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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Boston Marathon Bomber

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused of last year’s deadly Boston Marathon bombing, faces the death penalty, according to a recommendation made last year by federal prosecutors’  but not  made public until Thursday. He was indicted last June 27.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him, including using a weapon for mass destruction. Three people were killed and another 260 wounded in the massacre. Of those injured, 16 lost their legs after Tsarnaev allegedly left homemade bombs in crowds near the finish line of the race.

The decision to request the death penalty, as recommended by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, was announced by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Oritz, who wrote that Tsarnaev “committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner.”

Policed shot and captured Tsarnaev last April, days after the murders. He had hidden in a  boat where he allegedly scrawled in his own blood such statements as, “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians. Can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished.

“We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [unintelligible] it is allowed. Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”

The day before he was arrested, Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan, who also was sought for the massacre, died from gunshot and other wounds during a car chase by police.

He admitted to authorities that Tamerlan was infuriated by the  United States, in particular for what he believed was its attacks on Islam through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, naturalized as an American citizen in September 2012, was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, with a major in marine biology.

 

Like It or Not, the Seven Noachide Laws Are Still Pending

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

During a recent Shabbat, I was reading volume one of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s A Code of Jewish Ethics. In a discussion of permissible lying under oath, Rabbi Telushkin writes of a situation where “the punishment to be imposed on the basis of the testimony is so enormously disproportionate to the crime committed as to be a worse offense than perjury.” As an example, Rabbi Telushkin notes how pickpocketing in eighteenth-century England was a capital offense, then states:

“It would seem to me that a person who saw an act of pickpocketing and was summoned as a witness would be morally obligated to lie under oath if his truthful testimony could result in a person being killed for an act of pickpocketing (it is better to lie under oath, if one cannot avoid testifying, than to be responsible for bringing about a non-violent felon’s death).”

This position seems admirable, but was England’s policy in fact contrary to Torah?

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l wrote in Abraham’s Journey, “From a halakhic viewpoint, the universal mission of Abraham crystallized in seven mitzvot, the covenantal mission in 613.” The universal mission refers to the Seven Laws of Noah (Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach) that apply to gentiles. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l described the Noahide laws as “the moral code for all of mankind” (commentary to Bereshit 2:16) and observed in this vein during a speech in 1859:

“The Jewish mind understands that the law of Judaism was intended only for the sons and daughters of Abraham as the God-ordained norm for the nation that has been chosen as a nation of priests, as consecrated torchbearers of the truth that is destined to redeem all of mankind. But the Jewish mind also understands that truth as such, that justice, that enlightenment and that moral civilization are intended to be the heritage of all to whom God has given breath on earth.”

In relation to Rabbi Telushkin’s example, one of these seven universal commandments prohibits theft. What is the punishment for theft under Noahide law? Rabbi Moshe Weiner writes in his study of the Sheva Mitzvot:

“An adult Gentile is warned about the prohibition of theft, and can be subject to capital punishment in a court of law for this transgression. This applies whether one forcefully robs or secretly steals money or any moveable property, or kidnaps a person, or withholds the wages of his employee or other similar acts, or even an employed harvester who eats from his employer’s produce without permission to do so. For all such acts, a Gentile is liable for a capital sin, and one who commits any of these types of transgressions is considered as a robber.”

Likewise, in his 2012 book We’re Missing the Point: What’s Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It, Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein dedicates two chapters to the Noahide laws and writes on the prohibition of theft:

“Like murder, theft as a broad concept is intuitive, but its exact definition and the punishment accorded it in the Noahide code goes beyond the expected. First, Noahide law punishes theft of even minimal amounts of money, even if the victim is not the rightful owner. Second, like all Noahide law, theft is considered a capital crime.”

Rabbi Dr. Rothstein observes in a footnote to that passage:

“I suspect most of us find it difficult to justify the death penalty, even in theory, for stealing a few dollars. That may reveal how inured we have become to theft’s ubiquity; were we more sensitive to the damage theft does to a social sense of unity and common purpose, we might understand better how it could arouse the kind of moral revulsion usually reserved for murder or rape–which, incidentally, is seen as a kind of theft by at least one rabbinic author.”

