Character Assassination: Israel Is Not North Korea

Paul McGeogh, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, uses last week’s assassination of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as a way of comparing North Korea to…  Israel.

In the article, “The poisoner’s handbook: What Israel and North Korea have in common”, he says that both Israeli PM Netanyahu and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un are members of “an oddball global fraternity… the messy assassins – either they botch the kill or they can’t make a clean getaway.”

Kim Jong-nam was supposedly killed by a poison being sprayed into his face. According to McGeogh, this

recalled Netanyahu’s humiliation in 1997 when, during his first stint as Israel’s prime minister, he approved a plan by the intelligence agency Mossad to assassinate Hamas leader Khalid Mishal – which was then spectacularly botched.

That assassination attempt involved spraying a poison into Meshaal’s ear, although the agents were caught and Israel forced to provide the antidote before it managed to kill Mashal.

The glaring difference between the two cases, that McGeogh doesn’t take into consideration, are the targets.

Kim Jong-un and North Korea’s leadership regularly have political opponents murdered, and the general consensus is that the death of Kim Jong-nam is just the latest to be added to that list.

Khaled Meshaal on the other hand, was living in Jordan in his role as Hamas’ Jordanian branch chief, planning and ordering terror attacks, including a suicide bombing at Jerusalem’s market that killed 16 Israelis, aged between 15 and 92. Two years after the assassination attempt, Hamas was banned from Jordan; Meshaal was arrested and then expelled from the country.

Ignoring that, McGeogh instead attempts to make weak comparisons, such as that “just as” North Korea’s assassination was in Malaysia, Mossad’s was in Jordan, and that “In both cases the government setting out to kill was prepared to burn a friend.”

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Perhaps worst of all, he states: “Both governments, Israel in 1997 and North Korea nearly 20 years later, resorted to censorship in efforts to keep their people in the dark on the detail of their acts and the uproar they provoked.”

Is McGeogh seriously comparing “censorship” in Israel to North Korea? He is so focused on searching for similarities, he neglects the very obvious differences that would make any sort of comparison totally void.

Israel is a democracy with a vibrant and free press, as evidenced by its routine criticism of the government. The purpose of the Israeli Military Censor is to prevent the publication of information that could compromise Israel’s security or help its enemies; it is not a censor of political opinion. These New York Times articles shed some light on how it works, as applied in cases of kidnapped Israelis.  It also appears that when it comes to freedom of the press, Israel is held to different standards than other countries.

North Korea, on the other hand, has been called “the world’s most oppressed nation” by the New York Times, with a former UN special rapporteur on human rights there describing it as “in a category of its own.” It has one of the most repressive media environments in the world, and overall is one of the second-worst countries in the entire world for political rights and civil liberties, ranking only above Syria, with a score of 3 out of 100. In comparison, since McGeogh seems so keen on that, Israel’s score is 80.

So if McGeogh included any of the facts that really count, he and SMH readers would find that what Israel and North Korea have in common is… well… nothing.

 

Please send your considered comments to the Sydney Morning Herald’s letters page – letters@smh.com.au


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