Keren Malki, the Malki Foundation, a non-political, non-sectarian, not-for-profit organization, honors the tragically short life of a girl dedicated to bringing happiness and support into the lives of special-needs children

This site, and the work of Keren Malki (the Malki Foundation), are dedicated to the memory of

Malka Chana Roth Z"L 1985-2001

The sin of forgiveness fervor

By Frimet Roth

 

 

 

Originally published in the Jerusalem Post, 27-Nov-2002

"One blood, one pain, one future," he declared during his tete-a-tete with Yasser Arafat several weeks ago.

Yitzhak Frankenthal has garnered much media coverage since that rather stilted encounter with the frail, unenthused Palestinian leader. A half-hour documentary here, a breakfast-show interview there, articles in every English- and Hebrew-language newspaper, and a quote in a New York Times editorial. They have all added up to an improved, higher profile for Frankenthal and his Parents Circle Family Forum.

Frankenthal started the forum in 1994 after the murder of his son, Arik, at the hands of Hamas terrorists. Over recent years, the Europeans have made the forum, Frankenthal and his cronies their darlings. They have showered him with financial support, prizes and speaking engagements. The Gleitsman Foundation presented him with its International Activist Award in 1999. And in 2002, he pulled in some $1.5 million, in large part from the European Union.

Another outspoken member of the forum is Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan. She was awarded the Sakharov Peace Prize by the European Parliament in 2001. She has addressed various European activist groups including the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and her speeches are widely circulated on the Internet.

The fact that the forum's members constitute only a small minority of bereaved parents in Israel is a detail glossed over by their foreign supporters. The forum claims a membership of 400, split more or less evenly between Israelis and Palestinians.

Its Web site features a "preliminary list of members" with a mere 27 Palestinian and Israeli names. With over 600 Jewish families freshly bereaved since October 2000, it is clear that the overwhelming majority choose not to be aligned with the forum.

What exactly does Frankenthal represent?

Well, for starters, he rejects the term "ruthless Palestinian murderers" to describe those who ended his son's life. He prefers this: "Palestinian fighters who believed in the ethical basis of their struggle against the occupation."

And while he prides himself on not seeking vengeance, he boasts: "Had I myself been born into the political and ethical chaos that is the Palestinians' daily reality, I would certainly have tried to kill and hurt the occupier... and would have killed as many on the other side as I possible could... Had I not, I would have betrayed my essence as a free man." Frankenthal professes to be a religious man and is always seen wearing a knitted kippa.

Peled-Elhanan has expressed similar sentiments regarding the suicide bomber who killed her 13-year-old daughter in 1996 while she was on her way to a dance lesson. She refers to him as a "a young man who was humiliated and desperate to the point of killing her and himself." She reflects often on how "their blood was mingled in death."

Another member of the group, Rami Elhanan, pities the suicide bomber who took his child's life on Jerusalem's Ben-Yehuda Mall in 1997. "He was as much a victim as my daughter," he has said.

Other Family Forum activists exhibit a naivete befitting young children. Zvi Shahak, whose daughter was murdered while celebrating Purim on Rehov Dizengoff in Tel Aviv, believes that "If the killer had read her poems, perhaps she'd be alive today."

There is little doubt in my mind that these parents suffer from Stockholm syndrome, first formally recognized in August 1973. That summer a bizarre turn of events thrust this psychological disorder into the headlines. It began when two ex-convicts armed with sub-machine guns attacked a Stockholm bank and held the six employees in a three-meter-by-14-meter bank vault for six days.

At the close of the face-off, the hostages confounded authorities by resisting their own rescue. Some later testified on behalf of their captors or raised money for their legal defense. The bewildering finale was the engagement of two of the hostages to the robbers.

Mental-health experts who later studied the incident concluded that, far from being a fluke, it demonstrated behavior quite common among battered wives, abused children, pimp-procured prostitutes, and prisoners of war.

For a while now, mental-health experts have been intrigued by our reactions to life surrounded by Arab enemies. There are those who maintain that Israelis who blame themselves for Palestinian terror attacks are reacting in a predictable way.

Like prototypal "Stockholm" hostages, they:

  • perceive their very survival as dependent on the people capable of killing them;

  • accept small kindnesses from those people;

  • are isolated from outsiders so that only the oppressor's perspective is available; and

  • hold no hope of escape.

IN AN article entitled "Jews, Israelis and the Psyche of the Abused," which appeared in the December 1996 and January 1997 issues of The Outpost, historian and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Dr. Kenneth Levin wrote "...What is heard is widespread repetition by Israelis of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli indictments, as well as utopian assertions of the good things that will come of Israeli reform... delusions about the wonderful things that will flow from penance and reform [which] require distorting or denying realities of the present and... ignoring or distorting the past."

The bereaved parents supporting Frankenthal could very well be the ultimate Stockholm syndromers. The suffering they have endured is of the worst conceivable kind. And the assistance they are proffering their enemies is similarly extreme.

