A Palestinian terrorist who murdered innocent Israeli children and maimed a Connecticut housewife — was accidentally killed this week when he joined an Arab mob surging towards some Israeli soldiers. The fact that the terrorist wore a tie and held the position of deputy minister in the Palestinian Authority did not make him any less of a murderer, or any more deserving of anyone’s sympathy.
This story begins on May 14, 1979. Chaim and Chaya (Irene) Mark, a couple from Connecticut who had immigrated to Israel, were stepping out of a restaurant in the central marketplace of Tiberias when a huge bomb exploded. “I was hit in the chest and knocked down,” Chaim later recalled. “When I got up, I saw my wife with a leg and arm nearly blown off.” Two Israeli children were killed in the bombing, 36 other people were maimed. Mrs. Mark spent a year and half in the hospital, undergoing countless surgeries, and was left severely handicapped.
A few weeks later, one of the bombers was captured by the Israeli police. He confessed to making the bomb and named one of his PLO comrades, Ziad Abu Ein, as the one who planted the bomb. Ein, however, had already fled to Chicago. He later claimed he went to visit a sick relative there. When the FBI came knocking, he denied that he was Ziad Abu Ein, which is not the kind of behavior one would expect from an innocent person.
Israel asked the U.S. to hand him over. Ein fought extradition, using a have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too defense: he both denied his guilt and at the same time argued that the bombing was a “political offense.”
In jailhouse interviews with the media, in fact, Ein explicitly defended the bombing. For example, he told the Chicago Reader (June 18, 1981) that the Tiberias murders were a justified response to Israeli strikes on PLO targets in Lebanon: “The bombing was like a message. We are still doing something to help you have your freedom.”
Assorted anti-Israel activists rallied to Ein’s defense. James Zogby, then director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (today leader of the Arab American Institute) spearheaded a campaign of newspaper ads and lobbying demanding that Ein be released. Zogby charged that extraditing Ein would create a dangerous precedent for handing over individuals accused of “political crimes.” That’s right, “political crimes.”
Zogby also tried playing the race card. He told the Washington Post (July 24, 1981): “The only way to account for the State Department’s and the U.S. attorney’s behavior in this case is the fact that Ziad Abu Ein is an Arab.”
The Supreme Court didn’t think much of the political and racial arguments. It rejected Ein’s claims and ordered him extradited. Ein was surrendered to Israel in December 1981, where he was tried and convicted of murder. Israel has never used capital punishment (except in the case of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann), so Ein did not receive the sentence he deserved for murdering those two children and maiming Mrs. Mark and 35 others. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Three years later, however, Ein was walking free again. He was included in an Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange. But somehow the moderate, innocent Ein just couldn’t stay out of jail. Two months later, he was arrested for conspiring with other terrorists to hijack an Israeli bus. Because the Israelis captured the group before they succeeded in doing what they intended, Ein again escaped the punishment he really deserved. He was sentenced to just three years in prison.
When the Oslo accords were signed by Israel and the PLO in 1993, and the Palestinian Authority was created, the Palestinian leadership began rewarding veteran killers. Ein was appointed deputy comptroller of the Palestinian Authority. Not bad for someone whose previous job experience involved murdering Israeli children.
But Ein soon found his calling. He graduated to the position of deputy minister of prisoner affairs. That means part of his job involved paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel, and the families of terrorists who were killed while murdering Israelis. Of course, in his view, those murders were all just “political offenses.”
This week, Ein joined a crowd of Palestinian rioters who were marching towards a group of Israeli soldiers and refusing orders to stop. The soldiers, in self-defense, fired tear gas. Ein apparently died after inhaling some of it. The Palestinian Authority is accusing Israel of assassinating one of its deputy ministers. The international community will no doubt see the incident as a diplomatic breach, as Israeli aggression, and so on. But those of us who have felt the pain of Palestinian terrorism remember who Ziad Abu Ein really was, and will shed no tears over his passing.
Stephen M. Flatow resides in New Jersey. His daughter Alisa was murdered in 1995 by Palestinian terrorists while she was a student in Israel.