ZOA: Israel’s Action No Different From Reagan’s Bombing Of Qadaffi’s Home In 1986
July 24, 2002

N.Y.Times Defended
U.S. Bombing That Killed Civilians

NEW YORK- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the Bush administration’s condemnation of the Israeli strike against a terrorist leader in Gaza, pointing out that the Reagan administration ordered the bombing of Libyan president Moammar Qadaffi’s home and offices in 1986, even though it knew that civilian casualties might ensue.

Because of Libyan sponsorship of a terrorist attack in Berlin in which one American soldier was killed, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Qadaffi’s home and offices in Tripoli, a city of one million people, on April 14, 1986. Among the areas struck was the residential neighborhood of Bin Ashur, killing 37 people and wounding 93, many of them civilians. Among the casualties at Qadaffi’s home were his 15 month-old daughter Hana, who was killed, and two of his sons, ages 3 and 4, who were wounded.

The New York Times (April 19, 1986) reported that a senior White House official said the administration “knew that this was [Qadaffi’s] residence and that he perhaps might be there and members of his family.”

Nevertheless, after the bombing President Reagan said: “Today we did what we had to do. If necessary, we will do it again.” For three days in a row, the lead editorial in the New York Times defended the bombing of Libya. In one, it argued: “For the United States to have failed to act [after concluding that Libya was sponsoring terrorism against Americans] would have said to the world: ‘Go ahead. Shoot. Bomb. Kill. This tiger never bites.’ There have been times in the shadow war of terror when the tiger could do no more than snarl and twitch his tail—and there will be others. On Monday, American sent a justifiably different message. The tiger bites.” (April 16, 1986)

The Bush administration condemned Israel for striking at Hamas terrorist leader Salah Shehade on July 22, 2002, because a number of civilians were inadvertently harmed in the operation. Hamas is regarded by both the United States and the European Union as an international terrorist group because of its murders of hundreds of Israelis and Americans. Shehade himself personally masterminded dozens of those attacks. Israel has described him as one of the most senior Hamas terrorists, in line to become the group’s next leader.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: “Reagan was right in 1986, and Israel is right today. The Palestinian Authority bears the moral and legal responsibility for any harm to Arab civilians that occur during anti-terrorism actions by the United States or Israel. The PA has refused to arrest Hamas terrorists, has refused to outlaw Hamas, and has permitted Hamas to operate in civilian areas.”

Ironically, on the same day as the Israeli action, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, in reference to reports that as many as 400 Afghani civilians have been killed during recent U.S. actions against terrorists in Afghanistan, “It’s an unfortunate fact of war that, inevitably, innocent civilians are killed. This has been true, true throughout the history of warfare, and it remains true even in this age of advanced technology and precision-guided munitions.” (New York Times, July 23, 2002)

A Luntz poll in August 2001 found 73% of Americans believe Israel is “justified” in “attempting to kill” a terrorist when “Israel has proof that a terrorist is planning a suicide bomb or other act of terrorism that is likely to result in the death of Israelis.”

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