The crime of Alan Goodman Home from Israel: Freed sectarian murderer is not exonerated.

December 19, 1997

ISRAEL'S PAROLE BOARD put humanity above justice in paroling Alan Goodman on condition he leave the country for eight years. He had served 15 years of a life-plus-40-years sentence. Such convicts in Israel normally do not receive parole before 24 years.

Politically, the Oct. 26 decision was harmful to Israel's peace with the Palestinians. It gave the impression that the Netanyahu government takes Palestinian life lightly. It was a snub to Palestinian sensibilities. This may not have been intended, but was achieved.

Baltimore, the home to which Alan Goodman returned, was not consulted and had no choice but receive him. That Goodman has family and a support network and a Jewish social agency concerned for his welfare, anxious to find him peace, encouraging him to keep up with medication, is all to the good. The more the better.

What is most troubling is not that Goodman never showed remorse. Or that his motive for harming Palestinians included slights he had felt in his youth in this country that had nothing to do with them. He invaded the third-most sacred site of the world's billion Muslims, the precinct of Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount, with an Israeli army automatic rifle. He shot five Palestinian Muslims, one fatally, touching off a riot and provoking political and religious strife. Goodman never conceded having done wrong, not upon arrest, not at trial, not on release in October, not in his recent interview with The Sun's Dan Fesperman.

What is, indeed, most troubling is that there were and are people who called him a "Jewish hero." They told him the right response to a terrorist murder of a Jewish Israeli is to murder some Palestinian who did not do it. Goodman welcomed such support. Baruch Goldstein, the American-born Israeli who murdered 29 Muslim worshipers in Hebron in 1994, supposedly took inspiration from him.

As long as Goodman thinks that April 11, 1982 was his greatest day giving meaning to his life and as long as there are people who call his act "righteous," that crime is not expiated. Israel's parole board made a mistake.

Were Israel making more gestures of reconciliation toward neighbors, were Goodman repudiating admirers who praise terrorism, were more reciprocal amnesties and clemencies taking place, that judgment would not be necessary. Goodman's freedom here would be welcomed. In the harsh light of actuality, it must be said with emphasis and sadness that Goodman's parole was premature.

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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