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From the Right – Is Capital Punishment the Achilles Heel of Terrorists?

“Flight AA11 and UA175 slam into the Twin Towers in New York and kill one person.” If this was the breaking news headline on TV on the morning of September 11, 2001, a person living in the US probably would have been somewhat upset, but soon enough would have kept eating his or her cereal without missing a bit or a bite. Unfortunately, most of today’s terrorists, who are increasingly insidious and lethal, strive to maximize their carnage in terms of human life. Western democratic societies are ill equipped to deal with such type of threats directed at their populations. It is time for countries that ban capital punishment to seriously consider reversing course. Reinstating capital punishment, even for a predetermined period, which would allow reassessing its effectiveness, would be one more tool in fighting “mega” terrorism around the world.

Terrorist organizations exploit the sanctity of life, which they view as weakness, to their advantage. Captured terrorists often are released by countries who are threatened by increased acts of violence. This capitulation further emboldens terrorist groups.

Capitol punishment may help break this no-end-in-sight cycle of terror, put the terrorists on notice, and create a form of deterrence. It is true that some terrorist groups view the death of its members as a form of martyrdom and may care less about the consequences to themselves. However, most groups, having the capital punishment threat hanging over their heads, might lose an important tool at their disposal when recruiting terrorists. The leaders will not be able to guarantee anymore that a prisoner will be swapped against other kidnapped individuals or released because of acts of violence committed against the country that captured their members.

To consider a mass murder committed over a few minutes a worse act than a mass murder that spans over a few years is morally wrong; civilized countries should not fall into this trap. Members of terrorist groups should know that targeting unarmed civilians will result in death. The Talmud teaches us that “Whoever saves a single life is as if one saves the entire world. The flip side of this should also be held as truism: Whoever takes away a single life is as if one takes away the entire world.

Israel, which has been at the forefront in terms of facing terrorist acts by vicious groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, should, probably more than any other country, consider capital punishment as an option. The last major confrontation with both groups resulted so far in a swap with one group. Israel received two kidnapped soldiers which were captured by Hezbollah for the purpose of releasing a brutal murderer among other thugs. For two years Hezbollah, which refused to divulge any piece of information about the soldiers, tormented the families and the entire nation. Only at the last moment before the actual swap took place and during a live TV broadcast from the Lebanese side, was it known that the soldiers were dead; this disregard for life and level of cruelty is unparallel in the civilized world. Currently there is another soldier in captivity at the hands of Hamas. This terrorist group has a long list of prisoners, many with blood on their hands, whose release Hamas are demanding.

It is obvious that the terrorist groups are using Israel’s high moral ground in terms of sanctity of life to their advantage, this loophole needs to be narrowed and the equation rewritten. Capital punishment for captured terrorists as a viable option needs to be in place at least until the terrorism tide around the world subsides. For those who ask “how does one reconcile Israel’s sanctity of life and capitol punishment,” the answer may be found in the Talmud: If Someone Comes to Kill You, Rise Up and Kill Him First (Tractate Berakhot, Page 58).


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