The Elad terrorists should face the death penalty - opinion

If convicted after a trial and any judicial appeals, should two men who hacked three Israelis to death with axes, in an act of unparalleled barbarism, be permitted to live?

 MOURNERS WEEP at the grave of Boaz Gol, murdered in the Elad terrorist attack on Thursday. If the terrorists who chopped Jews to death in Elad are not the very epitome of evil, the word has no meaning. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
MOURNERS WEEP at the grave of Boaz Gol, murdered in the Elad terrorist attack on Thursday. If the terrorists who chopped Jews to death in Elad are not the very epitome of evil, the word has no meaning.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Elad massacre of three Jews with axes on Israel’s Independence Day was sickening beyond description. If convicted in trial, the two suspects who were apprehended by the IDF on Sunday should face the death penalty, as should be the case with all those convicted in Israel of terrorism and mass murder.

No Jew, and indeed no decent person in whom there beats a human heart, could fail to be moved to tears by the release of Gilad Schalit – looking pale from years of being held in a cell and deprived of sunlight, and extremely shy due to years of being denied virtually all human contact – by the Hamas terrorists in October of 2011. To keep true to its promise that no soldier is ever forgotten or left behind, Israel welcomed home a hero for whom it had traded 1,000 murderers, terrorists and criminals committed to its destruction.

As a parent who just this week saw his third child enlist as soldier in the IDF, that commitment is one I applaud with all my heart.

But as Israel celebrated the return of its soldier a decade ago, we also remember how Hamas and Palestinians who are dedicated to Israel’s destruction ululated and celebrated the return to their society of killers who had taken the lives of so many innocent men, women and children guilty of no other sin than going about their daily business. Israel cheered at the restoration of one of its sons who had been kidnapped while trying to protect these innocent lives.

The conflicting value systems of the two opposing camps – one dedicated to the life, and the other, tragically, having been overtaken for decades by a culture of death – could not have been drawn in starker terms, as we watched our Palestinian brothers and sisters welcoming terrorists home with parades, while Israel re-embraced a soldier whose first words to the world media, after having been treated like a caged animal for five years, were his hopes for lasting peace.

IDF Soldier Gilad Schalit in Hamas custody (credit: HAMAS MEDIA)IDF Soldier Gilad Schalit in Hamas custody (credit: HAMAS MEDIA)

It also goes without saying that when Israel is prepared to trade a thousand predators for one lonely soldier, it demonstrates, in the starkest manner imaginable, Israel’s commitment to the infinite value of human life.

Still, the question remains whether the deal was worth it. Much comment has been made both pro and con. As a father of an active duty IDF soldier, I understand completely why prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the trade.

But I will here limit myself to a different angle of the story entirely, one that might obviate the need to trade killers for captured soldiers in the future.

IT IS high time that Israel finally instituted a death penalty for terrorists. In the United States Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 160 people in Oklahoma in April 1995, was dispatched after a fair trial and an appeal with no public outcry whatsoever. No terrorist who takes that many lives should be permitted to live. So why would Israel lock up the most rancid, heartless, and cold-blooded mass murderers in its jails just so that they can serve as a lure for Israelis to be kidnapped in order that these killers be paroled?

If convicted after a trial and any judicial appeals, should two men who hacked three Israelis to death with axes, in an act of unparalleled barbarism, be permitted to live? And if so, what is the deterrent to future monsters whose insidious hatred of the Jewish people might inspire them to the same?

A partial list of the terrorists released by Israel in 2011, and who were previously fed three warm meals a day in an Israeli prison for years, includes Ibrahim Jundiya, who was serving multiple life sentences for carrying out an attack that killed 12 people and wounded 50. There was Amina Mona, an accomplice to the murder of 16-year-old Ofir Rachum. She lured him over the Internet to a meeting where terrorists were waiting to kill him. Jihad Yaghmur and Yahya Sinwar were involved in the abduction and murder of Nachshon Wachsman, which also led to the murder of General Staff Reconnaissance Unit member Nir Poraz, head of the rescue mission sent to save him.

Also released then was Ahlam Tamimi, the 20-year-old student accomplice to the Sbarro restaurant bombing in 2001 that left 15 dead and 130 wounded; Aziz Salha, who was famously photographed displaying his bloodied hands for the mob below after beating an Israeli soldier to death; and Nasser Yataima, who planned the 2002 Passover massacre that killed 30 and wounded 140.

The question raised by this despicable list of murderers being released is this: Why were they still alive in the first place? Why were they not given fair and impartial trials and the right to appeal, and, if found guilty of murder, and especially mass murder, executed by the state?

Some will argue that this will only invite the Arab terrorist organizations to execute the Israeli prisoners they hold. It is therefore worth recalling that this is what the Palestinian terrorist organizations do overwhelmingly anyway, and that Schalit was the first living soldier to be returned to Israel in more than a quarter century. In July 2008, Israel arranged another prisoner exchange in order to obtain the release of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured two years earlier, sparking Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, only to tragically discover these heroes had been dead all along.

Others, especially Europeans, will argue that the death penalty is cruel and Israel is more humane for banning it. I disagree. While there is a robust debate here in the United States related to the death penalty over individual acts of murder, there should be no such debate whatsoever when it comes to premeditated mass murder and terrorism. The European powers such as Britain and France participated in the execution of Nazi leaders in the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1946, with no compunction whatsoever in mandating state-sponsored executions of mass murderers.

Indeed, I argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment of the families of Israel’s victims of terrorism to leave these terrorists alive in Israeli prisons, with the families not knowing whether they will even serve out their sentences, should another Israeli soldier, God forbid, fall into captive hands. The families deserve closure.

For those who argue that if Israel puts its imprisoned terrorists to death, there will be nothing left to bargain with should an Israeli soldier or citizen become captive, I respond that other deals can always be made, be it with money, international pressure, or the exchange of Arab prisoners who are not guilty of terrorism.

And I want to repeat, I completely understand why Netanyahu made the exchange and in so doing established the infinite value of every IDF soldier. But this is separate from the question of whether Israel should have a death penalty for terrorists.

And it’s not as if Israel has no precedent in taking the life of a mass murderer, having put to death one abominable soul, the architect of the Holocaust itself, Adolf Eichmann, at midnight in a Ramle prison on May 31, 1962. Eichmann’s body was then cremated, and his ashes polluted the Mediterranean a day later beyond Israel’s territorial waters. And the last words of one of the most wicked monsters of all time? “I die believing in God.” Let’s make sure that others like him, whose crimes make a mockery of God, meet the same end.

And if the terrorists who chopped Jews to death in Elad are not the very epitome of evil, then the word has no meaning.

The writer has just published Kosher Hate about the necessity of hating and resisting evil. Follow him at shmuley.com and on Instagram @RabbiShmuley