Monday, July 07, 2008

Moral dilemma

There is always a dilemma in the Jewish mind between being ruthless in response to acts of Palestinian terrorism and being sympathetic to the family of the terrorist who might have no knowledge or responsibility for the terrorist's actions or the circumstances that lead to the act. It may be understandable, but in many cases is it appropriate to allow sentiment to enter into the equation?
When a terrorist shoots 8 children in a Yeshiva, something has to be done, doing nothing is in effect condoning the murders, or to put it another way "not to decide is to decide." Governments are good at shelving issues and avoiding decisions. Thus, in the case of the attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem last March, the Atty. Gen. is still considering whether or not to act in that case, after 4 months!
It used to be standard practice that when a terrorist carried out a murderous action, particularly a suicide mission, then his family home was demolished and completely destroyed. This was intended to do two things, one to send a message that the Israeli State did not accept or condone his/her actions, and also to act as a deterrent to such attacks. Now with appeals that have gone to higher courts, often brought by Israeli left-wing peace groups, the legal ramifications have to be decided in each case. But, four months is excessive!
The man responsible for the tractor attack on Jerusalem's main street this week, Husam Dwayat aged 30 from Sur Bahir outside Jerusalem, who killed 3 and injured many, was known to the police and had a record, he was a drug addict and a rapist. He had raped a Jewish girl and spent 2 years in prison for abusing her. She had a child with him, although the child does not know that his father was an Arab. After she broke with him, he married a 15 year old Arab girl and has two children with her, the oldest 5 years old. He has worked for the Arab company that is doing subcontracting work on the light rail excavations in Jerusalem for 7 years driving a tractor. Some people report that in the past few months he had suddenly declared himself religious and had expressed fervent opinions. In most religions that would be considered a good thing, but in Islam that can only be much worse. Religious Muslims (and in fact all Muslims) are taught that Jews are inferior, that they should be killed by Muslims and especially that Jews have no rights to a State in what is Palestine. Although there is no evidence reported that he was in direct contact with any known terrorist organization, nevertheless, Dwayat acted as a self-motivated terrorist. During the incident when he was driving the tractor over a car, deliberately crushing a young mother, he was shouting "Allahu akhbar" (God is great). So the question is, why did the authorities allow an E. Jeruslam Arab with a known police record to drive a dangerous vehicle in the center of Jerusalem? Incompetence or just plain oversight?
The police arrested his family members and interrogated them, they also prevented them from erecting a funeral tent. But, so far, although both the PM and Defense Minister have declared that they want to see his home demolished, this has not been done. The legal argument against it is that the home belongs to his family and the rest of them have only guilt by association, and further that there is another family sharing part of the house and they have no relationship to his act. This may play itself out in court, while several MKs call for the house to be demolished, and are introducing a bill to accomplish this in the Knesset, while others declare that it will only make other Palestinians into terrorists. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Barak has suggested that the house be sealed, that all doors and windows be bricked up, pending a final decision by the courts.
In my opinion, sentiment should have no role here. When Dwayat was deliberately crushing that young woman, he ran his tractor back and forth over her, crushing her completely (miraculously her baby was saved between his traversals). In doing that he showed no sentiment or mercy. In dealing with such ruthless and bloodthirsty terrorists we must show, whether or not we are a democracy, that by law their (possibly innocent) families will suffer for their actions, and delaying this for a court and appeals to decide is too late. There should be a known and standing order that all terrorists who kill Israeli civilians will have their homes immediately demolished and their parents and family made homeless. That is the price that they will pay here on earth for such acts, even if the terrorist believes that he himself will be enjoying 72 virgins in heaven.


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