Image Credit: Illustration: DWYNN RONAL D V. TRA ZO/Gulf News

Those political leaders it has no use for, fate will put on the cover of Time magazine — not on that of The Economist. On October 11, 1997, the august British weekly featured Benjamin Netanyahu on its cover with the caption, ‘The Serial Bungler'.

Netanyahu, in his first term as Israel's prime minister, had been in office for only a year and a half when he approved the dispatch of a death squad to neighbouring Jordan, with whom the Zionist entity had full diplomatic relations. It was instructed to kill by lethal injection Khalid Mesha'al, an exiled Hamas official, and do it in broad daylight, in the middle of a busy street in Amman. The operation was bungled and the assassins were caught. The late King Hussain was outraged and threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv unless the Israelis provided the antidote to revive the victim. Netanyahu complied.

As outraged as the Jordanians were at such a brazen act of attempted murder on their soil, Canadians were equally so, since all members of the hit team carried fake Canadian passports, entering the country as innocent tourists.

In its story The Economist identified the attempted murder as no less than an "act of international terrorism", relations with Jordan soured, and Israel was in the diplomatic dock for a while. But in time all was swept under the rug.

Now Netanyahu, prime minister for the second time, sends his yahoos to another Arab country to kill again in broad daylight, this time in the UAE.

Say ‘death squads' and the image evoked in one's mind is that of the notorious death squads sponsored by fascist dictatorships in South and Central American countries in the 1970s, which went after leftwing government opponents with ruthless efficiency. Wrong image! The idea of death squads was first invented by Zionists, long before Israel was created as a national entity in Palestine. Thus the killing recently of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in a hotel room in Dubai by Israeli assassins represented business as usual for Mossad and other murderous Zionist organisations.

Soon after I began in 1997 to research and later write about the background of these death squads, I discovered that Netanyahu was a Johnny-come-lately. He did not create this Murder Inc business. He was merely following an old Zionist tradition that goes back to 1942, when Jewish undercover hit teams began operating in Palestine, as well as neighbouring Arab countries, with one goal in mind: to eliminate Arab activists, political leaders, journalists, commentators, intellectuals, militants and others, who stood in the way of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine.

Almost always, these assassins were Zionist Jews, originally from Arab countries, and known as Mistarivim — literally, Arab pretenders. They would infiltrate Arab towns and villages disguised as native Arabs in order to kill their targets. In an interview with Haaretz on June 23, 1991, Shimon Semech, commander of Mistarivim from 1942 to 1949, admitted that murder was the name of the game, though he defined his work as simply "being ordered [by Zionist gangs in Palestine at the time] to eliminate individuals".

Were some of the hundreds of "individuals" eliminated in cases of mistaken identity?

"Yes, some were," he responded dismissively.

Then, beginning in 1967, soon after Israel occupied Palestinian territory, the policy was revived once more. Again Israeli killers dressed in Arab garb, spoke accent-free Arabic and drove non-military cars with distinctive West Bank/Gaza plates. And again hundreds were killed, without much attention paid by the outside media.

Mafia-like operations

It was not till 1988 that the western press took note, when the Sunday Times of London, in an in-depth article that year, reported that Israeli death squads in the Occupied Territories had "virtual carte blanche to use whatever means are needed" to perform their covert acts of murder. The number of civilians killed in that manner in 1988 alone, the first year of the intifada, was 75, a great many of them tragic cases of mistaken identity. The government of Israel had become, effectively, like an entrenched mafia, ruled by dons, putting out contracts on people.

Israelis have always felt that western countries owed them a living, as it were, that these countries should pamper them, and give them a free hand to do what they pleased, without a care in the world or a glance over their shoulders — even where the targets were western interests, as happened, for example, with the attack on the American ship Liberty in June of 1967, which left 24 Americans dead and 172 injured. Not a peep then from the White House, the Congress or angry editorialists.

Israel, a Zionist aberration in the heartland of our world, continues to uphold its status among people in the Arab world, the Muslim world, the Third World, and among many in the European world, as a lawless terrorist state. Its dispatch of a gang of killers to Dubai recently to do its dirty work will simply embed and reinforce that image in all our minds.

Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.