Nine years after the Sbarro massacre

We, the bereaved families who feel the pain of terror every day must remind Israelis what 'releasing prisoners' for Gilad Schalit entails.

sbarro bombin 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sbarro bombin 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It's been nine years since my daughter Malki was murdered in thesuicide bombing of Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant and terrorism denialis still rampant.
 Foreign diplomats may still preface their complaints against Israelwith the formulaic  "Israel has some genuine security concerns and theyhave to be met." But after that obligatory line, most feel free toattack Israel with no holds barred.
Some of Israel's home-grown critics don't even bother with suchpolitical correctness. Our security is no longer a justified concern intheir view and they have no compunction about saying so. Suicidebombers? Intifada? Israeli terror victims? Not in their history books.
Writing recently in Haaretz, columnist Merav Michaeli describeda variety of possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Her conclusion?  It is incumbent upon us to "want to live in peace. Notin security, but in peace."  Her column was even entitled "Not inSecurity, but Peace" in case the message was not clear enough.
Terrorism denial is the foundation on which the Free Gilad Schalitcampaign has been built. At some point, its legitimate effort topressure all involved parties to free Schalit was hijacked. Today itsgoal is nothing short of maligning and undermining Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu for his unwillingness to release every last prisonerdemanded by Hamas.
This campaign could not have galvanized so many - some estimate 200,000joined its eleven-day march to Jerusalem last month - without thegroundwork laid by terrorism denial. Were the faces of the 1,000innocent Israelis murdered during the second intifada still fresh inIsraelis' minds, warnings about the dangers of a mass prisoner releasewould not be dismissed as casually and as persistently as they arebeing now.
The statistics are chilling. According to government numbers, some 45percent of released terrorists return to terrorism, while the rate ofrecidivism among Hamas members is 63%. And yet these numbers impactfewer and fewer Israelis.
Instead we hear Mayor Yoel Levi of Ramle, in an address to the Schalitmarch participants, calling the warnings against a prisoner release"scaremongering".
And we hear Noam Schalit, Gilad’s father, refer to them as "doomsdayscenarios from twenty-five years ago."
In the current climate of terrorism denial, such attitudes gaintraction with ease. It is left to the bereaved families to fight thisdangerous phenomenon. We, who feel the pain of terrorism every minuteof every day, must remind Israelis what "releasing the prisoners" tofree Gilad Schalit entails. We must refresh the short collective memoryof who those prisoners are, what they did and what can we expect themto do in the future.
Ahlam Tamimi is one prisoner that Hamas wants freed. As a woman, shegarners 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 responsiblefor the deaths of fifteen men, women and children, all of themcivilians. She transported 10 kg of explosives hidden in a guitar caseinto west Jerusalem, handed them to her accomplice and escorted himthrough the city center disguised as a Western tourist. She led him tothe target she herself had selected, an eatery filled with familieseating lunch. She then warned her "weapon" to wait fifteen minutesbefore he detonated the bomb - allowing her enough time to escapeunharmed.
After her conviction, Tamimi smiled with pleasure upon learning from aninterviewer how many children she murdered. She told Ynet: "I am notsorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse torecognize Israel’s existence… Discussions will only take place afterIsrael recognizes that this is Islamic land.” She has served only sixyears out of sixteen consecutive life terms.
Does any rational human being believe that this monster will enroll ina flower arranging course when she is released? Or sit at home writinga novel?
Former prisons commissioner Orit Adato, a staunch advocate of selectiverelease of security prisoners, maintains that some prisoners mustremain imprisoned. When asked "Do you think it is possible torehabilitate the 'ideological' security prisoners?" she replied: "Notthe hard core cases."
But neither expert views nor cold statistics are welcome by those eagerfor a mass prisoner release.
An extraterrestrial landing on earth for the first time would beforgiven for thinking that Netanyahu himself is holding Gilad Schalitcaptive. In a July 31 speech, marking the 1,500th day of Gilad'scaptivity, Noam Schalit addressed Netanyahu regarding his son: "Stopabusing him" he said, adding "A captive soldier is not a piece of realestate."
The truth is, Netanyahu has agreed to release 450 prisoners innegotiations with Hamas and another 550 unilaterally as a gesture tothe Palestinian Authority. The 450 to Hamas includes over 100terrorists who murdered more than 600 Israelis. Netanyahu has onlyrefused to release the "mega-terrorists," those responsible for the sixmost horrific terror attacks of the second intifada.
However Netanyahu's concessions have not won him any friends among theFree Schalit activists. Nor did his call to the international community"to line up alongside the State of Israel and our unequivocal and justdemand 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 theywill ultimately win the government's acquiescence.
Columnists and reporters alike have stooped to absurd hyperbole intheir coverage of the Schalit campaign.  Haaretz's Yoel Marcuswrote last month of the march: "It was the most spontaneous, humane andimpressive demonstration ever held here. At the risk of soundingschmaltzy, it was good to see the face of the beautiful Israeli."
Here is "the face of a beautiful Israeli" I would like this country tosee today. It’s the face of a fifteen-year-old girl who caredpassionately about disabled children and volunteered with them inmyriad settings. Who loved and nurtured her own profoundly disabledsister unconditionally. Who studied the flute for years and playedclassical music on it that brought tears to my eyes. Who kept a diarythroughout the last year of her life in which she detailed heractivities in school and in her youth movement. Who recorded alongsidethose anecdotes the names of the victims of every terror attackperpetrated that year. Whose wish for the coming new year, which shedid not live to see, was that her family remain close and supportive ofone another. It is the face of my daughter, Malki, z"l.
On August 9th for the last eight years, I have urged others to rememberthe Sbarro bombing and its fifteen victims. One of them was Malki. Fiveothers were the members of one family, a mother, father and three oftheir eight children. Another victim was an only child who was pregnantwith what would have been her parents' first grandchild. One of the"injured," not even counted among the fifteen dead, is a young motherwho has remained in a deep coma since that day.
This year, I beg you not only to remember them but to also to remindanother person, someone who may have fallen prey to terrorism denial.
The author is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. She and her husbandfounded the Malki Foundation ( memory of their daughter Malki who was murdered in the Sbarrorestaurant massacre in 2001.