Home Opinion OPINION: Who Must Israel Release In Exchange for Hostages?

OPINION: Who Must Israel Release In Exchange for Hostages?

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An International Red Cross vehicle carrying hostages released by Hamas drives towards the Rafah border point with Egypt ahead of their transfer to Israel on Nov. 25, 2023. (Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)

By John F. Di Leo, Opinion Contributor

As we watch the news from half a world away, we suffer the usual dearth of information where sensitive negotiations are concerned: We want to know which of the hostages is finally being set free, almost 7 weeks past October 7, and we want to know what kind of criminals Israel has to release in order to win their freedom.

Euphemisms play a role in this coverage, as we need to read between the lines, and remember the cultural differences between the rose-colored-glasses view of the world that we Americans often adopt in foreign policy, and the reality of a jihadist-ruled forced-labor camp like the Gaza Strip.

Don’t get me wrong; the Gaza Strip isn’t a slave labor camp in the same way we normally think of them. We westerners think of labor as being factory work, or mining or farming, so to us, slave labor is being forced to do such work without pay or the freedom to leave. That’s not what’s going on in Gaza.

The business of the Gaza Strip – as enunciated by its rulers, the leaders of Hamas – is to destroy and replace the nation of Israel. Forced labor there is therefore simply the creation of conditions in which all the residents must somehow work toward that genocidal goal.

Hamas sees its earthly purpose as continually attacking Israel in order to eventually take it over; it therefore employs all its people – with or without their consent, in this endeavor.

Hamas has happy, willing terrorists – people who will shoot guns into Israel, launch rockets into Israel, wear suicide bomber backpacks into Israel, lob chunks of concrete into Israeli crowds.

But Hamas also has unwilling, perhaps even unknowing participants in their war effort – the human shields who may be doctors, nurses or patients in the hospitals and clinics from which Hamas fires its rockets, the human shields who are residents in the apartment buildings that Hamas uses as arsenals, the human shields who are students or janitors or cooks in the schools where Hamas converts irrigation pipes into rockets.

So who is really languishing in Israeli prisons? The people responsible for the above conditions.

Over the years, Israel has caught some of these villains – the builders of rockets, the architects of the tunnels, the madrassah instructors who teach Gaza’s children the glories of jihad and convince them to wear detonation vests.

Now Israel must select prisoners from among that very population to release, in exchange for the innocent civilians who were kidnapped on October 7. In order to win the freedom of 4 year old children, or young women, or old ladies, all of whom have been chained in an underground tunnel for seven weeks, Israel must agree to compromise its security further, by releasing hardened jihadists who everyone knows will return to their vicious, criminal ways as soon as they are freed.

The press reports that some of the “Palestinians” being released are children, but that’s a matter of cultural view. In the West, we tend to think of people under 18 as children, but that’s not true of the third world. In the Gaza Strip, as in a hundred other countries all over the globe, fifteen or sixteen is old enough to hold a job, marry and have children. These criminals thought of themselves as adults when they committed their crimes; their victims certainly didn’t suffer any less just because their killer or attempted killer was 16 rather than 18.

But the press calls them children, and that colors our interpretation of the story.

The press reports that some of the “Palestinians” being released are women, because we westerners think of spies, soldiers and terrorists as being male occupations, not female. But that’s not true of the third world. Hamas likes selecting women, especially mothers, to do their dirty work, especially to either outfit their children with a backpack bomb or to wear one themselves. They know that soft westerners won’t believe it could be true, won’t believe that this little mother of five or ten would be capable of committing murder, but they are. They wouldn’t be in prison if they weren’t.

So the press points out that they’re women, maybe showcasing their marital status or how many children they have – to make it more of a human interest story and less of a crime or foreign policy story – and that colors our interpretation of the story.

The press reports that some of these criminals are only in jail for “throwing stones,” and that may be the most pernicious of all. When we westerners think of “throwing stones,” we picture a Romeo tossing pebbles up to Juliet’s window, or a country singer skipping flat stones atop the surface of a river or lake, but such descriptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, whenever Hamas’ storm troops – from the teenagers to their mothers and fathers – climb up on rooftops and walls, waiting for Israeli pedestrians to stroll by, and drop big chunks of concrete on their heads, hoping to kill these innocent pedestrians with bloody concussions – the foreign press calls that “throwing stones,” and the American press eats it up.

So the press just refers to such attacks as “throwing stones,” either because they don’t know better, or because they do, and that, too, colors our interpretation of the story.

Now we must try to put ourselves in the shoes of the Israeli negotiators. By now, they know the personal story of every innocent who’s been held in those tunnels for the past seven weeks. They’ve heard the pleas of the hostages’ families and friends. They want to win back as many of the hostages as are still alive.

But the negotiators also know, though they can hardly say it on television, that they are most likely looking at not a net result of lives saved, but rather, a current, known life saved, in exchange for some unknown lives to be lost later, when the newly-freed “Palestinian” prisoners return to their old ways and start killing innocent Israelis again. I don’t envy being in their position.

How do you look at the roster of terrorists in jail and figure out which ones are the least dangerous? Do we release the woman who was caught lobbing chunks of concrete at schoolchildren or the boy who was caught assembling a bomb? The boy who was caught retrofitting an ambulance to smuggle weaponry, or the woman who served as lookout for a gang of kidnappers? Which of them will be more dangerous when released back into Gaza; which of them will be less dangerous?

We pray, of course, for the release of all of the hostages who are still alive, but we must pray also for the judgment of Israel as it tries to navigate this devil’s bargain. Israel’s all-encompassing goal must be to preserve the nation for the future, and this situation makes that difficult job harder than ever.

Copyright 2023 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transportation manager, writer, and actor. County Chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party in the 1990s, after serving as president of the Ethnic American Council in the 1980s, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009. Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook, Twitter, Gettr or TruthSocial.

A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volume One and Volume Two, and the newly published Volume Three (as of Nov 12, 2023) are all available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.

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