Stuart Force never imagined that he would spend his retirement traveling across the United States, knocking on doors on Capital Hill. But that is precisely his life now following the tragic death of his son, Taylor Force, a West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran who was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian terrorist on March 8, 2016, while on a graduate-school trip to Israel with Vanderbilt University. Ten other people were wounded in the attack.
“If you are ideologically different than most Israelis or anyone else, it still doesn’t give you the right to commit murder and crimes. That is the basic decency that bothers us—that you think you have the right to do this,” Force, 67, told JNS.
Force said that his son Taylor, 28, was a “remarkable” man that did not harbor prejudice or malice towards anyone.
“He was a very accepting person. No prejudices, other than he didn’t like real jerks,” quipped Force. “He had good friends who were Jewish; he really enjoyed their company. When the opportunity came up to go to Israel, he leapt at it.”
Force, who has been touring the country to support the legislation named after his son, spoke at Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel in the Boston suburb of Newton on March 12 in a program sponsored by JINSA, a pro-Israel think tank, just a few days after the two-year anniversary of his son’s death.
“I think what is motivating our family is the fact that people, both men and women, are being rewarded for terrorism,” said Force. “Probably most of them have been motivated or coerced by their whole educational system honoring martyrs. And there’s no good reason for doing that.”
Over the last two years, Stuart Force has gone from a retired father looking to spend more time with his family to spearheading a powerful piece of legislation that has transformed the conversation in the United States regarding the Palestinians. Recently, Force met with a number of congressmen in Washington, D.C., to lobby them on the legislation.
Michael Makovsky, CEO of JINSA, said the Taylor Force Act has changed the conversation in Washington regarding the Palestinians.
“You can no longer talk about the Palestinian Authority without discussing this issue,” said Makovsky during the talk at Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel. “The Taylor Force Act has had a tremendous impact on the discussion.”
Still, he noted, “this is not geared towards punishing the Palestinians, but pressuring the P.A. to stop its funding of terrorism.”
‘You don’t have the right to hurt other people’
The Taylor Force Act—first introduced in the Senate in 2016 by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)—seeks to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families. The legislation, which was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last August and the House of Representatives in early December, is waiting on a full vote in the Senate.
The Trump administration has signaled that it “strongly supports” the legislation and will sign it if passed. But the bill has been languishing as some anonymous lawmakers have held up the process towards a full vote.
Nevertheless, Force said his experience working with Congress so far has been “very positive,” although he admitted that the lawmakers who might be against the bill would likely not face a grieving father.
“Mostly everyone I have met are very in favor of the Taylor Force Act,” he said. “But I guess I haven’t met the people that aren’t in favor of it.”
Force acknowledged that while he was far from an expert in politics, the message he is trying to get across with the legislation is a very simple one.
“I’ve seen different iterations of the legislation. Everyone has something they want to contribute or take out,” he stated. “The way we look at it—and I’m sure there’s going to be many issues and opinions on this—is that money that goes to help a group of people, that’s where it should go to. It shouldn’t go somewhere else to hurt other people. That’s basically it.”
“This is right versus wrong; it’s not political,” stressed Force. “You don’t have the right to hurt other people; that’s a core Judeo-Christian value.”
Force, who has not visited Israel but promises to do so when he is ready, has also received tremendous support from Israeli officials, such as Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. “Form the beginning, Ambassador Dermer has been very supportive of us. He’s been a very comforting presence in this whole ordeal,” he said.
Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, called Taylor Force’s family “unique heroes.”
“I had the pleasure of meeting them at AIPAC and in New York,” he told JNS. “We really admire them and what they represent.”
“The P.A. paying for terrorist salaries each year is outrageous,” declared Danon. “Instead of building schools and hospitals, they promote incitement and violence. And I think that [the Force] legislation sends a very clear message that the U.S. is ready to support humanitarian causes, but the U.S. is not willing to support terrorism.”
Going forward, Force believes that it is time for Congress to take the final steps on the legislation and put it towards a full vote in the Senate.
Said the activist father: “I would like to see a vote on the Senate floor. Tell me why you disagree with it. Be a man or woman, tell us where you stand.”