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Some things ought never be forgiven

By Steven Zak
web posted July 29, 2002

President Bush joined the world's chorus of Israel bashers, condemning Israel's successful air strike that killed Gaza mass-murderer Salah Shehadeh as "heavy-handed." A moment of stunning hypocrisy weeks after our own bombing of a wedding party in Afghanistan in a quest to kill terrorists, the Bush statement was consistent with the President's oingoing promise that terrorists in Judea, Samaria and Gaza shall be rewarded with a state -- that if they'll merely give up genocide, all will be forgiven.

Meanwhile in another recent news blip, former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten's parole board denied her a parole for her part in two 1969 murders -- refusing to forgive those murders even though she has clearly changed both her heart and her murderous ways.

Leslie Van Houten
Van Houten

To look at Van Houten, 52 and with her graying hair in a bun, one would be hard pressed to see a hint of the 19-year-old girl who held Rosemary LaBianca down while an accomplice stabbed her in the stomach, then herself added another 14 stabs to LaBianca's back. She's calm, contrite, articulate. She's earned a university degree. She works as a clerk in the prison's Catholic chapel and sews quilts for the homeless. She's a pleasant middle-aged lady who, if the truth be told, would make a far better neighbor than many. Even the parole panel praised her disciplinary record.

It's just that they couldn't forget what she did.

They didn't come right out and say that, exactly. Under pressure from a California judge who had ruled earlier that the board had been "arbitrary and capricious" in finding her a danger to society, they looked for factual support for such a finding in evaluations by prison psychiatrists. One report said she had a tendency to be drawn into destructive relationships, though it also said that she would pose a low risk to society if released. The panel seized on the first part and said she needs more psychotherapy. But their true thinking was revealed when they spoke of "the enormity of her crime" and of its "cruel and calculated" manner.

One of the original prosecutors, present at the hearing, added: "This murder was off the charts." A niece of LaBianca put the same sentiment more simply: "She did what she did."

The board's carefully worded finding was that "risk factors of future dangerousness still exist to some degree." What they really felt but weren't free to say is that some things ought never be forgiven. Some things are so off the charts as to leave a moral stain that won't fade with time.

The board's intuitions could be applied as easily to the Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, a neo-Nazi cult of death, hatred and murder. President Bush declared that the leaders of those Arabs are "tainted by terror" but like his apparent influence, Colin Powell, Bush can't seem to enunciate the phrase "Yasser Arafat is a terrorist." More to the point, what he knew -- it was reaffirmed by a recent poll done by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research -- but chose not to say was that the majority of those Arabs, not just their leaders, revel in the cold-blooded murder of Jewish children and other civilians.

Thirty-three years after the fact, Leslie Van Houten's parole board listened to a prosecutor's lengthy, horrific description of her crimes, and assigned it great weight. Suppose another thirty-three years from now a similar board were called upon to sit in judgment of "Palestinian" Arab crimes.

They'd hear of the "martyr" who walked into a shopping mall in a city near Tel Aviv and spotted an ice cream parlor full of children. He detonated a nail-packed bomb that killed an 18-month-old girl who just wanted an ice cream cone, and killed her grandmother too.

They'd hear of another nail-bomber who murdered Gal Eizenman at a Jerusalem bus stop just after her kindergarten party. A videotape of the little party girl was later used to identify what remained of her body.

They'd hear about the Arab who broke into 5-year-old Danielle Shefi's home one Saturday morning in the town of Adora and shot her to death as she cowered in her bed, leaving a bullet hole in her Mickey Mouse pillow case -- a crime reminiscent of the day the Manson gang dragged Rosemary LaBianca into a bedroom, covered her face with a pillow and stabbed her to death. These and hundreds of similar murders are off the charts.

That rehabilitation is even possible in a hate-filled lunatic asylum of a society where mothers celebrate (and happily cash in) when their children murder other children is doubtful. It's also beside the point. The "Palestinians" have crossed and re-crossed a moral line beyond which there ought to be no return. Whatever their future, it should not include a tainted statehood on the Jewish land they now occupy.

Maybe the lost souls of Judea and Samaria and Gaza will, someday, miraculously rediscover their humanity. The fact will remain: They did what they did.

Steven Zak is a writer and attorney in California.

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