In response to renewed rocket attacks, the Israelis have begun to attack and bomb the homes and vehicles of Hamas members and leaders. This blunt approach is not altogether surprising. Israel has previously assassinated Hamas leaders (most prominently, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin) and attempted assassinations of others (ex: Khaled Meshal). In the midst of this offensive against Hamas, those who can read between the lines see that Israeli representatives are threatening to kill the current Palestinian prime minister (and Hamas leader) named Ismail Haniyeh:

“There is no one who is in the circle of commanders and leaders in Hamas who is immune from a strike,” Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh told public radio.

Meanwhile, we are seeing that a British court is charging (in absentia) a Russian named Andrei Lugovoi in the radioactive poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko – an act which was clearly a political killing. On his deathbed, Alexander Litvinenko made a statement, directly accusing Putin (the Russian president) of murder:

“You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women. You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.”

The Book of Mormon offers up numerous examples of assassinations and it is a tactic used by both the righteous and the wicked. Teancum kills Amalickiah and then Ammoron. Kishkumen assassinates Pahoran and then is killed in the midst of another assassination attempt on the life of Helaman.

In more recent history, we have the death of our Prophet, Joseph Smith, which leads to the only place in our scriptures that we actually see the word “assassination”:

When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood” … (Doctrine and Covenants 135:4)

Perhaps, considering contemporary events, the unique Book of Mormon scriptures that we have on the subject and also the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, we should discuss what we as Mormons think of assassination – when it is acceptable (if ever) as a tactic and when it is unacceptable.

[for additional food for thought – see the Wikipedia entry for assassination]