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January 25, 1985 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-01-25

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Friday, January 25, 1985


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Death Penalty Debate

Special to The Jewish News

Haifa — A relatively obscure
item in the local press not long ago
reported that the two Arab ter-
rorists who had killed one Israeli
and wounded 58 others in a mid-
Jerusalem rampage last April,
had been sentenced to life impris-
onment. "The defendants heard
the sentence with broad smiles
and raised fists," the story went
Why the smiles? The two knew
that sooner or later they would be
freed in one of the wholesale ex-
changes whereby Israel releases
scores and sometimes hundreds of
terrorists in exchange for one or
two hapless Israelis who had been
captured and held hostage by the
The most recent sentence has
led to renewed demands for im-
position of the death penalty on
terrorists apprehended in the act,
but there have been equally vig-
orous expressions of opposition to
capital punishment.
The death penalty exists on Is-
rael's legislative books. It may be
imposed for acts of treason com-
mitted during time of war, for
Nazi crimes against the Jews, and
for cruel and unusual acts of ter-
rorism carried out in inhuman
manner, but it has actually been
exercised only once — against
Adolf Eichmann, who was cap-
tured in 1960, tried in 1961, and
hanged at Ramleh Prison in 1962.
In practice, judges have re-
frained from sentencing convicted
terrorists to death because pro-
secuting attorneys, acting in ac-
cordance with government policy,
have refrained from requesting
such sentences. The judges in
such trials have more than once
made it clear that the courts
nevertheless retain the power of
exercising their own judgment in
such matters.

The call for the death penalty
was brought to a head by an act of
retaliation by a young Jew who
had fired a rocket at an Arab bus.
He maintained that he had been
driven to this act by the killing of
two Jewish students in the Ju-
dean hills, and by the knowledge
that the Arab who had confessed
to the wanton murder would only
be put behind bars until ulti-
mately released.
The argumentation in public
forums reached the floor of the
Knesset where both the pros and
cons were aired, but with incon-
clusive results.
Opponents of the death penalty

maintain that Israel, as an
enlightened country, should fol-
low a humane policy, in accord-
ance with Jewish tradition. Rabbi
Eliezer Ben Azariah, in the Mis-
hnah, was quoted to the effect that
any Sanhedrin which imposed one
death sentence in seventy years
could be considered a cruel court.
Furthermore, Arab terrorists
act out of ideological motivation.
The knowledge that they might
face execution would not deter
them. Indeed, they are prepared
to face death when they embark
on their missions. In the mental-
ity of some, death during accom-
plishment of their "holy" act
would assure them a place of
honor in the world to come.
Dr. Herzl Rosenbloom, editor of
Yediot Ahronot, gives expression
to the views of those on the other
side. He rails against the soft-
hearted "gentle souls" who de-
mand of Israel a nobility and a
gentility and purity of spirit
which spares even the most cruel
of murderers. "They will kill our
babies and our sisters, our
mothers and our fathers, in the
most brutal manner imaginable,"
he writes, "and we shall send
these cold-blooded murderers to
warm shelters known as prisons,
where they will be provided with
good food, free medical care, radio
and TV and theatrical perform-
This kind of humanism only
encourages additional murders.
Execution will not deter them?
Perhaps not all, but even if it
makes a few pause in their mis-
sions for fear of the penalty, it will
have saved Israeli lives and will
have justified its use as threat.
"Do we have to 'appear before
the world in the mantle of pure
humanism and be willing to
endure more kilings of our inno-
cent people just to make a good
impression on the world?"
Rosenbloom asks. To him, Israel's
failure to react is an indication of
weakness and of Galut mentality.
Consequently, the terrorists still
plant their bombs and do their kil-
lings with impunity, secure in the
knowledge that even if caught
they will eventually be released
in an exchange agreement.
The public debate has been in-
creasing in intensity, and it is
very possible that perpetration of
some exceptionally cruel and
brutal act of terrorism may bring
out a reversal in what has
hitherto been the soft and
"humane" policy.

Sephardi Vote Analyzed

New York — A new analysis of
the Sephardi vote in Israel's
Knesset election this past July
reveals that Sephardim on the
whole rejected the concept of
ethnic party lists, voting heavily
instead for the mainstream Likud
Party over the Labor Alignment
by nearly three-to-one.
The study, titled, "The
`Sephardi-Oriental Vote' in the
1984 Elections," was released last
week by the American Jewish
Committee's Institute on -Ameri-
can Jewish-Israeli Relations,

headed by Bertram H. Gold,
former AJC executive vice
According to the report, the two
Sephardi religious parties, Tami
and Shas, did poorly among
Sephardi voters. Tami, a breaka-
way party from the (National
Religious Party — NRP) received
only 3.1 percent of the total
Sephardi vote while Shas, a new
party, won 6.4 percent of the over-
all Sephardi vote.
The study quotes Prof. Hanna
Herzog, sociologist and an-

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