Similarly inured to certain sexual deviancies, some Jews—among them those who identify as Orthodox—might have difficulty with Noahide prohibitions in this realm. Rabbi Dr. Rothstein notes that “Judaism has a view of wrongful sexuality for non-Jews as well” and how “part of being Jewish is to adhere to and believe in a universal ethic about sexuality, one at great odds with common assumptions of contemporary Western thought.”

It’s Time to Impose the Death Penalty

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

The impending release of more than 100 murderers of Jewish men, women and children by the current Israeli government is putting all of us in grave spiritual danger. Simply put, the way we treat murderers, whether Arab or Jewish, is an expression of the value we attribute to the innocent lives taken.

With our willingness to house and lodge proven murderers, we signal our own spiritual uncertainty about our right, as a nation and as a state, to avenge the blood of the innocent.

We’ve all heard the counter argument on the death penalty for Arab terrorists: if we hang them, they’d become national heroes, martyrs admired by young an old, thus perpetuating the endless cycle of Arab youths resorting to violence.

Personally, I’m willing to take that chance, and I’m also pretty sure that many of these Arab youths would also choose not to murder anyone, for fear of being hanged. But I’m willing to accept the alternative offered by the state, to let them rot in prison for the rest of their lives.

Except the state lies. Time and again, in “confidence building gestures,” or as part of a trade for captured Israelis, alive or dead, a succession of Israeli governments have broken the promise of locking up the murderers and throwing away the key. In fact, if you murder an Israeli civilian, chances are you’ll be out, marching in a victory parade in Gaza or Ramallah in less than a decade.

How’s that for the “don’t hang them lest they become martyrs” argument? I can’t think of a more enticing invitation to kill Jews and not pay much of a price than these group-deal releases.

I’m not entirely sure about the practicality of what I propose here, namely, starting to impose the death penalty in earnest, in cases of terrorist murders. But I assure you that my concern for the martyrdom of hanged murderers is negligible, compared with my real fear of what the release of these Jew killers says about our own reverence for Jewish life.

Alas, it appears the Benjamin Netanyahu government has lower regard for the sanctity of Jewish life than do the terrorists. They are prepared to lose their own lives pursuing Jewish souls. The Netanyahu government isn’t even prepared to resist an E.U. partial boycott and a presumed U.S. pressure.

So, what does that tell us about the value of Jewish life in the Jewish State today?

In Genesis, God Himself defines the all-permeating damage the world incurs after one man murders another:

…And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And God said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. (Gen. 4:8-10)

In Leviticus 24, the Torah sets up the famous “eye for an eye” construct, dealing with physical damages, which our sages have taught us really means “the price of an eye for an eye,” introducing five categories of damages for which compensation must be paid: the damage proper, pain, loss of wages, cost of healing, and the shame caused by the damage.

But the same paragraph in Leviticus makes no such allowances for murder: Whoever takes a human life will certainly be put to death. (Lev. 24:17). You can’t pay your way out of the death penalty for a proven case of murder.

The Torah and the Talmud are, obviously, careful regarding procedure in murder cases. Capital cases require a court of 23 judges; an acquittal requires a one-vote majority, but a conviction must have a two-vote majority; there are many structural delays inserted into the process to prevent an overzealous use of the death penalty. There is also in place a system of shelter cities where people who killed unintentionally may escape the revenge of their victim’s family. But in the end, whoever takes a human life will certainly be put to death.

The Torah reveals the connection between the original statement from God regarding the blood of the victim crying to Him from the ground, and the role an unavenged murder plays in society, in the mysterious ceremony of the “Beheaded Heifer” (paraphrased for easier reading):

If a person is found slain, lying in the field, and it is not known who killed them; then the local elders and judges must measure the distance from the corpse to the nearby towns. In the city which is nearest the slain man, the elders will take a heifer—which has not been used for any labor—to the bank of a running river, which is not plowed or sown, and break the heifer’s neck there, under the direction of the priests. Then all the elders of that city will wash their hands over the dead heifer and say: “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Please, God, forgive your people Israel, and Suffer not innocent blood to remain in the midst of Your people Israel.” Then the spilled blood shall be forgiven them. (Deut. 21:1-8).

