Terror victims' families urge Olmert not to free security prisoners

Man whose son, daughter, and son-in-law died in a terrorist shooting says he feels gov't has betrayed him.

olmert 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Bereaved father Zion Swery wanted vengeance for the deaths of his two children and son-in-law in a drive-by terrorist shooting on Highway 443 in 2001. "After my children were murdered, I wanted to kill the terrorists," he told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. At the time, however, he led with his head, not his heart and instead trusted that the government would pursue justice on his behalf. But in light of news this week that the government may consider Hamas's demand to release jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti along with 449 other Palestinian prisoners involved in terrorist attacks in exchange for the return of Cpl. Gilad Schalit, kidnapped by Hamas on the Gaza border in June 2006, Swery is rethinking the wisdom of that choice. "The state is abandoning me," he said. Barghouti, serving five life sentences for his involvement in terror attacks that killed numerous Israelis, was acquitted of charges that he participated in the deaths Swery's children and son-in-law. Still, Swery remains convinced of Barghouti's culpability. He said his life and those of his family have never been the same since the deaths of his son Doron, 21, then a soldier, his daughter Sharon Ben-Shalom, 24, and her husband, Yaniv Ben-Shalom, 25. When the shooting occurred, Swery said, his daughter threw her body over her two young children. Efrat was a year and eight months old and Shahar only eight months old. Both children were spared and are now being raised by Yaniv's sister. Swery recalled how, at the funeral, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (then mayor of Jerusalem) promised to pursue those responsible for the attack. It is upsetting, Swery said, that Olmert is considering going back on his word. "I am angry. I am frustrated. I am not sleeping. The Pessah holiday was not a holiday," said Swery. He said that he has felt as resurgence of his same urge years ago to handle the matter himself. "If the government does not know how to act, I would have no choice, as a father of dead children, to go and assassinate Barghouti," said Swery. He added that this feeling came from his heart but was tempered by his head. Swery said he is torn, because he is certain that the potential release of Palestinian prisoners would only lead to more kidnappings and Israeli deaths. He is joined in his concern by the Almagor Terror Victims Association. On Tuesday, the group held a press conference in Jerusalem in which members of the group lit yartzheit candles in front of a tattered poster of terror victims issued by the government at the time of Barghouti's trial. Almagor Director Meir Indor said he had hoped at the time that there would be no further need for such a sign. Sadly, he added, he was mistaken. Indor said that Almagor research showed that in the past five years, 177 Israelis were killed in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians released in prisoner exchange deals. "When you release prisoners, you create a new wave of terrorism," he said. He asked the government to refrain from caving to Hamas's demand. In addition, Indor said Israel should hold security prisoners under harsher conditions than those they enjoy at present, including being denied visiting rights and access to education. The families of Schalit and reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev have not been allowed to see their sons, and therefore Palestinian prisoners should not be allowed visits with their families, said Indor. He and other terror victims said that while they empathized with the Schalit family, there were others ways to free Gilad that did not involved risking Israeli lives. Speaking at the press conference, Yifat Alon - whose mother, Noa, and niece Gal Eisenmann were killed in a 2002 terror attack in Jerusalem's French Hill, warned that more Israeli deaths were the only possible outcome of a prisoner release. "We have tried this before. We have set prisoners free and what we got was that people were murdered. I want the government to be honest. We are going to pay with other people's lives," she said. "We must not let this happen," Alon added. New York native Joyce Boim, who immigrated to Israel in 1985, said she did not want anyone else to endure the pain she has suffered since her son David, 17, was killed by in a drive-by terrorist shooting outside of Beit El in 1996. "We do not want any more windows or widowers, or parents without children," said Boim. She pled with the government to keep the terrorists in jail. "They were put there for a reason," said Boim.