Terror victims divided over Schalit prisoner swap

Almagor: We're sending a message to terrorists to continue to kill Jews; infrastructures minister calls deal "victory for terror."

By
October 12, 2011 12:59
4 minute read.
Sbarro Terror Attack in Jerusalem

Sbarro Terror Attack 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In a sea of ecstatic supporters dancing and singing outside the Schalit family tent at midnight on Tuesday, a somber Lea Schijveschuurder stood silently, alone, to remind the masses that Gilad Schalit’s release after 1,935 days in captivity comes at a heavy price. Across from the Schalit tent, she held a sign that read “The blood of my parents is screaming in their grave.” Schijveschuurder’s parents and three siblings were murdered in the terrorist attack at Sbarro in August 2001.

“Do they want them to kill more people?” a tearful Schijveschuurder asked the Post as she stood opposite the Schalit tent and fended off arguments from Schalit supporters. “For me, enough people have died.”

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While it is still unclear if the terrorists involved with the Sbarro attack will be on the list of 1,027 prisoners to be released, the Israeli public will grapple with Schijveschuurder’s difficult question as preparations begin to bring Schalit home.

“There will be a public argument, there will be an argument between one pain and another pain,” said Shimshon Liebman, the head of the Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit, early on Wednesday morning as the crowds began to thin out. “We need to be courageous to pay a price and to stay strong. One of our soldiers is worth much more than theirs are. We’ll survive the appeals because at the end of the day the Jewish morals are stronger than anything else for the people of Israel,” he said.

The head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, Meir Indor, slammed the prisoner swap deal. “The Schalit family wins and the state loses,” he said. “It’s a victory for terror and Hamas."

"We know from our experience that hundreds of people will pay with future terrorist attacks, and that they’ll organize and more kidnappings,” Indor added.

According to Almagor, since 2004, 183 Israelis have been killed in terror attacks carried out by terrorists who were released from prison.

“How many will be killed for Schalit?” he asked, before heading into a marathon of meetings to prepare appeals to the High Court of Justice to halt the deal.

Indor accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of giving into popular pressure, and trying to do something to take the focus of the social protests from the summer, despite denouncing the practice of prisoner exchanges during his political career and in his book.

He denounced the government for sending a clear message to terrorists: “Go ahead and do terror. Continue to kill Jews. There’s no justice and no paying for it. It’s a revolving door and the system of terror is working in Israel.”

But many terror victims supported the deal. Kay Wilson, who survived a terror attack last December which killed her friend Christine Luken, said she cried with happiness when she heard that Gilad Schalit was coming home.

The trial of the terrorists who stabbed Luken to death and severely wounded Wilson just started last month, so it is highly unlikely that they will be included in the prisoner swap because they have not yet been sentenced.

Wilson said despite her support of the prisoner swap, she would have “very mixed feelings” if the men who had perpetrated the terror attack were eventually released. “I would feel that the country has done me a personal injustice,” she said on Wednesday. “On the other hand, there’s justice for another family. It’s the stupid dilemma we live with.”

“Emotionally, it’s healthier to celebrate life rather than to get stuck with loss,” Wilson said. “Death is horrible, but there’s something very redeeming about returning one of our own.”

She added that as a survivor, she had a different perspective from people like Schijveschuurder, who had lost multiple family members. Still, Wilson disagreed with the idea that the country must weigh who is in more pain, the Schalit family or the victims of terror.

“I don’t think you can ever compare pain because everyone’s experience is subjective,” she said. “On the other hand, if you experience death, it’s ghastly but there is a closure. It’s agony of waiting and non-closure and not knowing [of the Schalit family] that’s almost more horrendous because they can’t get on with their life.”

Wilson said the thought of eventually releasing terrorists who perpetrated the attack against her in a future swap had plagued her since the news broke, but she still support Aviva and Noam Schalit.

“Of course that’s a huge fear [of their eventual release],” she said. “But I don’t think that if they weren’t released, we could have stopped terrorism anyways. It’s like cutting the grass - you can get rid of some, but it keeps growing back. It’s not like if you keep these people in prison there’s not going to be terrorism, they’re breeding terrorists through poverty and lack of education, and it’s a much more complex problem.”

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