Israel Must Return the Bodies of Terrorists to Their Families

Denying a Palestinian family the right to bury their dead is an expression of the government's helplessness and puts Israel on the same plane as Hezbollah and Hamas, which trade in dead bodies to reap political or military gains.


“The family of a terrorist turns his funeral into a demonstration of support for terror and incitement to murder, and this cannot be allowed,” declared Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, explaining his proposal — approved by the security cabinet — not to return the bodies of terrorists to their families.

There is no clearer expression of the sheer helplessness of Erdan and the government in the face of the string of murderous stabbing attacks against Israeli citizens. This decision, opposed by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who described it as “trading in bodies,” is based on the inaccurate assumption that incitement is everything. This ignores the reality: that Palestinian attacks and protests stem from despair and frustration, from the lack of a diplomatic horizon and from difficult experiences in Israeli jails or in confrontations with the Israel Defense Forces.

It is based on warped logic which presumes that if the incitement would disappear, the residents of the occupied territories would be satisfied with their lot, bless every day of their lives under occupation, and suppress their desire for independence.

It’s obvious that keeping the bodies in Israeli hands won’t stop the families from erecting mourning tents, memorializing the dead as martyrs and as objects of admiration in the Palestinian community, whatever Israel might hope. Besides, the Palestinians don’t need funerals, ceremonies or speeches to revolt. The reality of their lives includes every element of “incitement” possible. These range from the procedures at the checkpoints, the frequent arrests, the controls imposed on their exit from and entry to their hometowns and extends all the way to the extinction of any chance for diplomatic negotiations.

This decision must be retracted, but not just because of the flawed reasoning behind it. Israel is conducting a bloody, exhausting struggle against living Palestinians, but once they’ve been killed they no longer pose a threat. Denying a Palestinian family the basic right to bury a child is nothing more than inappropriate, petty vindictiveness against those who cannot defend themselves; against parents who don’t always know or are responsible for what their children do, and against families who perhaps retroactively justify the attacks their children carried out, but would be far happier not to have to bury them.

The Israeli government will not gain any security benefit from this immoral move. It puts Israel on the same plane as Hezbollah and Hamas, which trade in dead bodies to reap political or military gains. But in Israel’s case, this decision will boomerang. It will simply be another accusation added to the same “incitement” the decision was meant to quell. This decision should be reversed immediately if Israel wants to maintain its humanity in its war on terrorism.