1000 to 1 – the real cultural difference

A tremulous debate is occurring in Israel and the world regarding the circumstances of the release of Gilad Shalit. I support the deal. I am ecstatic to see Gilad at home in the arms of his parents. Nothing will dampen my mood – not even the smiling faces of cruel murderers whose hands are drenched in Israeli blood.

I understand the anger of families of terror victims who must witness the release of the murderers of their loved ones. Their tragedy and pain is a never-healing wound. However, their call for revenge, while humanly understandable is not a legal claim. The terrorists who are incarcerated are not their private prisoners but the State’s prisoners. Our legal system does not include personal family revenge. That kind of justice exists elsewhere in the world. Here’s an example. Is this what we want to be?

The release of hundreds of terrorists will not change the balance of power or increase the terror threat to Israel. There is no shortage of motivation for carrying out terror attacks. There is only a shortage of opportunity thanks to the security barrier and the actions of the IDF/Shin Bet (and the PA security forces) on the ground. They (the released terrorists) will not “start to run the show” because the current leadership will not step down. If anything it may create some tension at the top. (Abu Mazen is probably breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing that Marwan Barghouti is not on the list). Besides, the ‘heavy’ terrorists have access to phones, visits, TV, radio, legal counsel etc. (all the things denied to Shalit). Nothing could stop them from planning further attacks. If they had any new terror plot to unleash – they have already tried. Of course, if anyone of them does return to the path of terror, I sincerely hope that the IDF will arrange a meeting with their maker. After all, isn’t that their ultimate goal anyway?

The Israeli army is an open and transparent army. We are conscripted by law but we also serve knowing there is no one else to do so. We serve and risk our lives and in return expect not to be left behind in battle. It’s as simple as that. Every day Gilad was still behind bars this covenant was getting weaker. A terrible blow would have been served to Israeli society if Shalits fait would have been similar to Ron Arad. Gilat Shalit is my brother, he is my son. I want him home.

But the price!!! 1000 to 1!!! What were we thinking? Yes, in this conflict it is essentially a weakness to value human life. It is weakness to invest billions in civilian protection programs. It is the same weakness that stops us from carpet-bombing or intentionally attacking civilians, an inhibition our enemies and neighbors do not share even towards their own. The same weakness that prevented Israel from cutting off  electricity and water to Gaza. It is this weakness that our enemies exploit when hiding behind women and children while they are trying to kill us. It is the weakness that is 180 degrees opposite to the “strength” our enemies project by glorifying suicide murderers, supporting their families, holding events and naming sites in their memory. It is the weakness of a culture that abhors death rather than worshiping it, that teaches children it is best to live and not die and kill in honor and martyrdom.

There is another weakness here – that of the international community and the ICRC who have not been able to secure any information, visits, medical treatment or any verification of humane treatment of Shalit in over 5 years in captivity. Caring for human rights, I suppose, only goes one way.

Possibly the greatest gift that Judaism gave the world in our creation mythology is the notion that Human Beings are the center of the world and not merely servants to the gods, the epitome of creation and not a byproduct of it, the image of God almighty himself. The age of Humanism began at Genesis 1; 26.

Over the past few months I’ve been making the argument that policy in the Middle East will be determined by cultural norms, mores and values and not realpolitik. Realism and liberalism are out. Constructivism is in. And there you have it ladies and gentlemen. The value we hold dear more than any other – human life – And our enemies don’t.  What’s the real difference? 1000 to 1 – sounds about right to me.

And here is the real question – on which side of this equation do you want to be?

Welcome home Gilad. We missed you.

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