Death Penalty for Terrorists Bill – Moral but not Smart

While there is no arguing terrorists should die – the “Death Penalty for Terrorists” bill is a political sham. There are other options available if the government is serious.

Funeral of Hamas terrorists killed by Israel (Photo - Abd Rahim Hatib, Flash 90)

In the afternoon of September 13, 2004, a scream filled the halls of Beit Agron in Jerusalem, the home of many of the foreign media offices in Israel – “They killed Zaki, they killed Zaki, the bastards killed Zaki.” The person screaming was none other than a journalist for one of the leading British newspapers.

I served as the Director of the Government Press Office at the time and immediately approached her to find out what had happened. The concern was that one of her colleagues or employees of the newspaper had been killed. This concern dissipated quickly. When asked who Zaki was, she replied, “What do you mean? Zaki, Zaki Zubeida, and you killed him just now”.  The person in question was terrorist murderer Zakariya Zubeida of Jenin and the “bastards” who killed him according to her were none other than us, the Israelis.

Zubeida was not killed that day. In the Israeli air force attempt to target him though, his deputy and two of his men were killed. In the first hours it was not clear who had been hurt, but the rumor spread quickly among the foreign correspondents that it was indeed Zubeida.

Zakariya Zubeida was a big star among the foreign press in those days, the days of Arab violence known as the “Intifada”. He met with them and escorted them through the streets of Jenin, bragging about his actions and the violent way he treated those he suspected of collaborating with the Jews. To his credit, he did not put a nice spin on things. Yet this did not prevent Reuters’ employees from having him star in a goodbye video they prepared for a colleague who was leaving the country.  Their friend “Zaki” is shown in the video as the future head of their office in Ramallah.

I remembered this story this week when the death penalty for terrorists bill was promoted in the Knesset. Those who promote the law ignore the realities in the world and the attitude of the world towards our despicable enemies.

Let me clarify first that I believe a terrorist murderer should die. A terrorist should die on the spot. Terrorists are not enemy combatants and therefore the laws pertaining to warfare should not apply to them. They deserve no consideration, should not be taken prisoner nor be incarcerated.  It is no coincidence that after the Elor Azaria incident it was quiet for seven months, because they understood that the Jews “have lost it”, so killing terrorists is a clear deterrent.

A court ruling on the death penalty, on the other hand, will turn an Arab terrorist into a international figure. The terrorist and his life story will be the subject of articles all over the world. His family and friends will be sought-after guests on any possible communication channel. They will become symbols. And Israel will fold. This is not a gut feeling or an assumption. This is based on past cases. It is enough to see how there are already those who are showing empathy for the wretched Tamimi family, glorifying their provocations and how the daughter has become a symbol.

Marwan Barghouti is an even better example. Barghouti, a despicable murderer, a miserable man with a vile and corrupt personality, is directly responsible for the murder of at least 4 people. He became a symbol that many of our politicians, no less miserable themselves, who honor him with prison visits.

I remember well the days of his trial. The media circus and the manner in which the media treated it and the celebration around it. The Palestinian Nelson Mandela they call him. It is not difficult to describe what would have happened in the world had he been sentenced to death.

Even with the death sentence of the Nazi Eichmann there were those who called on Israel to refrain from executing him. This was with the most just and worthy death sentence ever passed in all of human history. Yet, there were those in the world, not to mention Israel itself, who opposed the act. And it cannot be said that there was any empathy for the Nazis. We are all aware that with our enemies the situation is different.

Other legitimate and less extreme measures Israel carries out or tries to implement are also criticized and efforts are made to thwart them. Actions such as the naval blockade on Gaza, which meets all international criteria. It exists to prevent the smuggling of weapons and missiles used by Hamas against civilians. This, after Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip.

After all, they did promise us peace, and if not, the whole world would certainly understand our steps of self-defense. Now, even the least violent defensive actions awards Israel international condemnation.

We cannot even cut off electricity to Gaza and the courts barely allow the demolition of terrorist houses or the expulsion of infiltrators, so how exactly are they going to allow executions?

It is inconceivable that the initiators of the bill are ignorant of this reality. It is simply not possible that they do not understand that such a decision would focus international media attention on Israel’s actions, instead of the terrorist infrastructure in the territory under the control of the PLO and Hamas.

This bill is, therefore, no more than a populist charade intended to satisfy the lust of the masses and to please voters. A conscious cynical exploitation of the future refusal of Supreme Court justices, behind which they will be able to hide. Of course they will say that they passed the law, but the High Court is at fault.

Instead of promoting an unnecessary law that will never be implemented, it would be preferable for these politicians to activate their imagination and promote laws and actions that will deter the terrorists and the Arabs in the PA. The Minister of Defense has at his disposal a series of punitive actions that he can exercise. The government can pressure the European community to stop funding the PA, or can impose sanctions at the equivilant amount of the benefits granted to terrorists and their families.

Most of all, the time has come to stop cooperating with the game of “make believe”,  born in sin 25 years ago, when we convinced ourselves and the world, that those Arabs wearing suits and carrying government and diplomatic titles are not in fact, despicable murderers.

Time we stop granting immunity to the heads of the PLO and Hamas, the terrorists. Stop giving them freedom of movement throughout the country, prevent them from traveling abroad.

Most of all, if they want to legislate so much, the government should start by ending the joke that are the prisons in Israel. The government could toughen conditions in prisons – cease family visits to murderers. Not allow the families of murderers to enter the country at all. They could even enact a bill for prison sentence with hard labor, which exists all over the world. These steps will deter, but will not provoke the world to empathize with the murderers.

Most of all, they should stop insulting the voters’ intelligence.


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