For more than a month, Western governments have chastised Israel for the alleged forgery of their citizens' passports for their use in the assassination in Dubai of Hamas terrorist mastermind Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The outrage shows no sign of abating. Interpol has posted the suspects' pictures on its website and issued red alerts for all 27 members of the suspected hit squad, which, by the size of it, might as well have been an Olympic team.
The EU condemned the identity theft of several of its nationals. Israel's ambassadors in Berlin, Canberra, Dublin, London and Paris were summoned to be "given an opportunity to co-operate" with the ongoing investigation. In diplomatese this translates as: "This is your chance to confess."
Diplomatically speaking, warnings, summons and threats will have little enduring consequence. Still, the Dubai hit fanned the selective moral outrage among the commentariat in the countries involved. They conveniently forgot, however, that some of their countries were currently engaged in a war in Afghanistan that relied heavily on extra-judicial killings, some of which had caused considerable collateral damage. Forgotten, too, was that Hamas, according to the EU, was a terrorist organisation.
Although there is no smoking gun (pun intended) showing Israel's involvement, the Dubai police version was taken as "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".
As for the outrage about a secret service forging foreign passports, anyone familiar with James Bond, Jason Bourne and the Mission Impossible franchise knows that that is what secret agents do — they travel on false passports. Even assuming Israel is responsible for the assassination, did anyone expect that Israelis would show up in Dubai, a country with which it has no diplomatic ties and is still officially at war, waving their Israeli passports? Imagine the conversation at passport control:
UAE immigration officer: Nationality?
Mossad agent: Israeli.
Agent: Mossad agent.
Officer: Purpose of your visit?
Agent: Targeted killing of a top Hamas terrorist.
Officer: Welcome to our country. Have a nice day.
If those involved had not been caught on camera, there would not have been so much grief in London, Paris or Canberra. The problem, for Western governments whose passports were forged for the hit, is not the deed itself, but the embarrassment resulting from the exposure.