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Monday, June 26, 2006

What Gilad's father is thinking

Since hearing about yesterday's attack on an IDF position near Gaza in which two of our soldiers were killed and another taken hostage, I'm embarrassed to say that I've had few thoughts for the dead.  Quite simply our government and our country failed them and there is no 'do-over' after such a failure. 

I'm not talking about the newly revealed report that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had provided the IDF with specific warnings of an imminent attack which included intelligence of where the attack would take place and that it would likely involve the use of tunnels. 

I'm talking about the government's cynical, self-interested failure to protect its citizens from an enemy that has been given no incentive whatsoever to cease hostilities.  I'm talking about a country that has failed to keep faith with it's citizens and fulfill the most basic tasks of providing secure borders and defending against hostile foreign aggression. 

I'm talking about a government too high on the opiate of potential peace to realize it is actually still at war.

But thinking about such things once there are fresh young bodies in the ground is an exercise in futility.  The families of the dead won't be comforted by the lessons learned from their losses (assuming, of course, that the government was ever capable of learning), and will in fact be outraged to find that their losses will be treated by blind ideologues as an aberration... or worse; as a positive stepping stone towards this elusive nirvana called peace.

So since I couldn't bring myself to think about the dead today I found myself fixated on Gilad Shalit, the young corporal who was wounded in the attack and then taken hostage by the retreating Palestinian forces. 

All I could ask myself was what would Gilad's father consider the right course of action in this situation? 

Should the government negotiate for his safe return, further whetting the Palestinian's appetite for kidnapping soldiers?  If so, how many security prisoners with blood on their hands should be considered a fair price to pay for this boy's life?

There is a very well written source here that discusses the various Rabbinic/ Talmudic evaluations of redeeming (ransoming) hostages.  But the real essence of the issue boils down to weighing two separate but related issues:

1.  The need to save the hostage's life, if at all possible.

2.  The prohibition of saving one person while actively putting others in certain mortal danger in the process.

So if the Israeli government frees terrorists in exchange for the kidnapped soldier, they will have saved the hostage's life... but at the cost of causing two mortal dangers to others:

1.  The security prisoners themselves, who have already proved their readiness and willingness to carry out deadly attacks, would be free to continue on this bloody path.  We have seen the the level or recidivism among freed prisoners to be extremely high.

2.  By giving in to the kidnapper's demands the government would be absolutely assuring future kidnappings (and the associated violence associated with such incursions) since this would prove to be an effective (not to mention lucrative) means of locking the government into inaction as well as securing the release of terrorists who would otherwise sit forever in jail.

The first of these two rationales concerns me less since there is certainly no lack of Palestinians willing to carry out violent attacks against Israelis.  But the second rationale is a taboo that the Israeli government has begun to break in recent years at it's own peril.

Early Israeli governments had an ironclad rule of not negotiating with terrorists.  They understood that there was no end to this tactic once it had been legitimized with an exchange. 

But somewhere in the 80s during our long sojourn among the cedars of south Lebanon we seem to have forgotten this lesson.  Whether correctly or incorrectly, the government sensed that the public's resolve in the face of hostages had weakened... and rather than remaining strong when the people could not, the government joined them in their weakness. And in so doing, they handed the terrorists one of the most powerful weapons known to man; the willingness of a father to do literally anything... even sacrifice his own life... to redeem the life of his son.

This is the manner in which our government finds itself being tested today.  And considering its record of appeasement and capitulation, I fear it is a test that they will not pass.

I am also a father of a Gilad.  In a few short years my Gilad will be donning the uniform of his country and will potentially be asked to walk in harms way. 

I know with absolute certainty that there is no price I would not pay to secure the release of my son if (G- forbid) he were ever taken hostage by the enemy.  I would endanger the lives of 100... or even 1000... other people's sons, and would throw open the doors of every prison in the land if it would mean having my precious son home again safe and sound.  I would even gladly exchange my own life for the chance to let my son marry, have children and enjoy a full life of his own. 

This is the reason why fathers should not make the decisions in such cases... and why the depths of an individual father's love for his son should never be considered by the government in matters of national security.  The government must be strong when the soul of every mother and father in the land screams out that this one life must be saved at any cost... because the alternative is to allow ourselves to become a nation held hostage.

