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The death penalty is making a comeback in Israel

By sentencing Palestinians convicted of murder to death, the Israeli Right will only bring the mutual cruelty between Jews and Palestinians to another level. 

Death chamber and electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in 1923. (photo: Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com)

Death chamber and electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in 1923. (photo: Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com)

No one really wants to look back and learn anything from history. Every colonial regime convinces itself at some point to raise the level of brutality in order to force the natives to accept their situation. It seems like this is the path we must also take.

Avigdor Liberman’s party is promoting an initiative that would allow military tribunals to sentence terrorists who were convicted of murder to death. Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party already announced it would back the bill, as did some Likud ministers. This was kind of expected. After all, the Right has been calling on IDF soldiers to open fire on Palestinian stone-throwers, which can itself become an informal death sentence.

In fact, the military regime in the West Bank has the legal option of using the death penalty, but the prosecution rarely demands it, and rightfully so. The new bill is intended to change this policy and allow a majority of justices to sentence people to death (as opposed to a unanimous decision, which is the current requirement). However, capital punishment does not prevent acts of murder; even the Americans are starting to internalize this fact. It surely will not deter Palestinians. Those who were willing to carry out suicide bombings will also be willing to take the risk of being hanged.

Imposing the death penalty in Israel, aside from the inevitable international drama that would accompany any sentence, will bring the mutual hatred and cruelty between Jews and Palestinians to another level. The British learned this lesson not long ago.

In 1947, the Irgun Jewish underground group kidnapped two British sergeants, Sgt. Clifford Martin and Sgt. Mervyn Paice, threatening to kill them if the death sentences passed on three Irgun militants were carried out. The three had been captured by the British during a prison break, tried, and convicted on charges of illegal possession of arms, and with the “intent to kill or cause other harm to a large number of people.” When the three men were executed by hanging, the Irgun killed the two sergeants and hung their booby-trapped bodies in a eucalyptus grove. Menachem Begin even wrote an open letter to one of the fathers of the sergeants, in which he blamed the British government for the incident.

Will an Israeli mother receive such a letter from Hamas in the coming years?

After the bodies of the sergeants were discovered, British officers and soldiers took vengeance on passersby in Tel Aviv, beating and shooting them. Five Jews were murdered, and a wave of anti-Semitism engulfed Britain. The British government, on the other hand, ceased using capital punishment in Mandate Palestine.

I don’t expect much from the Right in the Israeli Knesset. But other parties, especially Labor and Yesh Atid, who have recently decided to join the populist, nationalist chorus must come out in opposition to the death penalty.

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    1. Whiplash

      I doubt that the death penalty is meant to deter Palestinians. You really cannot deter people who believe that Allah wants them to kill Jews and if they do they will be rewarded in paradise with 72 green eyed virgins.

      What the death penalty will do is to provide justice. Those who have murdered in the name of Palestinian nationalism will pay a commensurate penalty, the loss of their lives. Further, the death penalty will remove the possibility that the murderer will gain release to murder more Jews in the name of Palestinian nationalism.

      I would not be worried that the Palestinians would hate Israelis more for putting to death murderers. I think it would make the Palestinians respect Israelis more. Israel by not using the death sentence has made Palestinians believe Israel is weak. Israel allows child killers who slit the throats of sleeping children and brag about it to live in comfort. Israel allows killers to lead comfortable lives in prison, take university courses, have conjugal visits and talk to visitors who might relay their terrorist orders. Then they have a good chance to be released in a prisoner swap or as a sign of Israeli good will to please the Americans.

      Reply to Comment
      • Your first paragraph equates all Palestinians in a most vile way. If such a statement was made against Jews, replacing the stereotypic insults, you would howl anti-Semitism. And that undermines the premise of the rest of your comment that guilt, relative or absolute, is never at doubt at sentencing.

        Reply to Comment
        • Hercules

          Are you confused gain, Greg Pollock? Consider this, Greg:

          “However, capital punishment does not prevent acts of murder; even the Americans are starting to internalize this fact. It surely will not deter Palestinians. Those who were willing to carry out suicide bombings will also be willing to take the risk of being hanged.”

          – Noam Sheizaf

          So, I guess Noam also “equates all Palestinians in a most vile way”? See, Greg, you are always too quick to moralize based on your fuzzy logic. In the end you end up talking wobbly, wobbly mumbo jumbo.

          Reply to Comment
        • Gustav


          This is war. A 100 year war between the Jews of Palestine and the Arabs of Palestine. A war which we would rather not have, but the Palestinian Arabs as a people pledged to continue it till they eradicate the Jewish state and replace it with a Muslim Arab state.

