Last week, Hamas and Israel had a prisoner exchange: Hamas freed the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for the freedom of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel. This was a tragic occurrence for many reasons starting with the outrageous ratio of 1,027 to one. In short, this was a huge loss for Israel and a victory for Hamas, an organization internationally recognized as a terrorist organization.
Gilad Shilat was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists five years ago, when he was still a teenager. He was within Israel’s border when he was snatched and two fellow soldiers were also murdered in the audacious surprise attack. Hamas did not give the International Red Cross access to him nor did they allow him to communicate with his family to any significant extent—both blatant violations of international law (Geneva Convention). Two years ago, Israel agreed to release 20 Palestinian prisoners just for a videotape that proved Gilad was alive and well.
Although Gilad’s release is certainly a joyous moment for him, his family, and the people of Israel, the pain and suffering caused by the release of over a thousand Palestinian prisoners—including hundreds who have been duly convicted of murdering multiple Israelis in terrorist attacks—is now and will be many times greater. Countless Israelis who lost a loved one have to accept the fact that the terrorist responsible for their loved one’s murder will now be free to kill again. And kill again they will. None of the released Palestinian prisoners were remorseful for what they had done and many made it clear that they will murder more Israelis as soon as they get a chance. They are more emboldened to maim and murder than ever before.
The Palestinian prisoners, upon returning home to Gaza, were given a hero’s welcome by many Palestinians. They are heroes to many Palestinians precisely because they killed innocent Israelis, not in spite of it. The pictures of these “welcome home” scenes are disturbing: bus loads of Palestinian prisoners who are waving flags out of the windows with masked rifle-wielding jihadists surrounding them and celebrating their great victory over Israel.
Among the prisoners released are: Ahlam Tamimi, who was serving 16 life sentences for her role in a 2001 restaurant bombing that killed 15 Israeli civilians and wounded 100 more; Yihia Al-Sinwar, who was serving multiple life sentences for the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman; Mohammed Youssef al-Sharatha, who was serving three life sentences for his role in the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers; Walid Abdel-Hadi, who was serving 36 life sentences for his role in the 2002 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem cafe that killed 11 people; Amna Muna, who was serving a life sentence for using the internet to lure an innocent Israeli teenage boy over to the West Bank, where waiting militants murdered him; Nasser Yateima, who was serving 29 life terms for his role in a 2002 suicide bombing of an Israeli hotel that killed 30 people; Husam Badran, who helped plan the 2001 bombing of a nightclub in Tel Aviv that killed 21 young Israelis and the 2002 bombing of a restaurant that killed 14 civilians. And the list goes on and on.
These were all people who had committed one or more acts of terror and were duly convicted after having their due process in Israeli courts. Gilad didn’t do anything bad, was illegally kidnapped from within Israel, and was not given any sort of trial, much less a fair one. So clearly, even if Israel just released one of the above mentioned prisoners or one of the hundreds of others involved in crimes just as abhorrent in exchange for Gilad, the trade would have still been outrageously lopsided. By agreeing to this prisoner exchange, Israel is only encouraging future abductions and, in fact, Hamas has made it clear that, in light of the success of this lopsided prisoner exchange, they plan to abduct more Israeli soldiers to use as bargaining chips for the thousands of remaining Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are also proud mass murderers. What will the ratio be the next time? Past ratios have been outrageous too and in some, Israel didn’t even get any living people back—in 2008, for example, Israel released several living Palestinian prisoners in exchange for two bodies of Israeli soldiers. Depending on how valuable dead bodies are, it could be argued that this Gilad Shalit transfer was the worst so far.
There is no doubt that Israel is in an impossible situation, and my criticism of their prisoner exchange deal is a result of my concern and affection for Israel. I wish they would go about things differently. Hamas’ stated goal in their charter is to destroy Israel entirely and Israel has the moral right to go into Gaza with guns blazing and destroy Hamas and their supporters. So next time Hamas kidnaps an Israeli soldier, perhaps Israel should give them 24 hours to release the kidnapped soldier and, if they fail to comply, begin executing one Palestinian prisoner (chosen only among those who had been duly convicted of murder—they shouldn’t sink to the level of Hamas) per hour beginning on the 25th hour. What’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps jihadists in the Middle East and their leftist supporters in the West would angrily denounce Israel and remind us of how evil Israel is. They already do that though.
If Israel were a fraction as aggressive and mean as some people in the world make them out to be, that would be very bad news for Hamas. Israel should stop cutting deals with terrorists and the enemies of freedom. It is concerning that, even under the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, a supposedly right wing guy, Israel is being so passive against those that yearn for another Holocaust. The truth is that Israel is just too good–they don’t ever give the death penalty for murderous terrorists. Hopefully, Israel will change its attitude and get more aggressive. For if Israel falls, liberty itself will be almost non-existent in the Middle East. Israel is the Middle East’s last, best hope for freedom and they ought to start fulfilling the great obligations that come with such an honor.
Bill Hanrahan is a fourth-year student majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at WH750431@wcupa.edu.