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    Executing terrorists – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Should terrorists who commit murder be executed?

    terroristA. Written and conventional legal systems all agree that murder is wrong. Human life, without distinction as to creed, colour or ethnicity, is sacred and must be preserved. Even the person who carries out a killing has the right to live, though the court must still inflict a severe punishment.

    The Mishnah states that a court that puts a person to death even once in seven years is bloodthirsty. Another view says that this applies even if the court puts a person to death once in seventy years. Two sages said, “Had we been on the court no-one would ever have been put to death”. But this view was not left unchallenged; another sage said, “If so, the court would have increased the number of murderers”.

    In the end, the Jewish legal system surrounded the death penalty with so many procedural rules that it was virtually suspended, though the guilty party was still subject to harsh punishment of another kind. The law recognised, however, that in an emergency situation the death penalty could still function, both as a warning to the criminal and as a deterrent to others, so that “all the people shall hear and fear”.

    If, as seems to be the case today, society – especially the enemies of Israel – cannot condemn murderers (unless it is one of their own who gets murdered), the Biblical law applies. It is a tragedy that this has to be said, and we hope and pray that the time will come when “all the people(s) shall hear and fear”, that there will be love and respect for everyone, that all can “dwell under their vine and fig tree with none to make them afraid”.

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