Click photo to download. Caption: In Gedera, Israel, a memorial for Alisa Flatow, the 20-year-old American victim of a 1995 Palestinian terrorist attack by Islamic Jihad. Alisa’s father, Stephen, writes that among the shattered myths after Monday’s landmark ruling for American victims of Palestinian terrorism is that suicide bombers are “lunatics.” Credit: Gilabrand via Wikimedia Commons.
By Stephen M. Flatow/JNS.org
The illusion is shattered. When confronted with claims of complicity in terror attacks, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) can no longer lift their hands and say in puzzlement, “Who, me?”
The jury in the just-decided terrorism case—Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, which awarded $218.5 million to 10 American families victimized by Palestinian terrorism in Israel—has said the opposite. “Yes,” the PA and the PLO do bear responsibility for the death, pain, and suffering brought about in a series of terror attacks against innocent civilians a decade ago. The myth of PA and PLO innocence has been shattered, I hope for all time.
Some other myths have been shattered, including the myth that suicide bombers are “lunatics”—in the words of Israel’s late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, as he told my wife and I when he visited us in our home a month after Islamic Jihad’s murder of our 20-year old daughter Alisa in April 1995.
A lunatic is mentally ill and does not know right from wrong, or cannot appreciate the consequences of his or her actions. The “lunatics” who carried out Palestinian terror attacks didn’t design and manufacture the bomber vests, or stuff a backpack with explosives and then conduct the attack on their own. The bomber vests and backpacks were designed and made by terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—the last two being the largest groups in the PLO, and the first two aided by the PLO.
The men and women who strapped explosives impregnated with ball bearings, nuts, bolts, and screws to their bodies, and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greater) as they pushed the detonator, fully appreciated the consequences of their actions—they wanted to kill Israelis. As many as they could, in any location they could find. So what if it was a pizza shop, or a bus, or a university cafeteria? So what if an American citizen or an Arab Israeli got caught in the attack? Who cared? They didn’t, and neither did those who recruited them and then drove them to the target.
When the FBI went to Gaza to investigate the murder of my daughter, what cooperation did the PA provide? None. And when the PA had the ability to arrest Alisa’s murderers, what did it do? Only because it wanted to relieve the pressure America brought to bear, it arrested and then furloughed her killers.
And what else has the PA done to combat terrorism in the years since the 1993 Oslo Accords? It refused Israeli requests, required under the Oslo Accords, to turn over to Israel those Palestinians wanted by Israel in connection with terror attacks. It pays terrorists who serve time in Israeli prisons and send a monthly pension payment to the families of so-called martyrs. It honors the murderers of innocent civilians by naming parks and sporting events after them. It turns a blind eye to those who planned and carried out terror attacks from within PA-controlled territory until the construction of the security fence by Israel put an end to them.
And what will the court ruling do?
First, it will help the Western world to understand that the long-held fiction that the Palestinians are not responsible for their actions must be discarded. He didn’t get many things right about the Middle East, but what Edward Said called the “orientalism” of the West—the treatment of Palestinians as children who did not know better—allowed the PA and PLO to duck from responsibility for terrorist acts carried out under their watch, and worse, with their supervision and/or material support.
Second, it should convince the U.S. government that the victims must be allowed to collect their financial awards. If not out of the of the $400 million in U.S. aid money sent annually to the PA, the reparations should come out of other assets of the PA in the U.S. and assist the victims to reach PA money in Europe.
Third, hitting the PA hard—in the pocketbook—should force the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, et al., to accept the fact that they cannot continue to pay terrorists sitting in prison or provide stipends to the families of murderers. More importantly, it might force the Palestinians living under their thumbs to say, once and for all time, “no” to the continued sponsorship and glorification of terrorists.
Stephen M. Flatow
While no amount of money will ever bring back the murdered children, fathers, mothers, and loved ones, nor adequately compensate the survivors, the jury’s message was clear: terrorism has a price, and the terrorists and their sponsors must pay for it—not with lip service, but in hard, cold cash.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is a candidate on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.
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