Seeking justice for terrorists

Anger should be directed where it belongs: at our own government for making deals with the devil.

Freed Palestinian prisoner poolside in Gaza 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Freed Palestinian prisoner poolside in Gaza 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This past week, The Jerusalem Post reported that a bipartisan group of 52 members of Congress sent a letter to US Attorney-General Eric Holder, calling on him to prosecute Palestinian terrorists responsible for killing and maiming Americans inside Israeli territory. The justification for their request is the 1991 US Anti-Terror Act, which states that the US may prosecute foreign nationals who perpetrate terrorist acts against American citizens even if those acts are not carried out on US soil. The attorney-general must provide written certification of the alleged offenses against American targets for the prosecution to proceed.
According to the article, “the letter also slams as ‘disappointing’ the US Department of Justice’s record regarding terrorism committed in Israel and its neighboring territories, saying that the US has never indicted, extradited, or prosecuted any of the Palestinian terrorists responsible for perpetrating the 71 terrorist attacks since 1993 in which Americans were killed or injured.”
The timing of the letter comes just four months after Israel released 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in an exchange with Hamas for captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. According to reports, more than a dozen of those released had the blood of US citizens on their hands. In addition to the letter from the US officials, other organizations have been lobbying Holder to initiate legal proceedings against the freed terrorists responsible for harming US citizens. Those groups include The Parents Forum for Justice, a group of US citizens and parents whose children were murdered or maimed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel over the past decade, and the Zionist Organization of America whose sharply worded letter to Holder stated that:
“If the Justice Department does not go after the Palestinian Arab terrorists who were recently released and [are] now living in freedom, then it is sending a dangerous and appalling message to victims and their families – that these terrorists and terrorist groups like Hamas can maim and murder innocent Americans with impunity, and that the United States does not value the victims and their families enough to ensure that these criminals are punished and justice is served.”
While I agree that Palestinian terrorists with the blood of Americans on their hands belong behind bars, if Israel was willing to let these murderers back into society, can we really expect the US Justice Department “to be more Catholic than the pope”? I highly doubt the appeals to the US attorney-general will bear fruit. That’s because the problem in this case isn’t rooted in US policy; the real problem is with the overall Israeli government policy towards prisoner exchanges, and therefore the burden of justice should fall on Israel’s shoulders.
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS are not blind to this fact. Immediately after the Schalit swap Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel’s Channel 2 that “Israel must change its approach to kidnap situations.” He later added that Israel, a “life-loving country, cannot continue” to release over 1,000 prisoners for a soldier, “ ...this slippery slope has to stop. A change is needed.”
Barak’s own Shamgar Committee – established in 2008 following the release of terrorist Samir Kuntar, four other Hezbollah members, and the bodies of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinians in exchange for the bodies of IDF servicemen Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose approval was held up by the government until Schalit was released – also recommends limiting the government’s ability to conduct such swaps. While no doubt the people of Israel are happy Gilad Schalit is home, the terrorists – whether their victims were Israeli, American, or dual citizens – got the message that terror pays. Since the most murderous prisoners – including those with multiple life sentences for the worst attacks in Israel’s history – were part of the release, why would the US put serious effort into righting Israel’s mistake?
Just last week it was revealed that released prisoner Ahlam Tamimi – one of the masterminds behind the 2001 Sbarro Pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem which resulted in the death of 15 people (including two Americans) – is now living freely in Jordan and hosting a talk show about prisoners in Israel on Hamas-affiliated TV. According to media reports, Tamimi not only has expressed no regret for her role, which included driving suicide bomber Izz al-Din al-Masri to Sbarro, but expressed pride and admitted she would gladly do it again.
Israelis and Americans who lost loved ones in that attack are justified in being outraged that Tamimi has achieved celebrity status in Jordan instead of rotting in prison for mass murder. The same holds true for the other families whose lives were tragically altered by the other 1,026 released terrorists. But their anger and feelings of despair should be directed where they belong: at our own government for making deals with the devil.
The writer is a freelance journalist and host of Reality Bytes Radio on