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Revisit the Death Penalty

Revisit the Death Penalty

Arab murderers serving long jail sentences create an incentive for other terrorists to kidnap soldiers. Should Israel institute the death penalty?

by The Editors of the Jewish Week

In light of the agonizing release of a brutal murderer as part of an exchange to gain the return of the bodies of two slain soldiers, it's time for Israel to reconsider the use of the death penalty.

The legal system allows for it. Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Nazi extermination of the Jews, was executed in 1962 after being tried and found guilty of crimes against humanity. No one else has been put to death by Israeli courts since then. But if the underlying principle is to protect human life, it may well be argued that more lives would be saved by taking the lives of murderers whose aim is to kill civilians guilty of nothing but being Jews.

Israeli society recently endured the scene of Samir Kuntar being welcomed back to Lebanon as a hero by government officials there and throngs of ecstatic citizens. He won a place in their hearts by brutally slaying a young Israeli father in front of his 4-year-old daughter during a 1979 terror attack and then crushing the little girl's skull.

Never mind the obvious statement this makes about values in much of the Arab world. Kuntar told the crowds that he was proud of his actions and looks forward to killing more Jews in the future.

Much of the debate in Israel leading up to the swap focused on the painful dilemma over whether or not to release terrorists "with blood on their hands" in return for two Israeli soldiers no longer alive. But there has been relatively little discussion about making use of the death penalty in the case of terrorists like Kuntar as a means of preventing kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and civilians, to be used as bargaining chips in future exchanges.

Palestinian murderers serving long jail sentences create an incentive for their fellow terrorists to kidnap soldiers and others. Most dramatically, Hamas is demanding the release of about 1,000 terrorists for the return of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped and held since June 2006. Israel need not look up to any other country when it comes to valuing human life, as indicated by its willingness to release convicted killers for the bodies of its soldiers. And unlike the U.S., where the debate over the death penalty primarily is about mistakes resulting in the execution of innocent people, Israel would be putting to death only those who clearly have committed horrific crimes against innocents.

As Rabbi Shmuley Boteach concludes in an essay calling for the death penalty in Israel for convicted terrorists, "just governments must sometimes take the lives of unrepentant terrorist mass murderers in order to protect and uphold the infinite value of human life."

It's an issue too important to be avoided, and should be discussed and debated in Israel, where every citizen is a potential target.

Tell us what you think using the comment section below.

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Week


August 10, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 65

(65) kathleen wynne-peters, November 29, 2008 12:46 AM

the death penalty

I am an Indian Jewess and witnessing all the horrific sights and stories about all that is happening to us Jews is making me feel that I wish I could take a position wherein I could eliminate all this bullying in our lives. I have never been one for cruetly or brutality but in this case it is a definite YES to the death penalty. There is no other outcome.

(64) Guy Gold, September 7, 2008 9:15 PM

Yes Israel Should Consider The Death Penalty

I have asked this of myself many times.If you take a life , you should frofeit your life.

(63) Alex, September 2, 2008 7:48 AM

Response to Steve

Of course I do'nt forget the Torah: Ex. 20:13, says "You shall not murder." Since his beginnings the mankind loves to play the judge.. And, what would bring the death penalty? Would stop the terrorists who have no fear to loose their own lives killing others? No, other and other "martyrs" will come. But isolating them under harsh conditions (see: Guantanamo), where LIVING is the most severe punishment, is in my opinion much more effective.

(62) Yaacov, August 27, 2008 6:38 AM

Yes, it should be discussed

I agree with death penalty for terrorists. If you're going to release them, what makes you think they won't explode themselves in a crowded corner? Besides, it's not ONLY about giving a proper punishment to the terrorist, but also having caged terrorists is almost a magnet to free terrorists to kidnap and try bargains like what happened to Kuntar, shame on Olmert. Make retroactive capital punishment laws for terrorists, because being a pacifist as Israel is being so far is not working. Just not working right.

(61) Anonymous, August 25, 2008 12:36 PM

You need to ask the Rav and follow the directions

This question needs to be decided according to the din Torah. Therefore, it is best to ask the Gadol Hador and follow precisely what he says. Unfortunately, the Israeli society degraded itself and got the government it deserves at this point. This society as a whole, each and every person, would do well to look at themselves, see the depth of the fall, and get back to the our Jewish roots. This way, perhaps we won't ever have to ask ourselves such questions. We will get all the answers from Hashem, the way it was supposed to be right from the start.

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