Skip to comments.Top Lawyer Urges Death For Families Of Bombers
Posted on 06/11/2002 7:46:36 AM PDT by Aleksandar Vojvoda
FORWARD.COM JUNE 7, 2002 | current issue | back issues | subscribe
Top Lawyer Urges Death For Families Of Bombers
Lewin: 'A Policy Born of Necessity' By AMI EDEN FORWARD STAFF A prominent Washington attorney and Jewish communal leader is calling for the execution of family members of suicide bombers.
Nathan Lewin, an oft-mentioned candidate for a federal judgeship and legal advisor to several Orthodox organizations, told the Forward that such a policy would provide a much-needed deterrent against suicide attacks. Under the proposal, which Lewin unveiled in the current issue of the opinion journal Sh'ma, family members would be spared if they immediately condemned the bombing and refused financial compensation for the loss of their relative. (Lewin's article appears on the web at http://www.shma.com/may02/nathan.htm.)
While a 20-month spate of suicide bombings has been met in the Jewish community with calls for increasingly Draconian preventive measures, Lewin appears to be the first Jewish communal leader to approve publicly of the concept of executing innocent civilians in the hopes of curbing terrorism.
"If executing some suicide-bomber families saves the lives of even an equal number of potential civilian victims, the exchange is, I believe, ethically permissible," wrote Lewin, who served as president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and is a vice president of the Orthodox Union. "It is a policy born of necessity the need to find a true deterrent when capital punishment is demonstrably ineffective."
Lewin argued that the biblical injunction to destroy the ancient tribe of Amalek serves as a precedent in Judaism for taking measures that are "ordinarily unacceptable" in the face of a mortal threat. His proposal, however, was rejected by an Israeli diplomat in New York, and discounted, in terms ranging from mild to condemnatory, by a range of commentators, terrorism experts and Jewish communal leaders from across the American political spectrum.
"The State of Israel is determined to respond to every Palestinian provocation," said Ido Aharoni, consul for media and public affairs at Israel's New York consulate. "Israel's military approach is to pursue the perpetrators and those who seek to carry out acts of terrorism against innocent Israelis. Within that framework, Israel is trying to minimize, if possible to eliminate, the number of innocent lives lost."
Several leading Jewish figures, including Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, argued that the plan represented a legitimate if flawed attempt to strike a balance between preventing terrorism and preserving democratic norms. But the proposal was strongly condemned by the head of the Reform movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, and the executive vice chairwoman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Hannah Rosenthal.
"The opinion is utterly reprehensible and totally contrary to the most fundamental principles of the Jewish religious tradition and everything the State of Israel has been about since its founding," said Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. "I've said it, and everyone realizes, that in a war all of our standards on civil liberties may not apply. But to say that you need to make common-sense compromises is a long way from saying we are going to kill innocent people to bring about deterrence."
Yoffie rejected Lewin's reference to Amalek as a possible justification for killing innocents. He argued that for nearly 2,000 years talmudic sages and other rabbinic commentators have argued that the lessons of Amalek could not be applied to contemporary times. In an article that appeared in the Sh'ma journal alongside Lewin's essay, Brandeis University Jewish studies professor Arthur Green wrote, "I only wonder how long it will take [Lewin], by the force of this proof-text, to go all the way and suggest that the Palestinian nation as a whole has earned the fate of Amalek."
Green, former president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, wrote that his first desire upon reading Lewin's essay was to "tear my garments, as a sign of mourning on hearing the desecration of God's name."
The criticisms of Lewin were taken one step further by Jeremy Burton, a member of Sh'ma's advisory board and executive director of AMOS: The National Jewish Partnership for Social Justice. Burton argued, in his own name, that the attorney should now be blackballed from organized Jewish life, just as the late Rabbi Meir Kahane was ostracized for calling for the mass deportation of Arabs from Israel.
