Sunday, July 21, 2013

21-Jul-13: In the debate over whether Israel should free convicted terrorists, one key argument is mostly ignored

The Supreme Court in Jerusalem
Matters are almost never as straight-forward as they are represented in the news reporting channels to be. But it's more and more clear that a US-brokered deal between Israel and the PA has been reached to start negotiating. And one of the main concessions made by Israel to get them started - perhaps the most significant one of - is a promise to (once again) free convicted Palestinian Arab terrorists.

We're hearing voices that criticize the decision, if a decision was indeed made. Prominent right-wing politician Danny Dayan, for instance, is quoted in Times of Israel ["Releasing Palestinian terrorists ‘immoral and unethical,’ settler leader says"] "lashing out" at minister Yuval Steinitz "for stating that Israel would release Palestinian prisoners in peace talks". Dayan. according to the ToI report, said this would be “immoral and unethical”. Steinitz said on Israel Radio yesterday that
Israel would release Palestinian prisoners but claimed the move was not akin to Israel giving into Palestinian preconditions — a position Israel has categorically rejected. He added that a number of the Palestinian prisoners to be released were “serious” cases, but that a large portion of them had already served many years... Dayan called Steinitz’s announcement a grave mistake. He said Israel’s decision to free “the most serious killers” among the Palestinian terrorists was “immoral and unethical”...  [Times of Israel]
Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is physically almost next door to
the Supreme Court.
Over at Ynet, they are quoting terror victim families who oppose a prisoner release. One of them says "A murderer belongs in jail, no matter if he's a Jew or an Arab. Our family has been ruined and there's no reason for him to go free." And it appears many people agree.
Over recent weeks, 18,000 people signed a petition published by the bereaved families, calling the prime minister not to release prisoners. [Ynet]
Readers of this blog know we tried desperately to prevent our daughter's murderer, a woman called Tamimi, from being set free in the Shalit Transaction of 2011. We failed - and then we failed again (though not for lack of trying) when the murderer sought to be united with her then-fiance, another unjustly released murderer, a year ago.

Since our daughter Malki was murdered in a Hamas attack on a Jerusalem restaurant in August 2001, the Israeli justice system has acted as if, in the literal sense of these words, we did not exist:
  • As law abiding citizens, and parents of a child murdered because she was a Jew, we were never informed of the murderer's arrests...
  • Or trials...
  • Or convictions...
  • Or - until the last possible moment which was in fact too late - of their being included in the Shalit walk-free list...
  • Or that the fiance of the central planner of Malki's killing was going to be allowed to cross the Jordan River and be united with her. This was contrary to the explicit conditions of his unjust release, and represented a 180 degree change of policy by the Israeli government - with zero consultation with the victims or (until we explicitly demanded an explanation that took two weeks to come) notification to any of us.
In fact throughout these past 12 years, at no stage have we ever been told anything relevant about the murderers of our child or their fates before we read about it in the news:
  • At no stage were our numerous efforts over the years to persuade the government to keep the unrepentant killer of our daughter behind bars (she was serving 16 life terms), and (a year ago) to deny her fiance the right to cross the river and marry her and make children with her, ever answered - at least not in a meaningful way (several responses came that were of very little substance). 
  • We wrote two private letters to the prime minister asking for him to make a certain decision. No response.
  • Then we wrote a third one a year ago and arranged for it to be passed to the addressee. It too received no response at all. It was and is as if we had never sent them.
  • So we openly published that third one [here] hoping the elicit a response. 
  • Again we got none.
How justice can be done while the justice system literally and consistently ignores the victims of the perpetrators baffles us. What kind of justice is that? It's difficult to adequately express how this chain of events makes us feel.

But it's not so difficult for us to say how we feel today about the news that, once again, Israel is - as it appears - going to unjustly free convicted and unrepentant killers and terrorists in the name of making peace. (Please notice that we are expressing no political viewpoint, and no assessment as to whether we feel this is good for peace or bad for peace. We fully appreciate that no one is interested in our viewpoints or assessments.)

Among all the various arguments generated by the decision to hand the terrorists over to the PA - which will immediately set them free - one word, one key concept is strikingly absent: justice.

What has become of the fundamental entitlement of the victims to see justice done? What has happened to the fundamental entitlement of Israeli society to see justice done? Israel's justice system ruled in the case of each and every one of the prisoners now to be freed. That system is serious and respected (at least in Israel). Why are its workings now being set aside in a wholesale fashion, for the second time in two years? Have we forgotten the central role played by notions of justice (the Hebrew word is doubled for emphasis when we encounter it in the Torah: Zedek zedek tirdof) in the value system that rightly brings so much pride to us Jews?

What appears to have happened is that the political echelon has taken upon itself to usurp decisions properly and constitutionally made by the judiciary - and not for the first time. Yet we are able to see no acknowledgement by any of the relevant sectors of society - not the media, not the opposition, not the NGO sector - that this is what has happened.

Why has such an extraordinary decision, one that brutally overturns basic notions of justice, met with such thundering silence? The answer cannot be that there is no other way. We are certain there is another way, and we have strong support from the acknowledged leading thinker in the field of how to deal with the terrorists. 
“A government that seeks the defeat of the terrorists must refuse to release convicted terrorists from prisons… Releasing imprisoned terrorists emboldens them and their colleagues… By nurturing the belief that their demands are likely to be met in the future, you encourage terrorist blackmail of the very kind that you want to stop. Only the most unrelenting refusal to ever give in to such blackmail can prevent this.” [“Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists” – Farrar Straus Giroux, New York 1995 at Page 144]
The writer of those words is a younger Binyamin Netanyahu. Eighteen years later, and as prime minister, he is facing precisely the test about which he wrote in his best-selling book. 

But 18 years is a long time - actually a lifetime if you think about murdered fifteen year olds like our daughter Malki. And 18 years later, he is no longer the thinker, writer and strategist he was then. Today, he is a politician.

A year ago, we called on Netanyahu to 
honor the principles of justice and decency on which our nation is based and remember the innocent victims whose loved ones are – yet again – experiencing unfathomable pain as a result of your choices.
The result, you already know. A year later it appears the victims of the terrorists are, again, being disgracefully disenfranchised by the politicians.


Anonymous said...

I agree with every word and even more than that call upon the government to finally fulfill the sacred responsibility of protecting the basic human and moral rights of its' citizens and not continue to disregard the open incitement by the PA, the rejoicing in acts of murder of innocent Jews who martyr those murderers - and to finally stand firm and refuse to accept terror- both verbal and physical - and punish those who would implement terror.
Yehudit Tayar

NormanF said...

Israel's government's is bent on ignoring what the Jewish prophets taught - peace and justice go hand in hand. They are the obverse side of the other and neither can last in the absence of the other. Israel has granted the Arabs something they most assuredly do not deserve in the first place and we can say with certainly that releasing terrorists who have murdered innocent Jews from prison will never lead to peace!

Naomi R. said...

Sadly we have not learned from our previous mistakes. Once again we are bending to the will of the US and the EU in the hope of continuing friendships that especially now do not exist. What has happened to our strength and courage, our bitachon and emunah.