I expressed some cynicism and negativity last year about a possible deal to free Gilad Shalit. I stand by that sentiment now that a bunch of loopy Shalit demonstrators are marching around the country.
For my readers from weird places like Albania and Canada, Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was serving near near Gaza four years ago when he was captured by Hamas and some other groups in a cross-border raid (I’m not entirely comfortable calling it a cross-border raid, since I don’t consider the line there to be a border, but in any case the Israelis were on the Israeli side of it). Since then he’s been held, presumably but not certainly somewhere in the Gaza Strip, with sporadic and teetering negotiations to free him in exchange for an insanely high number of mass murderers and enemies who’ve committed untold war crimes and assorted atrocities.
I don’t think Shalit was a particularly good soldier. A soldier in the IDF should not let himself be taken into captivity. If he had been wounded so severely that he couldn’t fight, like Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, I’d understand, but Shalit has been portrayed as walking across the not-border on his own two feet. If he could walk, he could fight; and if he had fought, we’d not be in the situation today that we are in.
Moreover, being captured by Hamas is not like being captured by an enemy state. They don’t follow international conventions covering prisoners of war, because they are not a nation. There is no Red Cross that visits Shalit and brings him packages; he doesn’t get to send any messages to his family. Every couple of years, Hamas produces some evidence that Gilad Shalit is still alive, but that’s it. Undoubtedly, his situation is worse than death for himself and his family. Because Hamas is using Shalit to pressure Israel to release hundreds of enemy combatants who will continue to make war on us, resulting in hundreds or thousands of civilian deaths, his situation is worse than death for all of us.
When they let him be taken away by Hamas, Gilad Shalit’s comrades in arms not only let down him and their unit and officers, but the general public and Gilad’s own family by not shooting him in the back to prevent his captivity. It should have been a natural decision, written right into the rules of engagement for soldiers in posts like his, and should not have required soliciting opinions and permissions up the chain of command. It’s wonderful to value human life, but what he has is not one.
The problem with this week’s protest march, whose participants profess simply to want Shalit to be freed, is that it doesn’t fool anybody. Its existence is a testament to how effective organizations like the Hamas really are. In reality, there are four options facing Israel’s government with regard to Shalit:
- Try to use force to free Shalit.
- Kill Shalit and all the Hamas people near him with some sophisticated weaponry.
- Negotiate to free Shalit.
- Ignore Shalit and hope his family goes away.
If this were a normal country, the first two options would be employed in order. But since it isn’t, they first tried Option 1, then went back and forth between Options 3 and 4 for the past few years. They may also have made another attempt at Option 1 in early 2009, but who knows? Why is everyone ignoring Option 2?
Today’s protesters should all be ashamed of themselves. They’re getting behind a cause entirely and purely out of emotions, but they don’t stop to think about the consequences of their actions. They are babies without the ability to separate the justified sympathy they feel for Gilad Shalit’s family with the sympathy they’re going to feel for the civilian victims created by the enemy Hamas murderers freed by negotiations.
Update: it seems like some people agreed with me that negotiating to free Gilad Shalit is a terrible idea. But their activism with the stupid red strings is totally misguided and foolish.