On August 9, 2001, Izz al-Masri, a Palestinian terrorist, walked into a Sbarro pizza restaurant at the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. Strapped to his body was a bomb packed with nails, screws, and bolts in order to maximize damage. He detonated the charge, killing fifteen people and injuring more than 100.
One of those killed that day was fifteen-year-old Malka Chana Roth, who had been having lunch on a pleasant summer day in Jerusalem with a friend when both fell victim to this act of barbarism. It is heartbreaking to think about. Anyone who has gone through the experience of cautiously granting their children more and more freedoms as they get older — all the while hoping that they will be safe and will not fall prey to the perils that we all face when we go out into the world — can begin to imagine the pain experienced by Malka’s parents.
One of Izz al-Masri’s accomplices on his errand of darkness was Ahlam Tamimi, a then 20-year-old university student who drove al-Masri to the restaurant. Tamimi was captured and given 16 life sentences, but was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner swap Israel entered into to secure the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Tamimi not only admits her crime, she’s proud of it; if you can stomach it, watch her here on a television appearance from several months ago as she recounts with relish some of the details of the Sbarro attack.
It’s difficult — impossible – for the vast majority of us to fathom what Tamimi did, and equally difficult to understand her obvious glee when she recalls participating in this atrocity. This is a woman who “smiled broadly” when she was told by an interviewer that the attack she helped orchestrate killed not just three, but eight children; who, after her release from prison, said, “I have never regretted what I have done, and if given another chance I’ll do it again.” She is a sociopathic, unrepentant murderer.
But apparently it’s not a problem for James Wall, former editor of the influential mainline Protestant magazine the Christian Century. After Tamimi’s release from prison last year, Wall wrote a piece describing her courtship with another prisoner during their incarceration, and their plans to marry upon their release from jail. It’s a repulsive, morally obtuse article; what person with a shred of conscience cares the least bit about Tamimi’s wedding plans, her bid for happiness, considering the profound misery she has visited upon so many others?
And what about Tamimi’s crimes? Wall’s position is this: “From Israel’s perspective, Ahlam played a role in causing a massive act of murder. She saw it, initially, as an act of war. And of course, war itself is organized, sanctioned murder … There is no simple answer to the question of what separates murder from deaths caused in combat.” In Wall’s convoluted world, then, Tamimi’s acts are no different than Israel’s efforts to defend herself against those who would destroy her.
Wall’s sympathy for this murderer of innocents is revolting. He’s still listed as a contributing editor of the Christian Century; his continued presence on the masthead of a magazine that purports to tell its readers “what it means to believe and live out the Christian faith in our time” is perverse and inexcusable.
Malka’s family has a blog. In a recent article posted there they write about their recent discovery of James Wall’s article from October 2011, and their shock at his sickening sympathy for Ahlam Tamimi and his refusal to condemn her for her crimes. They ask, “Is it Christian to embrace the unrepentant murderer of children who says she prays for the chance to do it again?”
Care to field the question, Mr. Wall?