Haifa bus bombing: Remembering on the 10th anniversary

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abigaillitle.jpgTen years ago today, I awoke to radio news reports of a bus bombing in Haifa, Israel, killing 17 and injuring 53, including many school children. To us it was more than a report of a distant tragedy: Dear friends from MIT, working for the Baptist denomination in Israel, lived there with their five children.

Later in the day we got the terrible news that our friends' 14-year-old daughter, Abigail Litle, was one of those murdered when a 20-year-old Palestinian man boarded the bus she was on and detonated a shrapnel-laden vest.

The massacre got little attention in the American media, despite the fact that an American citizen was a victim, as if Palestinian mass murder was so ordinary as not to be newsworthy. But two weeks later, the media went nuts over the death of Rachel Corrie, a foolish young American woman who stood herself in front of a bulldozer to protect the infrastructure of the Palestinian murder machine.

The anti-Israeli terrorist group Hamas took credit for the Haifa massacre, and it was later learned that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sent $25,000 as a reward to the family of the murderer.

In a just world, anyone involved a plot to massacre innocent civilians would be food for vultures. But in 2011, two of plotters of the Haifa bus mass murder, serving life sentences, were among those to be released in a prisoner exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Fadi Muhammad al-Jabaa, sentenced to 18 life sentences for plotting the suicide bombing of a Haifa bus in 2003, in which 17 passengers were murdered, will be released and deported to Gaza. The list also includes Maedh Abu Sharakh, also convicted of plotting the Haifa bus bombing.

These men walk free, but the United States could prosecute them and others complicit in the murder and maiming of American citizens. A group called the Parents Forum for Justice (PFJ), American citizens whose children are victims of Palestinian terrorism in Israel, have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act and related laws against using explosives to harm American citizens overseas:

Fadi Muhammad al-Jaaba, Maedh Abu Sharakh and Majdi Muhammad Amr, sentenced to multiple life terms for planning a 2003 Haifa bus bombing that claimed the lives of 17 people, among them 14-year-old American schoolgirl Abigail Leitel, were also let go in the deal and should be indicted by the US, the PFJ letter said.

"[Since their release] we have had to endure the sight of these unrepentant killers not only walking free but also being embraced as heroes, celebrated and honored by the communities to which they have now returned, and by the US-funded Palestinian Authority."

The group says that despite US anti-terror laws and assurances that authorities are investigating their cases, the Department of Justice has so far failed to indict or prosecute a single terrorist.

This is telling: According to Nathan Lewin, a former official in the US Department of Justice, the DOJ has extradited and prosecuted terrorists under these laws -- just not Palestinian terrorists who murdered Americans in Israel:

Prosecutions have been brought in American federal courts against individuals responsible for bombings that killed Americans in the Philippines, Colombia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Many of the individuals accused of these crimes were brought here for trial following their extradition, on the request of the United States, from foreign countries. American prosecutors have not, however, charged the Hamas perpetrators of bombings in Israel such as the 2001 and 2003 bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa, even though American citizens were murdered in these attacks. They have relied on the Israeli legal process to arrest and punish the perpetrators.

Tamimi, al-Jabaa, Sharakh, Amr, and Dar Musa were prosecuted and convicted in Israeli courts. They and other perpetrators of these murders received either multiple sentences of life imprisonment or long prison terms. Until they were released by Israel's government under duress in order to bring Gilad Shalit home, they expected to spend the rest of their lives in Israeli prisons. They are now free in Jordan or Gaza.

The Department of Justice should now indict, extradite, and put to trial in United States courts, under American law, these killers of American citizens.

Don't hold your breath. The U. S. federal bureaucracy seems institutionally hostile to Israel's right to existence and self-defense. I would like to say that things are better under Republican administrations, but that's not true. An op-ed in the Jerusalem Post noted that the State Department's 2004 report on human rights didn't name any of the victims of Palestinian terrorism in the previous year:

Of course, it duly notes that the PA security services have themselves conducted terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Yet aside from condemning every action Israel has taken to combat terrorism and thereby equating actions aimed at protecting Israeli citizens with terrorism, the report does something even more offensive.

The report very sensitively gives the names of a dozen or so Palestinian children who died during Israeli assaults against Palestinian terrorists who used these children for cover. Yet, grotesquely, while the names of Palestinian children are listed, the report provides not one name of any Israeli victim of Palestinian terrorism. Not the Ohayon children, not 14-year-old Abigail Litle who was murdered on a bus on her way home from school and not the names of hundreds of other Israeli men, women and children who were murdered last year.

