August 22, 2012
More than a month has passed since the
terrorist attack in Burgas that killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian.
Like many others, I shall not soon forget the
My heart immediately went out to the
Israelis, who were at the start of a much-anticipated holiday in Bulgaria. They
were targeted for the simple reason they were Israelis. In the demented eyes of
the perpetrators, that made them destined for death.
And my heart immediately went out to the
Bulgarians. A Bulgarian citizen was killed. That was tragic enough. And
Bulgaria’s openness was exploited by those intent on mayhem.
I know Bulgaria well. I have visited many
times since the historic events of 1989.
I value Bulgaria’s example of tolerance and
mutual respect. It was exemplified in the past by its protection of the Jewish
community during the Second World War, even as it was allied to the Third
Reich, and today by its pluralistic society, including Orthodox Christians,
Muslims and Jews.
And I appreciate Bulgaria’s role in the
Middle East as a friend of both Israel and many Arab nations. That makes Bulgaria
an important and credible voice for the pursuit of peace and coexistence in a
But something changed on July 18th.
Those involved in plotting the attack may
have been targeting Israelis, but it was every bit as much an assault on Bulgarians.
By carrying out the deadly bombing on
Bulgarian soil, putting at risk everyone in sight, the perpetrators in essence
declared Bulgaria a legitimate target.
Why would they do so?
Presumably to challenge Bulgaria’s sovereign
right to choose its friends.
In other words, if Bulgaria counts Israel
among its friends, and extends a warm welcome to Israeli tourists, then
Bulgaria becomes “fair game” in the terrorists’ minds.
A few might be tempted to say that, in such a
case, drop the friendship with Israel and close the doors to Israeli tourists.
But, of course, that would be contradicting
Bulgaria’s core democratic values, ceding decision-making to hate-filled
outsiders, and, yes, yielding to transparent blackmail, which could be applied
on other issues as well.
The road ahead will not be easy.
Apart from guarding against the possibility
of more attacks, Bulgarian officials must seek to find the proverbial needle in
the haystack – the identities of the terrorists behind Burgas.
That may not be an easy task for Bulgaria.
Indeed, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said it could “last years,” though
the experience of friendly nations, most notably the United States, United
Kingdom and Israel, could help expedite the process.
And there is another looming issue.
Israel has explicitly stated that the July attack
was the work of Iran and Hezbollah. “We
know for certain that Iran and Hezbollah are involved,” said an Israeli
Washington has essentially endorsed Israel’s
view. A State Department representative noted that “the attack does resemble
Hezbollah’s plotting earlier this year,” referring to a previous attempt
If Iran or Hezbollah is implicated, as seems
likely, then Bulgaria will be confronted with a major challenge.
Ask Argentina. It was the target of a 1994
terrorist attack against a Jewish facility that killed 85 Argentines.
Argentina had thought it was far from the
Middle East, but found that was not the case. Its sovereignty had been
violated, its citizens murdered.
It went to Interpol to request the issuing of
“Red Notices” against five Iranians, including the current defense minister,
and one Hezbollah operative accused in the 1994 attack. Buenos Aires realized
this would be a long struggle to pursue justice, given the nature of the
Some will say it is premature for this
discussion, as the perpetrators have not yet been identified in the Burgas
attack. But these are matters that overhang any investigation.
And there is another one. If Hezbollah is
found complicit, will Bulgaria turn to its European Union partners and demand
that the group be placed, at long last, on the EU terrorism list? Bulgaria
would be thrust into the center of a critically important debate with its 26
The Bulgaria I know will do the right thing
in doggedly pursuing the investigation wherever it may lead – and standing up
for what is right and just.
And Bulgaria should always be aware that it
has friends who understand the high stakes involved and stand with it in full