Hamas terrorists
Hamas terrorists Flash 90

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach took to the keyboard recently, calling on Israel to implement the most extreme measures to punish Palestinian Arab terrorists who kill Jews. Jonathan Pollard sounded a clarion call for “our elected representatives to finally eliminate once and for all those groups and countries who seek to destroy us.” In effect, they and others writing in the the media want a death penalty. Professor Dov Fischer immediately called for the death penalty “early and often” on Arutz Sheva. Their visceral reaction was to the gruesome ax and knife murders of Jews in Elad, Israel whose perpetrators were indicted this week.. In court, the mayor of Elad called for them to be hanged.

Elad was an inhuman and vile means of attack. Specifically, the means were as bad as the result. Ax and knife murders are intentionally to scare and shake the Jews. Terrorists want to punish Israel. They want to call attention to the desperateness of their cause and impress their allies.

Palestinian Arabs have been dying for a cause since the Ottoman Empire occupied the area. Israel, like the Turks and British armies, employs a policy of “neutralizing” them. Terrorists know they are likely to die; yet they come back for more.

Legalizing the death penalty will not deter killers.There are other measures that might. A government programmed death penalty will, however, tear at the moral fabric of Israel’s society. Is not Israel a light unto the nations? The death penalty is a wrongheaded reaction to politically motivated attacks. But if advocates of the death penalty get their way, they must have boundaries.

By what means should we carry out the death penalty orders? By knife, ax, hanging, shooting, or gassing? Should we torture terrorists to death? There is a consensus, if not a public admission, that Israeli police and IDF interrogators (and other nations) use torture to extract information and confessions when they assess a terrorist is part of a group and is thus a ticking time bomb.

Can officials make families watch? Broadcasters can give play-by-play descriptions of the government taking life. How about posting videos on TikTok along with before and after pictures on Instagram?

During the Eichmann trial, Israelis debated, “What is the punishment for absolute evil?” His execution was not a public event.

Where does the appetite for revenge end? That’s what the death penalty is , revenge. It is not a deterrence. Are minors subject to the same revenge as adults? Are Arab terrorist murderers going to be the only ones to die by the hangman’s hand? These are not ludicrous questions but genuine dilemmas. Cain did not die for killing Abel and that was an act reviled by man and God.

The death penalty, some argue, will short circuit weak-kneed government ministers from releasing bad people from captivity. Lopsided prisoner-captive exchanges will no longer be necessary. Israel will have no one with blood on their hands to release. Enemies will not return captive Israelis alive.

Advocates have to face a nasty problem. The justice system in Israel is not pristine. US governors put a moratorium in place for just that reason. Innocents were and probably still are being executed in the US by the government.

Israel holds about 600 Palestinian Arabs, according to prison officials, in administrative detention based on secret evidence. These captives do not get access to an attorney. Their captivity is renewable every six months. Jewish Israelis charge that the present system abuses citizens. And this is the system advocates of capital punishment want to employ?

In 1999, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled special interrogations methods that violate human dignity make confessions inadmissible at trial. Judges and defense lawyers have repeatedly accused security agencies of lax standards. Recently, defense counsel, parents, and friends of the Jews accused in the Duma arson attack claim coercion exceeding the bounds of humane acceptability was used to elicit confessions. That raises another boundary advocates must cross. Is the death penalty going to apply to Jewish people?

The fact is, confessions are worthless if extracted by torture. Read Senator John McCain who endured five years of torture. To rely on confessions to justify the death penalty is obscene. How are death penalty advocates going to keep justice blind? In the US, Blacks and other minorities are more likely to be executed than White people, so too the poor. The color of an accused and the victim’s skin color influence the punishment in Israel and the US.

Let me share with you a personal experience. Governor George Ryan totally sidelined the death penalty in Illinois. I was a legislative lieutenant in child advocacy in Illinois and Massachusetts. The agency for which I served as Executive Director helped remove children sent to adult prisons. Children serve time for murder, kidnapping, rape, and parricide. In January 2000, Ryan instituted a moratorium because Illinois executed innocents.

To date, fresh evidence exonerated 21 people executed in Illinois. The government ultimately exonerated them. Nearly 200 across the US. The vaunted US National Academy of Sciences claims for every eight executions, they have exonerated one person on death row. 4% death row are probably innocent.

What will happen to Jews accused of murder on a crime spree? Will prosecutors seek the death penalty for uxoricide, mariticide, filicide, assisted suicide, honor killings? Who defines an act of terror? Will they seek the death penalty when a soldier shoots and kills a wounded, disarmed Arab laying on the ground? Might Yigal Amir qualify for execution by the state? Courts convicted him of assassinating Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for the political cause of seeking peace.

Popular sentiment for capital punishment is rising in response to heinous murders. In modern Israel, the death penalty contradicts the right to life essential to defining Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom.

Maybe I am a goody two-shoes. We suffered the loss of a child, so we are no strangers to the pain. I admit to harboring fanciful whims of revenge. But a nation that has the death penalty, aside from the moral erosion, gives it a power that is fearsome. Life and death lie in the hands of judges and politicians in office because they run good political campaigns or are members of the right political party. That is too high a price for the Jewish people to pay to satisfy an understandable lust for revenge.

Dr. Harold Goldmeieris an award winning entrepreneur receiving the Governor's Award (Illinois) for family investment programs in the workplace from the Commission on the Status of Women. He was a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard, worked for four Governors, and recently sold his business in Chicago. Harold is Managing Partner of an investment firm, a business management consultant, public speaker on business, social and public policy issues, and teaches international university students in Tel Aviv.