While this misguided contingent of bereaved Israelis is enjoying respect, attention and influence, the larger group who view their children's murders as despicable crimes are marginalized.

One example was the comment made last week by the Tel Aviv Cinematheque's director about the parents of the 23 Israeli soldiers killed in Jenin in April. They were protesting the scheduled screening of the Palestinian film Jenin, Jenin.

One mother representing the group articulately and intelligently explained their position for a radio interviewer. The theater director then prefaced his response with these words:

"Well, first of all, you must remember that these are bereaved parents and as such are highly emotional. Everyone knows how difficult it is to deal with bereaved parents."

In the same vein, a journalist reporting the protest of the parents of Moment Cafe bombing victims on the night of its gala reopening expressed vexation at their anger.

"I tried to reason with them but they just wouldn't listen," she wrote, adding that she postponed her visit to the renovated cafe for another evening minus those parents.

This image of bereaved parents was reinforced when an otherwise balanced article about bereaved parents that appeared in The Jerusalem Report was accompanied by the photo of an unruly, shouting crowd of them at the Barghouti trial.

The parents who are angry about their children's unnecessary deaths are not the crazed ones. The parents who hold their children's murderers accountable are not the irrational ones. The parents who want the terrorism that killed their children to be remembered are not vengeful. They are the sane, realistic ones in this conflict.

Forgiveness fervor has been surfacing among parents and friends of murdered children in other societies as well. But there it is largely recognized for the moral perversion that it is.

In a 1997 case, Michael Carneal, a Kentucky teenager, shot and killed three fellow students and wounded five others during a prayer-group meeting in their high-school lobby. Days later, with the school administration's support, several students hung a "We forgive you, Mike!" banner in the corridor . Jewish educator Dennis Prager responded in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece entitled "When forgiveness is a sin."

"The bodies of the girls... were not yet cold," he wrote, "before some of their schoolmates hung [the] sign... this feel-good doctrine of automatic forgiveness advances the amoral notion that no matter how much you hurt others, millions of your fellow citizens will forgive you."

But the Family Forum activists have surpassed even these forgiveness faddists. In their eyes, no ruthless crime was ever even committed; the Palestinian murderers of their children were justifiably driven to their acts. There is no need to forgive. They insist, as Levin put it, "that bad things have happened to them because they have been 'bad' ... a response widely noted and studied in children subjected to early abuse and other traumas."

What an understatement in our context.

"Our children die because the Jewish mother has disappeared, and her place has been taken by mothers who send their children voluntarily to kill and to be killed," says Peled-Elhanan. Her colleague, Rami Elhanan, says: "We brought this tragedy... upon ourselves."

Family Forum's overseas sponsors are equally adept at revising facts to clean the Palestinian slate. A group called The Global Ministries has included Peled-Elhanan on its list of peace activists deserving of readers' prayers.

Stating her personal details without incriminating any Palestinians was a challenge but they rose to it: "Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhahan Israeli. Her daughter was killed in 1997 by a bomb." No bomber, no terrorist there. Presumably we've got self-propelled bombs materializing out of nowhere in this region.

We must not dismiss this group as pitiful, disturbed families. They do not lie low. Last month, seven Family Forum members went on a 14-city lecture tour across the US. Here in Israel, their influence is rather insidious. By their own count, members gave 32 lectures at Israeli high schools during the two weeks prior to the seventh Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day. They boast that over the last two years their group has given "1,000 lectures in schools for over 50,000 students."

Are their numbers inflated? Are they perhaps just a paper tiger?

No. They cause too much harm for that assessment. I have personally suffered immense pain from them. My grief over the loss of my 15-year-old daughter, Malki, murdered in the Sbarro pizzeria massacre in Jerusalem last year, is deepened by every one of their outrageous utterances like this one, courtesy of Peled-Elhanan: "Our children die because they are brought up to believe that serving as killers in a murderous army means serving the good of the nation."

The harm caused by this group is widespread. Should we be letting them loose among our schoolchildren? Should we be enabling them to indoctrinate our impressionable youth with the notion that the boys who are risking their lives to protect us are "killers in a murderous army"?

At the very least, should we not be enlisting mainstream bereaved Israelis to address the same audiences and counter their effect?

These bereaved families, regardless of their psychological problems, are a dangerous animal, not a paper tiger and certainly not a dove.

The writer is a freelancer living in Jerusalem. The memory of her daughter, Malka Chana, is honored via Keren Malki, a not-for-profit organization which helps to provide for the needs of families of children with severe disabilities.

 

Frimet Roth submitted the essay (see left) to the Jerusalem Post for publication in early September 2002. With Frimet's approval, the Post's editors then solicited a response from Nurit Peled-Elhanan, one of the leaders of the tiny but extraordinarily well-funded extremist group, "Parents Circle".

Click here to read Peled-Elhanan's "Counterpoint" entitled "We have betrayed our children". Peled-Elhanan, who has never met or spoken with Frimet, finds it necessary to describe Frimet's arguments as "racist and aggressive". Please draw your own conclusions.

 






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