What our prime minister can learn from the Birmingham church bombing

During August 2013, several parents of children who died in terror attacks sent a letter to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. This was not their first such plea to our leader. But it was an especially heartfelt and desperate one. And with good reason.

Netanyahu has now lowered the bar for the release of murderers to subterranean level. There it is mired along with other heady ideals and red lines the PM used to champion. Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has reported that before the end of September the second tranche of the prisoner releases, intended to further negotiations between Israel and the PA, will be executed.

Today is an auspicious time to publicize Netanyahu’s gratuitous stream of murderer releases.

First, it is the day after the Jewish holiest of holy days, the day of deepest introspection. Did our prime minister engage in any at all yesterday?

A month ago he received a letter containing the following paragraph from Bereaved Families for Peace and Justice:

After the release of so many murderers during your current and previous tenures, we are entitled to have you meet us, for you to see our pain up close and to hear our claims first hand. Please meet with us, sit with us, hear our voices, allow us to present our murdered children who cannot speak or shout, whose blood screams from every centimeter of this land’s earth while their murderers enjoy the freedom you have granted them.   

Mr. Netanyahu chose not to respond. Did he remember that heartfelt plea yesterday, the Day of Atonement?

This is also an appropriate day to raise this issue because September 15 is the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing in which four young African-American girls perished and another was seriously wounded. That terror attack, perpetrated by four Ku Klux Klansmen, is remembered as “a moment that would change a nation“.

Several months afterwards, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King wrote Christmas letters to the four grieving families in which he assured them:

“Here in the midst of the Christmas season my thoughts have turned to you. This has been a difficult year for you. The coming Christmas, when the family bonds are normally more closely knit, makes the loss you have sustained even more painful…”

Then he added

“As you know, many of us are giving up our Christmas as a memorial for the great sacrifices made this year in the Freedom Struggle. I know there is nothing that can compensate for the vacant place in your family circle, but we did want to share a part of our sacrifice this year with you. Perhaps there is some small thing dear to your heart in which this gift can play a part.”

King’s sensitive, delicate words moved me. They contrast starkly with the leaden silence that we, the parents of precious Jewish children who also perished in terror attacks, have received from our leaders.

Lest anyone excuse that silence with the assertion that our leaders are consumed with earth-shattering crises 24×7 that prohibit such niceties, here are some recent encounters that, according to the public record, Mr. Netanyahu has found worthy of his time:

  • On July 9, 2012, he met with the Israeli Olympic Delegation and gave each athlete a chocolate medal and asked them to return with real medals to add to the seven that Israeli Olympic athletes have won since 1992. He also drew a picture, for the Israel Olympic Committee Museum, of an Israeli Olympic athlete and wrote on it: “Faster, higher, stronger. To Israel’s Olympic delegation, good luck. Benjamin Netanyahu.”
  • On July 31, 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a delegation of Chinese Hebrew and Arabic students, in his office, as part of a project initiated by the Union of Local Authorities Foreign Liaison Department to mark 20 years of friendly relations between Israel and China.
  • In July 2013, Netanyahu and his wife hosted the 72-year-old musician, Cliff Richard, for dinner at their Jerusalem residence.
  • On August 1, 2013, American media personalities, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach were guests of Netanyahu during their week long tour of Israel with their families.
  • On August 27, 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opened the school year at a kindergarten and an elementary school in Netanya.

Perhaps the reason for Mr. Netanyahu’s studious avoidance of victims of terror is his determination for that chapter – the Second Intifada – to be forgotten.

That famous Israeli short-sightedness makes this goal realistic. With his guidance, this nation is liable to erase the terrorist horrors that have befallen us and enable Netanyahu to proceed unencumbered by that memory. Justice for those murderers is already a matter that concerns few Israelis.

To return to that seminal bombing in Birmingham: justice for the murderers of those innocent, beloved girls was pursued for decades. Initially the investigation stalled and the case was closed. It was reopened in 1971 and again in 1977. One suspect was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Then in 2000 and 2001, two of his accomplices were tried and convicted. By then, a fourth suspect had died without ever being tried.

Just as those American families did not allow their children’s murders to go unpunished, we too will not be thwarted by our prime minister’s refusal to acknowledge us.

His release of our daughter’s convicted and unrepentant murderer, Ahlam Tamimi in the Shalit Transaction of 2011, is an outrage that lives on. To this day, Tamimi, travels freely throughout the world boasting of her success – fifteen dead Jews – and inciting throngs of Islamist fans to murder more Jewish children.  Her filmed appearances on YouTube are there for all to see.

Mr. Netanyahu, we will never allow the world to forget the travesties of justice that you have perpetrated.

About the Author
A Jerusalem-based freelance writer, law graduate and commentator on the challenges facing people with special needs, Frimet Roth together with her husband Arnold co-founded The Malki Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org) in 2001. It provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child. The Roths' daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the terrorist bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria. Her personal blog, under the title "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly", is at http://frimetgbu.blogspot.com The views expressed here are personal.