Once again, we are confronted by the horrifying images of a bombed-out Israeli bus, surrounded by weeping bystanders, medical personnel desperately trying to aid the victims, soldiers and policemen searching for clues that will help them catch the terrorists.
It was the bombing of a busload of Israeli schoolchildren in Gaza on November 20, but for me it was a painful and jarring reminder of the bombing of another Israeli bus in the same area in April 1995. My daughter Alisa was on that other bus; she and seven other passengers were killed. A memorial to their memory stands in the garden of Kfar Darom-the community where today's dead lived.
It seems as if nearly every day, we read of yet another Palestinian terrorist attack against Israelis. Bombings of buses, drive-by shootings, mobs throwing firebombs. We American Jews read of these atrocities in our newspapers or watch the televised images from the scene of the attack, and we wonder what we can do about it.
It's easy to be overcome by a sense of helplessness. We're so far away, we have so little power or influence. We trust in the ability of the Israeli army to fight back, and assume that there is nothing we can do but hope and pray.
But the truth is that there is more we can do besides hope and pray. Much more.
My daughter Alisa was one of fourteen American Jews who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists in recent years--including two who were killed in the past six weeks. The Israeli government has identified 23 suspects in the killings. They are all living freely in Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority territory. Some of them have even been rewarded with positions in Arafat's police or security forces.
Yet the U.S. State Department has taken no meaningful steps to apprehend the killers. It has never demanded that Arafat fire the killers from his police force. It has never urged the P.A. to surrender these killers to the U.S. for prosecution, although our law permits that. It has never pressed the P.A. or the PLO to pay financial compensation to the families of the victims. It has never even offered rewards for information leading to the capture of the killers, even though it routinely offers rewards in cases involving other terrorists overseas (and posts them on its web site, www.heroes.net).
Six months ago, I wrote to the State Department to ask that a reward be offered for information leading to the capture of my daughter's killers, and that she be listed on the web site along with other American victims of foreign terrorism. I received no response.
Now a number of Congressmen are taking action. U.S. Representatives Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), and Ken Bentsten (D-TX) are sponsoring H.R. 5500, legislation that will create a special unit in the Justice Department to gather evidence against Palestinian Arab killers of Americans, arrange for them to be transferred to the U.S. for prosecution, offer rewards to capture fugitive terrorists, negotiate for compensation for the families, and provide the families with regular updates on the efforts to capture the killers.
Every American Jew can take part in this fight to attain justice and put Palestinian terrorists behind bars. Call or write your Senators and Representative, and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 5500. Encourage your friends to do likewise. In Ecclesiastes King Solomon reminds us, "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." There is a time to mourn, and there is a time for action. Now is the time for action.