There is an enormous and even unbridgeable disparity between wanting your son’s body back and wanting your son back.
By LAWRENCE RIFKIN
While I cannot stand in judgment over those who say the cost incurred in gaining the release of Gilad Schalit was too heavy – and I cannot easily stand in judgment over the esteemed Jerusalem Post Magazine columnist Stewart Weiss, whose son did not come back from the battlefield while mine did – there is no comparing Schalit’s case to that of Hadar Goldin.For those not or no longer up to speed, Cpl. Schalit, 19, was the gunner of a tank crew assigned in the summer of 2006 to protect an IDF stronghold along the line separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, from which Israel had withdrawn the previous year.Palestinians dug a tunnel toward the stronghold. On the night between June 25 and 26, several emerged; two were killed attacking the stronghold. Others attacked Schalit’s tank with an RPG round. Two crew members, including the tank commander, were killed outside the Merkava Mark III.Another crew member was wounded inside from hand grenades.Schalit went missing.The next day, word came in the form of a statement issued by a plethora of Palestinian groups offering information on Schalit in return for the release of women prisoners and prisoners younger than 18 being held in Israeli jails. Further demands came on July 1. Ehud Olmert, prime minister at the time, refused to negotiate.The first sign of life from Schalit came in September in the form of a letter sent to Egyptian mediators; experts said it was indeed the soldier’s handwriting. Exactly a year after he went missing, Izzadin Kassam, Hamas’s military arm, released an audio tape in which Schalit could be heard saying his health was in decline and asking Israel to agree to a prisoner swap.AdvertisementOn October 2, 2009, Schalit’s captors released a video of him reading a prepared statement in which he said it was September 14, 2009. He held up a Palestinian newspaper of the same date.He said: “I hope the current government under Benjamin Netanyahu will not waste the chance to finalize a deal….” The deal in question had always hovered around a demand for the release of some 1,000 Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli prisons.IN HIS column “The Goldin rule” (In Plain Language, March 16), Rabbi Weiss writes: “Representing bereaved families, I spoke to numerous Knesset members, urging them to avoid making a horrendous mistake that would destroy the sacred principle of law and order and put the entire nation at risk.Surviving the murder of a loved one is struggle enough; seeing the murderer go free, accompanied by cheers and celebration, is sheer torture.”He adds that he was “roundly criticized for the columns I wrote against the deal.” He cites people who invoked “the famous talmudic saying that ‘he who saves one life saves an entire world’ while ignoring the very same Talmud that forbids excessive payment to kidnappers. They argued that it is immoral to leave any soldier in the field, not understanding that in war, there must always be a risk-benefit calculation for the good of the majority. Many people defended Noam Schalit [the soldier’s father], suggesting he did ‘what any good father would do’ to save his son, regardless of the repercussions.”He goes on to mention the “intense pressure generated by Noam Schalit and his public relations team,” which “proved too much to overcome. Schalit demanded that Gilad be freed, even if it meant bowing to Hamas’s maximalist demands. The government capitulated – giving in to almost all of the terrorists’ terms – and the murderers were set free. It was a monumental blunder that has already caused more than a dozen deaths at the hands of these same criminals and strengthened Hamas’s hand in its relentless war on all Israeli civilians.”Rabbi Weiss’s is an argument that cannot easily be countered, if at all.But then he goes on to describe Hadar Goldin’s mother and father by writing: “...thank God we are now witnessing an example of what truly intelligent, concerned parents can and should do in such a dreadful situation.”A lieutenant in the Givati infantry brigade’s reconnaissance company, Hadar, 23, was killed in an explosion near Rafah during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. Islamists apparently used a tunnel system to grab some of his remains and retreat with them into the depths of the southern Gaza Strip.Leah and Simcha Goldin, Rabbi Weiss writes, “have courageously petitioned the Supreme Court to refrain from handing over terrorists’ bodies until our own citizens’ and soldiers’ bodies are released.... They are creating pressure to deny the Hamas terrorist structure any and all benefits until they meet our demands.... They epitomize what we might call the Goldin rule: Boldly speak out and speak up for what you believe in, but be sure that while pursuing your rights, you do not trample on the rights of others.”That, too, is an argument that cannot easily be countered, if at all – even I agree with the Goldins. Yet there is really no room to compare the cases of Gilad and Hadar.FROM WHAT we now know about Schalit, he was a simple soldier who was not exactly filled with motivation or combat spirit. He was lightly wounded during the attack on his tank, and on his return, he freely admitted that he was in shock and had gone into captivity with no resistance at all even though weapons were within easy reach. Goldin, on the other hand, could not have become an officer in such a demanding unit without being infused with motivation and brimming with combat spirit. To be sure, there is no shortage of testimony about his drive and enthusiasm as a soldier and an officer.But the most basic difference between them, as Rabbi Weiss himself points out, is that Goldin is dead. This is what makes all the difference in the world. There is an enormous and even unbridgeable disparity between wanting your son’s body back and wanting your son back.To compare the two cases – especially by describing the Goldins as “truly intelligent, concerned parents” while merely writing of “Noam Schalit and his public relations team” – is grossly unfair. They and the cases of their sons should not be spoken of in one breath. On that I am willing to stand in judgment