The alert reader
will remember the recent exchange of captives between Israel and the Hamas.
At the moment this was celebrated as an act of peace and good sense on the
part of Israel. It might have been all that, unless, of course, you consider
the rest of the unfolding story. In case your media did not report it, here
are some facts blended with a brief commentary.
The Israelis gave about 400 captive and kicking terrorists for 3 cadavers
and one live chap of questionable credentials. As a pawn for the future,
the case of Mr. Arad, a shot-down, pilot was kept in cold storage. One might
consider this to be quite a concession. In the aftermath of this unequal
deal, Sheikh Yassin, a prophet of Hamas, felt prompted to agree with a Hisbollah
“Commander” from the field -- the one who suggested that more kidnappings
should take place to free more terrorists. In itself, the act and the reaction
it elicited might make further commentaries superfluous.
Hamas decreed that it feels that “combat” brings more benefits than (peace)
negotiations. While I spit, I must admit that in a distorted way the terrorists
are right. There is an important lesson to learn that is supported by countless
other examples. Terrorism pays. It pays because those who should stand up
against it allow it to pay dividends. However, this is so only given a weak
enemy. One who doubts the moral premises he officially embraces, and who
is willing, through lobotomy, to have that part of his brain extricated that
computes the input of experience into the folder “reason.”
I used to think that the conclusions from “negotiating” with Nazis and the
less publicized deductions from our dealings with Lenin/Stalin Inc., would
mature into conclusions regarding proper future comportment. In my lectures
I had the apparently erroneous habit to insinuate that the cited failures
prove to all: dealing with ruling murderers one should not proceed under
assumptions that drove humanistic rationalists of the Enlightenment. Mea
culpa! How wrong I was!!
Granted, concessions made in the name of reason, aimed at compromise and
reconciliation, are commendable virtues. When I got to America as a twenty-year-old
this practice impressed me deeply. Therefore I became convinced that the
success of the society I had the privilege to join derived from these principles
of common-sense dealing with differences forged into practice. The sad fact
remains, and I would suggest that the responses above prove the allegation,
that compromise -- a tool of successful societies -- with totalitarians serves
only to demonstrate the weakness of their enemy (consciously, I did not say
“opponent”). In this case, Israel’s generosity did not result in grudging
appreciation. Giving in (to Europe’s peaceniks?) conjured up contempt for
weakness. More demands supported by more terror actions threaten to become
the direct result.
The “Palestinian” radicals celebrate a victory -- not a step that takes them
closer to peace with the Israel. So, while they remain committed to erase
it (ausradieren, in the original) there is the Smyrek story for me
to report. If you have not heard about Stephan (Steve) Smyrek it is not your
fault. For the mainstream media it is a bad tale because it does not fit
PC stereotypes. Let a retired altar-boy, one who harvested unpopularity in
the late 50’s and the 60’s by trying to set straight the undifferentiated
tale that all Germans are mass murderers, fill you in. Smyrek is a German.
This is not a fact to prove guilt –only one to identify a perpetrator. Smyrek
is a radical who got himself caught at the wrong place. Anyhow, Smyrek was
among the exchanged terrorists. To the best of my best knowledge, the Israelis
had some concern releasing the man. Given the fact that he showed no regrets
this is understandable. Since the Germans promised to keep an eye on this
person, he was released.
Upon his arrival in Germany -- according to a fair account of this matter
in a Left-Liberal weekly, an odd incident occurred after Smyrek’s landing
on German soil, where the exchange of prisoners took place. Someone discovered
that Smyrek had a conviction for theft. He either pays the fine or goes to
jail. The returnees quickly collected the money and Smyrek’s account with
Germany was settled. Once free, he made matters perfectly clear: he will
resume his participation in “military” combat. Once he got away he declared
that he would immediately go to Lebanon. (Not to plant cypresses or to move
sand dunes!) The latest seems to be that the German Federal Republic’s Ministry
of Interior assured the world that Smyrek will stay in Germany.
Do you care to make bets regarding the future? Well, I do not steal chewing
gum from the mouths of children. So I will not take your money.
1. What does this leaves us with? While I believe in compromise as a technique,
in this instance, Israel’s concessions to the wrong party have not brought
2. Peace in the Middle East does not depend on whether it creates two
states, or only one secular state for Arabs and Jews. The matter hinges on
something more fundamental. It is the expressly recognized and internationally
guaranteed right of Israel to survive. As things stand we are not even near
to getting the Palestinian side -- and all those who stand behind it -- to
concede this precondition. Peace without survival is no peace. Furthermore,
given Israel’s commendable resolve, without assured survival there will be
no peace. To ask for anything else is not only folly: it is criminal.
Editor's note: this commentary was submitted before the death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
George Handlery is a recently historian. He has lived and taught in Europe since 1976.
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