Tuesday, October 22, 2013

22-Oct-13: The freeing of convicted murderers next week raises three questions

Convicted terrorists released in a previous round, en route
to a heroes' welcome from those who believe in the usefulness
of terrorism [Image Source: AP]
Next week's handing over by Israel of more convicted murderers to the two Palestinian Arab statelets - the PA one and the Hamas one (background here) - prompts us to raise some  more questions, all of them (to be frank) painful and challenging.

Times of Israel reports today that
The most dangerous prisoners would be banished to the Gaza Strip, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. The government still has not approved the release, the paper said.
Media reports (this one from Haaretz, for instance) say over and again that the Israel government's plan to keep setting these convicts free long before their sentences are up is resisted by "pressure" from "right-wing ministers" "to halt the process".

And today's Times of Israel article makes the same point:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced pressure from hawkish ministers to delay or cancel the prisoner releases in the wake of a series of violent incidents in the West Bank in recent weeks, including the killing of two IDF soldiers and an attack that wounded a nine-year-old girl in the settlement of Psagot.
Must one be right-wing, or a minister or hawkish to understand how ludicrous it is to hand over "the most dangerous prisoners" to the most dangerous terror group (i.e. Hamas) where their terrorist skills can and certainly will be put to the most effective (i.e. the most dangerous) use. Is it legitimate for normal people to be astonished at the way this is being done?
As it happens, we bring a little personal knowledge - of an especially bitter nature - concerning assurances given by our government in the recent past when steps were being taken concerning this convicted terrorist or another.

The murdering terrorist who is now married to our daughter's terrorist-murderer was released in the Gilad Shalit Transaction before he had completed serving the life term to which he had been sentenced in 1994 for killing an Israeli civilian. His release, like those of numerous other unjustly freed convicts, was conditioned up-front on certain restrictions. In his case, he was released from prison on condition that he remain within the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. (Why? That's not an issue for now.) We learned via the Arabic news media that he and his fiancee were demanding from Israel immediate permission for him to leave those areas and cross over to Jordan to get married and make children. We ran to the High Court of Justice to demand, as private citizens and shocked bereaved parents, that the government of Israel comply with its own conditions and prevent him from slipping away.

We failed, in an especially demeaning and offensive way (the process, we mean to say, was personally offensive and demeaning to us). For an account of what happened see: "15-Jun-12: So you thought PM Netanyahu is tough on terrorism? Not exactly."

Notwithstanding the conditions Israel properly placed on his freedom, in the end Israel let him loose in breach of those conditions. Not a single public official troubled himself or herself before, during or after, with so much as a perfunctory explanation to us or our legal counsel, even as we waited at the High Court for our urgent application to be brought before the judges.

Is it likely that Israeli conditions on the release of this latest cluster of convicted murderers will continue to trouble the minds or agendas of Israeli officials once the convicts are safely gone and far away? Also: if the most dangerous are being sent to Gaza, is this good?
Finally, the issue of how much support the premature release of convicted murderers has among our fellow citizens. 

There has been one published opinion poll only, as far as we know, into Israeli feeling about the latest releases. We wrote about the matter here in July. To say Israelis are unwilling to see even more exultant Palestinian Arab killers walk free under political pressure would be a considerable understatement. That one and only opinion poll says the releases have the support of fewer than one in ten Israelis.
Poll: 84% of Israeli Jews against Palestinian prisoner release | Israel Hayom, Friday July 26, 2013 | The vast majority of Israeli Jews are against the release of Palestinian terrorists "with blood on their hands" as a means of restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, a poll commissioned by Israel Hayom has found. Almost 85 percent of Israeli Jews are against the release of terrorists who have committed deadly attacks as a means of facilitating the upcoming peace talks, the poll shows (9.4% said they would support such a move and 5.7% had no opinion)... The poll was conducted by New Wave Research on Wednesday. 
What are we to make of politicians, democratically elected to do the will of the people, when they press relentlessly ahead with a decision about which their constituents, when asked, express their opposition at the rate of more than ten to one? 
As we recall the pain of the past few years and the disgraceful marginalization of terror victims at the hands of political figures, the words of George Santayana once again come to mind: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

It would have been very welcome to get more support from those who understand what is happening and yet remain silent. We would surely have preferred that this issue were the subject of vigorous public debate. And it would be great if the debate were focused on justice and not merely on the concrete threats to personal security that we are creating by means of this policy. Unfortunately that is not happening. Still, knowing what we know, we are unable to remain silent.

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