Wednesday 19 October 2011

Prisoner swap is a terrible mistake

The Lod Airport massacre was a terrorist attack that occurred on May 30th, 1972, in which three members of the Japanese Red Army, on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) killed 26 people and injured 80 others at Tel Aviv's Lod airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport). Two of the attackers were killed, while the last survivor was captured after being wounded.

I expressed my concern about that incident when I addressed the delegates at a conference at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in 1975 when I warned the delegates that the Japanese Red Army terrorists were expanding their terrorist activities outside of the shores of Japan.

The dead comprised of seventeen Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico, a Canadian citizen, and eight Israelis, including Professor Aharon Katzir, an internationally renowned protein biophysicist, whose brother, Ephraim Katzir, would be elected President of Israel the following year.

The three terrorists arrived at the airport aboard an Air France flight from Rome. Dressed conservatively and carrying slim violin cases, they attracted little attention. As they entered the waiting area, they opened up their violin cases and extracted Czech Vz 58 assault rifles with the butt stocks removed. Immediately afterwards, they began to fire indiscriminately at airport staff and visitors, and tossing grenades as they changed magazines. The terrorist, Yasuda was shot dead, and the terrorist, Okudaira moved from the airport building into the landing area, firing at passengers disembarking from an El Al aircraft before killing himself with a grenade. The third terrorist, Okamoto was shot by security personnel and arrested as he attempted to leave the terminal.

Because airport security was focused on the possibility of a Palestinian attack, the use of Japanese terrorists took the guards by surprise. The attack has often been described as a suicide mission, but it has also been asserted that it was the outcome of a larger operation (the particulars of which remain unpublicized) that went awry. The three perpetrators—Kōzō Okamoto, Tsuyoshi Okudaira, and Yasuyuki Yasuda—had been trained in Baalbek, Lebanon. The actual planning was handled by Wadie Haddad (a.k.a. Abu Hani), head of PFLP External Operations, with some input from Okamoto. Okamoto was tried by Israeli courts and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1972. Haddad was later assassinated in 1978 by the Israelis Mossad.

Okamoto was released in 1985 with over a thousand other prisoners in an exchange for captured Israeli soldiers. After his release from prison in Israel, Kōzō Okamoto moved to Libya, then Syria, and finally to Lebanon in 2000 where he was granted political refugee status. While in Lebanon, he was reunited with other members of the Japanese Red Army. I have no idea what he is doing there now. The 64-year-old terrorist is still wanted by the Japanese government. It has been requested that he be extradited to Japan but that isn’t going to happen.

When I learned that Okamoto had been released along with over a thousand other terrorists by the Israelis, I was furious. I subsequently wrote a paper on the subject and when I was invited by the United Nations to present my paper at a UN crime conference being held in Milan in September 1985, I was surprised to learn that the Italian government had requested the UN to have me present my speech from the podium rather than from my desk on the floor. I later learned that the reason why they wanted me to speak from the podium was that my speech was to be televised and later shown that night on Italian TV.

While I was giving my speech, I reminded the delegates that on March 16th 1978, the Red Brigades terrorists kidnapped former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro as a pawn because the terrorists were demanding release of Red Brigades members from Italian prisons in exchange for Moro. When their demands were not met, they murdered him.

This was probably one of the reasons why the Italian government was pleased with my speech after they got a copy of it several days before I gave the speech from the podium.

In my speech, I warned the representatives from the 85 nations attending the conference that unless they execute the terrorists they capture, they will be released as part of a prisoner swap and come back as terrorists to haunt those that released them. I pointed out that terrorists will not be able to make a swap when the terrorists are dead.

Of course, I was not suggesting that everyone who is connected with terrorism should be executed. The terrorists I had in mind for execution were bomb makers, bomb throwers, and other terrorists who murder their victims and of course, the leaders of terrorist organizations.

New data from the United States top intelligence official shows that the number of Guantanamo Bay detainees who were released have committed more acts of terrorism again and the number of terrorist activities by these former prisoners continues to grow at an extraordinary rate. The report from the director of intelligence says that of the 150 of the 598 detainees who had been transferred out of Guantanamo's detention camps, about 25 percent, were later confirmed or suspected of returning to the war against the Americans as terrorists.

