Together with the euphoria that many Israelis feel about the return home of Gilad Shalit, victims of terror are dealing differently. Granted, there have been a few who came out in support of the “Free Gilad” campaign that was aggressively waged by the Shalit family and the media, but many of those who have been wounded, or whose family members have been murdered, have expressed frustration, horror and anger.
As the dilemma of a nation’s lifetime was telescoped into only a few days, we discovered that among those being released were one of the perpetrators of the Ramallah lynch (who gave the term “blood on their hands” a whole new meaning), and Ahlam Tamimi, a woman who drive the bomber to the scene of the Sbarro Restaurant massacre in August, 2001, that took the lives of fifteen people,including both parents and three siblings of one family, and Malki Roth, whose father tried desperately, in the last few days before the terrorist release, to at least get Tamimi’s name removed from the release list. The list also included those who planned and facilitated the bombing of the Moment Café, a Haifa restaurant, the Dolphinarium club (filled with teenagers at the time), the Hebrew University cafeteria, and more. Some of the terrorists were serving up to 37 life sentences for the horror they wreaked.
One of the master butchers, Abdullah Bargourti, interviewed in a documentary, For the Sake of Allah, produced by the Center for Near East Policy Research, said that, “I played the guitar. After that I decided to make bomb (sic).” He said that in one instance he planted the bomb inside a guitar in order to carry out the attack “in a romantic way.” He described coldly how he would create the suicide belts.
Another terrorist said that his only concern, when he blew up the Hebrew University cafeteria, was that he was afraid the remote control cell phone detonator would not work, but he was relieved to see that it did.
Tamimi, when asked by an interviewer in For the Sake of Allah if she felt regret afterwards, replied that she felt sorry for the suicide bomber, El Ashwri, “who was a human being.” El Ashwri’s mother, when interviewed, said, “I praise Allah that he was successful in his act.” Her family restaurant in Jenin posted a huge poster of him and it has become a local shrine. Before he left Tamimi’s car to blow himself up, he asked her if, when she previously checked the venue, she noticed if religious Jews ate there, as, he said, “Religion is the source of the conflict.”
In Israel, if someone adds a window or a porch to his home, his neighbors are given at least one month to object and to present their case to the authorities. Yet, the names of the terrorists to be released were announced on Saturday night, Oct. 15. The court session to hear their objections convened less than two days later, on Monday.
During the very moments that the terrorists were being freed, on Tuesday morning, I attended a press briefing, organized by the Center, with two wounded victims who have been less in the public eye.
One of them, Dr. Alan Bauer, was wounded, along with his then seven-year-old son, Yonatan, in a 2002 bombing on King George Street. (I was in another building a few streets away and remember hearing the explosion. – TKG) In that bombing, three people were murdered. Five, actually, if one adds to the count the twin babies who were inside a pregnant woman who died. Dr. Bauer had made aliya in 1992; he graduated from Harvard, received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and was a Fulbright scholar. His parents fled Germany as children.
Bauer held up his left hand to show us where the two screws had lodged. He showed us one of the screws removed from him and a piece of shrapnel removed from his son’s brain, who was blind for several weeks after the attack and still limps. That attack was perpetrated by a Palestinian policeman who was aided, operationally and financially, by officials of the Palestinian Authority and by the Arab Bank in Ramallah. Bauer related that two women came along with the suicide bomber – who was holding flowers — to help him get through the roadblock, and they stood back and watched as he blew himself up.
In spite of the fact that Bauer and his son are American citizens, the U.S. has done nothing to prevent the release of those who aided in the bombing, said Bauer. “Not the White House, not the State Department, not the FBI, not the Justice Department – no one made any effort to stop the release of these two women, who are being set free as we speak.”
Bauer said he was happy for the Shalit family, but that they are not the problem. “The problem is that Israel doesn’t establish facts quickly enough.” He said that Israel should have immediately cut off gas, oil, and other supplies to Gaza. He accused the decision makers of living in a world “that real Israelis don’t populate.” The politicians have bodyguards, guards outside their homes, whereas Israelis ride busses, visit cafes. “The leaders are comfortably separated from the people, and we know that 60-80% of released terrorists return to terror. No one will take responsibility…The U.S. has done nothing, though they took care of the Somali pirates.” Bauer also called the press “tremendously irresponsible” for pressuring Netanyahu instead of the Hamas.
ELIAD MOREH ROSENBERG was wounded in the bombing in the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria in Hebrew University on July 31, 2002. A close friend of hers, David Ladowski, who was about to leave on a Foreign Ministry assignment to Peru, was murdered in the bombing attack. Rosenberg had a piece of shrapnel go into the back of her neck and was told by the doctors that if it would have been a tiny bit more to the center and hit her spine, she would be dead.
How does Eliad feel about the Shalit deal?
“I feel devastated, angry, in pain. I recovered, got married, have a beautiful child, and I thought it was part of the past, even though I still suffer from the trauma, have nightmares and can just begin to cry.
“But the release of these terrorists today took me back to Stage One. I remember that after the terrorist attack, after recovering from the physical pain, I had to deal with the psychological pain.
“I didn’t understand how a human being could do that to another human being. I felt betrayed by humanity. Today I feel betrayed as a citizen.
