Releasing Murderers, Incitement and Collective Responsibility

The country is in turmoil this week in the expectation the release of convicted murderers. This is normal. It would be tragic indeed if such an act did not register on Israeli society’s consciousness. The Bayit Yehudi party, while part of the coalition government, tried to prevent future prisoner releases from happening through the tabling of a bill. The Prime Minister saw fit to bring it up in the Cabinet meeting and have it voted down.

This opposition brought waves of condemnation across the political spectrum. Suddenly, the most unruly and frankly contemptible parliamentarians had assumed the role of constitutional scholars, discovering the convention of “collective responsibility.”

On another occasion, I will put forward the pressing case for electoral reform, which among other things will strengthen the convention of collective responsibility. Suffice it to say, that were the roles reversed, I have no doubt in my mind, and frankly neither does anyone else, that Tzipi Livni and co would be screaming blue murder. (More on that in a second.)

I was in a TV studio this afternoon, watching a live interview of the MK I work for. Next to him was Yossi Tzur, father of a teenager, Asaf Tzur who had been murdered in a terrorist attack during the Oslo years. Those responsible were caught, tried and convicted of these heinous acts.

Mr Tzur made the following point that should be echoing around every office in the Knesset, and every home around the country: “Why is it that while my son’s murderers are being set free, politicians (and I leave the reader to work out who) are screaming “INCITEMENT” against those who are opposing the idea. Why is it that while my son’s murderers return to their families, certain parties seem more content to paint entire sections of society as bigoted on the back of one individual’s disgraceful behaviour?”

All too often, we focus on matters of marginal importance at the expense of the burning questions – Why is it correct to release murderers for no palpable gain? How can a Justice Minister abrogate Justice? Why is there a political Punch-and-Judy going at a time when the whole country should be rallying around those who are seeing their loved ones’ murderers returning to their families? The idea that ‘we all equally feel the pain’ of this concession is as trite as it is offensive.

Those who claim it is the Government’s/coalition’s/Bayit Yehudi’s fault for ‘choosing’ to agree to releasing murderers over some other type ‘precondition’ for the ‘honour’ of speaking to Saeb Erekat should learn how the political system works in this country – this was not a decision made in Naftali Bennet’s office but rather in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Most of all, let us reach out to those families who have had their wounds ripped open once again. We cannot know their pain, but they can, should and must know that the rest of the nation cares.

About the Author
David Gross was born in Geneva and grew up in London. He graduated from UCL in 2010 with a B.A. in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He has previously served as Southern Fieldworker of Bnei Akiva UK. He has studied and taught in Yeshivat HaKotel, and currently teaches in Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. He will be starting an MBA at Bar Ilan in the coming academic year.