Of that group of released terrorists, 13 are dead and 54 are again in custody, while 83 remain at large. And the report estimates that detainees that return to the war against the Americans and others as terrorists do so an average of two and a half years after their release.

There was a large contingent of Americans in the American delegation at that UN conference in Milan that heard me speak but it appears that they didn’t take my warning about prematurely releasing terrorists from captivity very seriously. Certainly the Israelis didn’t heed my warning.

Over the last 30 years, Israel has released about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure freedom for 19 Israelis and to retrieve the bodies of eight others. I am not convinced that all of them were really terrorists.

In 1985, Israel released 1,150 prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon. Then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin defended the deal. "When no military option exists," he said, "there is no choice but to enter negotiations and pay a price."

In June 1998, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) brokered an exchange of prisoners and prisoners and remains among Israel authorities and the Lebanon Hezballah, and the South Lebanese Army (SLA). In exchange for the remains of an Israeli sergeant who was killed in a military operation in Lebanon in September 1997 between Israel and the SLA, Israel released 65 prisoners and also returned the remains of 40 Hezballah deceased guerrillas to Lebanon.

If you think that releasing 65 terrorists just to retrieve the body of a dead Israeli soldier is proportionally bad, consider what is currently happening. As many as 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will eventually be released from Israelis prisons in the exchange deal to release a live Israelis soldier (Corporal Gilad Schalit). The first group of 477 prisoners, whose names were published Sunday, were released yesterday at the same time that Hamas handed over Schalit to the Israelis. The list of prisoners being released yesterday included 450 males and 27 females.

Please don’t misinterpret my views on this swap. I am pleased that the Israelis soldier has been released. He was in Hamas custody for five years. But as to be expected, his release and the release of the terrorists is the continuation of a bad precedent. It is one thing to release one terrorist for one soldier but to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for one soldier is far out of proportion even if not all of them are dangerous terrorists.

Shvuel Schijveschuurder, 27 has every right to be upset at this swap. He has protested against the release of a woman involved in the bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001 that killed his parents and three of his siblings. Ahlam Tamimi, who drove the suicide bomber to the restaurant, is one of the 27 female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody being released as part of the deal that will see Corporal Shalit freed. She was serving 15 life sentences, one for each of those killed in the attack. She was interviewed recently and asked if she had any regrets as to what she had done and she replied, "No! Why should I feel sorry?" When asked if she would do it again, she replied. "Yes!"

Many families are also upset at the release of Abdel Hadi Ghanem who on July 6th 1989 at age 23, commandeered a Jerusalem-bound bus and drove it off a cliff near Neve Ilan on the road from Tel Aviv which killed 16 of the passengers. Thirty-three-year-old Vancouver dentist, Shelly Wolochow died in the crash along with Fern Shawna Rykiss, a 17-year-old Winnipeg student. Ghanem was sentenced to 16 life sentences along with 24 additional 20-year sentences for each passenger injured in the bus crash.

Yossi Zur was also upset after learning that three of the six men behind the bombing of a bus that killed 17 people, including his son Asaf, in Haifa in March 2003 are also being released.

Echoing the views of many on the Israeli right, Mr. Zur predicted those released may return to terrorism and Hamas, emboldened by its success, will seek to kidnap more Israeli soldiers to use as leverage in future prisoner swaps.

Zahava Vider, whose father, daughter and son-in law were among the 30 Israelis killed in the bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002, said she welcomed the swap. She added her feelings would not change even if the man accused of masterminding the attack, Abbas al-Sayed, was among those to be released, although it is understood he is not on the list. She said, “The Israeli government must take care of all its citizens, and to me that means they must release all our citizens and take care of them at any price.”

I don’t think she speaks for the vast majority of Israelis citizens who have had enough of terrorists killing them off. As I see it, releasing these terrorists back into society is akin to submitting the Israelis to the Chinese deaths of a thousand cuts. If anything, the release of these terrorists for the repatriation of one Israeli soldier will entrench the Hamas in Giza and act as an incentive to kidnap another Israeli soldier with the intention of using him as a pawn to release more Palestinian terrorists fro Israeli prisons.

