continued occupation and settlement of territory seized in war as convincingly as it defend’s Israel’s right to exist, the West has been the catalyst for al-Qaeda’s “success”. The route to stifling al-Qaeda’s cause is for the West to give its backing to the new unified Palestinian leadership in its quest for peace and justice.