From Gush Shalom
THE WHOLE world watched with bated breath while the days passed. Then the hours. Then the minutes.
The world watched while the condemned man, Muhammad Abu-Ali of Qalqiliya, waited for his execution.
Abu-Ali was a convicted terrorist. He had bought a knife and killed four members of a family in a nearby Jewish settlement. He had acted alone in a fit of anger, after his beloved cousin, Ahmed, was shot and killed by the Israeli border police during a demonstration.
This is an imaginary case. But it resembles very much what would happen if a real case that is now pending were to take this turn.
THERE IS no death penalty in Israel. It was abolished during the first years of the state, when the execution of Jewish underground fighters (called "terrorists" by the British) was still fresh in everybody's mind.
It was a solemn and festive occasion. After the vote, in an unplanned outburst of emotion, the entire Knesset rose and stood at attention for a minute. In the Knesset, such expressions of emotion, like applause, are forbidden.
On that day I was proud of my state, the state for which I had spilled my blood.
BEFORE THAT day, two people had been executed in Israel.
The first was shot during the early days of the state. A Jewish engineer was accused of passing information to the British, who passed it on to Arabs. Three military officers constituted themselves as a military court and condemned him to death. Later it was found that the man was innocent.
The second death sentence was passed on Adolf Eichmann, an Austrian Nazi who in 1944 directed the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the death camps. He was not very high up in the Nazi hierarchy, just a lieutenant-colonel ("Obersturmbannfuhrer") in the SS. But he was the only Nazi officer with whom Jewish leaders came into direct contact. In their minds, he was a monster.
When he was kidnapped in Argentina and brought to Jerusalem, he looked like an average bank clerk, not very impressive and not very intelligent. When he was condemned to death, I wrote an article asking myself whether I was in favor of his execution. I said: "I dare not say yes and I dare not say no." He was hanged.
A PERSONAL confession: I cannot kill a cockroach. I am unable to kill a fly. That is not a conscious aversion. It is almost physical.
It was not always so. When I had just turned 15, I joined a "terrorist" organization, the Irgun ("National Military Organization"), which at the time killed lots of people, including women and children, at Arab markets in retaliation for the killing of Jews in the Arab rebellion.
I was too young to be employed in the actions themselves, but my comrades and I distributed leaflets proudly proclaiming the actions. So I certainly was an accomplice, until I left the organization because I started to disapprove of "terrorism."