          Do you understand what war is? The last time your people were involved in total war, did you utter sentiments such as not all Japanese or not all Germans are the same? Of course your people didn’t. Because it is an irrelevancy. In wars, each side fight to win the war. If they don’t, then they are doomed to lose the war.

          Reply to Comment
          • First, you are not in total war–at all. The Gazan rockets and their impact are hardly like standard war; they are threatening, but not in the same sense as the bombing in WW II or, for that matter, of Gaza. If “the Palestinian Arabs as a people pledged to continue [the ‘war’] till they eradicate the Jewish state and replace it with a Muslim Arab state” you would not have the security cooperation with the PA which your own intelligence services often laud. You will be forced to make the PA quislings against their own nation, which will place you, just about, in the same world view camp of Islamic Jihad or the militant wing of Hamas. Further, given your identification of a “Palestinian Arab” pledge of total war (which is what “eradicating the Jewish State” would be, you will have to consider all personnel in the PA as opportunist, holding their positions as “race traitors” or such against the wishes of the “Palestinian people”; making race, “People” primary, your PA quislings must be looked upon with a kind of pathetic disgust. The view is simplistic in the extreme, not acknowledging that in real war the State punishes deviation so that only one option seems to remain. You will now say that Hamas does exactly this, and it does indeed to some degree; so does Israel, in a weaker sense of, say, the Boycott Law. In your world the settlers complete vanish into a clash of Peoples.

            Second, you rhetorically ask “The last time your people were involved in total war, did you utter sentiments such as not all Japanese or not all Germans are the same?” The answer to which is no, “my people” did not utter such sentiments as “a whole.” The Japanese internment was strongly resisted by the Department of Justice. Several generals, testifying before Congress, thought internment was unnecessary as well. However, the home commander for the west coast insisted. FDR was unwilling to buck his military staff at the beginning of war, so approved the plan. The Justice Department asked to supervise internment gathering after it lost, thinking it would be kinder to the Japanese living in the US than the military. That might be marginally true, but not by much; once you decide to herd people, they will no longer be people.

            You may want to be in total war, but you are not. Certainly 1973 was total war for Israel. The suicide bombing campaign wasn’t total war, but much closer than anything you’ve experienced in the last decade. And the flip side of your characterization of “Palestinian Arabs as a people” choice can be applied to you: you too will push them, not to the sea, but into some fairy tale removal such as Jordan. They should, under your own logic of total war, assume you will do this, and so should think the same for you.

            You will have to live by each other, intermeshed, entwined, as your President says. Eradication is not an option for either side. Interestingly named Whiplash characterizing Palestinians as a “people who believe that Allah wants them to kill Jews and if they do they will be rewarded in paradise with 72 green eyed virgins” is as vile as the anti-Semitic baby eating comments of the past. I can then have no confidence of true guilt in this new use of the death penalty in self defined slow motion total war.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Stop it Greg. Just stop it.

            There are many kinds of wars. But wars are still wars. The tactics may be different but war always involves two or more people pitted against each other and using violence to achieve political and or national interests.

            And yes Greg, our war with the Palestinian Arabs has been going on for nearly 100 years. Granted, it is mostly a low intensity and sporadic which developed into asymmetric warfare although in the beginning, if anything, we were the ones who were outgunned.

            One more thing Greg. Given that for many years, the Arabs openly boasted about their intention to drive us into the sea and many of them (like Hamas) still promise the same thing, we feel at least as threatened as your people felt threatened in WW2.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            GREG:”Second, you rhetorically ask “The last time your people were involved in total war, did you utter sentiments such as not all Japanese or not all Germans are the same?”

            Actually that wasn’t the complete way that I put it. You left out this bit…

            GUSTAV:”Of course your people didn’t. Because it is an irrelevancy. In wars, each side fight to win the war”

            I put that bit immediately after my rhetoric question. You don’t think that was relevant Greg? I do. Had you took note of it, you would not have answered my question the way you did.

            Wanna try again?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            As for the PLO, I tell ya Greg. A lot of us lost any trust towards them after the second Intifada. And that trust was further eroded since Abbas ignored Olmert’s peace offer. He had 5 months to express some interest in it, before Netanyahu got elected and gave the PLO a fig leaf for ignoring the offer.

            So Greg, you have to understand that to a lot of us, the PLO is no different than Hamas. They just employ more sneaky tactics to try to position themselves to continue their national war against us from a more advantegous position.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Very nice debunking of the “total war” rhetoric, Greg. “PA = HAMAS = ISIS” rhetoric is still being served as warmed over leftovers in the hasbara cafeteria. And that looks about as tasty as the blue plate special pictured in the article by Oren Ziv on Holot.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            More BS from Benny.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav


            War is a state of armed conflict between societies.

            An absence of war is usually called peace.