Such is the power that kidnappers hold over a nation of parents, and our only hope of fighting this repulsive tactical weapon is to have our government return to the wiser days of refusing to negotiate... and to responding in such a terrible and disproportionate manner that the the stings take way any value the honey might have once held.

The value of the hostage is not set by the kidnappers, but rather unwittingly by those who want him/her freed.  If the government allows itself to think like a mother or father, it exponentially increases the potency of this cowardly weapon and assures that it will continue to be employed.

The only way to potentially save the lives of countless future Israeli hostages is for our government to take away the value of the currency the Palestinians think they possess.  The latest additional threat of chemical and biological weapons (all mention of which were suddenly pulled from most of the major Israeli media sites this morning), is just further blackmail intended to hold the Israeli government hostage and tie its hands in the face of clear and present danger.  This unconventional threat too must elicit such a violent and disproportionate military response that no enemy would ever dare rattle this saber again for fear of total annihilation!

As much as it pains me as a father to say this, our government must act as though there is no hostage being held, and punish the Palestinians so severely that they could not possibly consider taking one of our citizens captive again.  We must pretend that there are no unconventional weapons aimed at us and return to the days when an Israeli death was answered with 100 enemy deaths... and 10 with 1000! 

A scorched earth policy must be employed without mercy if we are to avoid finding ourselves in this situation again.

We all watched the ineffectual Jimmy Carter taken prisoner in his own White House by a few Iranian 'students' and how the mistake he made by acting as a father instead of as a head of state provided the blueprint for the potent tactic the Arab/Muslim world has used against the sentimental west ever since.

This is the supreme test any government can face in time of war and I fear our government will fail miserably.  Our leaders will likely negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit... and in return 50 or 100 security prisoners will quietly be handed over to rejoin their brothers in arms. 

When this happens, mothers and fathers around the country (myself included) will hug their children and cry tears of joy at the happy outcome that our wonderful government was able to provide to the parents of Gilad Shalit. 

But our joy will be short-lived as the price on the head of our own children will have suddenly increased 1000-fold the moment our government hands over the ransom.


Posted by David Bogner on June 26, 2006 | Permalink


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Posted by: Scott | Jun 26, 2006 11:31:58 AM

At first I thought that your title was a bit presumptous, until I realized that "Gili" stands for Gilad. Hits even closer to home then... I agree with you again David. Whenever we send soldiers to war we are possibly sacrificing one mother's son to protect another's. That is the way life is - and although peace is a wonderful concept, it doesn't exist unless you are willing to fight for it (ironic but true).

Posted by: westbankmama | Jun 26, 2006 12:35:28 PM

I saw a picture of the Gilead that was kidnapped. It haunts me. He is so young and the same age as my own son. My being cries out for his safe return. But like you, I don't want it to be negotiated.

I fear the barbarity this young man might be facing at the hands of his kidnappers.

But you correct, the government must act in a manner that would make kidnapping so costly to those who would try it, that it will not become usable.

But Gilead's picture still haunts me.

Posted by: seawitch | Jun 26, 2006 2:24:21 PM

So sad, we just gotta daven.

Posted by: social worker frustrated mom | Jun 26, 2006 4:53:06 PM

Agree completely. There is simply no other way. Years ago, I used to think there was - but time showed there is no negotiating with people who do not respect the humanity of their enemy or rules of war.

Posted by: Irina | Jun 26, 2006 6:15:26 PM

at what point does a nation have a right to defend itself when the government refuses? at what point does a town have the right to defend itself from kassams when the government won't? how can a nation expect its citizens to send their children to war when the government sends them in harm's way and not allow them to protect themselves? it happened in lebanon only to continue now the generals and officers have a responsibility to the men under their command if they cannot do everything in their power to protect them from stupid politics they don't belong as officers and leaders. i am sorry for this rant too

Posted by: dave | Jun 26, 2006 7:37:21 PM

Much as it pains me I actually agree with you.

Dave - what you are advocating is anarchy. Who gets to decide where the line is?

Posted by: lisoosh | Jun 26, 2006 8:54:04 PM

actually I think it is termed revolution.

Posted by: dave | Jun 26, 2006 9:23:17 PM

I disagree with your assessment.

