The decision on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 to pass a law to strip Arab-Israeli terrorists of their citizenship for receiving financial rewards from the Palestinian Authority is a deep moral mandate that should have been established decades ago.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government seemed to have reached its limit after Israeli Arabs gave a “hero’s welcome” to a terrorist who was released after serving a 40-year prison sentence for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier in 1983. He was part of the PLO-run Palestinian Authority multi-million dollar “Pay-For-Slay” criminal operation, which pays salaries and benefits to terrorists and their families. According to Palestinian Media Watch, the “Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund” paid out around $150 million in 2020 alone.
The new law, of course, has been denounced as racist by members of the Arab Knesset. It strips terrorists who receive PA stipends of Israeli citizenship. It also gives the Israeli government the power to deport terrorists to the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, as well as prevent their reentry into Israel.
My concern is that the law does not go far enough. I have argued for years that not only terrorists should be stripped of citizenship, but so should any citizen who participates politically in any aspect of the Palestinian Authority’s mandates and ideologies. Those who endorse “terror” by any physical or ideological association with the PA are enemies of the state.
The regional hostilities towards Israel in the Middle East are such that the Jewish state must take all threats seriously. It must work for a coalition of forces to neutralize them. Given Fatah and Hamas’s genocidal aspirations toward Israel and universal Jewry and – in the case of Hamas – of establishing a global caliphate, a moral goal would be to reverse the potential sovereignty of every Palestinian movement in the region. It ought to get Jordan to re-revoke its citizenship status of the Palestinian majority in Jordan. Such terrorists regarded as suitable for deportation to the “West Bank” could be deported to Jordan.
On the other hand, a people that overwhelmingly approves of terrorist leaders cannot be made to become citizens of any civilized country such as Israel.
The Palestinian terror war Fatah launched after the 2000 Camp David Peace Summit and unilaterally accepted by the Palestinian people places them in a precarious position. Whatever actions Israel or any of her allies takes against them in a war against terror are their responsibility and are moral. No moral or political distinctions must be made between Fatah, Hamas, and the people who elect and or support them. No constituted people responsible for the election and appointment of terrorist actors can or should be entrusted with the moral responsibility of possessing citizenship. They constitute a national security threat to Israel because a core feature of their identity is a commitment to destroying Israel and Jewry.
The issue of deporting such terrorists to the West Bank – that is, to Judea and Samaria, regardless of whatever portion of it is Arab-governed – is irrelevant and untenable. One cannot deport Arab terrorists to a region that, properly speaking, is the legitimate land of the Jewish state of Israel. No one would speak of deporting a criminal from the state of Idaho to the state of Illinois. The notion is preposterous. Such a person would still be a threat to American citizens.
Such Arab-Israeli terrorists are still, properly speaking, occupying Israeli territory. Judea and Samaria were legally recaptured during the 1967 Six-Day War, and Arabs living there are war refugees, or, war settlers, living on reclaimed Jewish and Israeli land. Their presence in Judea and Samaria is still a national security risk to the noble Israeli pioneers in that region re-founding and developing their holy land. Netanyahu has yet to carry through on his promise made years ago to annex Judea and Samaria. Deportation in this context makes little sense, even in the absence of a successful annexation.
As enemies of the state, they and all who support a terrorist organization like the Palestinian Authority cannot remain anywhere close to the territorial confines of Israel; nor should they be deported to Gaza. It would be reckless and irresponsible of Israel to increase the terrorist population of that region when part of Israel’s domestic and foreign policy ought to be aimed at decimating Hamas and its population of recruited civilian terrorists.
Israel, of course, a model of benevolence and often misguided altruism, is still often too lenient on terrorists. The state in some way still harbors a moral responsibility for its sworn enemies. Along with the forthright and moral decision to denude terrorists of their citizenship and bar their entrance into Israel, Israeli leadership would best disabuse itself that it has any moral responsibility for the welfare and well-being of any terrorist.
Terrorism stems from regimes. Deporting and stripping individual terrorists of Israeli citizenship is fighting the battle piecemeal. A comprehensive approach would be to delegitimize and criminalize the source from which terrorists receive their funding and stipends to conduct acts of terrorism: the Palestinian Authority. Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) have enjoyed joint rule by Israeli military government and the Palestinian Authority with around 98 percent of the Palestinians living in areas under jurisdiction of the PA. In such areas, the PA has destroyed the freedom Palestinians enjoyed under Israeli rule and their economy through kleptocracy, corruption, nepotism, and authoritarian forms of governance subject to none of the checks and balances that characterize Israel’s Knesset.
It is difficult, though, for Israel to defeat the terrorist regime of the Palestinian Authority when the Biden administration is a direct sponsor and supporter of Palestinian terrorism. It is guilty of such ethical malfeasance in that in 2022 alone it gave $316 million to the Palestinian Authority. These funds are issued in the guise of humanitarian aid. The truth, however, is that much of these funds is diverted to sponsor terrorist activities including but not limited to “Pay-for-Slay” operations. The dollars are used to pay terrorists and to support their families.
American taxpayers ought to be outraged that they are forced to finance the families of terrorists while our cities are ravaged by homelessness, failing schools, and underpaid police officers.
Until and unless Israel approaches the Palestinian Authority as the United States approached Nazi Germany and imperial Japan with a view to vanquishing them totally, all will be treated to a cyclical and predictable sequence of events as has been occurring in Israel since its re-founding in 1948 and, more particularly, since the creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was established by the Arab League in May of 1964.
Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is properly said to be a definition of insanity. Israeli leadership is not insane; it is just misguidedly altruistic, and it has chosen to look for the better angels in the souls of its declared enemies where there is only evil. The Israeli law stripping terrorists of their citizenship is predicated on such persons having a permanent residence outside of Israel. They would not be allowed back into Israel. But why the concern for murderous terrorists to have the privilege of having a permanent residency status outside of Israel? What gives such persons the right to live in any civilized country? What part of their agency can contribute to the moral dimension that comes with being part of a moral-political community?
Matters of punishment, like matters of war, cannot be taken seriously unless they are affixed to moral ideas and ideals. Terrorists, like carjackers and household burglars, are not the concern of those victimized. They are one’s existential antipode, and inimical to one’s life.
The appropriate punishment for terrorists is not to unleash them into some other society after they have been stripped of their citizenship. The goal is to carry the latter to its logical terminal point: to render terrorists completely stateless. Such, I believe, is one small step towards making the punishment commensurate with the crimes committed.