“Because there is no justice. Terrorists who received multiple life sentences are walking out free after a few years. We don’t ask for revenge. We ask for justice. It was pre-meditated murder. The whole equation is wrong. The life of one soldier against the release of more than a thousand terrorists? The government of Israel should not have accepted this equation from the beginning. The terrorists have won.
“When a serial rapist, Benny Sela, escaped from jail, the entire country was in a panic. Women were afraid to leave their homes. Now a thousand terrorists have gone free and people are rejoicing. Am I living in a crazy country, where people don’t see what is happening, don’t realize it, and do whatever the press is dictating to them? I cannot understand the euphoria.
“After I recovered, I promised myself that I would speak out against terrorism. I’ve gone on missions, met with the European Parliament and the European Union, spoken at The Hague, traveled with the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
“This week I spoke with the parents of my murdered friend, David. They are terribly upset. I am happy for the Shalit’s, but I don’t feel that I have to justify myself to them, to ‘defend’ myself by saying I’m happy for them. I, too, will have tears in my eyes for them today, but I’ll also have tears for the victims of terror, and for the next soldiers who will be kidnapped. And what about soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to capture these terrorists? They did so in vain.”
SHERRI MANDELL wrote, in the Jerusalem Post, on the day of the terrorist release:
“My son Koby Mandell and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered by terrorists 10 years ago when they were 13 and 14 years old. They had been hiking in the wadi near our home when they were set upon by a Palestinian mob and stoned to death. It was a brutal, vicious murder…Most people don’t understand the continuing devastation of grief: fathers who die of heart attacks, mothers who get sick with cancer, children who leave school…We see depression, suicide, symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder…We see the pain that doesn’t diminish with time. We literally see people die of grief.
“Bereaved families face acute psychological isolation…In the aftermath of a prisoner exchange, this isolation will only be exacerbated. So will the feeling that our children’s deaths don’t matter. When we were sitting shiva for Koby, a general in the army told us: ‘We will bring the killers to justice.’ I believed him. I took his words to heart. Today I am thankful my son’s killers have not been found. So are my children. Of course, I don’t want the terrorists to kill again. But if they were to be released in this prisoner exchange, I don’t think I could bear it…
“We have been betrayed. To pardon terrorists mocks our love and our pain.
“Furthermore, terrorism aims to strike fear in an entire society, to
bring a whole populace to its knees… to release prisoners now signals to Hamas that their strategy of terror was correct, effective. They will celebrate wholeheartedly because they have won…
“We need to protect our own soldiers. But not with a wholesale prisoner exchange. I wish that I could rejoice with the Schalit family. But I can’t. The price is too high.”
U.S. acts and programs to bring terrorist murderers of U.S. citizens to justice
Koby, like many other victims of terror, was an American citizen.
In December 2004, Congress passed the Koby Mandell Act. According to the Israel Resource Review, “In 2005, the Justice Department established the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism to monitor investigations and prosecute killers of Americans in terrorist strikes. The office was part of a bill passed by Congress in 2004 to pursue terrorists who target Americans. A department statement said the office would be responsible for ‘monitoring the investigation and prosecution of terrorists who attack Americans abroad.’ The office would work with other agencies in the Justice Department as well as the FBI.”
But the Koby Mandell Act came exactly twenty years after the Rewards for Justice Program, whose goal was also to find and punish terrorists who had murdered or harmed U.S. citizens, or their property, wherever they are. According to the official website of the U.S. State Department, the Rewards program “has paid more than $80 million to more than 50 persons who provided credible information that has resulted in the capture, prosecution, or death of terrorists or prevented acts of international terrorism.”
One example of the Rewards program was the award offered for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of the four Arabs who hijacked Pan Am Flight 73, believed to be members of the Abu Nidal terror organization. According to the U.S. spokesman, “The attack resulted in the murder of at least 20 passengers and crew, including two Americans, the attempted murder of 379 passengers and crew, and the wounding of more than 100 individuals on board.”
Dr. Bauer noted that he provided information on individuals involved in his attack and to the best of his knowledge the information was never used to apprehend those individuals responsible. He believes that a reward has never been paid in this region.
David Bedein, director of the Center, sent an online interview in which he noted the U.S. responsibility to U.S. victims, to 45 Congresspeople and to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. He notes in the interview that at least 40 of the released terrorists have been convicted of murdering American citizens. He urged other Americans to contact U.S. officials as well.
The Jerusalem Post of October 19th noted that a U.S. State Department spokesman said that, “[S]Talkbacks ()
ome of the prisoners being released posed a threat and that the US had objected to their freedom.”
Indeed, how do the Rewards program and the Koby Mandell Act correlate with the U.S. dissatisfaction with the release of “some” of the prisoners? Were the terrorists to whose release the U.S. objected, those who had murdered American citizens?
In response to my question, an official who only agreed to be identified as “an American diplomat,” responded, “The U.S. communicated our concerns to the Israeli government before the release of the prisoners. We were not involved in the negotiations. As a matter of principle the U.S. opposes the release of individuals who have been convicted of crimes against Americans.”
This would appear to mean that the U.S. is now obligated to pursue and bring to justice those who have been released by Israel.
We are waiting.