Prisoner Releases and Settlement Expansions and Pessimism– and Peace Talks

In the online Jerusalem Post site yesterday, in its “Most Viewed in Diplomacy & Politics” section, how ironic was the juxtaposition of the second and third of the “most viewed” news-stories.

The Second was: “Netanyahu to Kerry: Palestinian incitement undermines peace.”

The Third was: ” US speaks to Israel over its approval of 147 new settler homes and plans for 949 more.”

Well.  Incitement.  Peace will come more easily when everyone more broadly understands what they — and their fellow human beings — mean by “incitement.”

And to do this both sides need only to– look in the mirror.

(Of course the Expansionism Announcement may just have been just a tactical ploy — domestic political consumption for the Settlement Right.)

I support this peace process deeply and strongly–  although without necessarily being optimistic about its success.

But I still wonder why should prisoners who have murdered — often especially gruesomely murdered — should be released en masse.

At least, and unless, and until– a successful end with peace.  Until then I couldn’t support it and look at the victims’ loved ones in the eye.

If or when a peace deal comes and lasts, release them.  Even though not even then do murderers deserve it.

But as a release, why not do it as a carrot dangling at the end of the road, an incentive at the end of the line, at the end of a successfully concluded peace deal and spur to it?

Let us also, as some consolation, remember that they have already been punished with many years prison time.

And some were due to be released within 3 years or so anyway.

Even so—Why not wait until a deal is achieved?  And perhaps after it has been shown to hold fast for a year or some specified length of time.  As a guarantee of some kind.  And then the release.

Meanwhile, if some gesture would do now to help Abbas in his struggle with Hamas – who had so many terrorists released with the Gilad Schalit deal — why not release the non-murderers?  As well as release those many detained Palestinian youth who have done so little?

And also: Why don’t we, in America, release Jonathan Pollard as an act of sympathetic solidarity and understanding? It is an understatement to say that he has certainly done far, far, less than all the combined acts of all these murderers who are being released.

And he has been punished with many years of prison time too.  So if this combined lot of murderers and terrorists is released, doubtless with American encouragement, then why in heaven’s name can’t we in America not show sympathy and understanding and release Pollard?

If there is any consolation—and really there cannot be – these past mass releases have not, as have so often been predicted, led to resurgences of rampages of terror.  This was constantly and ominously and gruesomely foretold with the Schalit exchange—that we would soon face a terrorist rampage, and the releasers would be held accountable.

And often taking the form of the most damning and hysterical condemnations.

The past prisoner releases and exchanges have been done mainly, interestingly enough, under Rightist governments like Sharon’s and Netanyahu’s.  But the mass terrorist rampages of the released prisoners have not taken place despite these most dire and accusatory warnings.

Injustice was done.  Or rather, far from perfect justice.  But these prisoners are not, for example, like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, with whom I have seen them compared, usually as the hostile question of whether we in America would like to see him released.

The obvious difference is that has served no time yet, not even gone to trial. and they have already served two to three decades punishment in prison, and again some of them due for release relatively soon anyway.

But while Tsarnaev bears so comparison, Pollard, who has served years, does bear comparison.

At least on the question of why Pollard — who is also not to anyone’s knowledge a murderer — does not, and after so many years in prison, deserve release.

So this has not exactly been an ideal of justice.

But also: Nothing about this conflict has been an ideal of justice, including what the Israeli settler movement and the border and West Bank police do – or the ongoing takeover of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the first place—as we  revert to the recent Israeli announcement of yet another settlement expansion.

It seems then that we should simply move beyond the release.  And wish the peace talks well.

While we know that no two things could be more different from one another than well-wishing and optimism.

But that it not keep us from sincere and emphatic well-wishing, as well as admiration for those who are trying to end this long and bloody conflict.

Trying, so that there may be — however remote — the possibility of grisly murders and terrorist attacks and missiles and mass detentions and home demolitions and occupations and takeovers of another people and their land– no more.

About the Author
James Adler was born in Kentucky, now works in university libraries, and feels especially and intensely bound up with the fate of the Jewish people in the last hundred years, especially the Shoah, the rise of Israel "out of the ashes," and the accidental and mutually tragic collision with the Palestinians in the early and middle of the 20th century, continuing through today. He is happily married and the father of two teenagers.
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