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October 29, 2015 7:09 am

Another American Victim of Palestinian Terror: Why it Matters

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow / JNS.org

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Richard Lakin, who succumbed to wounds he sustained in a terrorist attack on a bus in Jerusalem. Photo: courtesy.

Richard Lakin, who succumbed to wounds he sustained in a terrorist attack on a bus in Jerusalem. Photo: courtesy.

JNS.org – Another American victim of Palestinian terrorism was buried this week. Does it matter that he was an American? Why should the American government, or American Jews, take any more interest in the latest victim than in any other victims?

Richard Lakin, a 76-year-old former Connecticut school principal, died Oct. 27 of wounds he suffered in a recent Palestinian terrorist attack in Jerusalem. He was the 137th American citizen murdered by Palestinian terrorists since the 1960s.

Since he was an American citizen, Lakin’s death will merit a brief mention in many American newspapers, and newspapers in his hometown will give more extensive coverage.

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That’s the first reason the American identity of these victims matters. If not for the sense that “he was one of us,” these terror victims would be completely forgotten. Newspapers have limited space. They choose the stories they will cover based primarily on what they think will interest their readers. They believe that Americans will care more about other Americans than about other victims, and that residents of Connecticut will be more interested in what happens to other residents of their state than residents of other states. And that’s a reasonable assumption, whether we like it or not.

Richard Lakin was Jewish. As a result, American Jews will take a particular interest in what happened to him. And they should. The organized American Jewish community actively encourages Jews to visit Israel. The community, as my family does through the Alisa Flatow Memorial Scholarship Fund, also supports “study abroad” programs at Israeli schools, seminaries, and universities in order to attract American Jewish college students to study there for a semester or a year. And a number of Jewish organizations provide financial assistance and other incentives to American Jews to move to Israel.

These American Jewish initiatives to send Jews to Israel are an expression of the strength and warmth of the ties that bind Israel and the Diaspora. We derive inspiration and spiritual sustenance from our relationship with the Jewish state. We want our children to share in that. And if we are going to encourage American Jews to go to Israel, then we have a special obligation to care, and to act, if any of those Jews are harmed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.

Moreover, American Jews have the ability to make a difference. Our relationship with the White House and Congress, our electoral clout as a community, and our skills at reaching out to the wider public enable us to influence America’s policy on these issues.

The American public should care, too. The people of the United States have always had a special attachment to Israel, because the Jewish state shares our democratic, humanitarian, and Judeo-Christian values. Americans who visit or even live in Israel are putting into practice the heartfelt sentiments of millions of their fellow American citizens.

American taxpayers should care for another reason: the US government sends $500 million of their tax dollars to the Palestinian Authority (PA) every year. So the public has a right to expect the government to intervene when PA employees or PA-incited terrorists murder our citizens, or when the PA names streets, parks, and soccer teams after murderers of Americans.

The American government, too, has a special obligation with regard to American victims of Palestinian terrorism.

First, there is a legal obligation. American citizens, whether they are visiting, studying, or living abroad, are still American citizens. They pay taxes just like the rest of us, and in return the US government has a legal responsibility to act when they are harmed by terrorists abroad just as it would have an obligation to act if they are harmed by terrorists within the US.

Second, the US government has a strategic obligation to act. Fighting Palestinian terrorism must be part of America’s global war on terror. Bringing Palestinian killers of Americans to trial in the US would contribute significantly to anti-terror efforts, by making it clear to Palestinian terrorists that they could face the death penalty, or at least life in prison with no hope of release in a prisoner exchange — something that is not the case when they kill Israelis.

So, yes, it is relevant that Richard Lakin was an American. It’s not just a question of narrow national pride, or ethnic solidarity, or curiosity. For important moral, legal, and strategic reasons, the American victims of Palestinian terrorism should matter to American Jews, to the American public, and to the American government.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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  • Sympathy to the entire family … and sympathy to J Street, Peace Now & all the others who refuse to support Israel.

  • Wm. J. Levy

    I mourn the death of every Jew but Lakin would not be a fighter for Israel but for the Arabs.

    At a time when Jews were still despised in America he like many other Jews went to help blacks but no help Jews in America reach true equality.

    I don’t know where this sickness comes from because they want to be liked instead of demanding respect by being strong and tough.

    We went from a people respected and feared for thousands of years to one so meek that even with atomic bombs our enemies are not afraid of us.

  • ART

    The failure of the US government to act also sends a message, by omission, that it is OK to kill Americans, or at least Jewish Americans

  • Ce crime ne changera malheureusement pas l’opinion de ces
    J-street des USA ou J-Call d’Europe…!!!ces Juifs sont simplement des complexés. Ils ont pendant des années d’après la seconde guerre mondiale été habitués à se conduire en PROTECTEUR -CONSEILLEUR du jeune ETAT d’ISRAEL…ILS n’ont jamais compris que les ISRAELIENS étaient adultes après les guerres de 1956-1967-1973 et qu’ils n’avaient pas ou plus besoin de conseils de ceux qui de toute façon ne subissent pas les actes du HAMAS du Hesbollah …du FATAH et autres acharnés ANTI-ISRAELIENS & ANTI-JUIFS.De plus , les MEDIAS les “ADORENT”…quel bonheur pour eux de trouver des Juifs qui critiquent de (l’extérieur)….ISRAEL !

  • Ahavah

    Dear Mr Flatow, I am so sorry about the death of your daughter and all the murders presently happening now in Israel. Your message is my message. I pray all Americans will awaken to this reality and truth that you have spoken about in your article and take action against our Government’s siding with these murders with their words, acts (our tax dollars) and deeds, i.e. stop giving money to the Palestinian Authority who are terrorists themselves would be a first step. Shariah law and our US constitution are incompatible. The issue is not that our leaders “don’t get it” about Islam and it’s purpose, truthfully, it is that certain leaders “DO get it”… and are implementing shariah law. Strength and courage are needed in a new leader of America who abides by Truth!

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