October 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit- home after five years

On June 25, 2006 Palestinian militants from Gaza raided an IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) base in southern Israel. The attack left two soldiers dead, and one was captured and taken into Gaza as a prisoner of war- his name is Gilad Shalit.

In the five years that followed Shalit's capture the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) repeatedly requested to visit Shalit and determine if his detention and treatment meet international law- Hamas blatantly ignored these requests (a violation of Article 126 of the Third Geneva Convention). In addition, Hamas refused to disclose the location where Shalit has been held (a violation of Article 23 of the Third Geneva Convention),  and refused him regular communication with his family- a right afforded by the Laws of War. Since kidnapping Gilad five years ago, Hamas has allowed Shalit's family only three letters and one voice recording from their captive son.

This ordeal has served as a brush stroke on the backdrop of mid-east politics. While the leaders of the Palestinian authority decry Israel as a great human rights violator, they hold a 19 year old boy in flagrant violation of international law and use his life as a bargaining chip. Well, today the bargain has been reached. In exchange for the life of one lost soldier, the Israeli government has agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners- and not just any prisoners. These are some of the worst murderers the IDF ever captured.

The cost of this prisoner exchange will only be told with time. Public opinion in Israel has been, characteristically, varied. Many have protested Netanyahu's decision, saying that the deal will lead to countless more deaths when these released terrorists inevitably return to their chosen trade. Is negotiation with terrorists ever a winning game? Many say no. On the other hand, many celebrate the deal, saying it is a perfect representation of the ethical standard held by Israel, a display of the premium Israel places on human life. I think that regardless of politics, today Israel is celebrating. Calls for Gilad Shalit's return have not wavered for five years. His face has remained in the collective mind of the Jewish people, and today he has been returned home.

It is this dichotomy that makes Israel beautiful.  Today is a day I will look back on and be able to say "I was there when..."

I want to close with a poem.

"Gilad is Coming Home" written by an American-Israeli friend of mine, Libbie Sagiv
The absurdity

Absurdity in its absolute purest form

Of the ultimate trade
The ultimate measure of a Jewish life
The demands put upon us, expected upon us
Speak for themselves.
What is the value of a Jewish life?
How far are we willing to go, to stand by what we cherish?
The decision we have made today
The headlines we put into print that we never thought we’d see
Spell it out for us,
In black and white,
That at the end of the day
There is good and there is evil.
There is one Jewish life, and there are a thousand Palestinians.
There is no scale
To measure justice, because ultimately there is no justice –
There are just declarations
Of what we stand for, what matters to us, what we believe in
And at the end of the day
Those who want to kill, will kill
Whether it’s the thousand Palestinians we release today
Or a decade ago
Or a decade from now
They’re all the same
And the one thing we have proved today, if anything,
Is that there is only one Gilad Shalit.
We gave meaning to the saying
“If you save a Jewish life, it is as if you have saved the entire Jewish people.”
If there’s anything we have proved
In our 5,000-year-plus history
It’s that we will always beat our enemies, in the end
Anyone who chooses to rise against the Jewish people, in the end,
Meets their demise.
So to the thousand Palestinians being released today, I say to you:
You are irrelevant.
In your so-called victory, you equal one-thousandth of a Jew,
if that. No one knows your name, or will remember you.
Gilad Shalit,
Even if your freedom means I am now in one thousand times greater danger,
I have to accept that.
Because at the end of the day,
You would have done the same for me.
That is what it means to be Jewish.

References- More Info
"Holding Gilad Shalit as a hostage is a war crime"– B'Tselem press release (25 June 2007)

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