President Obama lands in Israel on Wednesday, March 20. Perhaps on his flight someone will brief him on the American law which provides that those who commit acts of terrorism against Americans – anywhere in the world – will have to answer to the United States.
Right now terrorists must know that the U.S. is all talk, because despite the ever-increasing number of American victims of international terrorism, the U.S. rarely saddles up, heads out, and “gets their man.” It certainly has never done so when the perpetrator of overseas terror against an American was a Palestinian Arab.
President Obama will only be in the Middle East for three days, starting Wednesday, March 2o. But while the time pressure will force him to skip certain sites, it is hard to imagine a better use of his time than to meet with American Israelis who have been terror victims and whose pleas for assistance can be easily met.
That is, unless this president, like the past several, and all of the US congress, doesn’t think it is absolutely essential to pursue terrorists who have maimed and murdered Americans abroad.
A section of the federal anti-terrorism law allows the U.S. to investigate, extradite (where there is a relevant treaty) and prosecute those who are believed to have murdered or maimed Americans in acts of terrorism committed outside of the United States.
This law was passed in 1985, following the brutal point-blank shooting death of Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer by Arab Palestinian terrorists who boarded the Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt.
The terrorists boarded the vessel hoping to hold hostage the passengers, and then exchange them for Arab Palestinian terrorists who were being held in Israeli prisons. Sound familiar?
While the investigation of crimes overseas by American agents can be extremely expensive in terms of resources and manpower, that’s not a problem in cases where a foreign, respected judiciary – here, Israel – has already investigated, tried and convicted the violent criminals. Which is exactly the case for the 1027 convicts released in the Gilad Shalit hostage exchange deal in 2011, 15 of whom have American blood on their hands.
What’s more, many of the convicts have publicly bragged about their acts of terrorism, and have pledged to continue their terrorist pursuits.
Also, unlike Israel, the U.S. is not barred from prosecuting the released convicts. While Israel was blackmailed into releasing those terrorists and has foresworn prosecuting them again for the crimes for which they were imprisoned, the U.S. is under no such obligation.
So, this should be an easy case.
But tell that to Dr. Alan Bauer, who has been banging his head against the brick wall of the U.S. Justice Department for eight years, trying to get them to do exactly what this federal law was crafted, and enacted, to do. Bauer, a Chicago-born, Harvard-trained biochemist and his then seven-year old son were seriously wounded in a homicide bombing in Jerusalem on King George Street, eleven years ago, on March 21, 2002.
Or tell it to Sherry and Seth Mandell, whose 13-year old son Koby was stabbed and beaten to death with rocks by Arab Palestinians in the spring of 2001. The Mandells moved to Israel from Maryland in 1996, in the wake of the Oslo Accords. The Mandell family moved, hoping to live in peace with their Arab neighbors.
Nearly ten years ago the US congress directed that an office within the Justice Department, the “Office for Victims of Overseas Terrorism,” be created to “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against American citizens overseas remain a high priority within the Department of Justice.”
The OVT is responsible for monitoring the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against Americans abroad,” but not a single terrorist has ever been pursued by this office. Oh, files are open and updated, but that’s it.
A nasty notation in a file in the OVT has never, and one can be assured will never, stop a terrorist from maiming or murdering Americans anywhere.
The answers Bauer and the others have received to their many dozens of pleas to those in the OVT- when there is any response at all – is “thank you for sharing your views. We share your concern.” In other words, absolutely nothing of any value.
In anticipation of President Obama’s visit to the region, Bauer and other American victims of Arab Palestinian terror sent a letter to Thomas Goldberger of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
They asked that the State Department pass on to those in charge of Obama’s visit a simple, three-point message: (1) utilize the American anti-terrorism laws to prosecute terrorists who have wounded and killed Americans, (2) make it clear to the Palestinian Authority that any American financial aid will be cut off if the PA is found to be complicit in acts of terrorism that harm American citizens, and (3) insist that no more Arab Palestinian terrorists with American blood on their hands be released by Israel.
The answer to this message, like the earlier one in which Bauer asked that he and other American victims of terror be granted an audience with President Obama, has been silence.
Bauer points out that the acting leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, publicly stated that his number one goal for Obama’s visit is to “demand” that still more Arab Palestinian convicts be released from jail. “The issue of the prisoners will be the No. 1 issue during the talks with President Obama,” Khaled abu Toameh reported on March 12. Blocking more housing for Jews was the second priority.
According to news reports, President Obama reminded Arab American leaders, when he met with them prior to his trip to the Middle East, that he is committed to the creation of “the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian People.”
Bauer and other American victims of Arab terrorism hope that Obama is just as committed to justice for them as he repeatedly says he is to the creation of another Arab state. But so far, the Ethiopian Israeli beauty queen, Yityish Aynaw, has been the recipient of more attention from the president’s advance team than have American Israeli victims of terror.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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