01 January 2014

As Israel sets Palestinian murderers free, remember their victims

Monday morning, as part of the U.S.-brokered effort to rekindle peace talks, Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners, the lion’s share of which are convicted murderers.

Reasonable people may debate whether or not the move is likely to promote true reconciliation, and, even if it does, whether it is worth the excruciating pain caused to the families now witnessing the men who had killed their loved ones set free. Such a conversation is currently heatedly unfolding in Israel, and ought to take place among all of us who cherish the Jewish state and share a concern for its future. As we debate, let us keep an open mind and empathize with arguments on either side. But no matter where we come down on this question, let also fulfill the primordial commandment to remember the dead.

Let us remember Friedrich Steven Rosenfeld, who was born in New York and served in the 82nd Airborne Division before finding work on a merchant ship and taking a short shore leave in Israel. Falling in love with the country, Rosenfeld made aliyah, got married, and spent much of his time hiking. On one such hike, on June 17, 1989, in the hills outside Ariel, he was attacked by a group of Palestinian shepherds who seized Rosenfeld’s knife, stabbed him to death, and tossed him by the wayside.

Let us remember Menahem Stern, a leading historian of the Second Temple period. Married to Hava Brenner, the niece of the great Hebrew writer Yosef Haim Brenner—himself murdered by Arab rioters in 1921—Stern attended Oxford University before returning to Jerusalem and receiving his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University, where he soon became a member of the faculty. His brilliant and innovative work earned him the Israel Prize, the nation’s top honor, as well as a host of other prestigious awards and appointments. On the morning of June 22, 1989, he was walking from his home to the university’s library in Givat Ram, as was his daily routine. Two terrorists attacked him and stabbed him to death. He left behind a wife, a daughter, and four sons.

Let us remember Sarah Sharon, the mother of Limor, Mikey, Rami, Tali, Hagit, Noam, and David. She was walking down Ha’Yogev Street in Holon on her way to work on Wednesday morning, January 20, 1993, when she was jumped, stabbed, and killed.

Ora Shahaf, Yigal Shahaf's mother (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Let us remember Yigal Shahaf, an amateur basketball player and dog trainer who worked the night shift in a bakery to put himself through engineering school. On his way back from a visit to the Kotel, he met Ronit, and soon the two fell in love and married. They made it a habit to visit the wall each Saturday night, read some psalms, and say a prayer. On the 10th of October, 1987, they prayed to God to grant them happiness until their very last breath. For Yigal, that breath came seven minutes later: as he and Ronit walked back home, a terrorist emerged from a nearby alley and shot Yigal in the head. He died in his wife’s arms.

  • Damra Ibrahim Mustafa Balal was the one who stabbed Rosenfeld. 
  • Salah Halil Ahmad Ibrahim and Muamar Ata Mahmoud Mahmoud murdered Menahem Stern. 
  • Daagna Nafal Mahmad Mahmoud planned and executed the deadly attack on Sarah Sharon. 
  • Abu-Hadir Mouhamad Yasin Yasin shot Yigal Shahaf. 
[These murderers] are all free men now. 

As we watch the massive, official celebrations that greeted their arrival in Ramallah, and as we debate the strategic and moral merits of their release, we owe their victims, at the very least, a moment of silent reflection.

