Benjamin Folkinshteyn

Happy hostage games: ‘And may the odds be ever in your favor’

Praising Hamas for releasing the people they abducted to trade for Palestinian prisoners is a sick charade
A Hamas terrorist stands guard as a Red Cross vehicle transports newly released hostages in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on November 28, 2023. (AFP)
A Hamas terrorist stands guard as a Red Cross vehicle transports newly released hostages in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on November 28, 2023. (AFP)

In the dystopian universe created by Suzanne Collins, “tributes” from each of the 12 districts of Panem battle it out to the death in a televised spectacle called the Hunger Games, for entertainment of the elites. Every year, as this deadly competition approaches, Panem TV screens are saturated with human interest backstories of each of the competitors; the night before the start of the Hunger Games, interviews with each competitor are televised with a lot of pomp and fanfare.

Today’s TV screens are much the same. Welcome to the Hostage Games 2023!

Every network covers this Hamas-run abomination from every angle with in-depth looks at every hostage and Palestinian detainee offered in exchange and post-release side-by-side juxtaposition of hostages and released prisoners, as if there is a moral equivalence between the two.

This spectacle has overshadowed the terror attacks that brought us these Hostage Games. Lest we forget, the number of hostages abducted on that fateful day is vastly exceeded by the number of the slaughtered and the raped. The focus on the hostages allows the pundits, the commentators and terror apologists to avoid talking about the unimaginable brutality of October 7.

As captured by various surveillance and public cameras recording on that day, terrorists’ body-worn cameras, as well as the cameras of the so-called “journalists” embedded with Hamas, the cruelty of the terrorist acts committed on that day is indescribably barbaric. And, unfortunately, so were the celebrations of civilians upon the terrorists’ “victorious” return to the Gaza Strip with hostages and bodies of the dead. But the story of the hostage/prisoner swap allows the media to ignore the brutality and “humanize” the terrorists, and it allows the propagandists to temporarily halt their atrocious denials of the October 7 massacres.

These Hostage Games scenes have become all too common in the past week and a half, as news of repeated hostage-prisoner swaps flooded the airwaves. The faces of the brutally captured are juxtaposed against those for whom Jewish lives are worthless. Paraded in the public eye like tributes before Caesar Flickerman, the host of the Hunger Games.

Welcome to the stage, Maya Regev! Look, she’s waving to her captors – she even says “Shukhran” (thank you, in Arabic). She must be really grateful for her treatment at the hands of the terrorists. Never mind the fact that she has been unceremoniously shot, kidnapped, and kept underground for weeks with several bullets still in her body, while many of her friends were mercilessly murdered before her eyes. And let’s ignore the videos of Hamas telling the hostages to wave during the handover to the Red Cross, while we’re at it.

And here comes another star. A brave Palestinian prisoner, Israa Jaabis. She was convicted of “alleged” attempted murder after her car magically “self-combusted” at an Israeli checkpoint. How dare those terrible Israelis enforce the rule of law.

Oh, and here comes a Palestinian boy, 17, Mohammed Nazzal. His arms were allegedly broken by those brutal Israeli prison guards. Oh wait, here’s a video of him being in perfect health at the time of the Palestinian authorities taking custody of him in the West Bank. Let’s just memory hole that one.

There is nothing normal about the Hostage Games. There is nothing normal about praising Hamas for agreeing to swap hostages for Palestinian prisoners. These innocent hostages (men, women, children and babies), are mere pawns — the terrorists do not care whether they live or die. They only “care” for the hostages to the extent that the hostages represent valuable “currency,” tools of psychological propaganda, and human shields to protect themselves from an Israeli counteroffensive. If Hamas could kill all of the hostages today with impunity, it would do so — the terrorists just know that retribution would be swift and merciless.

Indeed that was the whole purpose of hostage-taking after the bloodlust of October 7 was sufficiently exercised. So they dangle the lives of the innocent before Israel knowing full well that, unlike the terrorists, Israel actually has such a strong moral compass and places such a high value on human life that it has in past exchanged thousands upon thousands of Palestinian terrorists for one life and even the remains of its own fallen heroes. Indeed, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s terrorist-in-chief, despite his stated desire to see the destruction of Israel, is well aware of the value Jews place on life when he had his own daughter and mother-in-law treated in Israeli hospitals in 2014.

Thus, while all of us remain glued to our devices and screens, trying to discern fact from fiction about the status of the remaining hostages in captivity, including Kfir Bibas, let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. With apologies to Haymitch Abernathy, nobody wins the Hostage Games. Yes, the hostages must be brought home. Yes, Israel should do everything in its power to make that happen. But, ultimately, the Hostage Games must never be allowed to happen again. We must never allow others to determine which Jew lives and which Jew dies. We must never allow Jewish suffering to be paraded on national and international screens for ratings and moral equivalence. There is no other option.

About the Author
Benjamin Folkinshteyn is an attorney in private practice in the Greater New York area. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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