Originally published in the
Jerusalem Post, 27-Nov-2002
blood, one pain, one future," he declared during his tete-a-tete
with Yasser Arafat several weeks ago.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
exactly does Frankenthal represent?
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."
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
prototypal "Stockholm" hostages, they:
their very survival as dependent on the people capable of killing
small kindnesses from those people;
isolated from outsiders so that only the oppressor's perspective is
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
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.
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.
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.
mother representing the group articulately and intelligently
explained their position for a radio interviewer. The theater
director then prefaced his response with these words:
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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."
understatement in our context.
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."
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.
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.
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
their numbers inflated? Are they perhaps just a paper tiger?
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."
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"?
very least, should we not be enlisting mainstream bereaved Israelis
to address the same audiences and counter their effect?
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.