By Stephen M. Flatow May, 15 2001
- On May 9, I woke to the news that two 14-year-old Israeli boys were "found bludgeoned to death in a cave." Palestinian terror is on the loose and, once again, one of the victims was an American citizen. Koby Mandell's family had moved to Israel from Silver Spring, Maryland, just a few years ago.
The families of other American victims of Palestinian terrorism, mine being one of them, have asked the US government to do various things when we have lost our loved ones to terror overseas. In the case of my daughter Alisa, killed at the age of 20 in a suicide bus bombing, I didn't have to ask then president Bill Clinton to send the FBI to the Middle East to investigate her death - he did it on his own, pursuant to provisions of American anti-terrorism laws. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority barred the FBI team from investigating the bombing in Palestinian-controlled Gaza.
But America's efforts to combat terrorism do not end with the FBI.
Many people are surprised to learn that the US State Department maintains a Website, http://www.dssrewards.net, that lists the names of Americans killed overseas in terrorist attacks and offers rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of terrorists in those cases.
Peter E. Bergin, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security and director of the diplomatic security service at the Department of State, said in 1998, that the Counter Terrorism Rewards Program was "a very important weapon in our arsenal for reducing the threat of international terrorism."
He even went so far as to outline three objectives of the rewards program - to offer rewards up to $4 million for an airline-related incident, rewards to gain information to arrest terrorists who have committed acts against Americans or American interests, and to let the public know of the US government's commitment to continue the fight against international terrorism.
Bergin said he wanted "friendly governments to know we will use this program to counter the terrorist threat on a continuing basis, regardless of the politics."
While a reading of the Website discloses rewards going back 13 years for the capture of terrorists involved in the deaths of Americans in Pakistan and Africa, the sad fact is that none are posted for America's children killed in Israel. When pressed for an answer to this disparate treatment, the State Department replies that my child and yours in Israel are not targeted for terror because he/she is an American. Are they telling us that America's war against terrorists extends only to embassy employees and oil-company workers?
Americans of all religions and nationalities should take the State Department's inactivity in the face of Palestinian terrorism very seriously. Today it might be a death in Israel, tomorrow it might be another death in Pakistan, the Philippines, or wherever our young people travel or decide to settle down. They are all Americans, and their love and loss is just as precious to us as is the love and loss to the parent, spouse or child of a victim of the 1998 bombings of embassies in Africa.
There must not be a double standard when it comes to terrorism. The US must post rewards in all terrorism cases and, when it identifies terrorists, it must ask for their extradition to the US to stand trial.
It must take these steps even where there is a risk of embarrassing entities such as the PA where some of the terrorists involved in Alisa's death are living.
The United States cannot stand by silently as its citizens are murdered in Israel; our country is better than that. As parents we must speak out, clearly and calmly, against America's silence when death and mayhem break our hearts. It's difficult, but it can be done. And we will leave a better world for it.
(The writer is a New Jersey attorney. His daughter Alisa was killed in Israel when her bus was attacked by an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber in 1995.)
©2001 - Jerusalem Post