Tempered joy

Tempered joy

We get it; we really do. We understand that if it was our son or daughter who was being held captive by terrorists (or simply ordinary run-of-the-mill kidnappers), we would want authorities to move heaven and earth to bring about his or her release.

All too often these last few days, that is the only possible answer to the question people have been posing in the wake of the news that Gilad Shalit was to be released in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinians, including some of the most brutal terrorists in Israel’s custody. One, Husam Badran, has the blood of over 100 Jews on his hands.

“What would you do,” people ask, “if it was your child?”

Clearly, we would do what the Shalit family did. Who would not? The question is moot.

It is also the wrong question.

The correct question is this: How many Jewish lives are you willing to trade for one Jewish life?

That is the only question that matters. If the release of Gilad Shalit leads to the murder of just one other Jew, which almost certainly it will, the price for his release was too high. Frankly, the same is true if it leads to the murder of anyone – Jew, or Muslim, or Christian, or Buddhist, or whomever other than another terrorist.

Of course, one life will not be lost because of this prisoner swap. The number of deaths will be much higher. Statistically and realistically, it cannot be otherwise.

That makes this a bad deal overall.

In a world that values the benefit-to-risk ratio and other such actuarial inanities, there are supposed benefits to consider, but these are ephemeral.

The most obvious benefit, of course, is that an Israeli soldier has been brought home. The state has honored its commitment to its soldiers. While that is true in Gilad Shalit’s case, it is not true for Zechariah Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, Yekutiel Katz, Guy Chever, and Ron Arad, five MIAs whom Israel long ago wrote off as dead. They may be dead, but Israel’s promise to its soldiers is to bring them home one way or the other. It failed to do so in these five cases. If they are dead, they deserve nothing less than to be buried with full military honors in Jewish graves.

Another benefit, it is argued, is the public relations victory for Israel. Now the whole world sees the truth, goes this argument. The Palestinians value life so cheaply that they send out suicide bombers and put children at the head of charging mobs of rock-throwers. The Israelis value life so highly that they are willing to trade 1,000 terrorists for one Jewish soldier.

It is arguable that the world actually thinks that way. Even if it does, it is only temporary, lasting just until Israel inadvertently takes an innocent life when it is forced to respond to, say, yet another missile attack from Gaza.

The world has a short memory where Israel is concerned. And a selective one, at that.

We are happy for Gilad Shalit and his family. We are saddened, however, by the pain family members of the victims of past terror feel at this time. We pray that there will be no victims of future terror, so that other families will feel the same pain.