Daqamseh’s Release And Israel’s Silence

It is two weeks after Ahmed Daqamseh’s release — you remember: the murderer of 7 Israeli 13-year-old girls — and I still have a question.

Search Twitter for reactions to Daqamseh’s release on the part of our elected representatives and you are met with almost absolute radio silence. It is true that Minister Without Portfolio Ayoob Kara tweeted in February that he asked Jordan’s Prime Minister to continue to hold Daqamseh in prison in spite of his impending potential release date,

and that is very nice. But where are the responses after the actual release?

It drew a few impassioned outcries among the Israeli public and, surprisingly, only restrained responses from some parents of the murdered girls (were they asked not to make a fuss?). Among our elected representatives only three went on the public record responding, not only to the fact of his release but also his glorification by a portion of the Jordanian population and even Jordan’s media and members of parliament.

Daqamseh's release and Israel's silence
Screenshot from video of Daqamseh’s jubilant reception in his home town. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXsM3_9w60o

As an Israeli, I attribute great significance to the behaviours of our own representatives and could not help wondering why 117 out of the 120 chose to say nothing to the Israeli public. We are not known for holding back on our discontent when faced with incitement and hatred coming from the Palestinian Authority or from Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and more. Why are we silent re Jordan?

Let me first tell you why I think this may be and then explain in greater detail. I can think of two possibilities and maybe they are both part of the story:

  1. An unwillingness to challenge our fragile 23-year-long peace agreement with Jordan. The rejoicing at the release of a Jew-murderer is nothing new for us in Israel and we are used to seeing ululating and candies tossed around in jubilation at the deaths of our children, and so, cynically enough, that might not draw much consternation in and of itself. Perhaps our leaders are afraid of what would happen if King Abdullah II would slip and lose his foothold in Jordan; aware that he is a foreign transplant there and unwilling to do anything that may exacerbate his situation, they kept their mouths shut on this matter.
  2. Why should our leaders make a fuss when Jordan releases a terrorist such as Daqamseh when we have, ourselves, released hundreds of imprisoned terrorists in prisoner-swap deals? I am sure the surviving family members of those murdered by terrorists WE released suffer the same emotional pain as the families of Daqamseh’s victims. And if we shout too loudly at Jordan for having released Daqamseh, how can we justify our own similar behaviour and would we be able to make prisoner swaps in the future? I doubt it. Worse: Jordan at least released the murderer after he served what, according to Jordanian law, is a legitimate interpretation of the court-ordered life sentence. Our government turned into a habit the release of blood-drenched murderers long before they served their full time. Furthermore, the Daqamseh celebration pales when compared with Hamas celebrations upon welcoming their released heroes.

Those Who Did Protest Daqamseh’s Release

Of course, Deputy Minister Jackie Levi’s spokesman Ron Yarkoni could not tell me why others did not speak up. He ardently described Levi’s horror at the hero reception Daqamseh received at home and the painful reopening of scabbed and never-healing wounds suffered by the victims’ families. But he refused to say anything against the Jordanian government or the legal system that did not hand down a death sentence. The most he was willing to say was that for the victims’ families’ sake, Ahmed Daqamseh should have stayed in jail until he drew his last breath.

Member of Knesset (MK) Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) declared that terrorists on both sides should rot in jail forever.

MK Oren Hazan (Likud) held King Hussein’s emotional condolence visits to the families of the victims 20 years ago in contrast with the anti-Israel incitement that the freed Daqamseh is publicly expressing under his son King Abdullah’s watch. On this basis, Hazan calls for the re-arrest of Ahmed Daqamseh because

If he is calling for the murder of additional Israelis, this constitutes a threat to the public, which should be dealt with by Jordan itself.

That seems like a non-starter. While King Abdullah II appears to be supportive of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, according to a Times of Israel report in 2014, he was quoted as saying:

…they [the Israelis] are slaughtering children in Gaza and Jerusalem every five minutes.

Where Does King Abdullah II Stand?

Seeing that the King used such an expression in public, and even if this was the only time he did so, it makes me wonder whether or not he is encouraging such loose “talk” in his closed-doors meetings. If so, then we are in trouble. Then our peace partner, the King, and his army, with whom Israel shares very close strategic cooperation, could be seen as keeping the Jew-hate alive in his country. Perhaps the release of Daqamseh makes sense in this context. And the only reason for Israeli elected officials to choose to keep quiet about it may be because we fear Jordanian hate without the King more than we fear Jordanian hate with the King.

Let us consider whether or not an anti-Israel stance as maintained by Jordanian officialdom, perhaps all the way up to Abdullah, can be said to be related to the treatment of Daqamseh during the trial and to his release.

