Sunday, May 12, 2002

One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist
So, the Europeans who brokered the deportation deal for those 13 Palestinian terrorists recently removed from the Church of the Nativity are now having second thoughts.

Let me see if I follow this. The deal's "lack of detailed instructions on the treatment of the Palestinians" is code for "we didn't want to tell the Israelis we were just going to turn them loose." Now that Shimon Peres understands this, he is insisting that they be locked up or sent back to Israel for trial.

But if Peres extradites the Palestinians back from their homes-in-exile, their new host countries run the risk of becoming targets of Hamas vengeance. But if they accept the deportees as "guests and free citizens", they represent a threat to public safety. So now, the various countries who said they would accept the deportees are now changing their minds, leaving the 13 to suffer the deprivations of being guests at a "three-star hotel on the Larnaca seafront" in Cyprus.

"It is a very tricky and sensitive situation," said a senior official at the European Commission. "In principle, if these men do not face charges outside the Middle East they should be free from all constraints. But the politics of the situation will make this very difficult to accept in practice."

Some of the volunteer host governments have even figured out -- too late -- that some of these terrorists are, well, terrorists.

"If even half of what I read is true, we would be taking in some very dangerous people indeed," [Gianfranco Fini, the Italian deputy prime minister] said.

No kidding? What was your first clue? (The Telegraph story eventually explains who these men actually are.)

This is what happens when you get into the appeasement business. Everybody expects you to appease them, since you've demonstrated you have no principles you're prepared to stand on. (Perhaps you've heard the joke about an honest politician being "one who stays bought.") Even now, the EU shows no concern for crimes committed in Israel: It's just pesky Peres creating a "political complication."

So. Lock 'em up and risk reprisals from Hamas. Turn 'em loose and risk extradition to Israel -- and then reprisals from Hamas -- plus whatever damage the "deportees" might do in the meantime.

I'm getting the idea that when the EU brokered this deal, they never really expected that these men would leave the Church of the Nativity alive. The thugs would have been dead, and Israel would have taken the heat for it -- all around, a win-win for the EU. But now the EU is in trouble: They actually got the deal they offered to take. And all the fum-fuhing and yes-buting in the world isn't going to save them.

Sometimes you just have to stand up and say plainly whose side you're on. For the EU, this is one of those times. The world is waiting.

(See also Steven Den Beste.)
LATER: Little Green Footballs has more details about the durance vile in which the noble freedom fighters now find themselves. Not for the squeamish.

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