By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
"And the Canaanite, the King of Arad, who lived in the south, heard that Yisrael came, following the scouts, and he waged war against Yisrael. And he took a captive from them. And Yisrael made a vow to G-d: If You give this nation into my hands, I will consecrate their cities. And G-d heard the voice of Yisrael, and He gave the Canaanites over to them, and they consecrated them and their cities. And they called the area Chorma (a desolate place)." [Bamidbar 21:1-3].
Terrorism Again and Again
Once again we have been struck by terrorism. Once again, we cry out at the funerals of victims of terror, asking for mercy from heaven – bring our suffering to an end! I write this article with a deep feeling of grief and sighing, between the funerals of the young girl Hallel-Yaffeh from Kiryat Arba, who was murdered by a knife-wielding attacker, and that of Rabbi Mickey Mark from Otniel, who was killed on the road by human beasts while others in his family were injured. Let G-d avenge the blood of the dead and bring the injured ones back to full health.
The immediate security responses by Israel are very minor, including an announcement by the Minister of Defense that he is immediately publishing a tender for construction of dozens of new apartments in Kiryat Arba (which is quite meaningless, since these were already published in the past), and cancellation of work permits for the Arabs who live in the same village as the terrorists (for how long? a day, a week?). Indeed, there is some value to symbolic reactions which might be considered "a proper Zionist response." And there is some value, albeit a minor one, to refusing to return the give the bodies of dead terrorists, and to other minor punishment of this type. However – in general, our hands are highly constrained by both the Israeli and the international legal systems.
The Need for Regional Punishment
The only way to achieve substantial deterrence is by punishing the circles which support terrorism before a murder and which then go all out praising it after the horrible act. This would include the immediate family, the "chamula" – the broader clan – the village, the entire tribe, and so on. There is some hope and some past evidence that the "surroundings" can prevent, delay, or even expose evil plans in advance, in order to avoid being harmed by the reaction. Even the terrorist himself might take notice of the suffering he will cause to his dear ones, and put a stop to his actions. However, we have heard much about the limitations put on us by international agreements – in terms of wide-ranging expulsions from the land, large-scale confiscation of property, cancelling Bituach Leumi payments – for all those who support, encourage, and are thrilled by the terrorism. As of now, any suggestions for such moves serve as nothing more than empty proposals by politicians and powerless "advisors" like me. No such proposals can ever be implemented because of legal limitations on our actions.
It is no secret that the shameful surrender to the terrorists who were on the "Marmara" which was accepted a few days ago, including paying them compensation, was not merely a political surrender to Turkey in order to benefit from regional interests. It was also a form of insurance to protect Israeli soldiers from personal legal action in the international court in the Hague, after they physically blocked the ship full of terrorists.
The entire (Western?) world is in the sights of ISIS, the murderous crime organization which masquerades as an "Islamic Caliphate" and ignites beastly flames in the hearts of "believers," who have become captivated by Islamic romanticism which crushes everything in its path. There is no end to the horrors of those who plan attacks of blood and fire, who have sworn their loyalty to this movement, which is nothing more than the enemy of mankind. These people give up their lives to commit their crimes in unstoppable suicidal actions. There is no alternative to novel legal inventions in order to deal with this situation – and Israel should lead the world by passing national legislation and encouraging similar international action. I am well aware of the weak track record of Israel in trying to "lead" such movements, but we must remember that our entire existence is based on performing a moral mission. And the main task of the world today is to eradicate terrorism.
I propose that the best of our national legal minds should be brought together for this purpose. Let them draft a "Law for Eradication of International Terrorism." This will include definitions of various levels of terrorism (incitement, encouragement, support, and so on), and permitted "regional" and "collective" punishments. Prominent Israeli legal experts will spread these concepts in international legal forums, in conferences, professional publications, using political pressure, and so on. Is there any possibility of accomplishing such a task, or can it be that the leadership of the Israeli justice system is not "nationalistic" enough to do it? Or are they perhaps infected with the religion of "humanism," which for its believers takes precedence over everything else? Is there anyone among us who will pick up this gauntlet?
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In this week's Torah portion quoted above, Yisrael, on the verge of entering the land, encounters a sophisticated enemy: Canaanites dressed as Amalikites (Rashi: Their dress was like the Amalekites, and their language was that of Canaan). They did this in order to frighten the people of Yisrael, since Amalek had a record of success in attacking their "trailing edge." Indeed, at first the enemy succeeded, and "took a captive from them." As Rashi notes, the sages interpreted this to mean that "one female slave" was captured. The nation rose up to war in order to rescue her, not willing to give up even one lone captive, even if it was merely a lowly slave. This led to a declaration of a war of eradication with no holds barred, spurred on by a prayer to G-d reminiscent of the one in the war on Amalek. "And, when Moshe raised his hand, Yisrael became stronger" [Shemot 17:11]. The result was a resounding victory: "They destroyed them and their cities. And they called the area Chorma."