[Excerpted from a Ha'aretz Feature article titled "Ask Clinton what he thinks about Camp David" By Akiva Eldar, 08/21/2001.]
K., a Theresienstadt survivor, was distraught to the point of tears. "What's happening to us?" she asked. "Did you hear the deputy public security minister, Gideon Ezra? I can't calm down. Now he's proposing on television to execute the families of the Palestinian suicide bombers." K. said Ezra didn't invent the system in which relatives are punished for the sins of their fathers or sons. She remembers it well from the 1940s in occupied Europe. But her Hebrew is not very good, and maybe she didn't really understand what was said. Otherwise it's impossible that the Jewish state let such things go right past its ears.
But K. wasn't wrong. Here are excerpts from an interview with Ezra broadcast Sunday night on state television in the New Evening (Erev Hadash) program. And none of his colleagues in the government protested.
Geula Even: "What idea do you have to chill the motivations of the suicide bomber. You said something about harming their families. What does that mean."
Ezra: "I'm talking about there being a conversation between a psychologist with every one of those suicide bombers and the psychologists will check what brought them to suicide."
Even:"You mean the ones who are caught."
Ezra"The ones who are caught. To learn about those who go out in the future. If, for example, it turns out from the three [in Israeli custody] that harming their family would have prevented them from going out on a suicide mission, that's a possible answer..."
Even:"Just a minute, you're saying that if it turns out that by killing the father of a suicide bomber it would prevent him from going to a discotheque to blow himself up, then the parents should be eliminated?"
Ezra:Absolutely. You have to understand that we paid a price in children and elderly and babies ... the suicide bomber should know that his family will be wiped out, and that's better then him going out, and nobody will get killed and there will be peace."
Historian Prof. Moshe Zimmerman of Hebrew University says the Nazis used to arrest the families of people suspected of trying to undermine the regime or harm its officials. "The method had a name - sippenhaft. They used it, for example, when they caught the conspirators against Hitler in July 1944. You know that if you act against the state, the entire family will suffer. In the occupation areas, they made wide use of the method. If someone shot a German soldier, he knew that if the assassin wasn't caught, 50 people would hang."
But if Ezra is looking for help from some of his former colleagues in the Shin Bet to provide him with folklore about suicide bombers, he might end up with a better method than the family treatment plan he's suggesting. Someone at the Shin Bet no doubt noticed the sermon, broadcast on Palestinian TV, from the Sheikh Il'ijun Mosque, as preached by Sheikh Isma'il al-Adouan: "The shahid, if he meets Allah, is forgiven his first drop of blood; he's saved from the grave's confines; he sees his seat in heaven; he's saved from judgment day; he's given 72 dark-eyed women; he's an advocate for 70 members of his family." If nobody at the Shin Bet has seen it, it's available through the Middle East Media and Research Institute.
So who knows, Mr. Ezra. Maybe the family would hurry their dear son on the way to the protektzia up there. Fortunately, Sharon has meanwhile announced that he has found a way to deal with the security problem.