Jewish support for abrogation of the death penalty is disheartening. Their criticism of the death penalty in Islamic countries is obscene. Capital punishment is deeply rooted in the Torah, and Muslims follow the relevant commandments much more closely than Jews.

Rabbis virtually eliminated death sentences by erecting impossible procedural requirements and fully rejecting circumstantial evidence. Nominally, the Torah requires two witnesses, and thus excludes evidential proof. Such a narrow reading makes the divine law senseless. Can’t we sentence a person on DNA tests? Or in antiquity, on possession of a bloody knife and stolen items? Certainly not only the crime, but also evidential proof can be witnessed.

The Talmudic assertion that capital punishment was only disbursed rarely in history is baseless. Since the Torah does not set out alternative punishments, refusing to hand down death sentences would have meant acquitting murderers, rapists, and kidnappers. Surely the populace would have revolted against such a liberal application of law. As always, such fake humanism would have resulted in a wave of violence: driven by the Bedouin code of ethics, victims’ families would have taken blood revenge. No one would accept the rabbinical standard, which disqualified a witness who saw the accused coming into the house with a knife and coming out of it dripping blood. Though in high judicial theory the witness did not see the murder, sensible Jews would not allow the murderer to be set free on that technicality. And if they did, all the unpunished criminals would wreak havoc on their society.

Mishna’s elaborate description of execution modes leaves no doubt that Jewish judges had little compunction about sentencing criminals. Later on, Roman magistrate courts in Judea usurped the power of the death sentence In the Diaspora Jews generally did not have it, and rabbis adopted a face-saving approach: instead of admitting themselves legally powerless, they exorcised the death sentence from Jewish jurisprudence.

In that, rabbis abrogated the lawgiver’s intention: to purge Jewish society of criminals and immoral individuals. Not only do such people threaten society, but they are worthless: the sooner they are executed, the less they will stain themselves.

Aren’t executions for immorality bizarre? Not at all. Liberal states jail people for immorality, such as child porn. The feeble explanation that watching it increases the likelihood of assault is ridiculous: by the same token, societies should ban action movies, which possibly provoke violence. People can get into trouble for clearly moral transgressions such as public nudity. Why it is that public nudity is punishable while public expression of homosexuality cannot be?

Executions are only practical if Jewish law is reduced back to the Torah. Slapping a Jew with a death sentence for speaking on the phone on Shabbat would be absurd, but banning exhausting labor on pain of death is perfectly within reason. The enforcement of religious morality has important political consequences: the Jews who know that Shabbat work or sexual immorality is a punishable crime won’t consider a land-for-peace deal with the Arabs. Sages have an interesting concept that no one sins except by a feat of insanity: a person who knows that God watches all his actions and sins nevertheless certainly acts in a state of temporary insanity. While many people don’t believe in God, everyone believes in the state’s repressive power; there would be no transgressors willing to risk their lives in gay parades. In reality, executions would only be a threat—but that threat must be credible.

Death sentences are still more justified for major criminal acts. Every normal person wants death for the murderer of his loved one. In the age of DNA testing, wrong convictions are relatively few, and we must accept them as the price of justice.

Opponents of the death penalty argue correctly that executions are exceedingly ugly. But they misread the problem. The ugliness comes from the sterile environment in which the executions are carried out. Execution is revenge for an utter crime. It is naturally carried out in a hateful matter: with screaming public and splashes of blood. Detached from revenge, execution loses its meaning. Lethal injections in a clean white room fit the cognitive profile of murder. That is why the Torah’s modes of execution are important: crowds must kill the criminals, each citizen must stand ready to cleanse the society.

It is both the Torah and common sense that all arrested terrorists must be executed.