Sbarro bombing medics and victim
Sbarro bombing medics and victim Israel news photo: Flash 90

A young man who spray-painted the words “Free Yigal Amir” on the Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv has been met with wildly different responses, from support and understanding to calls for a severe punishment.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai issued perhaps the strongest response, saying Friday, “The hands that permitted themselves to harm what is holy and important to the people of Israel should be chopped off.”

The Labor party called for a harsh response as well. “The murder of Rabin and the memorial are a national symbol that reminds us that extremism and violence are a threat to Israeli democracy,” the party said in a statement released Friday.

“Even in these days when emotions are high, we must abhor acts like this that stoke the flames of extremism and hate. The law enforcement system must show its strength and preparedness at this time, and bring the perpetrator to justice.”

The vandal has been identified as Shuvel Schijveschuuder, who lost his parents and three of his eight siblings in the terrorist bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in 2001. Schijveschuuder was informed this week that the planners of the bombing, and the female terrorist who drove the bomber to his destination, are to be released as part of the exchange for Gilad Shalit.

He confessed to the Thursday night vandalism, and told investigators that he was motivated by pain over the release of his family’s murderers.

While Schijveschuuder was vilified by the political left, he was embraced by the right. Land of Israel activist Baruch Marzel said Friday, “I would give him a kiss… He has expressed the feelings of many Israelis.”

“It’s shameless that he has been arrested for such a small act, while the woman who murdered his family walks free,” Marzel stated.

MK Michael Ben-Ari (Ichud Leumi) said that Schijveschuuder had expressed terror victims’ anger “delicately.”

“The release of arch-murderers suits an anarchy, not a state ruled by law, and in an anarchy lines are crossed – and even the memorial to Rabin loses its awesome holiness,” Ben-Ari said.

Those on the political right were not alone in linking their feelings about the Shalit deal to Schijveschuuder’s act. In a statement denouncing the vandalism, the Rabin Center noted its support for the Shalit deal, saying, “[The center] sends warms wishes to Shalit’s family, and sees his release as a responsibility the state of Israel has to its soldiers.”