By naming Palestinian victims while not giving names of Israeli victims, the State Department report follows in the path of the general climate that has gripped us for the past 40 months. This general climate is characterized by the dehumanization of Israelis and Jews by the international community.

Last year Rachel Corrie's family sued the Israeli Defense Forces. In the run-up to the trial, the US State Department told Corrie's family "that the Israeli government has not been thorough or credible in their investigation of her death" and expressed its condolences over the dismissal of the family's suit.

Maybe this attitude is a carryover from the 1940s, when the State Department was riddled with Communists working to keep America on the sidelines as their Stalinist and Maoist comrades enslaved hundreds of millions of eastern Europeans and Chinese. Their modern counterparts must want to see Israel pushed into the sea, since at every opportunity they push for Israel to appease terror groups like Hamas and they express sympathy with the murderers and their allies. The continued existence of Israel and the Jewish people, testifying to the sovereignty of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, must be terribly offensive to leftists who want us all to worship government as our god.

What of the Litle family? About a year ago, freelance journalist Nicole Schiavi interviewed the Litles for Charisma magazine:

Now, almost nine years removed from the tragedy that tore one of their children from them, the Litles have further settled in Israel rather than return to the relative safety of America.

The family's grieving and healing process included entrenching themselves in the land they call home. The family applied for residency--a right due them as victims of terrorism; Heidi trained to be a medic and volunteered with the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross; their children all have joined the army.

Josiah, the oldest, joined a combat unit. Hannah serves in Israel's navy. Elishua took up fencing and duels with an Israeli national team. He and Noah, the youngest, will be drafted in the next few years.

"They all want to serve," Heidi says. "They all think it's the right thing to do."

After losing one child to a war not their own, it wasn't easy for the Litles to watch their children volunteer for the army--mandatory for citizens, but not incumbent upon residents. Despite that, Philip believes it is part of the family's responsibility of living in Israel.

"I've enjoyed the protection of the state of Israel the whole time I've been here," he says. "My children feel very much that they have enjoyed that and that it's the right thing to serve what they see is their country. If other children serve to make me safe, then my children have no special privileges."...

The Litles counted the cost before they crossed the Atlantic, yet no one could have imaged that cost would be Abigail, the second child and eldest daughter, who was 7 months old when they arrived in Israel.

"We felt called to come here, called to tie our lives to the people. Abigail's death is a part of the struggle," Philip says. "It is something to be expected when you choose to identify with a people and live your life for their benefit."

In a 2009 interview, Heidi Litle, Abigail's mother, spoke about how their Christian faith gave them the hope they needed to stay together after the tragedy. She also answered a question about the ongoing attacks from Palestinian terrorists:

I guess I'm not convinced that the political issues are the real issues involved, that it's really an issue of people's hearts. When hatred is being sown in people's hearts, nothing can come from it but war.... I think that Israel should be allowed to defend herself from the hatred that's being poured out on her.

Please keep the Litle family and the families of other victims of Palestinian terrorism in your prayers, and work and pray for the defeat of those who are sowing hatred in the hearts of young Palestinians.


Remembering Abigail Litle, a victim of hate: My March 2003 column on the Haifa massacre.

Remembering Abigail Litle, a victor in faith: The reflections of Philip Litle, Abigail's father, on her death and funeral from April 2003.

BatesLine post on the fifth anniversary, with links to other commentary.

Giuliano Meiotti includes Abigail Litle in a long list of victims of Palestinian violence who had been actively working to promote peace and coexistence. Abigail was part of the "Children Teaching Children" program which brought together students at Israeli and Arab schools.

In March 2003, former Middle East correspondent Tom Gross reviewed the New York Times coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found a blind eye to Palestinian attacks on civilians that impedes prospects for peace:

On the next day (March 5), another American Baptist, 14-year-old Abigail Litle, was among 16 people killed by a suicide bomber on a bus in Haifa, Israel. The story and photo caption in the March 6 Times, tucked at the bottom corner of page 1, made no mention of Abigail's name. Neither the headline nor the photo caption indicated that an American had died, or that the suicide bomber had deliberately chosen a bus packed with schoolchildren, or that a majority of those killed had been teenagers....

The lack of prominence given to Litle's death is one small example of what has become a familiar pattern at the Times. The paper downplays Israeli suffering, and de-emphasizes Yasser Arafat's responsibility for the suffering of Israelis and ordinary Palestinians alike.

On March 21, 2003, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) mentioned Abigail Litle in his speech in support of the Koby Mandell Act (S. 684, 108th Congress), creating an Office for Overseas Victims of Terrorism in the Department of Justice.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 5, 2013 9:51 PM.

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