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Monday, October 06, 2014

Being a terror victim is forever

It's been more than 18 years since Sara Duker of Teaneck, New Jersey and Matthew Eisenfeld of West Hartford, Connecticut boarded an 18 bus on a Sunday morning in Jerusalem. There's a picture of the bus above. I remember hearing Sara's and Matthew's story at the time - as relatively recent American immigrants (we had been here four and a half years), the image of two American kids becoming casualties of 'Palestinian' terrorism was seared into our conscience. After that bombing - which was reported without a bus number and which caused us to call our children's school to make sure they had gotten there that day - we took our kids off the buses for a while and chauffeured them everywhere. Other parents stopped letting their children ride the buses altogether, and there are now children here who don't know how to ride a bus alone anymore.

But back to Sara and Matthew. It's been 18 years. In those 18 years, they could have married (as they planned to do) and been the parents of teenagers by now. Instead, they are buried together in Connecticut. Mike Kelly reports that their parents - still anguished of course - are left to wonder what might have been.
The bombing in which Sara and Matthew died — and a series of three similar bus bombings the next 10 days — irrevocably altered the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the already crumbling Oslo Peace Accords, leaving behind deep fissures of mistrust that would never be repaired.
Within days, President Bill Clinton called a meeting of Middle East leaders to denounce terrorism. Within months, Israeli voters rejected the pro-Oslo government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres in favor of the more conservative Benjamin Netanyahu.
Back in Teaneck, however, Sara’s family faced far more personal questions — the kind of questions that are common to victims of any crime:
Why did this happen to someone I love?
I know I can’t bring her back. But is there anything I can do to hold her killers accountable by labeling them for what they are — cold-blooded terrorists? 
The story of Sara Duker’s untimely death — along with the loss of Matthew Eisenfeld and Alisa Flatow — still resonates today, not only in its brutality but in the dogged efforts by other families of U.S. terror victims to seek some measure of justice.
Last month, in a federal lawsuit filed by almost 300 other victims of terrorism, a jury ruled that the Jordan-based Arab Bank illegally helped to transfer money that financed suicide attacks by Hamas. Experts predict that the penalty to be decided in a separate trial could exceed $1 billion.
The template for that landmark verdict was set years earlier — quietly and with little fanfare — in the lawsuits filed by the Duker, Eisenfeld and Flatow families.
Those suits, however, were a last resort.
With the FBI and Justice Department reluctant to pursue criminal indictments against their children’s killers, the families believed that their only choice to try to force action was to go to court. Their ultimate aim, they said, wasn’t about gaining money for themselves — it was to point a finger of blame at Iran for providing the financing for the attacks and, perhaps, to extract some punishment.
After a judge ruled that Iran was responsible for the bombings, the Flatow family was awarded $247 million; the Dukers and Eisenfelds $327 million combined. But they received less than 10 percent — substantial figures, but not enough to stop Iran from continuing to finance terrorism.
For the families, however, no amount of money can ever replace their children. As Arline Duker told me: “Having the money doesn’t make the sadness go away.”
Because Sara and Matt spent their last moments together, side by side, on that bus on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, their parents decided that they should remain together forever.
And so they were buried side by side, under a single headstone, in a cemetery in the hill country just outside Hartford, Conn.
A year ago, on a blue-sky summer afternoon, Arline, along with Len and Vicki Eisenfeld, took me to the grave. They placed rocks on the headstone — a Jewish custom. They took a few photos. Then they stood together in silence, remembering for a few seconds how Sara and Matt were so in love and so happy to be planning their future.
“I wonder what they would have become,” Arline said.
Her voice fell off, then she added:
“We’ll never know.”
 There's much more (including the likelihood that Yasser Arafat knew about the attack in advance). Read the whole thing.

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