The elders and judges in this vignette are the local Sanhedrin. They follow the discovery of an unsolved capital crime with a proclamation of their innocence, lest the unredeemed blood of the slain stranger stain their town.

An Epic Ethiopian Aliyah Story

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Asher Tagai journeyed to Israel from Ethiopia and his ordeal coming to the Holy Land is truly inspiring. Asher Tagai was born an Ethiopian Jew and has lived a hard life. In the 1980’s, the Ethiopian regime was biased against Jews and Israel and countless Ethiopian Jews were imprisoned by the government based on the fabricated charge of being a Zionist spy. Asher recounted that he was sent to jail by Ethiopian authorities on fraudulent charges, resulting in his subsequent recognition as a prisoner of Zion. In some areas of the country, Judaism was even illegal and Jews were forcefully converted to Christianity. According to Asher, “many Jews preferred to commit suicide over becoming Christian.”

Asher claims that between 1979 and 1984, many Ethiopian Jews sought to escape these conditions by making Aliyah to Israel. They left behind an ancient history and rich cultural heritage. Due to the fact that he was serving time in jail Asher was part of one of the later waves of the Ethiopian Jewish exodus to Israel. He said that he prayed to G-d a lot during this period of time to be set free, so that he would be able to come to Israel with his family. However, it was very dangerous to make Aliyah to Israel during this period of time. According to Asher, “anyone who was caught” making Aliyah to Israel “was given the death penalty.” 

Asher claims that what the Ethiopian Jewish community experienced was very similar to the exodus story in ancient times. He explained, “In one day, we packed up all of our stuff and if you couldn’t, you just left it. There was a lot of uncertainty. You could never know what happened from one day to the next.” Asher claimed that Ethiopian Jewish families were separated from each other during their voyage. He explained, “They went by non-Jewish guidance to Sudan during the night and hid during the day. There was a lot of robbery, thieves, rape, murder; every thing bad that you could imagine, along the way.”

As bad as the situation was in Ethiopia, Asher said that the situation got even worse when the Ethiopian Jews arrived in Sudan. In Sudan, members of the Ethiopian Jewish community were forced to live in horrific conditions in special camps. According to Asher, Ethiopian Jewish families with pregnant women and very small children “were sleeping in tents” in extremely hot weather. “It was like living in an oven,” he explained. Furthermore, “The food and water they got from Red Cross was in a bad condition and they got sick. Some died. At least 5 to 6 people per family died,” Asher stated, “You went to sleep and didn’t know if the person next you will get up.”

Asher was traumatized by the ordeal and still suffers from nightmares to this day. He claimed, “There were 19 bodies on the same day surrounding me and sick people had to make graves with their bare hands, even though they were sick. My sister delivered a son who died and she also got sick. She wanted to go back to Ethiopia to see her father and then died. Only her daughter survived.”

Asher finally managed to make Aliyah to Israel and upon arrival within the country, he kissed the ground. Today, he is living and working in Israel, has a family, makes sure to volunteer with the Ethiopian Jewish community and also helps other Ethiopian Jews make Aliyah to Israel so that they can be given the same opportunities that he was. When he was in prison in Ethiopia, Asher promised G-d that he would give back to the community if given the chance to make Aliyah with his family and he has kept his word regarding that. He concluded, “I suffered a lot in Ethiopia. Making Aliyah was like coming back to life. Everyday I thank God for being in Israel.”

Visit United with Israel.

Take Off the Kid Gloves: Time for the Death Penalty for Terrorists

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

In theory there already is the death penalty in Israeli Law.

In Israelcapital punishment is currently allowed only during wartime and only for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, treason, and crimes against the Jewish People. (Wikipedia)

It just has been used once, when the Nazi Adolf Eichmann was executed.

Israel and its citizens are under attack by Arab terrorists and their foreign supporters and ideologues.  Their aim is the murder of Jews and the destruction of the State of Israel.  That certainly fits the law’s criteria.

This may be a dumb questions, but: Why aren’t convicted Arab terrorists executed? What’s the Teflon?

