President Obama and some of his predecessors have stood before the American people and solemnly declared their intention to bring the terrorists who kill Americans to justice. To his credit, Obama killed bin Laden and a number of other terrorists operating in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. One place, however, where Americans have been murdered with impunity – at least from the perspective of American justice – is Israel and the disputed territories.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, at least 64 Americans, including two unborn children, were murdered by Palestinian terrorists since 1993 (the number is 138 if you go back to the 1960s). Most recently, American tourist Taylor Force was stabbed to death in Jaffa Port on March 9, 2016. No one expects the United States to launch drone strikes in Israel or the West Bank; Israel is very capable of ensuring the victims of terror get justice.
Nevertheless, the United States does have an obligation to protect its citizens. Toward that end the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT) was created to “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of deaths of American citizens overseas are a high priority within the Department of Justice [DOJ].” The OVT is also supposed to “to ensure that the rights of victims and their families are honored and respected throughout the criminal justice system.” A congressional hearing was held on May 10 to hear from the family members of several victims and Brad Wiegmann, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the National Security Division of the DOJ. Wiegmann said that the OVT assists foreign prosecutions, creating the impression that OVT would not take direct action if the Israeli government acted appropriately. The OVT was established in May 2006 and, to date, has not prosecuted a single Palestinian terrorist. Wiegmann, for example, gave no indication that DOJ was seeking extradition of any of the murderers, such as the man who opened fire on cars stuck in a traffic jam in Gush Etzion and killed 18-year-old American Ezra Schwartz.
This provoked incredulity from Rep. Ron DeSantis, who told Wiegmann, “When it’s 0 to 64, people wonder what the department is doing.”
Arnold Roth, whose daughter Malka was killed in the 2001 bombing of Sbarro pizza in Jerusalem, testified that he had received no updates or results and questioned whether “diplomatic considerations override the law enforcement.”
Echoing Roth, another bereaved American father, Steven Flatow, wrote in a recent column that it appeared the Obama administration considered the Palestinian Authority off-limits and allowed terrorists to be sheltered there. Flatow also wants to know why the administration’s Rewards for Justice website does not mention the names of any victims of Palestinian terror and only describes two attacks.
The DOJ website gives further credence to the notion that the administration has politicized the issue by categorizing Palestinian attacks as “Violence in Opposition to the Middle East Peace Negotiations.” This is simply preposterous as there have been virtually no attacks that can be attributed to opposition to peace talks. Since there have been no such talks for the duration of Obama’s term, how do they explain the murders of eight Americans?
The label for Palestinian attacks is sadly consistent with the administration’s refusal to acknowledge that Islamic extremists are responsible for terrorism. At least two victims, one a three-month-old girl, were slaughtered by Hamas. These radical Muslims kill Jews for one reason -- because they are Jews. It is especially painful for the victims’ families that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing Palestinian terror. Thanks to the U.S. and other donors, the PA is able to pay salaries to terrorists in Israeli prisons and reward the families of “martyrs” who died attacking Israelis. The killers of Americans are also glorified along with other terrorists whose names adorn parks, streets and schools.
Roth concluded his testimony by reading a statement by Sherry Mandell, whose son was brutally murdered by terrorists, which sums up the inaction of the DOJ and its impact on the families of victims:
It hurts, saddens and enrages me that the OVT, which was once created by a law named after my 13 year old son who was beaten to death by terrorists--is not being used to help families such as ours. Koby Mandell's name was expunged from the OVT website with no sign that it was ever there. I did get a phone call telling me that the US government was closing the case--even though the killers were never found. They closed the case, burying Koby again. Causing us another round of pain. The office that was created in my son's name to protect us, instead damages us. There has been no communication since. No sign that the OVT could care less about an innocent 13 year old American boy named Koby--or others like him.