Will more freed murderers bring peace?

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

By FRIMET ROTH
July 23, 2013 22:01
Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi hosts a talk show.

Ahlam Tamimi female terrorist hamas sbarro 390. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)

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.

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The Sbarro massacre was significant for several reasons.

Its 15 victims included seven adults 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 child, was herself an only child. One of the wounded, 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 15 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 status 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 Schalit. She was repatriated to her family in Jordan where she has lived since. Prime Minister Binyamin 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 Schalit 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 any new terrorist activities. To date, tens of Palestinians freed in the Schalit 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 Schalit 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 “Allahu 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 now poised for a Schalit Deal Redux – minus the return of an Israeli captive. Palestinian Authority President 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 from our leaders. As Yuval Steinitz, the minister for strategic affairs and a close ally of Netanyahu’s, conceded last week: “...there will be heavyweight prisoners who have been in jail for tens of years.”

As we all know, in Israel one does not get such a lengthy sentence for illegal parking or even the odd armed robbery. “Heavyweight” is the new euphemism employed 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 New York Times 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 Netanyahu’s attitude.

In a recent New York Times column about the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, 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 of such a devil-may-care approach toward murder and justice, there may be hope for our society. If they warn Netanyahu that another Schalit-style release will come with a stiff political price attached, 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.

The writer is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the 2001 Sbarro restaurant bombing. With her husband, Arnold, she founded the Malki Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org); it provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.


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