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Why Doesn't Israel Have the Death Penalty for Murder by Terrorists?:

The farce plays itself out over and over. Israel captures terrorists, some of whom are guilty of horrific mass murders. Capturing the terrorists often requires the sacrifice of great human, financial, and intelligence resources. The terrorists' allies respond by planning various operations to obtain human "bargaining chips," dead or alive, to use in exchange for their captured allies. Israel then agrees to release anywhere from a handful to hundreds of terrorists in exchange for dead bodies or one or a handful of live captives. The released terrorists become heroes, and some go on to commit new murders.

The prisoner exchange taking place today is hardly the worst of them, but it illustrates the point. Israel is releasing Samir Kuntar, guilty of the horrific, cold-blooded murder of a child (and who is shamefully apparently a national hero in Lebanon) and two adults, in exchange for the bodies of two dead soldiers. The soldiers themselves were abducted in an attempt to gain Kuntar's release, an incident that provoked the 2006 Lebanon Hezbollah war, and led to the death of dozens of more Israelis.

I simply don't understand why Israel doesn't put an end to this madness and institute the death penalty for murder caused by terrorism. I have mixed emotions about the death penalty in general, but this is one circumstance in which I think the arguments in favor are overwhelming. The special absurdity is that Israel will institute the death penalty for "genocide", but applies this concept only to perpetrators of Nazi crimes (it was, for example, imposed, then overturned, on John Demjanjuk) who deserve it but are currently harmless, but not to, say, murderous members of Hamas or Hezbollah, organizations which would be all too happy to massacre the Jewish inhabitants of Israel if given the opportunity, and are presently deadly.

(Of course, the wisdom of the prisoner swaps is itself highly questionable, but if, for example, Kuntar had been executed in the late 1970s as he should have been, the issue wouldn't arise to begin with.)

UPDATE: I think it's worth recounting the actions of Lebanon's "national hero," via Wikipedia:

After drowning Danny [the father] in the sea in front of Einat (as Ahmed Al-Brass, Mhanna Salim Al-Muayed, and Abdel Majeed Asslan served as look outs and backup cover for Kuntar), Kuntar turned his attention towards the 4 year-old. He took his rifle and then swung it across the toddler's head, knocking her to the ground. Kuntar then dragged the toddler a couple of feet to the closest rock he could find and laid her head down on a rock, with the intention of crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Einat, instinctively covered her head with her arms, Kuntar struggled with the toddler until he finally managed to clear her arms out of the way. Once her arms were out of the way, Kuntar repeatedly beat her on the head with the butt of his rifle and stomping on her body, until blood rushed out of her ears and mouth. Then, to ensure she was dead, Kuntar continued beating her over the head until her skull was crushed and she was dead.

And Wikipedia also states that the hijacking of the Achillee Lauro cruise ship, which led to the murder of American Leon Klinghoffer, was part of an attempt to win the release of Kuntar and other prisoners.

And to compound the ironies, I've also read that Kuntar's original mission was to take hostages to exchange for other terrorists.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. What Is the Exchange Rate for Terrorist/Innocent Exchanges?
  2. Why Doesn't Israel Have the Death Penalty for Murder by Terrorists?:
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What Is the Exchange Rate for Terrorist/Innocent Exchanges?

Amos Guiora and Martha Minow have this interesting post raising the provocative question of what is the proper exchange rate when a country like Israel negotiates with terrorists. They make this telling observation:

What parent wouldn't want the government to do anything—and everything--to recover a missing soldier-daughter or son? If a parent is in the drivers' seat, no price is too high, no measure to risky if there is a chance of recovering the child alive, and even recovering the remains of the cherished family member. Moreover, combat soldiers in recent days have expressed their support the exchange, and noted it is important for them to know that should they fall into captivity the state will do anything to release them.

But what is the obligation of the state when it sends soldier to combat? Does the state owe that individual "everything" should something happen? What are the limits of state obligation? What does "everything" mean? Turn over 1,000 members of Hamas for Gilad Shalit? Or East Jerusalem?

Perhaps the logical conclusion from Guiora and Minow's provocative question is that no negotiations should ever be undertaken with terrorist organizations.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. What Is the Exchange Rate for Terrorist/Innocent Exchanges?
  2. Why Doesn't Israel Have the Death Penalty for Murder by Terrorists?:
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