Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Swap: Not Letting Apathy Kill Us...

It hasn’t been a great week in Israel. The photos of Ron Arad, a chilling reminder of what can happen when prisoner deals don’t go through; the grieving over coffins; our Lebanese neighbors celebrating the return of their 'hero'.

Commenting on the welcome scenes for Samir Kuntar - who brutally murdered a little girl 29 years ago - Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister
Majalli Whbee said it showed to what extent the politics of hatred can rob people of human compassion.

In addition to these national security issues, the ongoing Talansky affair and investigations into the Prime Minister rumble on. The affair and finances it involves touch on the influence wealthy non – Israelis can have on our political life.

The weekend's
Jerusalem Post argued that many Israelis oppose the foreign interference of such 'armchair warriors' although it quoted Yossi Beilin as describing it as positive, even though he often completely disagreed with the political position they take.

Referring to
Irving Moskowitz, who funded settlements in East Jerusalem in the 1990s, the former Meretz leader said that anything is better than apathy and that despite his belief in the damage Moskowitz caused "I couldn't ignore the fact that he cares. I prefer someone who cares about Israel to someone who doesn't."

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It may sound cruel, but I'm not sure I would have voted for the deal. It's not just the asymmetrical ratio (we've
had worse) or the fact this makes it harder to secure the release of Gilad Shalit.

It's not just the dangerous precedent of swapping bodies for live prisoners, the opposition of the security services or the failure of Hizbullah to fulfill their side of the deal on providing information on Ron Arad.

It's also that when Israel strikes deals with non - state groups wedded to terrorism, it completely undermines those more moderate entities committed to achieving their aims through non violent means…

Yet despite all of the reasons for saying no, I can't deny how proud I am to live in a country like Israel – a country that feels, that hurts, that cries, that comes to a standstill over two of its fellow citizens;

And despite my rational disagreement with the decision, I can't deny my emotional resonance with it, or the feelings on seeing the coffins being unloaded by Hizbullah…

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I only wonder whether we can harness this collective identification and sympathy we feel over our 'returning sons' to other areas in society.

Because if we care this much about Udi and Eldad, think how much energy we could spend on caring about the fate of the thousands of the unnamed citizens of Sderot, the hundreds who die every year on the roads, or the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse that escape the media spotlight.

If the politics of hatred can rob the Lebanese of their human compassion, let's see how far the politics of identification can get Israelis.

Because as Yossi Beilin said, what divides us most is not our political opinions but whether, at the end of the day, we care about the future of this country.

7 comments:

Pole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stef said...

The fact that it sets a precedent is the worrying thing. What incentive is there for Hezbollah to keep future captives alive? Only someone made of stone would be unmoved by the families plight and the collective grief brought on by these two soldiers' plight.

That emotion won the day. I fear that victory and this decision is not in Israel's best interests in the long term.

Pole said...

You mention how you would have voted against the deal but gcan't help but grapple with the dilemma it poses. The deal is one that is so hard to swallow precisely because it goes against all sense of rationality as to what we consider to be a good deal and being the proud state that Israel is, it is able to take the hard decision of doing what is essentially right and despite all the hardships is still able to show compassion and think with its heart.

more on this debate can be found at bravejeworld.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Hi Calev

Regarding the hostage issue

Americans or British civilians dont have to join the army.

They can get a regular job like most other civilians.

We HAVE to join the army here (with a few exceptions, like so called far right religious reasons for not joining or ultra left peaceniks, which for the sake of argument lets put aside for another day)

We also HAVE to go on miluim if we get called up.

If we dont we go to jail and get a fine.

So when we're on duty, if one of our boys (or girls) dies out there, we have a duty to bring their body back, no matter the cost.

This is the least that we owe them and their families.

It is an honour and a privilege to serve ones country, I know I feel very proud, as do my friends who also serve.

There are means to deal with prisoners who are released. They just take time to implement.

In the mean time, the deceased should be honoured for their sacrifice.

A decent burial, in return for sacrificing your life for your people and your country, is not a lot to ask for.

Calev said...

In this context, the the statement of former MK Geulah Cohen comes to mind. During the first Lebanon war, Cohen was a cabinet member as her son Tzachi Hanegbi was serving as a paratrooper.

When asked how she would act if her son was ever kidnapped, Cohen, who was a fervent opponent of asymmetrical prisoner swaps, replied that

"As a mother, I would be outside the Prime Minister's Office with a megaphone 24 hours a day calling on the government to do anything it took to obtain his release.

As a Knesset member, I would sit inside the PM's Office and tell him not to listen to the people outside."

Anonymous said...

Geulah Cohen's son wasn't actually kidnapped.

So its easy to come up with what appears to be an eloquent statement, but in fact is a rather ambiguous one.

At the end of the day we have to make choices.

What would Geulah say if her son had actually been kidnapped and she was unaware of his state, if he was alive or dead?

She'd have to make a choice - to exchange or not to exchange

Sitting on the fence making ambiguous statements is easy, making very real and tough choices, is much harder, but they still have to be made.

Its easier to be ambiguous when you are not in the hot seat and dont have to make the decision.

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