Featuring the works and commentary of Andrew Bruss

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit: The Cost of Freedom

These are the real losers in the trade.
Gilad Shalit and I were both born in 1986 to a loving Jewish family who only wanted what was best for us. While I was studying journalism at Emerson College, Gilad was being held captive by Hamas. I think it’s fair to say that every Jew has strong feelings regarding the kidnapping and emotional release of Israeli Defense Force Sergeant First Class Shalit. In 2006, Shalit was kidnapped from his army post inside Israeli territory by Hamas agents who took him to the Gaza Strip. This morning Shalit was returned home to his parents and greeted by Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu. Shalit’s freedom cost the State of Israel 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, many among them guilty of planning horrific suicide bombing.

It is fair to say that no other country in the world would trade over one thousand prisoners for a single soldier. Then again, no other country in the world is in the situation Israel is in. Plenty of countries draft soldiers, but no country besides Israel is as dependent upon the service of every 18 year-old as is the Jewish State. This is why the nation's pledge to return every soldier, even their corpse, is considered sacred and the Israeli public overwhelmingly supported this prisoner swap.

But does that mean it was the smart thing to do? Will the Israeli public still support the prisoner trade if (when?) the freed prisoners return to terrorism? The cost of Shalit’s freedom rewards Hamas for what was a legal act of war and will only encourage them to kidnap another soldier.  Will the Israeli public still support the swap when Hamas brags that the success of Shalit’s kidnapping encouraged them to kidnap whomever they nab next?

How should we feel about Svuel Schijveschuurder, whose parents and three siblings were killed in a Jerusalem suicide bombing, only to see the criminal responsible being released in this deal. Along with Yossi Mendelevich, who lost his 13-year old son in a suicide bombing, Schijveschuurder and other victims tried to block the trade because they are convinced it will lead to their nightmare being renewed.

I personally feel nothing but joy for Shalit and his family as he returns home after a horrible ordeal he will spend years recovering from. But I also feel great sorrow. The final outcome of this ordeal is the greatest victory in the history of Hamas, and while it is also a victory for Shalit and his parents, the 18 year-olds currently serving in the IDF are the real losers in this deal. Their value as Hamas captives has just gone up. Way up.   

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