No peace, No justice

A decade ago Ahmed Jubarah walked out of jail a free man. Twenty eight years after he killed 13 people and wounded dozens more detonating an explosive laden refrigerator on a crowded Jerusalem street, Israel released Jubarah and others in order to restart peace talks with the Palestinians in 2003.

The New York Times reported in 2003, Palestinian Bomber, Freed After 28 Years, Talks of Peace:

“We are not murderers. We are not criminals. We are people who seek peace and freedom,” Mr. Jubarah, 68, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, said.

He was freed as an Israeli good-will gesture on the eve of a summit meeting in neighboring Jordan that will include Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as President Bush. …

Israel freed nearly 100 prisoners today and has been slightly easing punitive measures imposed on the Palestinians. The other detainees released today were arrested in the period since the fighting began in September 2000, and most had been held without charges, according to Israeli officials.

Notice the way this is framed. Israeli efforts to defend its citizens is termed “punitive” not “defensive.” Worse than that, Jubarah’s first mention of peace is included with a lie about his causing death and destruction nearly thirty years earlier. Of course he was a criminal and murderer. Denying it doesn’t make him any less culpable. But to have his use of the “peace” in this context characterized as “[t]alk[ing] of peace” denudes the word “peace” of any meaning.

(A few weeks later, the New York Times profiled Jubarah again, with a nearly identically titled, Arab Bomber, Freed After 27 Years, Longs for Peace but Has No Regrets. One theme that’s common in both articles is a sense that the reporters consider it more significant that Jubarah was a “prisoner,” than that he was a mass murderer.)

If reporters showed an implicit grudging respect to Jubarah, after he died early last week, others, notably Mahmoud Abbas, were quite explicit in their praise for the deceased terrorist.

The presidential eulogy stated: ‘His pure soul passed on to the kingdom of Heaven during these blessed days in this honored month [Ramadan] after a journey of struggle full of exceptional giving and devoted activity for Palestine and for the freedom and honor of our people.’

The President said in the eulogy: ‘With the death of this fighter, Palestine and its people have lost a righteous son and loyal fighter, devoted wholeheartedly to protecting our people’s rights. He dedicated most of his life to this people’s independence and paid with many years of his life in the occupation’s prisons so that the dawn of freedom will break over the pure land of Palestine.’

Even as Secretary of State John Kerry has been working furiously to restart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians – in part by calling for a prisoner release – the honor accorded Ahmed Jubarah shows that prisoner releases do more to excuse terror than they do to promote peace.