A terrorist-for-hostage trade trades a hostage whose life is in immediate danger for terrorists that pose only a potential danger to life. IMO, the Jewish way has always been to give priority to the life immediately in danger while at the same time increasing defensive posture; kidnappers would thus learn the importance of keeping their hostages alive.

With respect to your own son ... if you truly would do whatever it secure the release of your son, you would be the wiser to leave Israel now and avoid the situation entirely.

Those who live in Israel do so out of the deep and principled understanding that there is more to life than living. For now, I live
in the US.

Posted by: ait | Jun 26, 2006 9:55:01 PM

" I would even gladly exchange my own life for the chance to let my son marry, have children and enjoy a full life of his own."

Contrast this with what we constantly hear from the mothers of suicide bombers, how they wish they could have 10 more to become martyrs. That's the difference between us and them.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Jun 26, 2006 10:30:43 PM

ait -- you make it sound as though living elsewhere guarantees safety. yes, there are dangers here, but there are dangers everywhere. car accidents and illnesses are simply representative of some of the dangers of simply LIVING -- regardless of your location.

pt -- i think that golda meir is attributed with the thought that all is lost "until they learn to love their children more than they hate ours" (or mashu kazeh). sadly, it seems that not a lot has changed by way of THAT dynamic in the past 30+ years.....

Posted by: zahava | Jun 26, 2006 10:40:04 PM

No, we gotta daven and bomb gaza back to the stone-age. Israel has to learn once and for all that peace is achieved through superior firepower.

Posted by: Max Power | Jun 27, 2006 1:12:12 AM

I once heard a (apocryphal?) story about Golda Meir. While defending Israel's decision not to negotiate with terrorists, a journalist asked her if she would expect the government to negotiate on behlaf of her own son. "Of course I would demand that they do so," she replied, "but I pray they would not listen to me."

Posted by: Ari Kinsberg | Jun 27, 2006 6:10:51 AM

After watching Munich and Raid on Entebbe you notice how intricate the decision making process is in government, especially during a hostage or terror attack situation, it's all fiction but maybe you can learn something from them.

Free Gilad!

Posted by: pk | Jun 27, 2006 8:52:44 AM

Dave --I agree with many of the things you say here but not all. I agree that we cannot go down the road of negotiating for his release and doing a prisoner exchange. But I do not agree that we should do a scorched earth policy. I think we go after those who are directly responsible and stop there.

Let's turn the idea that for every one of ours that is killed 1,000 of theirs are killed around --if they also hold this view, 1,000 of ours for every 1 of theirs --we end up with a massacre on both sides. And where will it end?

Posted by: Yael | Jun 27, 2006 1:28:20 PM

Scott... There are very few truly original ideas under the sun.

Westbank Mama... I once saw a car with a bumper-sticker that said "Fighting for peace is like f*cking for virginity". I felt like running the idiot off the road because that sentiment proves there are people who are just too stupid to be allowed to live.

Seawitch... I know the type well. He is a skinny kid who desperately wanted to serve in a combat unit but who couldn't pass the 'giboosh' (screening) for the elite infantry units. So he opted for an equally honorable place in a tank crew and was probably proud a proud could be to be accepted. Tankists tend to be salt-of-the earth guys who probably made him feel right at home... perhpas the first time in his life he truly felt he fit in and was respected for who he was. And now he is facing the kind of test that even the elite commandos shudder to consider. I pray for him.

Social Worker... I can't hurt.

Irina... More simply put, there are no rules in a knife fight.

Dave... I'm not ready to start forming the kind of extra-legal militias that exist over in Pali-land... and I'd shoot anyone who tried to form one in my town. We're better than that.

Lisoosh... I agree, that is anarchy... not to mention treason. I happen to know (and love) Dave and have consumed many a bottle of wine with him while we've discussed this sort of thing. The difference between us that he is there and I am here. that basic difference can't help but have an effect on the level of rhetoric.

ait... You are welcome to disagree with me. But before you suggest I leave Israel... you might want to consider spending a little less time in Boston and a little more time her in my shoes.

Psychotoddler... A different value for human life is not in and of itself a bad thing. But when two cultures that place a different value on life face each other in war it is a fatal mistake for the culture that values life more to hand this fact to the enemy to be used as a weapon.

Max Power... Most of the people are living fairly close to the stone age as it is. My suggestion is to take the leaders who are living in multi-million dollar seaside villas and move them a few steps down the food chain.

