Don’t just believe sensational negative reports about Israelis
The Torah demands trials for capital offenses. Yet, the rabbinic judges that need to judge such cases have one task only: to find subtle arguments why to acquit each accused. If the person is really culpable, the Good L^rd will know how to deal with him. If convicted, the execution is the same day and everything is done to minimalize suffering of the convicted. And he’s friendly urged to repent that he goes to Heaven innocently. But, some 2,000 years ago, the Sages ruled to stop such trials. Reasons: They were meant to deter a person from committing the worst sins. However, it did not work anymore. Life had become so cheap that death didn’t matter. Since the death penalty apparently didn’t deter anymore, a prime rational for having these cases had fallen away. And, there were so many cases that it became impossible to give each the careful attention it deserved.
In my opinion, the death penalty must also be seen in the light of the special character traits of the average Jew. Jews just don’t murder so quickly. (Yet, we are not invincible in this. When we go to a pub and drink alcohol to amounts as we see in Western countries, Jews kill too.) So, we teach our kids over and over not to kill people. Famously, Golda Meir said about our enemies: “[One day,] we can forgive them for killing our young people. [But never] can we forgive them for leaving us no choice but to kill their youths.” So, the Torah safely tell us that murderers must be executed to teach us there is a limit to what we are allowed to tolerate as a Jewish society. But, G^d knows that we won’t clamor for spilling blood by law.
How different all other nations that execute (pun intended) the death penalty. It’s often about revenge and anger, as we can see in public execution, and cruel executions or years of death row are not humane.
Judaism rejects completely a fallacy in the West that holds that there are two kinds of people, good and evil ones. (This often goes together with believing in two powers in the world: G^d and the Satan, Heaven forbid. Brother Satan is G^d’s faithful Angel giving as a chance to go against his enticements. Just like the weight in a home trainer is not our enemy but that what makes us stronger.) All humans have ethically better and worse inclinations. But if you call yourself good and others evil, yes, then it will be easier to claim (falsely) that you make the world better by executing them.
Modern Israel, a modern, democratic State with a Jewish flavor, and homeland of the Jewish People, has capital punishment on the books.
Yet, it’s only executed one, against Eichmann, designer of Hitler’s program to exterminate the Holy People. He was a proud and decent man and had done nothing wrong. He was executed and his ashes were dispersed.
So, when people want the death penalty for terrorists, the first problem is: Nothing equals what Eichmann did. And, even when you take the life of a murderer, you don’t really show that you value human life. Incarcerate the killer. Help him repent. And then, maybe after decades, let him teach the whole world to stay away from homicide and murder like the plague.
The next problem is that we don’t want to imitate the worst of Gentile Nations. We are supposed to be a Light unto them, lead the world to respect the sanctity of life. I penned before how bad the death penalty is.
The Sages are very clear that sometimes we are commended to kill. Namely, if that’s the last and only resort to prevent a murder. ‘If someone sets out to kill you, you kill him first.’ That, obviously, has nothing to do with being trigger-happy. As the laws of the IDF show. If an enemy is holding a rock to maim or kill, they are allowed to fire. Once the rock has left the terrorist’s hand, even if it will kill, you can’t shoot to kill anymore.
People who now want State murder for terrorists are wrong on three more accounts. The terrorists we’re facing want to be killed by us. They’re led to believe that what makes them holy is murdering us and then becoming a ‘martyr.’ So, what’s left to it is to revel in something so base as revenge. We don’t want to be cruel. The Talmud teaches us that Jews don’t kill for fun. There never was a Jewish hunting club. Killing captured terrorists is also off because it doesn’t deter. It’s useless. An extra reason is that we already have butchers. We don’t need executioners too. Look around in your super. Many of our butchers are not Jewish! You don’t want your kids to model themselves after Jews who’d love to be executioners.
Besides, murder and pro-execution stance are often related to anger. Anger isn’t just easy to form, it’s also among the most destructive feelings.
I think that many Israelis who opine they want the death penalty for terrorists actually are angry that many of them have been freed after some time or in a ‘prisoner exchange.’ Also, they’re having a good life, a bunch of genocidal murderers together in jail, getting some university degree, and each month their families receiving lots of money for their Jew-murders.
Yet. I would like to be on the brink of becoming law: capital punishment for men who murder women in their lives. (For rape, I would like life in jail. You ruin her life, we’ll ruin yours. That’s justice.) I don’t want the death penalty for killers of wives/girlfriends/exes/mothers/daughters/sisters, etc. Just that it’s about to become law retroactively should deter some.