Wednesday, July 24, 2013

24-Jul-13: On the anniversary of a daughter's death, lives upended by terrorism and lessons learned

Click here for the original
Jerusalem Post op ed
According to the Jewish calendar, this coming Sabbath, July 27, 2013, will mark the twelfth yahrzeit of our precious daughter Malki whose life ended in the Hamas attack on a central Jerusalem pizza shop. A version of the post below, written by Frimet Roth, appears as an op-ed in today's (Wednesday) Jerusalem Post paper edition, and is published on the site now.

Will More Freed Murderers Bring Peace? Twelve Years After the Sbarro Massacre  

Twelve years ago, the Jewish nation was rocked by a terror bombing that now symbolizes the Second Intifada more than any other attack. Photographs of the charred shell of Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant accompany countless articles about terrorism, even if their text makes no mention of that specific horror.

The Sbarro massacre was significant for several reasons.

Its fifteen victims included seven men and women, and eight children. Among them was a decimated family: a mother, a father and three of their eight children. Another victim, a woman pregnant with her first baby, was the only child of her parents. One of the injured, who should be counted among the dead, has lain comatose ever since, leaving her toddler motherless. And one victim was our daughter.

In their last moments on earth, the fifteen victims were enjoying a light lunch on a hot, summer's afternoon in the bustling center of Israel’s capital.

Ahlam Tamimi, the main perpetrator of this Hamas massacre, bore an incongruous profile: a young and attractive woman, a student of journalism at a Palestinian university and a newsreader for a Palestinian TV station.

This was a particularly cruel, gruesome and shocking act. Its iconic role is not surprising

Sbarro acquired fresh notoriety in 2011 when Tamimi, who had confessed to all charges and was convicted and sentenced to 16 life terms, walked free. Israel's prime minister released her under pressure from Hamas to win the return of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She was repatriated to her family in Jordan where she has lived since. PM Netanyahu inexplicably calls this gift an “exile”.

Subsequently Netanyahu succumbed to additional pressure from this murderer herself and from her fiancé, another murderer released in the Shalit deal. The fiancé had been confined to the West Bank under the written terms of his release that had been affirmed by Netanyahu. While they are in the West Bank, released prisoners can be watched and re-arrested for new terrorist activities. To date, tens of Palestinians freed in the Shalit deal have ended up back behind Israeli bars via this route.

Netanyahu waived this condition for the fiancé. With no quid pro quo, indeed, for no apparent reason, our prime minister allowed the terrorist to move to Jordan where shortly afterward the two killers were married in a high-profile, Hamas-sponsored extravaganza.

Nearly two years after the Shalit deal, we are still desperately seeking justice.

To watch and hear our child’s murderer on the Internet addressing adoring crowds throughout the Arab world; hosting a TV show; boasting of the massacre she planned and executed; smiling about the number of children she killed; and promising that, if she could she would repeat it – this is an indescribable torture.

Elsewhere, parents of murdered children who pursue justice garner sympathy. One such American couple was described by a journalist as “compassionate” because they sought life imprisonment for the murderer rather than the death penalty.

My husband and I are also determined to see Tamimi back behind bars. But nobody calls us compassionate. Vengeful is the adjective we hear more often.

Fellow Israelis from both the right and the left have either ignored or criticized our efforts. The word “justice” rarely features in their arguments.

It is an open secret that many Western liberals see terrorists who have Israeli blood on their hands as something less than “real” murderers.

Why, as appears to be the case, have Israelis adopted that view?  When did they begin to distinguish between murderers who do not shout “Allah Hu Akbar” and those who do?

The fact that Israelis look askance at us can be directly related to our leader’s example. When Netanyahu freed hundreds of Palestinian murderers in 2011 while declining to ever meet with the victim families, he set the tone for the country.

Our government is poised for a Shalit Deal Redux, minus the return of an Israeli captive. Mahmoud Abbas, with American support, is demanding the release of a further 120 Palestinian prisoners before resuming negotiations with Israel.

The new list includes many terrorists with the blood of innocents on their hands. But you will not hear that description from our leaders. As Dr Yuval Steinitz, the minister for strategic affairs and a close ally of Mr. Netanyahu’s, conceded last week: “...there will be heavyweight prisoners who have been in jail for tens of years.”

As we all know, criminals in Israel do not get lengthy sentences for illegal parking or even the odd armed robbery. Heavyweight is the new euphemism selected to sterilize this abhorrent move.

We can safely dismiss any presumption that our prime minister agonized over or deeply pondered this fraught decision. According to the NYTimes it was "...negotiated in a series of hurried telephone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday evening as Mr. Kerry was eager to get home but determined not to leave empty-handed after six visits in four months."

Netanyahu had already plunged so far down the slippery slope of compliance that neither Abbas nor Kerry had a tough adversary on their hands. Putty is the more apt term. 

The only objections to this impending concession have been from the families of the victims. The wider public seems to have been neutralized by PM Netanyahu’s attitude.

In a recent New YorkTimes column about the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriages, Frank Bruni wrote that decisions made 
“at the highest levels of our government… set a tone… send a signal. They alter the climate of what’s considered just and what’s not, of what’s permissible and what’s intolerable, and that change ripples into every last corner of American life, shaping people’s very destinies.”
While Netanyahu doesn't approach the league of US Supreme Court judges, his willingness to release cold-blooded murderers has sent “ripples into every last corner of Israeli life”.

If enough Israelis wake up to the dangers in a devil-may-care approach toward murder and justice, there may be hope for our society. If they warn Netanyahu that another Shalit-style release will bear a stiff political price, he may reconsider. He is, after all just a politician.

Let’s remind him that murderers serving one or multiple life sentences cannot be freed. Ever. Killers are not pawns in the hands of politicians trampling our judiciary.

Righting this injustice will not bring our precious child back. It will not even mitigate our grief in the slightest – our critics have been eager to point this out. But the travesty of justice deepens our pain beyond endurance.


NormanF said...

I hope you succeed.... we cannot have the attitude in a civilized society that justice is only for a season and that it can be dispensed with when the rule is looked upon as politically inconvenient.

Ethical and moral considerations override politicians' temporary political needs. The Prime Minister Of Israel needs to be reminded that peace and justice are opposite sides of the same coin. You cannot expect peace to last in the absence of justice.

To want to keep the murderers of our children where they are is not being vengeful. Its not being anti-peace. Its demanding that justice on earth should always be affirmed! The survival of our civilization depends upon it.

Sara Springer said...

I am so deeply sorry and grieving for your pain. An Israeli leader needs to act is if each Jewish victim is his own child because he or she is.

Dafna Yee said...

I just want you to know that not only people who have lost loved ones to terrorists agree with you. You speak for me also and I'm certain for a lot of other people who have been more fortunate than you. I hope and pray that something happens to prevent this terrible travesty of justice. There is absolutely no reason to excuse Netanyahu's craven decision to beg Abbas to talk with him and even give a "good-will gesture" to sweeten the request. Aside from the fact that freeing murderers is an immoral act, it is an undeniably stupid move to approach negotiations after making yourself weak. May God bless you, your family and the memory of your daughter.