Ari Kinsberg... Whether it is true or not, this is the reason family members are not allowed to participate in ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages.

PK... This government isn't worthy to own the videos about Entebbe... and probably couldn't do much better than the German government in Munich.

Yael... They are already operating with the formula that they can and should kill as many of ours even if none of theirs have died. I hope you aren;t seriously suggesting that all Palestinian terror is in reprisal for Israeli actions. Everything I know about you makes me want to believe you are too smart to swallow the 'cycle of violence' pill.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 27, 2006 2:08:04 PM

Why haven't the gas and water to Gaza already been shut off?

Posted by: Alan | Jun 27, 2006 2:10:23 PM

Yael - I've been in your shoes and my parents have been in your shoes.

I'm not advocating for you to leave Israel unless you cannot support the "deep and principled understanding that there is more to life than living". My family and I chose not to put principle in front of physical well-being. In many ways, I am a coward.

Posted by: ait | Jun 27, 2006 6:20:23 PM

David, what an incredibly emotive and reasoned piece. I agree with you 100%. In an odd way, your entry gave me a sense of shalom about the situation, maybe because I can see more and more Israelis thinking along the same lines now, finally, after years of peace processes and protests. No one wants Gilad to be murdered, yet we acknowledge this by understanding that we can't negotiate any more. If this soldier, this army, and this nation mean anything to us, we will stop negotiating and start making demands, and backing up those demands with action, for our children's sake if not our own.

"Those who live in Israel do so out of the deep and principled understanding that there is more to life than living."

No, those who live in Israel do so out of the deep and principled understanding that HaShem is the giver of eternal life. As King David once said, "The L-rd is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The L-rd is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?"

Life in Israel isn't a question of easy versus hard; it's a question of faith versus fear. I once remarked to a fellow Jewish American that Israel may "need" our money, but we need her courage. This is true more now than ever; we need Israel's courage because we need Israel to survive. And, for this, we need Israel to have faith.

And, knowing that we are Israel too, diaspora or not, we must have faith right alongside her. Pardon me while I daven for my nation.

Posted by: Shanah | Jun 27, 2006 7:55:53 PM

How to Negotiate with Terrorists

First send in the IDF to capture a large chunk of Gaza. Then explain that the land will not be returned until Gilad is returned alive and well. While the Palestinians are willing to die for land, they can't very well sacrifice land for land. It's their highest value.

Keep in mind -- anything the government of Israel does now risks re-uniting a currently divided Palestinian society.

Posted by: Warren | Jun 28, 2006 4:43:00 PM

que o Deus de Abrão, Isac e Jacob proteja Gilad Shalit como tambem todo Israel, e que voces sejam bem aventurados na luta contra o terrorismo deste bondoso soldado.


Paulo Andrade

Posted by: Paulo Andrade | Jun 30, 2006 4:55:15 PM

Here in Brazil we are praying and hoping that this situation will be finish soon

shabat shalom to all

Paulo Gergely

Posted by: Paulo Gergely Georges | Jun 30, 2006 5:34:35 PM

I read some of those comments and I saw a lot of people saying that the palestins are this or that....but I see all the time Israel making new atacks anda killimg a lot of palestins. A good number of them inocents.
You say that they are kidnappers but I think that this poor soldier is just a prisioner of war.
Maybe I1m wrong. I leave too far from this countrys but for me it's just a war. And like all the wars both side have losts and both side are killers and inocents. =/

Posted by: Fabio | Jun 30, 2006 10:29:27 PM

In a war there is no fear. But everyone is terrified.
In a war there is no hope. But everyone still belive.
In a war there is no martirs. Everyone suffer in they own way.
In a war there is no crimes. A war in fact is a crime.
In a war there is no right. Every new step is a big mistake.
In a war no one is wrong. Everybody want's to survive.
A war don't have winner's.
A war don't have a good side.
A war don't chose victms.
A war is made to make cry.
A war don't have reasons.
A war don't became old.
A war is just a war.
Made for who forget what is love.

Fabio de Toledo

Posted by: Fabio | Jun 30, 2006 10:43:25 PM

To each Jew died, a pig to less, hauhuhuaaaa

Posted by: sei la | Jul 1, 2006 5:14:51 AM

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