By Nathan Levin
Sh'ma, May 2, 2002
"Terrorism will not be shut down until the individual terrorist is effectively deterred. Israel's campaign of 'targeted assassinations' has tried to prevent suicide bombings by swift nonjudicial execution of known organizers of such deadly attacks. Experience has shown, however, that others take the place of those executed, and the supply of those willing to give up their lives has not dwindled. And Israel's policy of retaliating against political targets - i.e., Arafat's headquarters or Palestinian arms caches - has been a total failure. What threat will effectively deter the individual who is prepared to die so long as he can take many Jews (or, since September 11, many Americans) with him?
Studies of Palestinian suicide bombers and of those who, knowing their death was imminent, carried out the September 11 horror indicate that most were closely knit to their families - to parents, brothers, and sisters. Indeed, these family members routinely give press briefings extolling the suicide killers, and they are the recipients of financial bounties from supportive Moslem charities and governmental organizations.
What if Israel and the United States announced that henceforth the perpetrators of all suicide attacks would be treated as if they had brought their parents and brothers and sisters with them to the site of the explosion? Suicide killers should know that they will take the lives of not only themselves and the many people they don't know (but nonetheless hate) in the crowd that surrounds them when they squeeze the button that detonates their bomb, but also the lives of their parents, brothers, and sisters. The nation whose civilians are killed or maimed should, by 'targeted assassinations' or other means, be free promptly to execute the immediate relatives of the suicide bombers.
This consequence would, I believe, deter most suicide killers - many of whom now anticipate that not only will they be rewarded in a world-to-come, but that their immediate families will be honored and granted lavish benefits on this earth ... Critics will cite the obscene Nazi policy of executing families and entire communities in retaliation for individual acts of resistance. How would the elimination of a suicide killer's family differ from this indefensible Hitlerian practice? This is no easy ethical question, but it is not as one-sided as may initially appear. Weigh the relative 'innocence' of these family members against the 'innocence' of the Israeli adolescents and youngsters killed by suicide bombers at discotheques and cafés or against the "innocence" of those who happened to be on high floors of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. If executing some suicide-bomber families saves the lives of even an equal number of potential civilian victims, the exchange is, I believe, ethically permissible ... The policy of family retaliation would also encourage family members to dissuade brothers, sisters, or children who appear to be gravitating toward suicide missions.
Finally, can Jewish law and tradition accept this seeming punishment of innocents? The Torah commanded the total eradication - including women and children - of certain nations (Amalek being a singular illustration) because of the continuing threat its members presented to the survival of Israel."
Top Lawyer Urges Death For Families Of Bombers Lewin: 'A Policy Born of Necessity' By Ami Eden, [Jewish] Forward, June 7, 2002