Marwan Barghouti must remain in prison

The celebrated American humorist and cartoonist James Thurber (1894-1961) once described the different reactions of people when they are faced with a speeding car that is heading directly towards them. Some deftly jumped out of the way before impact and escaped; others were frozen in immobility and thus were hit head-on. But there was also a third group: these people ran in full force towards the car, hastening their own demise!

This image of intelligent people deliberately running towards disaster came to mind when I heard about another manic spiel calling for the release of the Palestinian mass murderer Marwan Barghouti.

Barghouti was the terrorist cartelist during the Second Intifada, when he became leader of the Tanzim, a branch of Fatah that targeted Israelis, both military and civilian. He also founded the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, another terrorist gang that indiscriminately killed Jews, as well as gunning down Georgios Tsibouktzakis, a Greek Orthodox priest, just in case.

Barghouti was detained by IDF commandos in 2002 and, although he was implicated in at least 26 murders, in 2004 he was convicted of five counts of murder. In the regrettable absence of a death penalty, Barghouti was sentenced to the maximum possible punishment: five cumulative life sentences for the murders plus an additional 40 years in prison.

In the 17 years since then, Barghouti has become something of a folk hero for many Palestinians. His popularity is directly proportional to the large number of Jews he killed or mutated, which is why in Palestinian polls he is routinely named as their first choice as leader, far surpassing Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh of the Palestinian Authority or any other figure. of Hamas.

Ironically, it is that very popularity that may be helping to keep Barghouti behind bars, as despite his public protests, none of the terrorist leaders are eager to hand over their positions of power and their blood money to him or anyone else. another person.

Unsurprisingly, various members of the European Union periodically complain about letting Barghouti out of jail, and from time to time, far-left Israeli politicians also broach the idea of ​​a Barghouti pardon. Even the late Shimon Peres once declared that if elected to the Israeli presidency, he would sign a presidential pardon for Barghouti; Fortunately, he never acted with that madness.

BUT As talks continue about a possible “prisoner exchange” with the Palestinians, in an effort to secure the release of Avner Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, there is a persistent fear that Barghouti could be released.

This would be disastrous for several reasons. First, freeing Barghouti would be a severe blow to the sacred principle of law and order. We have courts and we have a justice system; If you break the law, especially at the cost of someone else’s life, you must pay the price. If the perpetrators who were convicted and jailed are summarily released, it sends a chilling message to the general public: you can get away with it too. Why would anyone hesitate to break the law, from shoplifting to felony, if they know there is a fair chance that penalties will not be imposed? This serious perversion of justice would return our society to the law of the jungle, where individuals, instead of the courts, would be forced to take justice into their own hands to punish criminals.

At the same time, such a move would be a brutal stab in the back to the families of those killed by terrorists, including our own family. During his court appearance, Barghouti mocked the parents of the fallen soldiers and vowed that he would ultimately be victorious in his efforts to eradicate the Jewish state. Releasing this monster would cause immense pain to the afflicted of Israel.

PALESTINIANS WALK in front of graffiti showing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, currently serving five life sentences for terrorism, on a section of the security wall on the road to Ramallah. (credit: REUTERS)

You see, as long as we believe that our children did not die in vain, we have something valuable, something noble to hold onto, and we can bear their sacrifice. But when the killers walk by, unashamedly boasting of their success while being celebrated by their adoring public, we are doubly and mortally wounded.

There is also another dynamic at play here. We, as a moral and civilized nation, must instill in the Palestinians that there will never be peace with them as long as their main heroes are the villains and murderers. The more they celebrate and idolize the perpetrators of terrorism and judge their role models primarily by the body counts of dead Jews, the more determined we will be to prevent them from having their own status. Only when they reject violence as a virtue and instead instill in their people a goal of coexistence rather than a cult of death is there a chance for lasting peace between us.

Whenever headlines come up hinting at a prisoner swap, I shudder. I hope and believe that our current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, will stand strong and do the right thing, but I can’t be sure about the next prime minister, Yair Lapid. Will he hold on to the fort or will he give in to pressure and capitulate like former prime minister Netanyahu, who freed more than 1,000 terrorists in the Schalit debacle, many of whom have murdered dozens of Jews in sin? in giving. “

Barghouti is the litmus test of Israel’s commitment to stand firm and do the right thing. Ultimately, we either stand up for something or fall in love with everything.

The writer is director of the Ra’anana Jewish Outreach Center. [email protected]

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