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An Israeli death penalty for terrorists

It is cruel to the victims' families to leave these murderers alive in prison with the possibility they'll be released

I had an extraordinary day with my family as we visited the communities spread throughout ancient and Biblical Judea and Samaria in the West Bank. The first Israeli settlement we visited was Itamar, the site of the March 2011 massacre of the Fogel family that outraged the world.

Many of the facts are known to the public. The Fogel family were residents of Gush Katif, the Israeli settlement block that was dismantled by Ariel Sharon in 2005. The Fogel’s later moved to Itamar in 2009. On a Friday night, when most of the family was fast asleep, two terrorists from a nearby Arab village infiltrated the home, murdering and decapitating three-month-old baby Hadas, and her older siblings, Yoav, and Elad. The parents were mutilated repeatedly and killed by a knife attack. When their twelve-year-old daughter Tamar arrived home that Friday night, from a communal youth meeting, she discovered most of the family massacred. Her two younger brothers Roi and Yishai, ages eight and two, were in the home when the atrocity happened and miraculously survived.

I visited the actual home where this terrible massacre took place. I went up to the window where the terrorists escaped. They were later caught and after initially denying their involvement in the massacre they later bragged about it. They are currently serving life sentences in Israeli prisons, but as with all terrorists in Israel, there exists the permanent possibility that they can be released at any moment in a prisoner exchange, making it so much more painful for families to heal.

I will never forget how Hamas and the Palestinian Authority ululated and celebrated the return to their society of killers who had taken the lives of so many innocent men, women, and children, in Israel after the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit.

The conflicting values systems of the two opposing camps – one dedicated to life and the other, tragically, having been overtaken for decades by a culture of death – could not have been drawn in more stark relief than watching 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. It also goes without saying that when Israel is prepared to trade a thousand predators for one lonely soldier it is due to Israel’s commitment to the infinite value of human life.

Perhaps it is time for Israel to consider 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 man who takes that many lives deserves to live. So why would Israel lock up the most rancid, heartless, and cold-blooded killers in its jails just so that they can serve as a lure for Israelis to be kidnapped in order that these killers be paroled?

A partial list of terrorists who were released by Israel in exchange for Shalit, and who were previously fed three warm meals a day in an Israeli prison, included 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 waited to kill him. Jihad Yaghmur and Yehia Sanwar were involved in the abduction and murder of Nachshon Wachsman which also led to the murder of Matkal Unit member, Nir Poraz, head of the rescue mission sent to save him.

Also released were Ahlam Tamimi, the 20-year-old student accomplice to the Sbarro restaurant bombing in 2001 that left fifteen dead and 130 wounded, Aziz Salha who was famously photographed displaying his bloodied hands for the mob crowd 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 this despicable list of murderers released begs is this: why were they still alive in the first place? Why were they not given fair, just, and impartial trials and the right to appeal, and if found guilty of murder and especially mass murder, executed by the state?

Hussein Jawadra, the teenager who murdered the Israeli soldier on the bus, said he did so because two of his cousins are in Israeli prisons, one for the murder of two Israelis, and the other for attempted murder. So here yet again we have the murder of a soldier because the state has allowed living terrorists to be avenged.

Some will argue that a death penalty for terrorists will only invite the Arab terror organizations to execute the Israeli prisoners they hold. It is therefore worth recalling that this is what the Palestinian terror organizations do overwhelmingly anyway and that Gilad Shalit 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 they 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. Europeans powers like 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 against the families of Israel’s terror victims to leave these terrorists alive in Israeli prisons with the families not knowing day to day if they will even serve out their sentences should another Israeli soldier fall into captive hands. The families deserve closure.

For those who argue that if Israel puts its 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 it’s not as if Israel has no precedent in taking the life of a mass murderer, having put to death one abominable soul, holocaust arch-architect, Adolph Eichmann, at midnight in a Ramla prison on 31 May, 1962. Eichmann’s body was then cremated with his ashes polluting the Mediterranean a day later beyond Israel’s territorial waters. And the last words of one of the most wicked fiends of all time? “I die believing in God.”

Let’s make sure that others like him whose crimes make a mockery of God and the infinite value of human life meet the same end.

About the Author
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. He is the author of Judaism for Everyone and 30 other books, including his most recent, Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.
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