ISRAEL AND TERRORISTS (House of Representatives - August 01, 1989)

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Minnesota [Mr. Sikorski] is recognized for 5 minutes.

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Mr. SIKORSKI. Mr. Speaker, yesterday an American citizen was brutally hanged by a group of barbarians. All of America was rightfully outraged, but not all of America reacted in an appropriate fashion, and in so doing naively played into the hands of the murderers themselves. Allowing the debate to shift away from the heinous series of acts these terrorists have committed only encourages them to strike again. That colleagues of mine would unwittingly participate in this scam is even sadder.

I know all of us have great sympathy for the family of Colonel Higgins. I am not certain what a full-scale, short-term or long-term response from us should be, but I am certain of one thing. Taking to task the single nation with an internationally known and respected reputation for being a stalwart against terrorism is not right. Israel never has given terrorists anything in exchange for hostages. They have never given terrorists cakes or Bibles or traded them arms; yet incredibly, some of my colleagues started in on them recently. Members of Congress chastised Israel for pursuing and capturing a leading figure in the Hezbollah terrorist organization. We are talking about a so-called cleric who was responsible for the very kidnaping of Colonel Higgins in the first place, as well as the abductions of other Americans and three Israeli soldiers. We are not talking about Ghandi or Mother Teresa. Instead, this is a man who champions his organization, Hezbollah, likening its `victories' as acts of God. These victories have been documented in over 40 terrorists incidents, including the 1983 bombing of our American Marine barracks; including the assassination of American University of Beirut President Kerr; including the murder of two U.S. Agency for International Development officials during a 1984 hijacking; including the execution of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem in the hijacking of a TWA flight with 39 other Americans aboard; including the kidnaping of a majority of the American hostages in Lebanon.

`Cleric' indeed.

Israel is leading the fight against these terrorists. They live in a precarious position of having to balance their survival according to Middle East rules, while still living by Western standards and values. The Hezbollah does not. They feel no remorse. They threaten more bodies will follow, and no amount of American appeasement has or ever will have any effect on how fairly or humanely they play this game.

Besides, America has shown the same kind of resolve and tenacity in combating terrorism that some are now criticizing. In 1985, we intercepted an Egyptian plane in an attempt to capture the PLO mastermind behind the Achille Lauro hijacking.

In 1987, we carried out a covert operation to arrest Fawaz Yunis, a terrorist involved in an 1985 hijacking and the blowing up of a Jordanian airliner.

In 1986, President Reagan authorized the abduction of Mahmud al Abed Ahmad in Venezuela.

We should be proud of our past efforts to fight against terrorism, and continue its pursuit, rather than bowing to the outcries from the purveyors of terrorism.

Certainly the past actions of Syria, Libya, Iran, and Iraq, have in no way afforded them any moral high ground. Shifting the debate from the heinous act itself now serves but one purpose, a public relations victory for terrorists worldwide. And in winning that victory, these terrorists organizations hope they can drive a wedge between our historic relationship between Israel and the United States.

To underscore and to preserve our relationship with Israel, that country has taken the unprecedented step of offering to release Sheik Abul Karim Obeid, and all other terrorists in captivity, in return for the release of our hostages. Hezbollah's response--a videotape of a dangling body.

Mr. Speaker, this is not the time for us to turn on our friends and fellow victims. In doing so, we would allow these terrorists a political victory by diverting our fightful anger and disgust away from those truly responsible, including Sheik Abul Karin Obeid and the governments of Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Libya, which support him and his band of barbarians.