Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leaning Far, Far Right...Off the Deep End

The Jerusalem Post recently featured this article about Shmuel Sackett and Moshe Zalman Feiglin, the founders of far-Right Likud faction Manhigut Yehudit, and their ideas for rescuing Gilad Shalit and moving Israel forward. How would Feiglin deal with the Schalit crisis?
Feiglin said he would immediately execute half of the prisoners named in Hamas's negotiation list and execute another one each day Schalit was not released.
"We have atomic bombs, and we cannot rescue a soldier 10 kilometers away?" asked Feiglin. "We take a list of what they want and simply kill half of them, and every day he is not released, we kill another one. If they kill him, then you attack, and you make sure there is not one Hamas leader who stays alive."
I really have no idea what the reaction was from the crowd of twenty-five who gathered in Katamon. But I can tell you my reaction to Feiglin's ideas: Please. Be. Quiet.
Let me list the reasons:

1. Practical: Hamas has already demonstrated that it's perfectly willing to sacrifice its own citizens, including women and children, to further the cause of Palestinian suffering. Shooting mortars from a school yard is a perfectly valid form of resistance, especially if the Hamas Freedom Fighters manage to elicit a response from the IDF that hurts, or preferably kills innocent people, preferably children. This, of course generates international outrage from media outlets like the BBC, leading to damning reports from Human Rights Watch, culminating in critical reports from the United Nations Human Rights Commission. It's a simple calculation of cost, which Hamas leadership has determined to be worth the expense. A few lives for international pressure on Israel? Sure, just add them to the martyrs list.
Imagine then the glee in Hamas headquarters under the Gaza Central Hospital when they learn that Israel has decided to execute prisoners under Israeli confinement as per Prime Minister Feiglin's plan. How long will the line be around the block for reporter from CNN, NBC, Newsweek, the Oregon Duck, and every other media representative to interview the condemned, their families, their mourning sisters? How well Feiglin's plan go over in the international media? Who cares? Actually, we do. Israel depends on not only U.S. economic and political support, but a huge chunk of Israel's economy depends on international trade. How long would it take for protests to form at the headquarters of Google, Microsoft, Intel, and the hundreds of other major corporations that do business in Israel? How soon would it be before they decided that, you know what, it's just not worth losing billions of dollars both in Europe and the Arab world to stay in Israel? How would PM Feiglin find jobs for the thousands of unemployed Israelis then?

2. Legal: Collective punishment is against international law. Israel struggles mightily with the use of even home demolitions as a means of deterring suicide bombings (which it has done effectively). The notion of punishing Palestinians - even terrorists (and not all detainees have been involved in violent crimes) - is a terrible violation of international law that Israel subscribes to.

3. Ethical: Is it really moral to kill thousands of captives to try and free one Jewish soldier? Sure, it's moral in an attack attempting to free Schalit to kill those who attempt to prevent his release. But that's not what Feiglin means. He means walking into a jail cell and shooting a detainee in cold blood - not for what he's done, but in the hope that his meaningless death will compel a vile and cruel terrorist in Gaza to release a Jewish soldier. Sorry, Mr. Feiglin, but that's not my idea of ethical.
One of the most difficult aspects of the challenge of fighting Hamas in Gaza is the fact that we're playing by different sets of rules. We have morals and ethics, and they don't. Yet, I (and most Israelis) don't consider our ethics a weakness. Rather, it's our greatest strength. And sinking to the depths of Hamas wouldn't strengthen our position either with Hamas or the rest of the world.

If you had the impression that Moshe Feiglin represents the views of Anglo Olim living here in Israel, I'd like to offer another point of view. I consider myself right of center, and believe in the eternal right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
But I won't become a murderer and terrorist to make that happen.