It's been nine years since my
daughter Malki was murdered in the
suicide bombing of Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant and terrorism denial
is still rampant.
Foreign diplomats may still preface their complaints against Israel
with the formulaic "Israel has some genuine security concerns and they
have to be met." But after that obligatory line, most feel free to
attack Israel with no holds barred.
Some of Israel's home-grown critics don't even bother with such
political correctness. Our security is no longer a justified concern in
their view and they have no compunction about saying so. Suicide
bombers? Intifada? Israeli terror victims? Not in their history books.
Writing recently in Haaretz, columnist Merav Michaeli described
a variety of possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Her conclusion? It is incumbent upon us to "want to live in peace. Not
in security, but in peace." Her column was even entitled "Not in
Security, but Peace" in case the message was not clear enough.
Terrorism denial is the foundation on which the Free Gilad Schalit
campaign has been built. At some point, its legitimate effort to
pressure all involved parties to free Schalit was hijacked. Today its
goal is nothing short of maligning and undermining Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu for his unwillingness to release every last prisoner
demanded by Hamas.
This campaign could not have galvanized so many - some estimate 200,000
joined its eleven-day march to Jerusalem last month - without the
groundwork laid by terrorism denial. Were the faces of the 1,000
innocent Israelis murdered during the second intifada still fresh in
Israelis' minds, warnings about the dangers of a mass prisoner release
would not be dismissed as casually and as persistently as they are
The statistics are chilling. According to government numbers, some 45
percent of released terrorists return to terrorism, while the rate of
recidivism among Hamas members is 63%. And yet these numbers impact
fewer and fewer Israelis.
Instead we hear Mayor Yoel Levi of Ramle, in an address to the Schalit
march participants, calling the warnings against a prisoner release
And we hear Noam Schalit, Gilad’s father, refer to them as "doomsday
scenarios from twenty-five years ago."
In the current climate of terrorism denial, such attitudes gain
traction with ease. It is left to the bereaved families to fight this
dangerous phenomenon. We, who feel the pain of terrorism every minute
of every day, must remind Israelis what "releasing the prisoners" to
free Gilad Schalit entails. We must refresh the short collective memory
of who those prisoners are, what they did and what can we expect them
to do in the future.
Ahlam Tamimi is one prisoner that Hamas wants freed. As a woman, she
garners much sympathy for their cause. The mere mention of "woman" and
"prison" in one sentence is a surefire tearjerker.
But here are the facts. Tamimi is a mega-terrorist. She is responsible
for the deaths of fifteen men, women and children, all of them
civilians. She transported 10 kg of explosives hidden in a guitar case
into west Jerusalem, handed them to her accomplice and escorted him
through the city center disguised as a Western tourist. She led him to
the target she herself had selected, an eatery filled with families
eating lunch. She then warned her "weapon" to wait fifteen minutes
before he detonated the bomb - allowing her enough time to escape
After her conviction, Tamimi smiled with pleasure upon learning from an
interviewer how many children she murdered. She told Ynet: "I am not
sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse to
recognize Israel’s existence… Discussions will only take place after
Israel recognizes that this is Islamic land.” She has served only six
years out of sixteen consecutive life terms.
Does any rational human being believe that this monster will enroll in
a flower arranging course when she is released? Or sit at home writing
Former prisons commissioner Orit Adato, a staunch advocate of selective
release of security prisoners, maintains that some prisoners must
remain imprisoned. When asked "Do you think it is possible to
rehabilitate the 'ideological' security prisoners?" she replied: "Not
the hard core cases."
But neither expert views nor cold statistics are welcome by those eager
for a mass prisoner release.
An extraterrestrial landing on earth for the first time would be
forgiven for thinking that Netanyahu himself is holding Gilad Schalit
captive. In a July 31 speech, marking the 1,500th day of Gilad's
captivity, Noam Schalit addressed Netanyahu regarding his son: "Stop
abusing him" he said, adding "A captive soldier is not a piece of real
The truth is, Netanyahu has agreed to release 450 prisoners in
negotiations with Hamas and another 550 unilaterally as a gesture to
the Palestinian Authority. The 450 to Hamas includes over 100
terrorists who murdered more than 600 Israelis. Netanyahu has only
refused to release the "mega-terrorists," those responsible for the six
most horrific terror attacks of the second intifada.
However Netanyahu's concessions have not won him any friends among the
Free Schalit activists. Nor did his call to the international community
"to line up alongside the State of Israel and our unequivocal and just
demand that our abducted soldier be returned immediately" impress them.
They want nothing short of the fulfillment of every Hamas demand.
And with the Israeli media's unstinting support, the chances are they
will ultimately win the government's acquiescence.
Columnists and reporters alike have stooped to absurd hyperbole in
their coverage of the Schalit campaign. Haaretz's Yoel Marcus
wrote last month of the march: "It was the most spontaneous, humane and
impressive demonstration ever held here. At the risk of sounding
schmaltzy, it was good to see the face of the beautiful Israeli."
Here is "the face of a beautiful Israeli" I would like this country to
see today. It’s the face of a fifteen-year-old girl who cared
passionately about disabled children and volunteered with them in
myriad settings. Who loved and nurtured her own profoundly disabled
sister unconditionally. Who studied the flute for years and played
classical music on it that brought tears to my eyes. Who kept a diary
throughout the last year of her life in which she detailed her
activities in school and in her youth movement. Who recorded alongside
those anecdotes the names of the victims of every terror attack
perpetrated that year. Whose wish for the coming new year, which she
did not live to see, was that her family remain close and supportive of
one another. It is the face of my daughter, Malki, z"l.
On August 9th for the last eight years, I have urged others to remember
the Sbarro bombing and its fifteen victims. One of them was Malki. Five
others were the members of one family, a mother, father and three of
their eight children. Another victim was an only child who was pregnant
with what would have been her parents' first grandchild. One of the
"injured," not even counted among the fifteen dead, is a young mother
who has remained in a deep coma since that day.
This year, I beg you not only to remember them but to also to remind
another person, someone who may have fallen prey to terrorism denial.
The author is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. She and her husband
founded the Malki Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org)
in memory of their daughter Malki who was murdered in the Sbarro
restaurant massacre in 2001.