Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Prisoners aren't bargaining chips"

Israel's far-left activists are not always the sharpest minds around. Predictably, earlier this afternoon I received an e-mail update from ACRI, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, in which they proudly told of (and attached) a letter they'd just sent to the prime minister, deploring the willingness of the government to look into legal ways of depriving incarcerated convicted Hamas murderers of some perks. According to media reports, these perks include cable TV sets in each cell so the inmates can watch al-Jazeera and al-Manar, the right to take mail courses at the Open University (an accredited Israeli university), and family visits.

ACRI thinks one of its main tasks is to bolster the rule of law over arbitrariness, but in this case they seem to have dropped that line. If the government finds legal basis to make the murderer's conditions less comfortable, then it's legal, and what is ACRI deploring? If it's not legal, as they claim, the government is unlikely to decide on the new measures, and if it does will be blocked immediately by the High Court of Justice (which, unlike the Supreme Court in the US, responds to such things swiftly, sometimes even immediately). It seems to me a rather clear case of ideology trumping not only common sense - that's standard for these folks - but even their own principles.

The position of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) is more fun.They aren't a bunch of lawyers, as ACRI largely is, so they took a different line, calling on Olmert to disband the committee he's just formed to search for legal ways to make life less pleasant.
"The forming of this committee and the mere deliberation of this matter constitute a dangerous premise… Using prisoners as bargaining chips goes against moral values and international law, and against a Supreme Court ruling on the matter"
Let's step back a moment and run over the issue. The inmates under discussion are convicted murderers of civilians. Most of them prepared and dispatched suicide murderers, which means they operated cold-bloodedly and in a calm and calculated way. Many of them murdered more than once; as a general rule, the reason they eventually desisted was that they were lucky enough not to be shot in clashes with the IDF; I doubt a single one of them had a change of heart and was arrested, say, in the monastery to which he had retreated to atone for his sins.

They were convicted in a court of law. Israel has no capital punishment (alas, I sometimes think, and sometimes don't), so the maximal sentence they can get is life imprisonment, multiplied by the number of their victims.

The present discussion has nothing to do with justice. By any reasonable measure of justice, they should spend decades in jail, perhaps to be let out as doddering old men. Nor is it a discussion of politics, in which the war between Palestinians and Israelis has truly ended, and Israel sets free convicted murderers because its erstwhile enemy percieves them as fighters in the now concluded war. Hamas, you remember, is deeply antisemitic, its charter calls for killing of all the Jews, and its spokesmen proudly proclaim there can never be any recognition of Israel's right to exist.

The entire discussion is about extortion. Israelis can't stand the thought of their single soldier losing his sanity in the hands of beasts who allow him no communication with the world, and eventually may kill him and chuck his body in an unmarked grave as they did to Ron Arad. Hamas knows these emotions of ours will over-ride our sense of justice, and will even force us knowingly to endanger lives of unknown innocents who will undoubtedly be murdered down the line; their knowledge of this is what reinforces their decision not to allow the Red Cross to see Gilad Shalit, because if his mother knew he was alive and he knew we care, it might be easier not to be extorted. His captors are, among other things, callous, scheming bastards.

So ironically, the fools at PCATI got it right: Using prisoners as bargaining chips goes against moral values and international law.

Three additional comments.
1. PCATI's very name is a willful distortion. They know perfectly well that by anyone's standards, Israel doesn't use torture.

2. If ever there was truly to be peace, Israel really would free the Palestinian murderers, as part of putting the past behind us and moving on. If the Hamas truly wished to free all its men (and women), their way forward is clear. The reason they need to kidnap soldiers, torture them and their families, and use them all as bargaining chips, is because they're never going to spring them through peace.

3. Forcing Israel to set free convicted murderers so they can continue murdering, whether the deal goes through or not, is a perfect way of generating additional hate from our side. Just a thought, for all those pundits who never stop preaching about how Israel isn't nice enough to the Palestinians.

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