Those Who Stand On The Side of The Sanctity of Human Life

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On Thursday, August 20th, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the terrorist who had been convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, resulting in the death of 270 people, was returned to Libya as a free man, receiving a hero’s welcome.

As the murderer descended from the plane to a cheering crowd in Tripoli, some even threw flower petals at the plane. Many of the people who had been killed in that flight had been Americans, and many of those had been young students.

Just in case people might have forgotten that there is a clash of civilizations, the image of an enthralled crowd waiting at the airport with Megrahi’s picture emblazoned on posters can help bring that lesson home. There are civilizations that love and honor innocent life and do everything to protect it, and there are those who feel that human life, anywhere, is expendable. It is just a pawn for a higher political cause.

That is the difference between a society that functions according to the norms of Western civilization, and one who functions in a Hobbesian state of war of “man against man”.

President Obama is to be commended for weighing in and demonstrating that America is on the right side of this issue. He called the Scottish decision to free Megrahi from prison “highly objectionable.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went further and called the img of his arrival in Libya, “outrageous and disgusting”.
It shows, thankfully, that America is on the side of those that value the sanctity and dignity of human life, above all else.

However, what about the fifty three Americans who have been killed by Palestinian terrorists since the signing of the Oslo Accords, many of them by members of Fatah? What about the life of Aish Kodesh Gilmore a 25 year old, newly married man who hailed from New Jersey and Ohio, and was gunned down by Fatah as he was working as a security guard in a bank in East Jerusalem where Palestinians would come to get their social security checks from the Israeli government?

What about Mathew Eisenfeld of West Hartford who had graduated from Yale University and was studying to be a rabbi, and his beautiful fiancé Sara Ducker of Teaneck, New Jersey, who had graduated from Barnard College and had been studying to be an environmental scientist? These people had committed the sin of boarding the wrong bus on February 25, 1996, a bus that was doomed to have been blown up by Palestinian terrorists.

What about Koby Mandel the thirteen year old from Silver Spring, Maryland who did the Huck Finn thing and skipped school, together with his friend, Yoseph Ishran? Their bodies had been found brutally bludgeoned to death by Palestinians, in a nearby cave outside their community in Tekoa, Israel?

Why are these crimes somehow less dastardly? Is it because they were committed by Palestinians terrorist against Jewish Americans? Is it because Fatah, the group which many of their murderers have been affiliated, is supposed to be a “peace partner?” Isn’t American justice supposed to be blind?

For every one of these heartbreaking stories, there are scores of others, each one more horrific than the last. I am talking about American citizens, here.

I have devoted a great many years of my life to passing a law to ensure that all Americans who have been killed or injured by terrorists overseas get the justice that they deserve. The law was named after Koby Mandell and was sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (democrat, Oregon), Senator Gordon Smith, (republican, Oregon), Ileana Ros- Lehitnan, (republican, Florida), Jim Saxton, (republican, New Jersey) and Rob Andrews, (democrat, New Jersey).
The intent of this legislation was to ensure that diplomatic factors do not interfere with or contaminate the pure and rigorous pursuit of justice. This law enabled the opening of an office within the Department of Justice that would ensure that all American citizens receive the rigorous pursuit of justice under the law that they deserve. Prior to the passing of this act, the State Department had always handled the issues of Americans who had been killed or wounded overseas. The reasoning was that mission of the State Department is diplomacy, and the mission of the Justice Department is justice, pure and simple. Justice would show that America is serious in its pursuit of terrorism, anywhere around the globe, irrespective of political or diplomatic contamination.

As a result of this law The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism was established within the Department of Justice in May of 2005. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had said that the establishment of this office would, “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against citizens abroad would remain a high priority of the Department of Justice.” He added, “This new office guarantees a voice for victims and their families in the investigation and prosecution of terrorists who prey on Americans overseas… Our commitment to these victims is as strong as our dedication to bringing their terrorist attackers to justice.”

I am happy to report that the office has helped bring about the indictment of the the murderer of a Christian missionary who had been working in the Philippines. Yet, not a single murderer of an American Jew who has been killed in Israel or the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority has been indicted in the four years since the office has been opened.

I am glad that America stands on the side of those who value the sanctity and dignity of human life. One has to ask, however does that same standard apply to lives of Jewish Americans? As Vicki Eisenfeld, Mathew’s mother had once asked, “Is my son’s blood not as American?”

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).


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