Another Tack: Kitsch can kill

Though distasteful, the undeniable truth is that distraught parents can become potent weapons in the abductors’ psychological warfare arsenal.

Schalit protest 311 (photo credit: AP)
Schalit protest 311
(photo credit: AP)
In his 1984 book The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Czech author Milan Kundera philosophized that “kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession.
The first tear says: ‘How nice to see children running on the grass!’ The second tear says: ‘How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass!’ It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.”
Transported to today’s Israel, the one transfixed by the Schalit family’s pressure-mobilization extravaganza, Kundera’s definition may be paraphrased as ”how nice to be moved by the Schalits’ plight.”
The second variation would be: “How nice to be moved together with all our other trendy compatriots by the Schalits’ plight.”
A measure of the syrupy kitsch may be sampled from crooner Aviv Geffen’s Ma’ariv op-ed. Calling Hamas hostage Gilad Schalit a “butterfly of wars,” Geffen addresses Binyamin Netanyahu: “What fun it is that Avner is beside you.”
School-aged Avner is the younger Netanyahu son.
Geffen omits to mention that Avner’s older brother, Yair, is in active IDF service, something Aviv himself assiduously avoided. He threatened to commit suicide if drafted, crows about it and avidly promotes dodging.
Far-left icon Aviv endorses whatever weakens Israel.
Thus this Dayan-clan scion asks: “What if Avner, not Gilad, were the bargaining chip?” Geffen avoids mentioning quite whose “bargaining chip” Gilad is, as if Netanyahu holds Gilad captive.
Aviv proclaims that “it’s owed us to sit some hot afternoon, see Gilad return and shed the heavy tear stuck in our eyes for four years.” Kundera’s kitschy tear is lightweight in comparison to Aviv’s, who preaches that “there’s no price for one living soul, for one worrying mother.”
GEFFEN ISN’T the only showbiz celeb out to score publicity points. Shlomo Artzi’s pride-and-joy, Ben, who also pursues a singing career and participated in the Schalits’ march, makes no bones about having skipped that formative Israeli rite of passage – the IDF stint.
Shlomo, who performed in the Schalits’ recent happening, urged us in his own op-ed, in Yediot Aharonot, to let the Schalits “appeal to that place in our hearts where there’s no debate of cost and effect.”
We should numb our minds and clamor for capitulation in the name of melodramatic mawkishness.
In 1985, Geula Cohen hotly opposed the looming mega-release of convicted terrorists – 1,150, including some of the worst mass-murderers in Israel’s prisons (like Kozo Okamoto, perpetrator of 1972’s infamous airport massacre). In return, Israel was to get three soldiers abducted and held by terror linchpin Ahmed Jibril.
A reporter provocatively asked if Cohen’s position would remain as unrelenting were her own son captured by fanatic villains.
She didn’t flinch: “Of course it wouldn’t. As a mother no price would be too high for my child’s life. I’d shout so, but in the same breath appeal to the government not to listen to a single word I utter.”
The scale of priorities of a hostage’s parents is obviously – and understandably – warped by anguish. Their world shrinks, encompassing only their overpowering personal tragedy. They naturally focus on the fate and face of one beloved missing individual.
They aren’t burdened with agonizing complex calculations for long-term collective good. But national leaders who avoid doing the most comprehensive arithmetic are recklessly remiss.
Until 1985 Israelis expected their governments to courageously choose between future detriment and immediate sacrifice. It was never a painless call to make – not when dozens of children were held in Ma’alot’s schoolhouse, not when entire families were cornered in their homes, not when guests were trapped in Tel Aviv’s Savoy Hotel, not when Sabena passengers were hijacked or other air travelers taken to Entebbe (where Netanyahu’s own brother fell), not when Olympic athletes were attacked in Munich or when a busload of holiday- makers was commandeered on the Coastal Road.
Israeli leaders and the general public were unswerving in their resolve to resist tempting facile solutions.
At the time, even the international community – which already then lost no opportunity to demonize Israel – grudgingly admired Israeli pluck.
We were unique in an otherwise backbone-deficient world until Yitzhak Rabin encountered Miriam Groff of Holon. She was mother to Private Yoskeh, snatched in September 1982.
Miriam made defense minister Rabin’s life a misery.
She hounded him, organized demonstrations, happenings, performances, anything. Finally the national unity government under Shimon Peres contracted the ignominious transaction that liberated Yoskeh in May 1985, but flung open the floodgates to a deluge that still engulfs us.
Groff legitimized failure of nerve and increased enemy leverage by helping it to emotionally manipulate soft-hearted Jews, who – unlike Arabs – traditionally value saving lives above all else.
In their book Intifada, Ehud Ya’ari and the late Ze’ev Schiff determined that “over a third of all freed Jibrildeal convicts renewed terrorist activity within a year.
The rest joined shortly after the first intifada’s eruption...
in time Jibril bragged, justly, that his deal sowed the intifada’s seeds.”
The upheaval Yoskeh’s mom triggered caused Israelis to shun the territories and conditioned psyches for Oslo, which subsequently brought us exploding buses, the unilateral flight from Lebanon, the second intifada, Oslo’s derivative disengagement, the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead, nearly 2,000 dead Israelis and thousands maimed, bereaved and orphaned.
Notorious Hamas progenitor Ahmed Yassin was first released under the Jibril deal. Yassin had “no blood on his hands” then, but before his 1989 rearrest he founded Hamas and commissioned the abduction/murder of two IDF soldiers (who unlike Yoskeh were expendable).
Another Jibril alumnus, Jihad al-Amarin, founded, post-release, the (Fatah-affiliated) Aksa Brigades’ Gaza branch and killed six soldiers – also apparently less vital national assets than Yoskeh.
All too many Israelis failed to survive other ensuing gratuitous terrorist releases. Miriam secured Yoskeh’s freedom at a cost too awful to tally.
Though distasteful, the undeniable truth is that distraught parents can become potent weapons in the abductors’ psychological warfare arsenal. Groff came across as grotesquely shrill, yet the dovish media avidly abetted her, just as it today cheers the Schalits – seemingly more decorous, perhaps owing to diminished societal taboos.
The Schalits’ Miriam Groff follow-up act could potentially unleash a calamity of Jibril fiasco proportions, boost the profitability of kidnappings, up the Hamas ransom ante, reduce Israeli justice to utter mockery and teach terrorists that they can butcher Jews with impunity. Eventually Israeli soldiers might be loath to risk life and limb to apprehend wanted miscreants because it’s only a matter of time before these mortal foes are out the revolving door again.
Any of us might become their future victims.
Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas (slain on Yassin’s instructions) also had devoted parents. Asher Zaguri, Ron Lavi, Moshe Peled, Matan Biderman, Rotem Shani and Ala Kabishi, whose blood stains Amarin’s hands, had adoring mothers and fathers. They too served their nation in uniform.
This is the dilemma Geula Cohen cautioned against.
Parents may consider only their own offspring. Elected governments, sworn to serve us all and (hopefully) mindful that kitsch can kill, must look after all the children of Israel.