- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

The government finally lost all patience with the terrorists who were killing its officials and innocent citizens. In fact, the head of government had himself survived a car bomb six years earlier.

Endless negotiations with the terrorists didn't help. So they passed a law that bans any political association which the government believes seeks to "promote hatred, violence and civil confrontation." The new law also declares it illegal to challenge any of the country's democratic institutions. Any candidate who justifies terrorism can't run in an election. Under the new law, all candidates for office will have to condemn terrorism publicly and the government will decide if the candidate has been sufficiently loud and consistent enough in his condemnation. Freedom of speech? Freedom of assembly? Freedom of the press? F'get it.

Now were Israel to promulgate such draconian laws against the doves of the Israeli left who oppose government policies and who see the Palestinian intifada as justified, you can be sure there would be a roar of disapproval from the European Union members, led by Chris Patten and Robert Fisk of the London Times, deploring "Israeli Fascism." There would be an outcry for sanctions against Israel for such violations of human rights.

In fact, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, comprising such members as China, Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe would be demanding a special session of the United Nations to express their horror at such undemocratic laws, such violations of basic liberties even though none of their own citizens possess these rights. The White House would be under pressure to get after Prime Minister Sharon to repeal such shocking legislation.

Alas, for the Israel-haters, it's not the beleaguered Middle East democracy which has passed such a law. It is Spain, yes democratic Spain. Determined to squelch Basque terrorism once and for all, its conservative government under Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has passed a law that would effectively ban Batasuna, described by the London Economist as "the political wing of the violent Basque separatist group, ETA."

Now ETA's record is pretty bloody. In 1996, an ETA bomb planted in the departure lounge of the resort town of Reus in northeastern Spain injured 35 tourists, mostly Britons. The same year there were small bomb attacks in coastal tourist towns. Spain is and maybe was the world's third tourist attraction after France and the United States. The terrorist attacks, according to a State Department report, continue to this day.

For almost four decades, the separatist ETA has conducted a war for independence, a war which has cost at least 800 lives, not counting the wounded.

ETA has raised money by kidnappings, armed robberies and extortion of businesses in Basque country. To combat ETA, Spain has forged bilateral agreements with EU states and Mexico to deny sanctuary to ETA terrorists. One new agreement with France eases extradition of ETA members. The U.S. has signed a joint declaration with Spain with an explicit commitment to work jointly against ETA. Israel should be so lucky.

Democracy was restored in Spain following the death of Generalissimo Francisco France in 1975, and with that restoration came home rule for the 2 million Basques. The Basque provinces in northern Spain have their own parliament and police, collect their own taxes, control education. For ETA terrorists, autonomy is not enough although many Basques would be content, after years of terrorism, with the present state of affairs.

The government's aim is to outlaw the presently legal Herri Batasuna, ETA's political arm, which received about 18 percent of the vote in the 1998 regional elections. Like other Spanish political parties, Batasuna gets state funds, which the government believes are siphoned off to ETA. If Batasuna is banned under the new law, its local candidates will become ineligible to run for election. In 1999, when ETA announced a cease-fire, Batasuna candidates won almost 20 percent of the votes. The next year when ETA called off the truce and the killing and street violence began again, according to the Economist, it won only a tenth in a regional poll in 2001.

My analogy of Israel and Spain breaks down on one crucial point national survival. If ETA were to win full independence from Spain, there would still be a Spain. If Israel were to lose its battle against the intifada, that would be the end of Israel. The ETA objective is not to destroy but to secede from Spain. The intifada aim is to drive Israel into the sea and not all the weekends in Camp David and Saudi trial balloons, glamorized by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, are going to change it.

So Spain has gone ahead with a program to stop terrorism by changing the basis of its human-rights jurisprudence and not a peep from any outsiders. Perhaps the EU moguls agree with the words of Thomas Jefferson:

"A strict observance of the laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence of written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property of all those who are enjoying them with us."

Apply to Spain? Of course. Apply to Israel? Well, that's another story.

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