...Following are the names of the prisoners slated for release, as published by the Israel Prison Service..., along with their offenses.
  • Muhammad Yusuf Adnan Elafandi, arrested May 13, 1992, for stabbing two youths in Jerusalem. After the attack, his life was saved by an Israeli woman who defended him from a lynch mob. He was convicted of attempted murder. The woman who saved his life, Bella Freund, was the subject of a song by the hip hop band Hadag Nahash, in collaboration with rocker Barry Sakharof.
  • Farid Ahmed Shahade, arrested February 16, 1985, for the murder of Yosef Farhan, a suspected collaborator with Israel, in Jaffa.
  • Yakoub Muhammad Ouda Ramadan, Afana Mustafa Ahmad Muhammad, and Da’agna Nufal Mahmad Mahmoud, arrested April 1, 1993. The three were convicted of stabbing Sara Sharon, 37, to death in Holon on January 20, 1993.
  • Abu al Rub Mustafa Mahmoud Faisal and Kamil Awad Ali Ahmad, convicted of murder in the killing of 20-year-old IDF soldier Yoram Cohen in a shootout in the West Bank town of Jenin. Ali Ahmad was also convicted of kidnapping, torturing and murdering 15 Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. Faisal was convicted of manslaughter in four of those cases.
  • Damara Ibrahim Mustafa Bilal, arrested June 16, 1989, and convicted of murdering Steven Friedrich Rosenfeld, 48, a US-born immigrant to Israel. Damra and several others accosted Rosenfeld outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel, grabbed the knife he was carrying, and stabbed him to death with it. His body was found on the following day by a Palestinian shepherd.
  • Abu Mohsin Khaled Ibrahim Jamal, arrested April 10, 1991, and convicted of murder. Abu-Muhsan ambushed Shlomo Yahya, a 76-year-old gardener, in a public park in Moshav Kadima and stabbed him to death.
  • Tamimi Rushdi Muhammad Sa’id, convicted of kidnapping and murdering Hayim Mizrahi at a Palestinian-owned farm outside the settlement of Beit El, where Mizrahi lived, in 1993. Mizrahi had come to the farm to shop for eggs.
  • Silawi Khaled Kamel Osama, one of three Palestinians convicted in the murder of Motti Biton. Similar to Mizrahi, Biton was shot while he was shopping for groceries in a Palestinian-owned store. Afterwards his wife, who was in the car outside, fired at his attackers, who detonated a pipe bomb and fled. Biton was gravely wounded in the attack and died in an Israeli hospital three days later. Osama was also convicted of murder and manslaughter in the deaths of four Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the authorities.
  • Sawafta Sudqi Abdel Razeq Mouhlas, who stabbed Yosef Malka (Malkin) to death on December 29, 1990, during an attempt to rob his home in Haifa.
  • Barham Fawzi Mustafa Nasser, arrested December 20, 1993, for the murder of Morris (Moshe) Edri. Nasser, a former employee of Edri, 65, ambushed Edri and stabbed him in the back. After he was apprehended, he said he had carried out the murder to prove that he was worthy of joining Hamas.
  • Yusuf Ahmed Nu’aman Al-Shalvi, Mahmad Anis Aiman Jaradat, and Ahmad Yusuf Bilal Abu-Hassin, convicted of murdering multiple Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.
  • Mahmad Naim Shawmra Yunis, convicted of murder in the death of Yossef Hayun, a police sapper who was killed while attempting to disarm a bomb in Moshav Shekef in June 1993.
  • Mahmud Muhammad Salman, arrested May 6, 1994, and convicted in the murder of Shai Shoker. Salman strangled Shoker with a shoelace outside Tira on February 2, 1994.
  • Ahmed Ibrahim Jamal Abu-Jamal, convicted of attempted murder. Abu-Jamal was slated for release in 2016.
  • Mahmoud Ibrahim Abu-Ali Faiz, convicted of murdering Ronny Levy.
  • Zaki Rami Barbakh Jawdat, convicted of murdering Yosef Zandani.
  • Mustafa Ahmed Khaled Jumaa, convicted of aggravated assault, up for release in 2014.
  • Abu Hadir Muhammad Yassin Yassin, convicted of murder. Yassin shot Yigal Shahaf, 24, in the head while Shahaf and his wife were walking through Jerusalem’s Old City toward the Western Wall. Shahaf died in hospital on the following day. The murder weapon had been bought from a Jewish Israeli. Yassin was slated for release in 2016.
  • Muammar Ata Mahmoud Mahmoud and Salah Khalil Ahmad Ibrahim, convicted of murdering Menahem Stern, a history professor at Hebrew University. Stern, 64, a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize, was stabbed to death while walking to work at the university’s Givat Ram campus on June 22, 1989. A monument in his memory figures in a scene from the prize-winning Israeli film “Footnote.” Ibrahim was also convicted in the murder of Eli Amsalem. In addition, the two murdered a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, Hassin Zaid.
  • Taqtuq Lutfi Halma Ibrahim, arrested March 3, 1989, and convicted of murder in the shooting of IDF soldier Binyamin Meisner, on February 24, 1989, in Nablus.