Rosenthal, whose organization serves the national network of local Jewish community relations councils and a range of national organizations, said that Jewish groups need to condemn any talk in their community of justifying the killing of civilians. "I can't begin to tell you how many meetings I've been in with colleagues across the country where the words of spokespersons for various Muslim and Arab causes are being parsed," Rosenthal said. "We look at words and decide which side of the line you are on."
Dershowitz and Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, rejected the notion that Lewin should be elbowed out of communal life. They argued that his proposal represented a legitimate attempt to forge a policy for stopping terrorism. Foxman declined to take a stand on the actual proposal, citing his policy of deferring to Jerusalem on Israeli security issues.
Though they declined to endorse the controversial proposal, top officials at the O.U. and Agudath Israel of America, for whom Lewin has done legal work, expressed sympathy for Lewin's efforts to curb what they described as an unprecedented wave of suicide attacks in Israel. "[Lewin] is not a Kahanist; he is not a nut," said Richard Stone, chair of the O.U.'s Institute of Public Affairs. Stone noted that Lewin, a member of the institute's executive committee, was not advocating the mass deportation of Arabs, rather a limited method of fighting terrorists.
Rabbi William Altshul, headmaster of the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in Washington, D.C., told the Forward that he did not regret the decision to honor Lewin this week at the school's annual dinner. "I haven't read the article," Altshul said. "But Nat has always been known for his outspoken opinions, and I respect him for it."
Even as several observers rejected the notion of blackballing Lewin, they offered substantive critiques of his argument. Dershowitz, author of "Why Terrorism Works" (Yale University Press, 2002), and terrorism researcher Steven Emerson, who both favor the limited use of torture to extract information about an impending terrorist attack, said that they balked at the execution of innocent civilians. Still, Emerson added, "all bets are off" if terrorists were to target thousands of people with non-conventional weapons.
Dershowitz argued that the same level of deterrence could be achieved by leveling the villages of suicide bombers after the residents had been given a chance to evacuate (an idea Lewin disparagingly likened to "using aspirin to treat brain cancer").
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Orthodox Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, N.J., a trained lawyer known for hawkish views on Israeli security issues, argued that a policy of mass deportations, rather than executions, could serve as an effective, but less deadly, deterrent against future attacks.
Several observers defended Lewin by noting that the United States killed tens of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Yoffie warned against such parallels.
"If we are going to start looking for historical justifications for us to kill innocent people, then we are destroying the moral basis of our argument, which is ultimately our most effective weapon," the Reform leader said. "Don't go down that road because it is wrong, self-defeating and dangerous for Israel."
They did. The assassinations stopped for some time.
The families of the homicide bombers aren't innocent; they accept blood money for their so-called martyrs after the bombings. In essence, a family member dies, the family gets glory, and lots of money from the Arabs.
I see nothing wrong with blowing away a supporting family that has been rewarded for a family member who has blown away innocent Israelis or other enemy of Islam.
Works for me. As long as the muslims are evacuated out of Israel. This would be a good way to depopulate the nation of muslims!
He's also not giving you a cut of the stolen property. The families of homicide bombers are not passive observers! They are collecting payments from Iraq and other Arab governments. As far as I am concerned, families that accept remuneration for the act by a family member of committing a suicide bombing, are in fact guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, accessory to murder, and even murder itself.
The terrorists laugh at our stupidity, just as the colonists must have laughed at the British who refused to engage in guerilla warfare or shoot officers. General Sherman realized that war was about breaking your opponants will as much as anything else.
It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face...And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces...Seems a thousand centuries ago...We went into a camp to innoculate the children. We left the camp after we had innoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every innoculated arm. There they were in a pile...A pile of little arms. And I remember...I...I...I cried... I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized...like I was shot...Like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead...And I thought: My God...the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we.
Colonal Kurtz (Marlon Brando) - Apocalypse Now
You wouldn't be responsibe, you would be a victim of his crimes and punishment. Wouldn't that spur you to take action to stop your cousin?
This should be the law of the land. Their punishment should be swift and sure.
When I heard that one of the latest homicide bombers called his Mother right before he exploded himself, and she wished him "good luck on his mission", I joined the chorus.