According to the Haaretz editorial (“Holding the Bodies of Terrorists is Political Populism, Not Deterrence,” February 7), my order to the police not to transfer the bodies of the terrorists, residents of Israel, for burial is ‘folly’ and does not achieve its aim, which, the newspaper claims, is to deter the families. According to Haaretz, I am evincing “vindictiveness against the families” for the deeds of their sons, and am sticking to the decision on the grounds of “internal party populism.” Delaying the burials is “unnecessary abuse” and “collective punishment.”
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Here are the facts. I never claimed that the purpose of the directive is to deter the families, nor is it revenge. The purpose of my directive is to prevent the funerals from turning into mass demonstrations of incitement, inflaming of emotions, aggrandizement of terrorism, and calls for more terror attacks.
Families that agreed to hold small-scale funerals at night, adhering to all the rules of ritual and religion and who honor the family and the dead without turning the burials into inflammatory demonstrations, received the bodies of their sons without delay. For instance, the Melhem family. [Nashat Melhem, an Israeli Arab, shot and killed three people in Tel Aviv on January 1.]
The public has entrusted me with the responsibility for public security. Pursuant to my responsibility, I take the required steps. We have learned from experience. Many funerals of terrorists who died while carrying out their attacks turned into demonstrations of incitement to hatred, provoking young people who take part and hear the songs of praise for the martyr to join the circle of terrorism themselves.
Many funerals descended into riots and clashes with the security forces, ending in deaths. I am determined to prevent all of this, even at the cost of holding up a funeral until its family gives its commitment.
It is regretful and disappointing to see that in this matter, Haaretz is standing on the side of the terrorists’ families, who insist on turning the funerals into mass demonstrations of incitement, and not by the state, which is demanding that they bury their dead without causing a danger to the public. Instead of lowering the flames, the Haaretz editorial staff is helping fan them.
Moreover, the explanation presented in the editorial, that the state has an interest in preventing terrorists from being buried for the sake of deterrence or punishment, is ludicrous. That claim appears in Palestinian propaganda and in its editorial, Haaretz lent it support. The truth is, to a great degree, the opposite. The Ministry of Public Security under my leadership is more committed to the law-abiding Arab population than it was in the past. We intend to build more police stations in Arab towns, to supply equal policing services and thus correct a long-standing injustice.
But this has nothing to do with the issue before us. Clearly the persistent incitement in Palestinian society fuels terrorism. In this context, mass funerals for the martyrs fulfill a harmful, negative role.
Were the assailants in the present wave of terror the first whose funerals the state demanded be held at night, with few participants, for reasons of safeguarding public order? No.
Soon 22 years will have passed since the small, night-time funeral that the state forced on the family of a terrorist, for the exact same reasons. In that case, the state even prevented the burial from taking place at a proper funeral home, forcing the family to bury him outside the cemetery. The army even blocked off access roads to prevent supporters of the murderer from accompanying the body. The name of that murderer was Baruch Goldstein. Did the Haaretz editorial staff view the harsh conditions of his funeral and burial as evidence of a “leadership vacuum” and “unnecessary abuse”? I think the answer is clear.
The author is minister of public security.