The Palestinian Authority embraced a curious hero this week among those released as part of an agreement with Israel. Issa Abed Rabbo was the longest serving prisoner of the 104 released this week. Rabbo, 49, was heralded as a hero and given a pension and a large sum of money by the PA. However, Rabbo was convicted of taking two young hikers, binding them, putting bags over their heads, and then shooting them to death in 1984. That is not the makings of any freedom fighter that I know of.
Whatever the specific amount may be for Rabbo’s payout, I remain perplexed by the PA embracing him as a hero or seeking his release. Accounts indicate that his brother had been killed by Israeli forces but that does not give him the right to kill a young couple on some hiking trail. His family insists that they were soldiers but no news account supports that claim. Indeed, some sites supporting Rabbo do not even mention his murders. One such site says “He was arrested on 20 October 1984 on charges of belonging to the Fatah movement and resisting the occupation, receiving a sentence of life imprisonment.”
The two hikers were a boyfriend and girlfriend who took a trail outside of Jerusalem and ran into Rabbo. Revital Seri, 22, and Ron Levy, 23, were executed by him. Now, according to reports, he will received $50,000 that is standard for such prisoners in addition to another $60,000 plus the full costs of his upcoming wedding.
I would be interested if someone could share additional information that contradicts these public accounts. If Rabbo killed two young hikers, I am mystified why he is free let alone honored in this way. I have been highly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Yet, Rabbo’s crime should hardly be the subject of celebration for any civilized people.
The story of Rabbo’s reception follows a story of how sports teams have been named as suicide bombers. One such soccer team is named after Dalal Mughrabi, a female suicide bomber responsible for the hijacking of a public bus that resulted in the deaths of 37 civilians, including 12 children. While the Israelis say that Mughrabi blew up the bus with a hand grenade and the Palestinians claim that it was actually destroyed by the Israelis, she still led an operation that took a huge number of hostages as human shields. They also early on killed an unarmed American photographer named Gail Rubin. Yet the Palestinian authority has named squares and erected statues in her honor.
Obviously, these celebrations have to be viewed through decades of cruel conditions and even greater numbers of dead Palestinians during this ongoing conflict. However, international law is premised on the belief that even in war there are rules and civilians are not targets in any just war.
This has long been a point of division with Palestinian leadership which insisted that Israel routinely kills civilians and that such operations are only returning such war in kind. That has never satisfied most civil libertarians and ironically has never worked for the Palestinians. Indeed, the greatest success of the Palestinians has come with diplomatic measures after the end of the public support of the PLO for terrorist operations. These celebrations however pushed the Palestinians farther away from the international civil liberties community.