Friday, March 13, 2009

E V I L

Friday - Evil's insidious nature

Yesterday in Manhattan, United States District Judge Denny Chin accepted Bernard Madoff's guilty plea on 11 felony charges: securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, false statements, perjury, false filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and theft from an employee benefits plan. There was no plea bargain. He faces 150 years in prison.

• On Wednesday, in the southern German town of Winneden, 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer went on a three-hour rampage that took him from his old high school to the center of a nearby town, leaving a trail of 15 dead, mostly women and girls. Cornered by police, Kretschmer committed suicide. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the slaughter as "incomprehensible."

• Also in Germany, prosecutors have charged retired Ohio auto worker John Demjanjuk with more than 29,000 counts of accessory to murder for his actions at the Sobibor death camp. To face justice, however, the 88-year-old will have to be extradited from US.

• "If you had met him two days ago, you would have thought he was an average 28-year-old young man," said an acquaintance of Michael McLendon, who went berserk and killed his mother and nine others in southern Alabama, just hours before Kretschmer's rampage across the ocean.

Wherever one looks, evil - in various guises - is present: From Ireland, where Catholic extremists are killing again; to Mexico, where more than 6,000 people were slaughtered last year in the drug war; to Somalia, where pirates rule the seacoast; to Equador, which is on the road to becoming a partly-owned subsidiary of Iran in return in for power plants and hundreds of millions of dollars in loans. Move on to Iraq, where a suicide bomber killed 33 tribal leaders who were on a reconciliation walk through a market.

Closer to home, an elderly Afula couple, he a cancer-ridden Holocaust survivor, she infirm, were this week viciously beaten in their apartment by robbers.

EVIL. The term must not be bandied about lightly or irresponsibly. Yet the real thing needs to be recognized and faced down, and not merely relegated to the fields of forensic psychiatry, philosophy or theology. Because evil is so insidious, it has a way of manipulating even that which is pure to serve its nefarious ends. Thus policymakers, and the informed public, need to be alert to its presence.

Take how Hamas, whose genocidal intentions toward the Jewish state make it evil, is benefiting from the pressure campaign being waged (legitimately and understandably) by the Schalit family and (less altruistically) by much of the local media and various politicians, some of them transparently self-serving. As a consequence, perhaps, Ofer Dekel, the prime minister's aide charged with negotiating Gilad's freedom, has reportedly proposed releasing 210 of the terrorists "with blood on their hands" that Hamas is demanding. As far as we know, the "worst of the worst" have not been included - yet.

Gilad's desperately anguished parents, Noam and Aviva, who have set up a protest tent near the prime minister's residence, fear that the next government's negotiating position will be less malleable than Olmert's. They and their supporters have intensified pressure on Olmert to unconditionally free each and every terrorist on Hamas's wish list. President Shimon Peres and even Aliza Olmert have given Gilad's parents succor.

Across the street, another protest tent had folded up for lack of interest.

"We came to Jerusalem to let our voices be heard," said Ron Karman, whose 17-year-old daughter, Tal, was one of 17 fatalities of the March 5, 2003 bombing of Egged bus No. 37 in Haifa. "When we were sitting shiva, the politicians made all sorts of promises. They said their doors would always be open to us. We found those doors [of politicians and the media] closed."

Karman was joined by Yossi Mandelevich, whose boy, Yuval, 13, was on the same bus; and by Yossi Zur, whose son, Asaf, 17, was also killed there. The fathers said that they opposed the release of prisoners with blood on their hands - for the sake of other people's children.

In the waning days of the Olmert government, there is a very real danger that an emotionally co-opted public will, with the purest of intentions, pressure a discredited premier to hand evil another appetite-whetting victory.

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