What sort of morally warped world do we live in? How can the emotion be taken out of a political process? What type of society can hold families and a nation in such cruel regard, firstly by kidnapping soliders, secondly by refusing to advise whether they are dead or alive even through a negotiation of exchange, and thirdly by celebrating the release of an unremorseful terrorist murderer?
These are some of the many questions that have Israel and the Jewish world in absolute shock.
Millions, if not billions of people will read about this in the news over the next 24 hours. What they probably won’t be told is that the crime of Samir Kunter, now celebrated as a hero, was so brutal and heinous that it can hardly be comprehended that a human being is capable of such barehanded violence.
The next time a collector for the Red Cross comes to my door, I’m going to tell them about their organisation, whose supposed humanitarian work allows them to be complicit in doing the work of terrorist organisations. That they would act as an interlocuter and not be able to disclose or include in their activities information about whether the subject of a prisoner exchange is dead or alive is the base of evil.
This is a clash of values that will also not be understood by many. The Jewish nation will not forsake its own. We will not abandon our people in battle, dead or alive. Our enemies know this and exploit it for all it is worth. Whilst Jews can stand in pride that we hold by these values, on this occasion we will unfortunately stand in shame. We have exchanged 5 terrorists and 199 bodies to discover the gruesome fate of kidnaped soldiers. We have encouraged more kidnapping. We have shown that terrorists can succeed in their ambitions to dent the spirit of a nation.
If we are able to view the values aspect of this situation for one moment, then we should pause to understand that it is Jewish values, not political expediency, that must drive the decision making of the future. Jewish ethics will not allow further lives to be put at risk, and Jewish values permit the use of military defence to save the land of Israel from those who wish to destroy it. More than ever the State of Israel needs Jewish leadership, of the type that is inspired by Torah observance and respect for the promise and covenant of G-d.
The sad history of today, preceding a period in the Jewish calendar that commemorates the generations of persecution and destruction that have befallen our people, may mark a turning point in Israel. Israeli society, for all its diversity, is a proud, united and strong one, with sixty years of experience and memory in dealing with its enemies. The Lebanon War of 2006 is considered by many as an Israeli military failure. Today’s events (including the official reaction of the Lebanese Government) show that this battle is not over. The mood in Israel suggests that new leadership and new resolve will bring strength to the Jewish nation. If today’s saga represents a new low for Israel, then we have hit rock bottom and the only way to turn is upward. It is sad that a hardened attitude may be needed to confront the threat that stands before us, but the Jewish people of the world can no longer stand by and purchase the coffins of its defenders for an untenably high political, social, moral and emotional price.