March 6, 2005.
Scant international or even local attention has been accorded news that the
Palestinian Authority has decided to resume executions by the end of this
month. Of the 15 inmates on death row, none are terrorists, but about half
were convicted for “collaborating with Israel.”
Presumably the latter offense includes helping Israel foil suicide
bombings. By our book that not only is the last deed for which one ought to be
put to death, but it is precisely what the PA ought to be encouraging.
Indeed preventing terrorism is a commitment the PA itself has formally
undertaken, when it signed on to the road map. Yet the PA has been more than
remiss in living up to its own most minimal obligations to impose the rule of
law, actively combat terrorist incitement and arrest those who oppose its
claimed policy of ending attacks. It is obviously not acceptable to leave terrorist
organizations intact, allow them to regroup with Israel’s military pressure
removed and to decide at any moment to begin their attacks again.
When the PA imposes capital punishment on those it charges with helping
Israelis root out terror (allegations which are highly dubious in most cases), it
only adds insult to the injury inherent in its own inaction. It says the greatest
crime, in the PA’s eyes, is not terror itself but thwarting terror.
Nor is there any reason to trust the PA judicial system. The last time such
“collaborators” were executed officially was on a January morning in 2001.
“Trials” are normally brief and haphazard affairs that in no democratic country
would be considered due process.
The backlash from the last executions somewhat blemished the PA’s image at
the time. Since then such official executions were replaced with more creative
Frequently policemen shoot dead death row inmates, purportedly while they
attempt to escape. Alternatively, supposedly indignant vigilantes are allowed
into prisons, where they pull out the hapless convicts and slay them before
cheering crowds in the streets, sometimes proudly taking care to videotape the
Israel, by contrast, doesn’t execute even the most heinous of felons or the
most bloodthirsty of terrorists or criminals (Adolf Eichmann being the sole
Moreover, Israel’s very independent and very liberal judicial system, which
bends over backwards to be equitable to all – even to implacable foes – is
expected to rubber-stamp the release of thousands of captured, duly tried and
convicted terrorists with much innocent blood on their hands.
The PA, amplified by the world’s media, portrays them with brazen
distortion as prisoners of conscience incarcerated by a repressive regime.
The recent release of 500 terrorists was largely downplayed as insufficient as a
Yet while Israel is denied credit for its incomparably autonomous and
unregimented judiciary, the mockery of what parades as law next door escapes
censure. The PA today still tolerates kangaroo courts, where suspects are
dragged in because they failed to pay shakedown fees to a local boss, are then
accused of “collaboration” with the enemy and summarily sentenced to death.
We agree with Minister Natan Sharansky’s urgent plea to Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon that Israel immediately demand the PA desist from this
“It is unacceptable,” Sharansky writes, “that the PA demands the release
of terrorists from our jails, and we respond affirmatively because of the hope
for an opening to peace, while at the same time the PA is about to commit
state executions of people accused of helping Israel thwart terror.”
We fully endorse Sharansky’s irrefutable conclusion that “it is impossible to
build a peace process based on blood. Such a process can only be based on the
goodwill of both sides. The cold-blooded execution of those individuals accused
of cooperating to deflect terror is in direct contradiction to the gestures
demanded of Israel, tramples human rights, and with it any spark of hope for a
better future in the Middle East.”