15 JANUARY 1977, Page 1

Black January

24 March 1973, on Amman Radio, Abu Daoud asted of his part in the planning of 'the glorious munich operation' in the course of which eleven Israeli letes were murdered. From Damascus last Sunday the ralestinian Liberation Organisation Radio, in a comment °11 Daoud's arrest in Paris and Israel's efforts to erxtradite him, said: 'Israel cannot maintain that the kr:edom fighter Abu Daoud is a criminal because the s'unich operation was first of all a political one.' It ee.ms reasonable to conclude, on the basis of this evIclence alone, that there is a case against Daoud for his Part in a particularly foul act of terrorism. r :Ile French do not pretend to believe him innocent. In :Leasing him before either the Israeli or West German 6:0vernments had time to complete the formalities of an crxtradition request, the French government and a a rench court committed an act of astonishing cowardice cYnicism. The attempt to cover the decision with a :neer of legal respectability brings further discredit fl the reputation of the French judiciary in what 4'5 notoriously become its unfailing desire to spare the ,vernment embarrassment. be I hat the continued detention of Daoud would have doeu, embarrassing to the French government is beyond pruut. The Arab ambassadors in Paris had been waesSing for his release, and President Giscard d'Estaing arts Preparing for a visit to Saudi Arabia. But having af,ested him (as a result of the Interior Ministry PParently having little control over the secret police), the French could not release him without both humiliating themselves and inflicting serious damage upon the credibility of international efforts to combat terrorism. For years now every Western country—and not simply Israel—has been a potential victim of terror. Slowly, carefully, the United States and the governments of Western Europe have been trying to put together a common front in the face of the kind of crime at which Daoud is a self-proclaimed expert. At Herr Schmidt's initiative, indeed, the EEC countrieslast year agreed to consult one another as soon as any one of them became involved in a terrorist problem. The French appear to have ignored even this partial and inadequate arrangement in their frantic anxiety to undo the affront their security forces had given to a criminal and his friends. By their cowardice they have given heart to the forces of disorder everywhere, as they have discouraged those striving for justice and decency in international law and practice.

Some may think that France's capitulation is an inevitable consequence of our economic dependence on the Arabs and that submission to the Arab will, even if it means sacrificing our moral and legal standards, is the price we have to pay. That price is too high. The United States and West Germany, by promptly protesting against France's action, have recognised this. But what of Great Britain ? At the start of a year in which we have assumed leadership of the European Community, the silence of our government is shameful.