What if a diplomat was blown to bits in the middle of Europe and no one reacted? Did he really die? This conundrum was posed last week when the Palestinian envoy to the Czech Republic was killed in an explosion in his own ambassadorial residence in Prague.
First, the bare facts:
The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic was killed in an explosion at his Prague residence on Wednesday after a safe blew up as he was trying to open it.
Jamal al-Jamal, 56, suffered severe head, chest and stomach wounds in the incident. He was taken to Prague military hospital but later died from his injuries. An unidentified 52-year-old woman was also treated in hospital for shock and smoke inhalation.
There was no definitive explanation for the cause of the blast but early indications suggested it may have been an accident. Czech police said there was no evidence that the ambassador had been the victim of terrorism while Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, insisted no foul play was involved.
The next stage was accusing mysterious suspects of assassination:
“What is certain is that it was not an accident,” Rana al-Jamal, who lives in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, told the Czech newspaper Dnes in an interview.
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki has described the death as an “accident” caused by an old safe booby-trapped to explode if opened the wrong way. But a spokesman for the Palestinian embassy said the safe in question was new, often used, and contained “no built-in anti-theft system”.
“A political or other motive” could be behind her father’s death, she said, without elaborating.
“I don’t know and I won’t mention anyone.”
Well, we all know what the daughter was implying, even if she didn’t mention the J or I word.
The plot thickens however as it turns out that this was no accident, no case of old explosives becoming unstable over time and suddenly exploding. (And anyway, who keeps explosives in a safe?!). Besides the exploding safe, Czech police have discovered an entire arms cache in the Palestinian envoy’s home:
A large, illegal weapons stockpile was found Thursday at the home of the Palestinian ambassador in Prague, Jamel al-Jamal, Czech media reported, a day after al-Jamal was killed in an explosion there.
Respekt, a Czech weekly newspaper, reported that the arsenal was enough to arm a unit of ten men.
Channel 2 News reported that the stockpile included heavy firearms, that it was held illegally, and that its existence had not been previously known to the Czech authorities.
Reuters quoted an unnamed Palestinian official claiming that the mission’s staff had submitted the weapons to Czech authorities. He said they had been retrieved from an old sack, untouched since the era of the Cold War. But Prague police chief Martin Vondrasek told local radio that the weapons “have not gone through a registration process in the Czech Republic.”
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, and claimed that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.
Later, however, El-Fahel told Czech radio that the safe had been in regular use. ”[The safe] was used on a daily basis at the embassy and it was opened and closed almost every day,” the embassy spokesman said.
I guess it would be politically incorrect to say that the Palestinians have a hard time telling the truth. Nevertheless, that is the impression one gets from these stories and counter-stories.
A final twist to this mysterious tale comes with the Czech police’s assessment that the arms cache discovered inside al-Jamal’s residence are only the tip of the iceberg and might be part of a European arms-smuggling ring:
According to available information, 70 firearms, unregistered by Czech authorities, were found in the future embassy building, in Prague 6-Suchdol, after an explosion killed Ambassador Jamel al-Jamal last week. According to initial reports, the explosive was from material inside an embassy safe, which was being stored at the ambassador’s residence.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Czech anti-terrorism official pointed out the possibility that the Palestinian embassy in Prague could have served as a transit point to freely ship firearms to any of the 26 countries within the Schengen Area, allowing passport-free movement within the EU.
“I’m horrified. This is not only a blatant violation of diplomatic norms and habits but also of security rules related to keeping such an arsenal, that also implies the tragic death of ambassador Jamal al Jamal,” said Sedivy, adding that similar arms arsenals may also be secretly kept at other Palestinian embassies in Europe and overseas.
“In my opinion this is very probable. The [Prague] blast, which occurred by sheer coincidence, may have uncovered something incredible… on the verge of monstrosity,” Sedivy said. “From the beginning it has not been a mere minor local scandal that would be soon over… but an incident of international dimensions,” he said, adding Palestinian Authority representatives have “played theater” with the investigation into the case so far.
Karel Randák, former head of the Czech foreign intelligence service said,”If this scandal of a collection of weapons and explosives cannot be plausibly explained by the Palestinians, the Czech authorities should terminate that mission without pardon. Diplomats who violate every conceivable principle have no business being in the Czech Republic.”
“But I can not think how they can explain this. It’s Inexplicable and indefensible, so that – at least in my opinion – we have no choice but to expel the Palestinians. Let’s start with the new Palestinian diplomats on a green field – for me, there’s no other way,” Randák said.
Bravo to the Czechs for these very strong words. I applaud their bravery in making such politically-incorrect statements. Given the admiration for the Palestinians in almost every international forum today, I am surprised that a sovereign country (besides Israel) can find it in themselves to condemn them, let alone threaten to expel them.
Beyond this however lies a more important point, which brings me back to my opening paragraph. The old saying goes “if a tree falls in a forest and nobody heard, did it really fall?”. Today’s parallel is “if a Palestinian is killed in an explosion but it can’t be blamed on the Israelis, will it be reported?”.
Can you imagine the outrage and hullabaloo if such an incident occurred in an Israeli embassy? Why, the story would have been splashed across every single news outlet around the world and wouldn’t have dropped off the front pages for weeks. As it stands, this story has been a minor foreign-news item receiving coverage only in Israel and the Czech Republic.
I wonder why. Double standards anyone?