            Question: Is there peace between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel?

            Answer: Clearly No!

            Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          The vileness is what Palestinian society collectively promotes.

          The Palestinian population has been indoctrinated in the belief that the killing of Jews will bring them to paradise. The Palestinian Media Watch reports:

          “In order to create willingness among the population to confront Israel violently, the PA took advantage of the ancient tradition in Islam, Shahada or Death for Allah, which mandates Muslims to aspire to die in combat for Islam. The PA told their people that this ancient tradition also applies to them in confrontation with Israel today.

          This indoctrination began shortly after the start of the PA terror campaign (the “Intifada,” 2000-2005) and continues today. The PA promotes Shahada as a mandatory religious Islamic duty, both for adults and children, promising great rewards.

          Martyrs rewarded with 72 Virgins
          The most prominent reward that Palestinian Martyrs are repeatedly promised are the 72 Dark-Eyed Virgins in Paradise. A Palestinian religious leader explained that this is authentic Islam, whose purpose is to “fill Muslims with desire for Paradise”:

          “He [Muhammad] said (in a Hadith, Islamic tradition):

          “[There is] a palace of pearls in Paradise and in it seventy courts of ruby… And in each court [there are] seventy houses of green emerald stone. In every house, seventy beds. On every bed, seventy mattresses of every color and on every mattress a woman.’ (Hadith)
          The writing of the Prophet [Muhammad in this Hadith]… is intended to fill Muslims with desire for Paradise… to be worthy of it, because only three dwell there: Prophets, Righteous and Shahids (Martyrs for Allah).”
          [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 2, 2004]

          The message comes from all parts of society, including religious leaders, TV news reports, schoolbooks, and even music videos. Newspapers routinely describe the death and funerals of terrorists as their “wedding.” The indoctrination has impacted so significantly on Palestinian society that mothers celebrate their sons’ death as “weddings” and some even state that their sons’ motivation to fight Israel and be killed was to reach Paradise and marry the Dark-Eyed Virgins.”

          Here is a Palestinian mother who believes her terrorist son was going to heaven to marry dark eyed virgins.


          Al-Quds TV, Feb. 12, 2014 broadcast the funeral of Habash Hanani who was buried with full military honors. He had killed 3 students in their school in Itamar. The inscription on his coffin read:

          “Palestinian National Liberation Movement – Fatah… escorts its Martyr Commander Habash Hanani to the Dark-eyed Maidens who saturated the soil of Beit Furik with his blood in his heroic operation on the soil of the Itamar settlement.”

          The indoctrination permeates Palestinian society. Violence, hatred and murder are universally promoted in Palestinian society. The Oslo Accords required Palestinians to fight incitement but instead they amplified it.

          In 2008 a Palestinian PSR poll found that 84% of Palestinians supported the slaughter of Yeshiva students massacred by Palestinian terrorists targeting children and young men. In 2014 another PSR poll found that 80% of the Palestinian population approved of the running over of babies and the stabbing of Israelis. Vile is it not.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      Information: Amnesty International now has “an interactive map created by human rights group Amnesty International has shown every attack on Gaza by Israeli forces during the 2014 Gaza conflict….The map, named The Gaza Platform and unveiled today, was created by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture, and aims to push for accountability for war crimes and breaches of international humanitarian law that may have occurred during the conflict.” Links can be found here:


      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        While you are at it, Bruce, you might want to read the following link too…


        It details how Hamas abuses the rules of war and how they use human shields. It also details the anti Israel bias of the UN and their industry of NGOs who act as the virtual propaganda arm of Hamas. They sorta accidentally on purpose spend most of their time vilifying Israel while they only mention Hamas transgressions when they simply cannot afford to ignore it. They mention them briefly as a token gesture. But most of the time they ignore Hamas’s war crimes.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Elisabeth

      Israel in effect already has the death penalty and metes it out quite frequently. It is just without trial and is called ‘targeted assasination’ or ‘defense against life threatening rock throwers’. Who are you kidding?

      Reply to Comment
        • Elisabeth

          I objected to this sexist comment but it apparently did not pass moderation. What on earth are your standards here if objections to blatant sexism do not even pass moderation?
          Is it OK for people who post here with a female name to be talked down to as ‘dear’and ‘deary’in this way? And it is not the first time here!

          Have you noticed how few women dare to post comments on the internet with a female name? It is because of this kind of male chauvism. Do something about this kind of sexual harassment, if you are a progressive website!

          Reply to Comment
    4. Average American

      First, it’s great reading Greg’s clear and logical posts. Second, it’s wonderful to see Menachem Begin’s Irgun terrorism brought out in the open. Would the death penalty apply to him if he were here today?

      Reply to Comment