  1. According to an academic article published in 2010, initial response in Jordan to the murder of the girls was horror, but this changed very soon and Daqamseh become a hero to Jordanians opposing normalization with Israel. In fact, 200 lawyers competed for the privilege of representing him in court. To me, that is telling.
  2. Ahmed Daqamseh’s “diagnosis” and its consequences:
    1. Daqamseh avoided the death penalty he should have received for murdering children by claiming to be mentally ill. Anecdotal reports in American media of the time regarding his mental state before the murders is contradictory:
      • Mousa Daqamseh, 62, cradled a picture of his son, Corporal Ahmed Mousa Daqamseh, 28, and cried. “He was never violent,” he said.
      • Short and thin, with few distinguishing physical characteristics, he was known by everyone in the village as unbalanced: medicated, sleepy and angry. One man remembers him beginning a fist fight at a wedding because he didn’t like the song being played.
      • A Jordanian soldier charged with killing seven Israeli schoolgirls was known as “the sex man” because he talked constantly about sex, fellow soldiers told a military hearing yesterday.
      • A Jordanian soldier accused of gunning down seven Israeli schoolgirls in March has a personality disorder and tried to commit suicide in 1989, a psychiatrist testified yesterday.
    2. If he showed signs of mental instability and especially suicidality, how did he ever get into the army in the first place?
  3. Daqamseh was diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder. This should not have affected his trial in any way since most violent criminals would likely be similarly diagnosed and yet they are not shown any leniency by the courts.
  4. Whether he was mentally unstable or not, his mother’s spewing venomous praise of his actions on a radio talk-show on Al Jazeera in 2001 shows that the apple did not fall far from the tree. This point supports the next one:
  5. An unverified report suggests that Daqamseh may NOT have killed the girls out of sudden rage at them supposedly mocking his praying but, rather, that it was premeditated murder. In 2000, a newspaper report claimed that Daqamseh had said during his trial “that one of the main reasons for shooting the Israeli girls was that he saw Al-Aqsa Mosque defiled by Jewish tourists.”
  6. Some news reports claim that in Jordan a life sentence means a minimum or 20 or 25 years in prison with no stipulated maximum. Therefore, I think that had Jordan desired it, out of consideration for her peace partner Israel, she could have kept him in prison beyond these 20 years. It would be interesting to see if there are prisoners serving life sentences in Jordan who are not released as Daqamseh was. However, given the attempts by some parliamentarians to see him set free beginning soon after his sentencing, perhaps the “best” Jordan could do regarding Israeli sensitivities was to keep him there for the 20 years — and then, to satisfy the sensitivities of the anti-Israel home crowd, set him free asap and let him have a hero’s return from prison. While the regime did prevent the media from attending the celebrations and what we saw on the social media were cellphone uploads, it is still not clear on which side King Abdullah II falls.
  7. Ahmad Daqamseh apparently is being given free rein to be interviewed and otherwise spout off his hatred of Israel on any media outlet that is willing to let him do so. This is in contrast with gag orders placed on other Jordanian prisoners who have been released (according to a Jordanian source who prefers to remain unnamed). Furthermore, while Jordan claims to have released Daqamseh early Sunday morning (actually, at 1 a.m.) in order to avoid a celebratory welcome in his home town, my source says that he was given a police escort that constituted more of a parade than a quiet drive home. While Jordanians go to work on Sundays, the timing of his arrival allowed joyful receptions to greet his entrance into town.
  8. Americans pushing for justice in another case and Jordanian response/retaliation via early Daqamseh release?
    1. On 7 March 2017, publication of a press conference, in which the fathers of the the three American Green Berets killed last November in Jordan explained how this was premeditated murder on the part of gate-guard M’aarek Abu Tayeh, contrary to the determination of the joint Jordanian-USA investigation committee. The fathers and a group of Congress representatives called for Abu Tayeh to be charged in criminal court.
    2. On 8 March 2017, the impending release of Daqamseh was officially announced and only one week’s notice was given.
  9. Another coincidence? In 2015, a Jordanian pilot was dismissed without pension or benefits because he refused to attend a training session with the Israeli air force saying that he was trained to fight against Israel not train with her. According to my Jordanian source, the King gave a Royal Order reinstating the pilot only one day before Daqamseh’s release.

Was there officially sanctioned obfuscation of Daqamseh’s motives for the murders in order to take the death sentence off the table, thereby avoiding raising the ire of the anti-normalization section of Jordan’s population? Is the King, himself, also against normalization with Israel? Was Daqamseh released from prison for the same reason? What do our elected officials know about this?

While a number of Jordanian parliamentarians and policy makers, such as former Justice Minister Hussein Majali, see Daqamseh as a hero for having killed 13-year-old Israeli girls, Dr. Hassan Barari, International Studies professor at Jordan University, suggests that this is not true across the board. He proposes that time will make Jordan move on, relegating Ahmad Daqamseh to the garbage-heap of old forgotten news, unless – and here he perhaps makes a pointed hint to Israel – unless he is assassinated, an act that would conscript him into the annals of Jordanian historic heroes.

We can only hope, therefore, that Daqamseh disappears into the anonymity of daily life, troubling us no longer with his face or voice, making us forget, as well, that the bulk of Israel’s elected representatives had nothing at all to say about the matter.

This article was first published on Israel Diaries.

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