Hamas has released an artfully produced and brutally callous cartoon video depicting the death of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, which it says will surely happen if Israel does not meet unstated demands that would secure his release. The fact that those demands are unstated in this video, and always changing when they are actually articulated, is part of the cruelty of Hamas.
Whatever one thinks of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, can anyone defend such behavior? After all, a constantly moving goalpost is a surefire way to assure that no points are ever scored and no progress is ever made toward any kind of resolution.
The cartoon portrays Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit, wandering the streets of Israel waiting for his son to come home. Ultimately, he finds himself at the Erez crossing point between Israel and Gaza only to have a coffin dropped at his feet. The cruelty of this threat is only outdone by the irony.
There is plenty of blame to go around in the Middle East, but this kind of calculated cruelty whose purpose is simply to psychologically torment human beings is beyond the pale, or at least it should be. Let’s see if there is any outpouring of sentiment by those who not only support the Palestinian cause, but who support Hamas. Let’s see if they admit that this video crosses a line which shames their own cause and all those associated with it. I hope that they do, for very pragmatic reasons.
Israel so values its soldiers and so wants to bring comfort to their families that it has traded hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for coffins before. In July 2008, almost two years after their capture and subsequent deaths on the Lebanese border, Israel traded five live prisoners and 200 dead for the coffins of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. And now, almost two years after that, Hamas threatens to demand the same bargain. Could they demonstrate a greater contempt for human life?
And the irony extends beyond the content of the video and history of past negotiations. It extends to the timing of the video’s release also. Just two days ago, Elham Fathi Hamad, daughter of Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, was transferred from Gaza to an Israeli hospital before being airlifted to Jordan for further treatment.
I wonder if Israelis had responded to King Abdullah of Jordan’s request that they facilitate the woman’s care, by asking what Hamas was willing to trade for such assistance. If they had done so, the transfer would never have happened, so the answer is clear.
Peace can be made even with those one may consider terrorists. In fact, that is how most peace treaties are actually made. But peace is almost impossible to make with those who cultivate cruelty as a defining feature of their fight.