Counterpoint: 'Us' and 'them'

When has Israel ever dragged an Arab terrorist through its streets to be jeered by a crowd? The all too many Nasrallahs of this world are predators - beasts of the field.

0108-forman (photo credit: AP)
(photo credit: AP)
The day before the recent prisoner exchange, Yona Baumel, the father of Zachary Baumel who is still missing from the First Lebanon War, was interviewed by CNN's Ben Wederman. In response to one of Wederman's questions, Baumel said: "We know that the chances our son is alive are small. But, as long as there is no conclusive evidence to the contrary, with every breath in my body (and I do not have many left) I will continue to pray for his return. What we want is closure." No one can understand the depth of feeling contained in these few short sentences. The pain of 26 years that has accompanied the Baumels is impossible to fathom. Watching the return of the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev could only have intensified their need for closure, which would finally provide a measure of relief to their anguish. The prisoner exchange that returned Regev and Goldwasser for burial offered the world a lesson in satanic behavior. The international community watched as Hassan Nasrallah's spokesman refused to reveal whether the two kidnapped soldiers were alive or dead, continuing to cynically toy with the heartstrings of the families until the last possible minute. For two years, not a definitive word about their fate; for 22 years, not an authoritative word about the fate of Ron Arad; for 26 years, not a single word about the fate of Baumel and his comrades-in-arms, Yehuda Katz and Tzvi Feldman. HOW COULD we have expected anything different? Chezi Shai, the commander of Baumel's tank, fell into Syrian hands. For two years, no one knew whether he was dead or alive, or where he was. When his whereabouts were inadvertently revealed, it took another year before he was returned in one of those lopsided prisoner exchanges. It seems that within too much of the Arab world, evil inclinations know no boundaries. When Baumel was captured, he was strapped to his tank and paraded through the streets of Damascus to the frenzied cheers of thousands of Syrians, after which he mysteriously vanished. In prisons throughout the world there is a warped code of ethics among inmates - a hierarchy of crime. The lowest form is the molestation and/or murder of children. Often those who are convicted of such offenses do not survive their incarceration, as other prisoners abuse them and even kill them. And yet child murderer Samir Kuntar, upon his return to Lebanon, received a hero's welcome. Every Lebanese faction suddenly united in his joyous reception, and there was not a word of condemnation by one leader within the Muslim world for Kuntar's acts, or for his enthusiastic homecoming. Arab masses are often exploited for public relations advantage. Remember the pictures of the refugees from southern Lebanon marching along the roads toward Beirut, packs on their backs, as a result of Israel's retaliatory bombardments for an act of war by Hizbullah - needing to escape because Hizbullah chose to fight from within civilian populations. Such scenes generate a sympathetic TV audience. Hamas takes us into hospitals after an attack against a terrorist cell, and shows in gory detail the wounds of children who were caught in crossfire, fashioning an indelible image of Palestinian suffering. Yes, the Arabs have proven to be quite adept at PR. TO UNDERSTAND the callousness of those who perpetrate and condone such behavior, let's compare their conduct to Israel's. Israel has more than 1,000 Arab prisoners. There are no secrets as to where they are, or whether they are alive or dead. Visits by international organizations are granted. Samir Kuntar received and sent letters, and enjoyed conjugal visits. When has Israel ever dragged an Arab terrorist through its streets to be jeered by a crowd? There were at least 500,000 Israelis who fled the North as a result of the purposeful bombings of our civilian population by Hizbullah. Families in the central and southern part of the country took them in. Hotels, youth hostels, field schools and kibbutzim opened their doors to them; tent cities were set up to house them. Israel could readily show footage of severed heads and arms and legs of those killed in suicide bombings, but to safeguard the sensibilities of the families of those murdered, chooses not to. Compare the hysteria on the Gaza streets that accompanies every terrorist killed by the IDF, their bodies raised high, with cries for blood and revenge, to the quiet dignity of the Regev and Goldwasser funerals, where there were no calls for vengeance. And what of Smadar Haran, whose husband and daughter were murdered by Kuntar, and whose baby daughter's death was caused by him; or the family of Eliahu Shahar who was also slain by Kuntar? Despite their excruciating losses, they stood with the Goldwassers and Regevs, lending their support to Kuntar's return for Eldad and Udi. How does one explain the behavior of the all too many Nasrallahs of this world, who have the seeming support of so many Muslims? Their acts characterize people who are devoid of feeling, people with veins of ice and steel, who take perverse delight in others' misery, as well as that of their own. They are predators - beasts of the field. But what I find so troublesome, even incomprehensible, is that since the prisoner exchange, Israel has failed to point out the differences between "us" and "them," between a civilized society and a bestial one. If we want to contend with religious fanatics, we must defeat them not only on the battlefield, but also in the court of public opinion. One of the centerpieces of our PR campaign must not only be Gilad Schalit, but also Baumel, Katz, Feldman, Arad and Guy Hever, whose continued disappearance glaringly points to the inhumanity of those who know what happened to them. Further, Nasrallah, Ismail Haniyeh and company must be linked to their fellow butchers in places like Sudan and Somalia where Muslim leaders wreak genocidal havoc. They must be shown to be no different than those who felled the Twin Towers and those who carry out dastardly acts of terror against innocent civilians in Bali, London, Madrid, Jordan, Egypt, Kabul and Baghdad. Finally, even as we expose the ugly face of extreme Islam, we must simultaneously show the international community Israel's collective personality, articulated so movingly by Ofer Regev as he stood before his brother Eldad's grave: "We live in a world where we believe our enemy is exactly like us. We think we can speak to people who also want to raise a child, grow a flower and love a girl - exactly like us. But, the enemy has proved that it is not like 'us.' And still, we will not stop trying. I am proud that I belong to those who love and not to 'them' who hate."