Female terrorist waves knife before being shot in Afula

Death sentence through the back door

Op-ed: In their attempt to engage terrorists, Israeli troops' default option has become shoot to kill. It may soon backfire - quite literally.

Quietly and, as usual, without any real discussions and out of the instincts of a hot-blooded mind, Israel began applying the death sentence in recent weeks.



It's not just the statements made by politicians who only know how to talk, or by senior police officers who have declared that every stabbing attempt must end with the terrorist's death. It’s mostly the acts.


The videos - which were once considered snuff films and are today essential to every terror attack - leave no room for doubt: Time and again, terrorists who tried to stab Israelis were executed after a quick drumhead court-martial. In some cases, they were fatally shot although one could have gained control of them in a different way, for example by firing at their legs in an attempt to incapacitate them.


There is a reason why a thorough discussion is required before making a decision - just because the public is angry - to change the rules of engagement. There are a number of crucial issues which have to be discussed, the advantages and disadvantages must be seriously considered - before a decision is made. But not in Israel. Here, we fire first and investigate later.


Terrorist shot dead in Tel Aviv after stabbing five people. 'Executed after a quick drumhead court-martial' (Photo: Reuven Schwartz)
Terrorist shot dead in Tel Aviv after stabbing five people. 'Executed after a quick drumhead court-martial' (Photo: Reuven Schwartz)


The first issue is whether this sentence will also apply to those who don't engage in sectarian violence. For example, men who murder or try to murder their wives, teenagers who stab each other on weekends, and of course Jews who try to murder Arabs.


The second issue is where the line is drawn: Is it just stabbers or terrorists with firearms, or perhaps Molotov cocktail thrower (some of whom have also been shot to death) or stone throwers as well? And why stop there? The Jews who tried to lynch an Arab man in Netanya, for example, used their hands in an attempt to murder him.


The third issue is the benefit: Has it been proven so far, in Israel or abroad, that a death sentence helps achieve the goal of protecting innocent citizens? The experience here and there shows that the answer is, unfortunately, no. Nearly 5,000 people have been executed in the United States over the past 100 years, and the level of crime hasn’t been affected. In Singapore, several dozen drug criminals are executed every year, but that doesn’t deter other criminals from distributing drugs.


In Israel, and I shall just quote former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin who said over the weekend that in the second intifada "the ratio of casualties in the first few months was one Israeli casualty per 15 Palestinian casualties. That led to a deterioration and to serious suicide bombings." The bottom line is that when a person wants to die, he won’t be deterred by a death sentence.


The first and second issues are intertwined: It's hard or even impossible to set boundaries. First of all, who has the right to open fire, police officers, soldiers or any person carrying a gun? Second, each person's opinions usually enter his consideration system. One person will only fire at Arabs carrying out attacks, another will fire at violent men, and a third one will fire at wild drivers who are putting people's lives at risk. Why they are terrorists too.


The moment a red line is crossed, it will be hard to prevent people with guns from shooting not only at people holding a knife but also at those who only appear suspicious. Is that what will make Israeli society safer? The exact opposite is more likely. But there is no doubt that we should at least discuss these issues before opening fire, and before blood becomes the cheapest commodity in the Israeli market.


פרסום ראשון: 10.12.15, 11:43
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