December 16, 2018

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Shoot to kill, not to neutralize

Every time there is a horrific terrorist murder of a Jew because he or she is a Jew, I am compelled to write one of what I am calling my “outrage posts.”

I’m outraged that this can continue, over and over. Every time, I write that we need a death penalty, or that we should fire a cruise missile at the center of the town that the murderers came from and then build a Jewish town on the ruins. Every time, I write that the perpetrators will almost certainly be caught, but the chances are good that they will survive their arrest and get more-than-humane treatment in an Israeli prison, and their families will receive a monthly stipend from the Palestinian Authority paid for by the US, the EU and even Israel. And every time, I am reminded of the Shalit deal, where a kidnapped soldier was traded for more than a thousand terrorists, including mass murderers.

Yesterday it was Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a 35-year old father of six children, mohel and volunteer medic, murdered in a drive-by shooting on Route 60 near Shechem, in Samaria. Because he was a Jew.

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, Hy”d, with his family

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, Hy”d, with his family

You can’t look at this picture without wanting to cry. Unless, of course, you are a member of Hamas, which announced that they “bless the heroic Nablus operation,”  the murder of Rabbi Shevach; or if you belong to Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which praised the “skilled and experienced” terrorist who carried out the “operation” and escaped.

This will undoubtedly contribute to the death penalty debate which is currently taking place in the Knesset. I have always favored a death penalty for terrorist murderers, but now I’m not so sure. If such a law passes it will surely include all kinds of safeguards and chances to appeal to the Supreme Court, and who knows what else. It will certainly take time before all the options are exhausted. This is Israel, after all, which aspires to be Berkeley, California, and you know how long it takes (forever) to get a murderer executed in California.

A death sentence that could be executed within a few weeks after the crime would be great. For that matter, so would a real life sentence without possibility of early release. But neither of these are likely.

Most of the time the security forces succeed in finding the terrorists responsible for crimes like this. And despite the fact that there are some terrorists who do want martyrdom, most of them don’t. So they give themselves up to the PA, which hands them over to Israel. Or they manage to surrender to our forces peacefully. And then they get the country-club prison, the conjugal visits, the Open University correspondence courses, the salary from the PA and perhaps an early release. I urge these terrorists to show that they are real men. Don’t go quietly! When the army or YAMAM comes to get you, point your guns at them. They’ll give you a sporting chance, which is more than you gave Rabbi Shevach.

I’ll support the death penalty law. While it probably won’t make much difference, it will make a statement. More important would be a decision by the IDF and police brass that security forces should shoot to kill, not to “neutralize,” and definitely not take terrorists alive. I’ve explained my reasons before, but the most important reason is that in the Middle East upholding your honor is an important part of deterrence; and a people that lets its members be killed without responding in kind loses its honor.

The lesson that these incidents teach me, over and over, is that there is no possibility of sharing our country with the Palestinian Arabs. They have never accepted the idea of Jewish sovereignty and never will. They will always believe that we stole the land and their honor and will always want to get them back, and violence will always be the preferred means. Incitement to murder in their official media, social media and mosques only increases from day to day.

It is the most elemental kind of conflict between human tribes, from long before the dawn of civilization. Two tribes want the same piece of land. Only one side can win. But today modern techniques of incitement and propaganda have made it possible for the tribes to be much larger and the conflict more permanent. It can’t be snuffed out or redirected. And geography doesn’t permit a compromise. One side or the other will have to win.

I wanted to believe, and indeed I did believe for many years, that compromise was possible. A deal could be worked out. Two states for two peoples. But one by one or ten or twenty at a time, Jews were murdered: rabbis, beautiful young girls, old men, soldiers, a bride having lunch with her father on the eve of her wedding, Jews shopping in stores, Jews walking on the sidewalk, riding in cars and buses, praying in synagogues, eating pizza, celebrating holidays, having Shabbat dinner with their families, waiting in line to go into a club, waiting for a bus or a ride, doing anything at all in eretz yisrael.

Rabbi Shevach is the latest, but he won’t be the last.

There have been too many. For me, the debate is over. It doesn’t matter whose narrative is closer to the truth (ours is, but it doesn’t matter). It doesn’t matter how much we Jews really, really want peace. It isn’t up to us.

What matters is that we are engaged in a war that has been waged against us since long before the founding of our state, whose objective has always been to prevent Jewish sovereignty anywhere in our homeland. Our enemies are not confused: they want total victory, and they understand what that means in a practical sense. We need similar clarity, because for the Jewish people, this is an existential war.

We can win it or we can disappear.

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