The Palestine Media Watch is an excellent source of information about what tour enemies do, believe and aim. Listen to the Arab leaders whom the world and too many Israelis claim is our “peace sic partner” admitting how he sent terrorists into Israel:

The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a very dangerous man.  There’s no way we in Israel can have a true peace with him.  And even if he really wanted and was willing and ready, his cronies aren’t.  The Arabs support the terrorist’s and if they don’t, they’re afraid to admit it.  There isn’t enough power in the Arab “peace camp” at this point in time.

At present, ordinary Arabs fear the terrorists more than they fear Israel. Terrorists execute their opposition, while we Israelis coddle convicted terrorists in our jails. They get food, clothes, medical care, visits from family, opportunities for education and always a chance to be released in exchange for captured Israelis.

If the Israeli Government and Judicial System would start executing all terrorists convicted of murder and attempted murder of Jews, then there would be less terrorism.  And with time, the terrorists would have less power over ordinary Arabs.  With time and I’m talking decades, not days or months,  we’d find ourselves living with peaceful Arabs who wouldn’t be afraid to say they want to  live under Israeli rule, because Israel is a more just society than the Arab countries.

True justice requires punishing the criminals for the crimes and not rewarding them.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Are Drone Strikes Analogous to the Civil War?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Pundits have for weeks been erroneously comparing the issue of “killing Americans” with drone strikes abroad to the brother-against-brother character of the U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865.  It’s time to point out that the Civil War is a false analogy to the drone-execution issue.  This false analogy muddies the waters, and the public debate over executive privilege and the people’s rights needs to proceed without it.

There are two basic aspects of the Civil War that make it different from the War on Terror, in the ways that matter to the drone issue.  One is an obvious feature of the Civil War:  the South formally seceded from the Union and called itself a separate nation, the Confederate States of America.  The Confederacy thus severed its citizens’ compact with the U.S. Constitution.  Plotting acts of terrorism doesn’t sever a U.S. citizen’s constitutional rights; it makes him prosecutable under U.S. law, in accordance with the protections afforded him by the Constitution.

An American citizen’s constitutional rights do not, in my view, apply to foreigners who plot or commit terrorist acts against America.  My point is not that all terrorists “deserve” constitutional protection in our justice system, if American citizens do.  But in terms of where executive privilege stops, in the matter of executing terrorists or in other ways denying them due process under the U.S. justice system, the bright line is American citizenship.  Even if the citizen is Anwar al-Awlaki.

The other relevant aspect of the Civil War is less discussed, however.  That aspect is its military character.  The Civil War was, for the South, about holding territory by force of arms, and administering it as a separate nation.  For the North, it was about retaking territory by force of arms.  The mode of the conflict was therefore the form in which pitched battle was met in the mid-19th century.  The Civil War was about moving armies over territory and fighting for ground.

It was thus inherently about orchestrated opportunities for killing soldiers in pitched-battle combat.  Given the objectives on each side, it could not have been about anything else.  Lincoln had no intention of merely bottling up the South, absorbing long-term costs – political and military – and letting time be his main ally.  The South had no intention of merely accepting “occupation” and fighting a debilitating guerrilla campaign over decades to wear the Union down.  Both sides sought to establish sovereignty over the Southern states’ territory as soon as possible, envisioning a future of pacification and peace, according to their separate political concepts.

Given these factors, the necessity for killing Confederate soldiers had asignificance to the objective that it does not have in the War on Terror.  The only way to win pitched battles on land is to kill the enemy soldiers.  That makes them eventually stop fighting, in a given battle.  Over time, it reduces their ranks and their scope of action, until their leaders either accept defeat or set themselves up for annihilation.  The end-state of this process is the winning side controlling the territory in question and dictating terms to the survivors.

The War on Terror does not have this character.  Although it is, ultimately, about whose view of political morality will prevail on territory, the mode of the conflict is not pitched land battle.  Therefore, the mere killing of enemy combatants is not inherently significant to America’s objective.  It is important to have that clear.  We are not advancing our own security, merely by killing terrorists.  Read that again, please, and understand it.  In the Civil War, it was inherently significant to the military and political objectives to kill combatants.  In the War on Terror, it is not.

In Afghanistan, where the American objective has been to put territory under the control of a friendly, moderate local government, it is significant to the objective to kill the terrorists who attack friendly troops and civilians.  Those terrorists are acting as guerrillas, seeking to deny us the territory that will fulfill our objective.  Their relation to our objective in space and time is what makes it essential to kill them.

