A GREAT AND TERRIBLE DAY
“Yom Gadol V’Norah”
The Shalit Prisoner Exchange
Yesterday, the entire world changed.
It seems to me, not all that many have noticed.
The entire western world is, on October 18, 2011, entirely and forever different from the world on 17th of October of this year.
I am a Jew and an Israeli citizen. I am the father of two Jewish, Israeli sons: I am keenly aware of the pain it must have caused the family and friends of Gilad Shalit to live through the anguish of Gilad’s five years in kidnapped imprisonment. I fully and sincerely rejoice with them and the entire Israeli nation at his return. As the Naomi Shemer song “Al Kol Eyleh” muses, “ha-dvash … ha-matok” – this part is, indeed, ” the honey and the sweet.”
But Shemer also wrote of, “ha-oketz … ha-mar.” “The stinger and the bitter. Once the euphoria over Shalit’s return subsides, the following reality lingers: Israel has now reversed what was until yesterday its bedrock national security policy: “Israel does not negotiate with terrorists.”
Israel now does negotiate with terrorists: and trades at the horrifying exchange rate of 1000 to 1. A thousand to one.
The result is inevitable – and materialized nearly instantly yesterday, as soon as a newly freed Palestinian murderer got near a microphone. He said elatedly into a camera, “Our freedom fighters (the kidnappers who stole Shalit) have shown the way, by forcing the Zionist oppressor to release us against his will! I now call on all who resist the Zionist oppressor to follow in the way that the mudjahadin (holy warriors, who kidnapped Shalit) have shown us, to get all our brothers released by the Zionist oppressor!”
Translation into plain language: Palestinians should now go into high gear kidnapping Israelis, and engineer similar deals to get terrorists, murderers, kidnappers, and other high criminals set free contrary to justice, at a rate of 1000 to 1. For every Israeli kidnapped, they should get a thousand convicted murderers and conspirators to mass-murder set free.
The sweet is immensely sweet.
The bitter is unimaginably bitter.
It seems highly possible to me that Gilad Shalit will be kidnapped a second time, just to rub Israel’s nose in this defeat. They may steal him again, and again take him into hiding – and again demand more murderers be freed. They will, for certain, steal away more Israeli youths as soon, and in as great numbers, as they possibly can succeed in so doing.
The only two ways out of this for Israel will bring unimaginable international condemnation.
It is a given in law that a contract made under duress is null and void.
You cannot put a pistol to the head of someone’s child, and tell the parent, “Sign this contract selling me your home worth one million dollars for one thousand dollars” (a thousand to one rate) – and then show up in court, claiming “a contract is a contract.” and condemn the extorted home-owner from reneging on the deal. If the signature and agreement were obtained under duress – it is a null and void contract. It is not a contract at all.
Israel should invoke international law and refuse to release one more prisoner, and re-capture and re-confine every prisoner who was taken by correct military and/or civil due process.
A kidnapper/murderer who obtains a contract by applying extortion as the means to obtain the contract has no rights – except those accorded to felons being tried for kidnapping and murder.
The second course available is the one Golda Meir took against the terrorists who killed the Israeli Olympic Athletes in the Munich Olympic Village attack: send Mossad assassination teams out to kill every single one of the duly-convicted murderers released yesterday: and convey the unofficial message that to be released by a Shalit style extortion is a certain death sentence.
Either course of action would bring the full weight of international sanction against Israel.
Abiding by this nightmarish, extortion-based deal will guarantee a wave of similar crimes.
Israel now exists in a world that is sitting by, pouring out uncondemning press reportage as if kidnapping and extortion is a fine way to do business. The world has approved the kidnapping of Israelis and the use of extortion to achieve political goals – just as long those tools are directed at – you guessed it – Jews.
I have never felt more like I am living in pre-Nazi Germany-type world than I do this morning.
I read the New York Times coverage of the Shalit Exchange – I view CNN’s coverage of it – and I remind myself of what Jabotinsky, Begin, Ben-Gurion, and many others said, all the way back to Theodor Herzl’s realization watching the French mockery of justice that convicted Captain Alfred Dreyfus, and started the modern Zionist Movement: “no one will help the Jews but the Jews. For that reason we must become “a free people in our own land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
This morning, we all need to sing “HaTikvah” – and pray for God Almighty to rise up and make a way where there seems no way – for Jewish security and quality of life in the days to come.
May Heaven give the Israeli nation, and world-wide Jewish communities – immense wisdom for the days ahead. In this new world created just yesterday, they – and we all – are going to need it.
Rabbi Bruce Cohen
19 October 2011