Photo: Zoom 77
Moshe Ben Ivgi - Fled during furlough
Photo: Zoom 77
Yigal Amir - Main crime was murder, not undermining democracy
Photo: Yaron Brener

Getting away with murder

Israeli justice system goes easy on murderers; tougher attitude needed to protect society

The despicable murderer was granted the right for conjugal visits. Recently, his child was born. While relatives of the victim are still mourning, the murderer celebrated the family event.


I’m referring to, of course, Moshe Ben Ivgi, the murderer of taxi driver Derek Roth. Ben Ivgi is detained in Argentina, and the prosecutor’s office is desperately attempting to bring him back to Israel. Recently we were informed by the media that his daughter was born a few months ago. And how did Ben Ivgi make it to Argentina? He fled the country during a vacation from prison. By the way, during a previous vacation, Ben Ivgi took part in an armed robbery.


My American friends are always stunned to hear such stories. In our country, they say, if a murder does not end up on the electric chair, they at least stay in prison for the rest of their lives. They certainly don’t get any vacations.


The Israeli justice system is very easy on criminals in general, and on murderers in particular. This lenient attitude is manifested through vacations, commuted sentences, and early release. The routine release of terrorists who plotted to murder Israelis can be attributed to the same attitude.


Is this mercifulness a display of sensitive humanism? On the contrary: It constitutes a blatant display of contempt for the value of human life. God instructed Noah and his sons on how to handle murderers: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6). Precisely because we cherish the image of God in humans, we severely punish those who murder humans.


Any murderer must end his life behind bars

Israeli media repeatedly asserts that Yigal Amir is not a regular murderer, because he “murdered democracy” or “murdered the peace process.” Such declarations also express contempt for human life. The murder of a prime minister indeed has particularly harsh public implications, but in moral terms, the difference between the murder of a prime minister and the murder of a taxi driver is dwarfed compared to the common denominator: The killing of another person.


Therefore, Yigal Amir’s main crime is not undermining democracy, but rather, the very murder in and of itself. In moral terms every murderer is despicable and we should severely punish all of them, including Yigal Amir and Moshe Ben Ivgi.


In fact, Jewish law sets out strict and rare criteria for the death penalty. The sages of the Mishna were divided on how rare the death penalty is in Jewish law. In the view of Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva, death penalties must be minimized to zero. However, Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel disagreed and argued that excessive mercy on murderers would only lead to more murders. And as Rabbi Nissim Ben Reuven argued, the civilian rule must punish murderers beyond what Jewish law says, or else we would see more blood spilled.


Today we can see with our own eyes how this fear is materializing: The Israeli justice system is very lenient when it comes to punishing murderers, and indeed, we see blood increasingly being spilled.


Even if we do not adopt the death penalty, we should know that a murderer, any murderer, must end his

life behind bars. Those who killed someone else do not deserve to see daylight. This argument is often directed at Yigal Amir out of a moral pathos that is rare in Israel’s public discourse.


We must enlist this same moral might in regards to any other murderer. A policy of zero benefits to murders is essential exactly because of reasons of mercifulness and humanism: Mercifulness for the victims of murder, and the safeguarding of our society’s humanism.


פרסום ראשון: 11.08.07, 09:51
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