The Hamas, which has refused to recognize the existence of Israel as a state will get a new lease on the life of their acts of terrorism now that hundreds of their fellow terrorists have been returned to them by the Israelis. A masked spokesperson using the nom de guerre Abu Majahid said, "We are going to capture another soldier and cleanse all the Israelis jails that remain in custody." When the terrorists were returned to Gaza, a 100,000 people in that city chanted, "We want another Gilad, we want another Gilad." (the Israeli soldier that was just released) Yehiye Sinwar, a founder of the Hamas Military wing and one of the Palestinians just set free said, "We shall spare no efforts to liberate the rest of our brothers and sisters. We urge the Al Quassam Brigades to kidnap more soldiers to exchange them for the freedom of our loved ones." unquote

This type of response is what I warned the delegates about in my address at the UN conference in Milan in 1985. The Israeli delegates didn't listen to me and if they did, they didn't heed my warning.

As we all know, Israel doesn’t have the death penalty on its books. The only person ever hanged in Israel was the captured war criminal, Adolf Eichmann who was hanged on May 31st 1962. After that, the gallows was dismantled.

In 1980, while addressing a UN crime conference held in Caracas, Venezuela, I suggested in my speech that terrorists that kill innocent people should be executed. I had no qualms about that even though I am an abolitionist at heart.

The United States has the death penalty for federally convicted people worthy of being executed, such as Timothy McVeigh who was executed by injection on June 11th 2001 for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma in which 168 people were killed, including 19 children under the age of 6, and more than 680 people were injured.

The 1993 World Trade Center bombing occurred on February 26th, 1993, when a truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 1,336 lb (606 kg) urea nitrate–hydrogen gas enhanced device was intended to knock the North Tower (Tower One) into the South Tower (Tower Two), bringing both towers down and killing thousands of people. It failed to do so, but did kill six people and injured more than a thousand.

The attack was planned by a group of conspirators including Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad Salameh, Nidal A. Ayyad, Abdul Rahman Yasin and Ahmad Ajaj. They received financing from Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Yousef's uncle. In March 1994, four men were convicted of carrying out the bombing: Abouhalima, Ajaj, Ayyad and Salameh. The charges included conspiracy, explosive destruction of property and interstate transportation of explosives. In November 1997, two more were convicted: Yousef, the mastermind behind the bombings, and Eyad Ismoil, who drove the truck carrying the bomb.

In March 1994, Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Mahmud Abouhalima and Ahmad Ajaj were each convicted in the World Trade Center bombing. In May 1994, they were sentenced to life imprisonment. They should have been executed. However, they are each spending the rest of their lives in solitary confinement in one of the world’s most secure prisons in Colorado. Quite frankly, spending their lives in solitary confinement where they can’t communicate with anyone but their guards is a fitting punishment for terrorists because at least the Americans will never release these terrorists no matter how much pressure is exerted on the American government to release them. If they were captured terrorists in Israel, they would be out in a flash if there was an Israelis soldier’s body to be exchanged.

It is indeed a very heavy price being paid by Israel to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit from Palestinian captivity which has correctly prompted outrage among the Israelis families of those killed in suicide bombings.

I will say it again as I did in the past, if you give a terrorist an inch, he or she will take that to mean that you are giving the terrorist a mile. The precedent has been set in stone. Now every terrorist knows as they learned this from Israel’s past mistakes, that as a terrorist, if he or she is captured, he or her fellow terrorists will simply grab an innocent Israeli and begin the bargaining again and yes, the terrorist will be one of the many who will eventually be released and sent back to his or her home as a conquering hero.

Khaled Meshaal, a Hamas leader said, "Negotiation based on power forces the enemy to pay the price. We defeated the Israelis." The Israelis paid the price and they were defeated.

Attorney Ami Palmor, Head of Pardons Department in the Justice Ministry in Israel, arrived at the President's Residence Saturday evening and delivered the files concerning the terrorists that were to be pardoned in the first part of the Shalit deal.

President Peres attached a letter to the pardons, as he did when he pardoned child-murderer Samir Kuntar in the Regev-Goldwasser deal in 2008.

At the time, Peres wrote: “I used the authority to grant pardons for the release of abducted prisoners Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. My decision does not denote any forgiveness for the murderers for their heinous acts. I do not forget and I do not forgive.”

Already he has forgotten and he is still in a forgiving mood.

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