But that’s not what Anwar al-Awlaki – a U.S. citizen – was doing when he was executed by a drone strike in Yemen.  He wasn’t involved in a tactical campaign to deny us territory (as the Taliban are, for example).  He wasn’t facing American troops, armed and recalcitrant and posing an immediate threat to their lives.  At the time of his execution, there was no tactical, operational, or strategic necessity to kill him to advance the U.S. objective in the War on Terror.

Death and Fear are at Center of Islamic Society

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

The most influential Sunni leader in the Middle East has just admitted what many of us who grew up as Muslims in the Middle East have always known: that Islam could not exist today without the killing of apostates.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the most respected leaders of the Sunni world, recently said on Egyptian television, “If they [Muslims] had gotten rid of the punishment [often death] for apostasy, Islam would not exist today.”

The most striking thing about his statement, however, was that it was not an apology; it was a logical, proud justification for preserving the death penalty as a punishment for apostasy. Al-Qaradawi sounded matter-of-fact, indicating no moral conflict, nor even hesitation, about this policy in Islam. On the contrary, he asserted the legitimacy of Islamic laws in relying on vigilante street justice through fear, intimidation, torture and murder against any person who might dare to leave Islam.

Many critics of Islam agree with Sheikh Qaradawi, that Islam could not have survived after the death of the prophet Mohammed if it were not for the killing, torturing, beheading and burning alive of thousands of people — making examples of them to others who might wish to venture outside Islam. From its inception until today, Islam has never considered this policy inappropriate, let alone immoral. In a recent poll, 84% of Egyptians agree with the death penalty for apostates; and we see no moderate Muslim movement against this law. That 1.2 billion Muslims appear comfortable with such a command sheds light on the nature of Islam.

Unlike Americans, who understand basic principles of their constitution, most Muslims have no clue about the basic laws of their religion. Most Muslims choose ignorance over knowledge when it comes to Islam, and often refuse to comment negatively out of fear of being accused of apostasy. While in the West it is considered a virtue to try to understand one’s religion, ask questions about it and make choices accordingly, in the Muslim world doing the same thing is the ultimate sin punishable by death. What the West prides itself on, is a crime under Islamic law.

The main concern of Muslim citizens in any Islamic state is staying safe, alive and away from being accused of doing or saying anything against Islamic teachings. In such an atmosphere of fear and distrust, harm can come not only from the government, but from friends, neighbors and even family members, who are protected from prosecution for killing anyone they regard as an apostate.

It is not a coincidence that Muslim countries have the highest rate of illiteracy and that they lack education: in an Islamic culture that criminalizes not only apostasy, but also asking questions or doubting, ignorance is a virtue that protects you.

The Islamic and Judeo-Christian cultures are polar opposites when it comes to value systems and moral compasses — the core divisions between Islamic and Western morality. No religion other than Islam kills those who leave it — probably a sign of Islamic leaders’ lack of confidence in Islam’s ability to survive among other religions that do not kill to keep their followers in line.

In a different Egyptian television show on the “Al-Tahrir” channel, in a discussion of Islamic textbooks from Al-Azhar — the world’s premier Islamic University, in Cairo — students were told that “any Muslim, without permission of the ruler, can kill and barbeque a murtad [apostate] and eat him.” This lesson was confirmed to be in official Egyptian government books for high school students. The stunned guest on the TV show could not believe that Egyptian students of Islam are being taught that cannibalism of apostates is halal [permitted].

Policies such as these should be of great concern to the West. The West, however, appears to be in denial. It refuses to be openly concerned; and when its citizens are concerned, they are suppressed. They are sued [Geert Wilders, Lars Hedegard, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant]; assaulted [Kurt Westergaard in Denmark, Lars Vilks in Sweden, Charlie Hedbo weekly journal in France]; threatened with deportation [currently, Imran Firasat, from Spain to Pakistan, and Reza Jabbari from Sweden to Iran, where both will most likely be either imprisoned or sentenced to death]; issued death threats [Salman Rushdie, Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, M. Zuhdi Jasser], and sometimes murdered [Theo van Gogh].

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/death-and-fear-are-at-center-of-islamic-society/2013/02/05/

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