Well, let’s say I wasn’t mugged in a dangerous place. Let’s say I was murdered there. It’s my fault, of course, because I shouldn’t have been where the murderer was.
That, in a nutshell, is the reasoning of Judge Rosemary Collyer of the Washington, DC, District Court, in a case brought by the family of Naftali Fraenkel against Iran and Syria. Fraenkel, you might recall, was one of three teens kidnapped by Arab terrorists in June, 2014 from a bus stop in the disputed West Bank territory of the Etzion bloc.
The bodies of the three teens were found nearly three weeks later buried near Hebron.
The judge reduced the Fraenkels’ potential award of $340 million in damages to $4.1 million. Why? The judge said that the Fraenkels took a risk for living beyond Israel’s “Green Line” (the 1949 armistice line) and for sending their son to a high school in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank.
What’s wrong with this picture? For starters, the Fraenkels do not live in the West Bank.
But even if they did, should that diminish their rights in an American court? Even if we assume that Israel has no sovereign right to any territory in the West Bank, does that mean that it is illegal for a non-Palestinian to be there, or to study there? The kind of society that the judge envisions is one of absolute discrimination in housing and citizenship: If you’re Israeli, you cannot be a resident or citizen of Palestine or be a student there. It is wrong for you, as a Jew or an Israeli, to live or study among Arabs. You violate the ethnic purity of the place. You brazenly live as if democratic values of pluralism apply in Palestine. If you get hurt there, it’s your fault!
We thought that thinking went out with Jim Crow in the US and apartheid in South Africa. In effect, Judge Collyer endorses Judenrein.
“The children were on their way from school. What responsibility did the boys have for their deaths?” Fraenkel’s mother asked. Indeed.
The judge also reduced the potential award by saying that Fraenkel was not murdered because he was an American citizen, which he was, but because he was Jewish and Israeli. True enough, but are there now to be two classes of American citizens? Are the rights of his dual-citizenship American family in an American court to be diminished because his murderers hated Jews and Israelis? We see no legal or rational basis for this discriminatory ruling by Judge Collyer.
The astronomical sums that have been claimed in an American court in commercial cases distort our justice system and should be reigned in. But here, we’re talking about countries that sponsor terrorism. A huge judgment against them would be a welcome deterrent.
The message that Judge Collyer sends to Palestinian terrorists is clear, despicable and outrageous: If you kill a Jew in a place you think belongs to you, it is the fault of the victim for being there. Think blacks who were lynched for being in white neighborhoods.
If you say the analogy is flawed because white neighborhoods were not the exclusive property of the whites people who lived there, there is no treaty or other political agreement that has determined Gush Etzion to be the exclusive property of Palestinians. And as we say, even if there were, does that mandate a racist society and a two-tiered American justice system?
A US appeals court has ordered Judge Collyer to reconsider her decision. The appeals court instructed Judge Collyer not to blame the victim and not to blame where he lived, and to increase the amount of compensation that can be requested. The appeals court has it right. Contrary to Judge Collyer, murder is murder, wherever it takes place.
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