Op-Ed: Why Did Israel Betray its Terror Victims?
Giulio MeottiThe writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly...
Everything has been written about the Israeli commitment not to leave its soldiers behind in the field (be they alive or dead), about the fact that no other country in the world would trade one soldier for a thousand of terrorists, about the excruciating torture that Gilad Shalit’s parents have endured over five years and about the need of relief of the Israeli society.
The Shalit affair is the psycho drama of the tiny Jewish nation under siege.
It’s true that once Shalit comes home the Hamas in Gaza will have lost their most valuable human shield of all, but no security reason could have really justified such a deal.
Simply said, Israeli leaders weren’t able to sustain the hard stare of Noam and Aviva Shalit, that is the mirror image of the youthful face of Ron Arad, the love and the nightmare of the Jewish State with his emaciated and dying body.
Shalit's mode is not political, it is a moral one.
Israel will make the impossible exchange and it is understandable that a country, so little and abandoned to itself, is deeply united around the value of life.
But since this is a psychological drama, let’s be honest: Israel is betraying the families who lost relatives under terrorism. Shalit's family won, the state and the thousands of families destroyed by hatred lost.
The joy of the murderers and their well advertised victory signs certainly renew the pain and agony. As Ross Douthat recently wrote in the New York Times, “most Americans support the death penalty because they want to believe that our justice system is just, and not merely a mechanism for quarantining the dangerous in order to keep the law-abiding safe. The case for executing murderers is a case for proportionality in punishment: for sentences that fit the crime, and penalties that close the circle”.
Now Israel is crossing all the red lines.
Next week the Israeli bereaved families will see the butchers of their own relatives walking out from prison after spending few years in jail.
I dedicated five years to tracking down and interviewing Israeli witnesses to terrorist atrocities — including people who survived attacks and family members of those who did not.
I am probably the only person in the world who spent more time on the biographies of the Israeli victims as on the horrible details of their end and the desperation of their families.
Many bereaved parents I know are supporting the deal and many others are radically against it. I know that no one is more familiar with the pain the Shalit family is experiencing than families whose child’s life was destroyed by a suicide bomber.
The bereaved parents know what it is to awake every morning and face another day without that precious child and they share with the Shalits the same yearning to touch and speak to him again.
The only concession to families of the victims will be the publication – a mere 48 hours prior to the release – of the names of the prisoners being set free. That’s all. It’s the end of the deal for them.
The Israeli government is saying to these families: “We are sorry, the social pressure was too high, the Arab spring gave us a chance for a deal, this is a political game”.
Next week, when most of the Israelis will share Shalits’ joy and concern about the mental health of their son, let’s hope that many others will remember the aftermath of the suicide attacks: the victims arranged near the carcass of the bus, the bodies placed in black bags, the Polaroid photos, the remains of a stroller, the scattered gray matter on the windows nearby, the Nazi number tattooed on the burned arms, the acrid odor of burned flesh and hair, the teeth and the DNA by which the victims were identified, the little pieces of jewelry that were everything a mother found at the morgue, the school notebooks, the military berets, the tennis shoes, the kippot of every color and the officers’ insignia.
Next week someone should lay a flower near the thousands of plaques bearing the names of innocent Jews displayed along streets, schools, synagogues, cafes, restaurants, markets, parks and gardens.
Despite the war for survival, Israel’s economy is booming, democracy is solid, immigration is growing and demography is thriving.
But the State of Israel betrayed its victims. It's a process that began when Yitzhak Rabin called Ofra Felix, a wonderful Israeli girl killed by the terrorists in 1995, "a victim of the peace process".
The Talmud says that in Israel, the dead protect the living. Today it's less true.
The question everybody has to answer is: why?