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Freeing the Lockerbie Killer in the Name of ‘Compassion’

The same leaders appalled by al-Megrahi's release have pushed Israel to release thousands of prisoners as "humanitarian gestures."

by
Eli Bernstein

Bio

August 27, 2009 - 12:55 am
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In 1992, Israel expelled 400 terrorist leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the no-man’s land on its northern border. In 1993, following international pressure, Israel allowed them to return to the West Bank. They returned with technical and organizational expertise imparted by Hezbollah and upped the ante in the Middle East conflict. It is very reasonable to contend that, if not for this “compassionate act,” the terrorism wave of the mid-90s would not have occurred, a Palestinian state would have been established by now, and many thousands more on both sides would be alive to tuck their children to sleep tonight.

Unjustified international pressure tends to lead to unintended consequences.

Unlike the men Israel is forced to release, al-Megrahi will meet his own death before he causes the death of another. Those critical of al-Megrahi’s release should stop and examine what they ask Israel to do year after year.

No international leader decries that this action “makes a mockery of the rule of law,” as it does; that this action “gives comfort to terrorists around the world,” as it surely does; or that it makes “a mockery of the emotions, passions, and pathos of all those affected by [terror].”

As any victim will confirm.

Perhaps the story of Smadar Haran best highlights the painful sacrifices Israel has made in this regard. In a Washington Post article titled “The World Should Know What He Did to My Family,” she tells her story:

It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border. Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer. As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.

Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. “This is just like what happened to my mother,” I thought.

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.

On May 26, 2008, that basher of baby skulls, that great hero of the Palestinian struggle, walked free across the Lebanese border. He received a hero’s welcome, had the red carpet rolled out for him, had a national holiday declared in his honor, was greeted by the prime minister, president, speaker of the house, and the leader of Hezbollah. He later met with the Syrian president and was awarded Syria’s highest medal, the Syrian Order of Merit. On the day of celebration, they hung banners throughout Lebanon stating: “Israel is shedding tears of pain while Lebanon is shedding tears of joy.” No one in Israel will deny that.

Next time you are riled at the reception that al-Megrahi received in Libya, imagine what Smadar had to go through watching the man who destroyed her family wave to his adoring fans.

I am well aware that the choices made by Israeli prime ministers are not easy and that prisoner releases and swaps are amongst the most emotionally draining decisions. Indeed, like his predecessor, Netanyahu is standing now on the verge of yet another such tough choice of paying a heavy price to secure the release of Gilad Shalit in a deal that is likely to include the release of Marwan Barghouti — a five-count murderer and future Palestinian leader.

Maybe justice is the price of peace. Maybe the innocent do have to watch the guilty roam free so they may gain their own freedom.

What is certain is that America must stop and reflect next time it pressures Israel into such compromises so that it does not impose on others what it does not desire for itself.

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Eli Bernstein is a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs and Energy Economics. He can be contacted at eli.bernstein@gmail.com.
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