Editorial: Hamas’ broken mirror

If you reflect on the Brothers Grimm in assessing the strange case of Gilad Shalit, you’re not far off. Just think of Gilad Shalit as Snow White and Hamas as the evil Queen whose mirror reveals the ugly truth about its master, and you’ll fairly well understand why the deal went down the way it did.

At long last, 25-year-old Israeli soldier Shalit, who had been held captive by the terrorist group Hamas for more than five years after a cross-border kidnapping, has returned to Israel and been reunited with his family.

And that’s a great thing.

The price for Shalit’s release, however, was well beyond steep. In the arrangement mediated by Egypt and Germany between Israel and Hamas, Shalit’s freedom was bought with the release of 1,027 Palestinians serving sentences in Israeli prisons and jails for horrific crimes. For instance: Walid Aqel, a founder of the military wing of Hamas who “had much Israeli blood on his hands” and was serving a life sentence.

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It’s silly to try to assess the outcome of this deal on the grounds of fairness or equity. It was, by any measure, an awful result for Israel in terms of what both sides “got” in the conventional sense. Israel received one innocent soldier, and the Hamas side was handed over a thousand individuals, many of whom committed heinous crimes and bloodshed.

So how does one justify the deal? The lopsided exchange was roundly criticized in an article by Walter Reich in the New York Times in its Oct. 19 edition. Reich himself was initially drawn to Shalit’s plight to the extent he signed a petition to pressure the Israeli government to negotiate for Shalit’s release. But he almost immediately reconsidered; what is to stop Hamas and its terrorist allies from constantly kidnapping Israelis in order to use them as “bargaining chips” to secure the release of the remaining 5,000 Palestinian prisoners? Indeed, some of the newly freed Palestinian terrorists immediately stated their intention to do just that.

The only way to make intellectual or emotional sense of the deal is to consider the difference in cultures represented in the outcome. The Israel Defense Forces, unique among the armed forces of the world, places the highest possible premium on not leaving any of its soldiers behind-dead or alive.

A few years back, Israel released hundreds of imprisoned members of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah to secure the release of the remains of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers. And prior to that Kozo Okamoto, the member of the Japanese Red Army who killed 26 people at the Ben-Gurion Airport in 1972, was released as part of a similar exchange.

Hamas, on the other hand, kipnaps soldiers who have not committed violent acts to seek the return of murderers and law violators; in other words, they commit more crimes to try to undo their prior ones. Hamas is symbolic of a culture of hate. No matter the tactics, no matter how vulgar the proposition, Hamas does what is expeditious to its cause of violently eliminating the State of Israel. This is not reflective of all Palestinians, but of an organization that relishes sending suicide bombers to their death in furtherance of their wicked cause.

When Hamas talks to its own magic mirror and hears of its own Snow White-Israel-who never leaves a soldier behind, it sends the terrorists into a rage. They know that their own culture is fraught with values antithetical to those of Israel, and their hatred feeds on itself. So they conjure up deals like this one, thinking they are liberating their own, just like Israel. Problem is, they’re doing it through the most vulgar and immoral means possible.

It’s not as though Israel saw this as any great shakes of a deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself once said that Israel should never be in favor of such an outcome. Yet now, seeing an opportunity for a deal and little chance of one later, Bibi led a Cabinet that approved the arrangement by a vote of 26-3.

In the Talmud a central Jewish value is stated, “He who saves a single life is as though he saved the entire world.” As a self-identified Jewish State, Israel has served as a light unto the nations. Even though an absurd price was paid in a truly “terrible deal,” the arrangement which reunited Gilad Shalit with his country and his family was entirely consistent with Jewish values and those of the Jewish State.

Leaving us to wonder about Hamas: Sure, they can pick up their broken shards, but can they ever glue them together into anything that resembles what civilized societies do? We’re not convinced.