ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Humiliation vs. Humaneness

Humiliation vs. Humaneness

 27 October 2011

By Yisrael Ne'eman

There is much soul searching in Israel in the aftermath of the prisoner exchange to free Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in a cross border raid from Gaza in June 2006. Israel is releasing 1027 Palestinian prisoners convicted of different levels of terrorism to ensure his freedom. Quite a few have blood on the hands and many are serving multiple life sentences. Most will be sent to Gaza, some back to homes in the West Bank and a smaller number will be expelled permanently to third party countries. It was a bad deal but apparently the best that could be managed. Bringing Gilad home was of great significance, Israel showing its full commitment to free a captured soldier while doing its best to guard its vital security interests, in particular the attempt to limit the amount of mass murderers released to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

Much public discourse is being devoted to the issue of "humiliation." Was Israel humiliated? And if so what ramifications can be expected? Humiliation infers the other side feels emboldened and wrongly has the upper hand - which is true. Hamas gained greatly in the immediate sphere but will such gains be long lasting? Many speak of the next soldier's abduction and the impending bus bombings, either at the hands of those newly released or by others inspired by the Hamas success. Historically when Jews were humiliated legally and practically by their Muslim overlords under the dhimma codes of discrimination they became ever increasingly vulnerable. The more severely the codes were enforced the more Jews were exposed to physical abuse and even death. The two harshest examples are Shiite Iran past and present and Yemen when it had a Jewish community.

Hamas and those released see Israel in a weakened state as compared to before the prisoner exchange. Floating in the background is the Islamists' accusation that the Jews are weak because they love life and its "freedoms" as opposed to death for Allah and his divine laws (shariah). Perception of Israel as humiliated and heading for defeat encourages attempts at more abductions and terror attacks in the not so mistaken belief that those responsible will be released in a future exchange. This can only be seen as bad news.

Many view Israel's "humaneness" towards those released as a further humiliation. Once convicted, Palestinian prisoners are sentenced and they receive inmate rights including social gatherings, prayer times, television, exercise facilities, visits from friends and relatives and the ability to obtain academic degrees. Gilad Shalit had access to the news especially in more recent years, but no visits from his family or the Red Cross, barely had human contact and left his prison cell quite emaciated. The way one behaves towards an enemy indicates the behavior one shows towards his own society. Such values and attitudes reflect outwards. Just as a suggestion - a quick reading of the book Son of Hamas makes this abundantly clear.

Interviews with the freed terrorists revealed that many had no regrets and called for future bombings and abductions. When confronted with questions by Israeli journalists in Ramallah concerning civilians killed and injured by their actions they responded by claiming 1,500 Palestinians were killed in the Cast Lead Operation, conveniently forgetting that half were Hamas operatives, many hiding behind civilians who as a result found themselves acting as human shields for the Islamists. In all fairness one must mention those few who did speak of ending the conflict, explaining that both sides are human and there has been too much suffering. Palestinian and Arab/Muslim World celebrations over the release of terrorists who targeted civilians is most disturbing. Unfortunately this is not unusual. The late secular dictator Saddam Hussein killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and is held in great acclaim in the Arab world as is Al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden, architect of 9/11 and the spirit behind the continuing Islamist wars against the West and secular elements in the Arab world. For thirty years President Hafez el-Assad of Syria (1970-2000) (father of the presently embattled Bashar) and President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt (1954-1970) who led the Free Officers revolution were revered as unwavering warriors in the name of liberation despite leading oppressive dictatorial regimes. What all have in common is and was a policy of destruction towards Israel. Neither Egypt's Anwar Sadat nor Jordan's King Hussein received much positive credit for their peace making with Israel. Sadat was assassinated for his efforts. In the aftermath of the deal Hamas is the warrior hero while Fatah is the goat for considering conflict resolution.

Taking a look at the Arab/Muslim World today with its "Spring" or "Awakening" we find continuing brutality, at least on the Libyan front. The National Transitional Council (NTC) forces are being accused of atrocities as are those of the Qaddafi loyalists. Qaddafi's lynching was the most obvious. With hundreds lining up to have their pictures taken next to the bloodied body of the slain leader one is forced to ask about societal values. Many also demand a return to Sharia law. Let us not forget that until recently the eccentric Qaddafi too was seen as a great leader by many despite his idiosyncrasies. He was seen as much more of a hero when battling the West as opposed to these last few years of cooperation. One should not count out future condemnation of the NTC for having worked with NATO to ensure Qaddafi's undoing.

But in a way it is a mixed bag. Tunisia is holding elections nine months after Bin Ali's overthrow, violence continues sporadically in Egypt particularly against the Coptic Christian minority and it is not clear when elections will be held, Yemen's civil war continues and Syria is said to be on the verge of an internal explosion as regime repression continues unchecked. Most important is the Palestinian 2007 Gaza Civil War and its continuing repercussions.

The amount of prisoners exchanged for Gilad Shalit and the concern for his well being over the years as "everyone's child" shows a unity of compassion (not to be confused with political perspective) in Israeli society. Here is seen the great value Israel places on life. Hopefully some of this will have some effect on the Arab/Muslim World and they will show compassion within their own societies. Halting honor killings, intertribal warfare and ethnic-religious clash would indicate a good beginning. The next step will be to project such understandings outwards towards their adversaries, in particular Jews and Israel.

Hopefully, the Shalit exchange, as problematic as it is for Israel's deterrence, may also send another message home to Israel's neighbors, one of value and respect for human life, both for one's own people and for others.