Sympathy for the DevilsAugust 17, 2013 23:13 by Pesach Benson
The Economist thinks Israel was stingy with last week’s prisoner release.
As a measure of the seriousness of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, the number of Palestinian prisoners released on the eve of talks, say pessimists, is a gloomy barometer. When the two sides sat down to negotiate two decades ago, after signing the Oslo accords in 1993, Israel freed 2,000 Palestinians in a single year. For the next couple of years it released, on average, around 1,000 a year. In later years that number slumped to a few hundred. Now, to coincide with the fresh round of talks that started in Jerusalem on August 14th, Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has freed just 26.
Even this has provoked an outcry in Israel.
Surprised that The Economist is so dismissive of Israeli terror victims’ pain?
Maybe a little. You see, the paper tapped into the very same distress when it condemned Abdelbaset al Megrahi’s release from prison back in 2009. Scottish authorities released the Lockerbie bomber on “compassionate grounds” after being diagnosed with cancer. Megrahi returned to a hero’s welcome in Libya and lived another three years.
What The Economist articulated then applies to the 26 murderers now enjoying their ill-deserved freedom:
The reason to leave Mr Megrahi in prison was less practical than symbolic. The atrocity of which he was eventually found guilty in 2001 killed 270 people (189 of them Americans). Terrorism is sometimes fuzzily thought to have a sort of intellectual respectability that more banal forms of violence lack. But the Lockerbie bombing was cold-blooded mass murder; Mr Megrahi’s crime was worse than that of any other prisoner in Britain. The purpose of jail is to signal society’s disapproval and console victims as well as to rehabilitate and deter; and, on moral grounds, Mr Megrahi should have died in one.
How to explain The Economist’s newfound sympathy for the devils?
It’s clearly easier to support prisoner releases when the terror attacks weren’t in your neighborhood. If you need further proof, look at the outrage sparked when one diplomat compared the Palestinian prisoners to Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in a 2011 rampage.
Either that, or it’ll take 270 dead Israelis to get The Economist’s attention.