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The Palestinian ‘inmates’

Jailed fighters who Israel labels terrrorists are, from the Palestinian viewpoint, prisoners of war and should be set free

On Saturday, it will be 19 years since Hamas kidnapped my son Arik on his way home from his base and killed him. I have had approximately 6,935 days to consider how Israel handles the Palestinians it imprisons for such attacks.

The entire population of Israel waited with bated breath for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and we shall forever remember the tears that welled in our eyes when we saw him for the first time free from captivity. What is the difference between Gilad the soldier who fights the Palestinians for the Israeli people, and between the Palestinians locked up by Israel who fought for their people, for the freedom of their homeland and against the Israeli occupier?

What difference is there between the Israeli mother, expectant of her son’s return from captivity, and the Palestinian mother expectant of her son’s return from the Israeli captivity?

There are some who will claim, and justly so, that you cannot compare IDF soldiers that have a “binding moral code” that do not kill the Palestinians with premeditated intention, to a “Palestinian soldier” full of “murderous intent” towards the Israelis.

Those people would ask me, how can you compare between the Palestinian murderer of your son Arik or our children, and a IDF soldiers that uphold the principle of “Purity of arms?” My answer is that as part of Israeli “Purity of arms,” 1,300 Palestinian minors were killed!!!

There is no difference between a Palestinian inmate and a Palestinian prisoner of war. The word inmate means someone who’s in a prison, while the word prisoner of war refers to someone in captivity. But isn’t captivity a kind of prison? The essential difference between an inmate and prisoner of war is in the intention of the doer and the understanding that one kind acts out from his own initiative while the other is sent by his own people, or acts for his people’s sake.

We must realize and understand that Palestinians see the Palestinian prisoners — the same prisoners perceived in Israel as terrorists — as heroes fighting for the freedom of their homeland. So, just as we rejoiced and celebrated the liberation of Gilad Shalit, so do the Palestinians wish to see the release of their own prisoners of war.

To me, the murderer of my son is a terrorist, but if I wish for peace with the Palestinians, then I must accept the decision of the Israeli government to release the murderer of my son, who is actually a freedom fighter in the eyes of his own people, the Palestinians.

Is whoever slaughtered in cold blood the children of the Pollack family or the sweet baby Shalhevet Pass indeed a Palestinian “Freedom Fighter” or an animal? Could a suicide bomber on a bus or in a restaurant who kills civilians, including children be considered as a “Freedom Fighter?”

Indeed, there must be a humane red line that mustn’t be crossed, and whoever crosses it cannot be considered a “Freedom Fighter”. The red line should be put at the premeditated murder of children, or a cruel and sadistic murder.

The Palestinian suicide bomber, as hard as that is to take in, is nothing but another victim of the conflict. His desire to spread fear and terror amongst the Israeli population is nothing but a response to his own population’s feelings of fear, terror and utter devastation under the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian suicide bomber gains the esteem of his people as a warrior that gave his own life for the freedom and independence of his people. The Palestinian public ranges between the desire to hurt the Israeli occupier and disgust towards sadistic Palestinian murderers.

Israel has released thousands of Palestinians as the result of harsh bargaining during the deals of Shalit, Tannenbaum and others, including Palestinians with “bloody hands”- another meaningless and silly term, as far as the Palestinians are concerned. To the Palestinians, who among the Israeli citizens in general, and the IDF soldiers and its officers, more specifically, doesn’t have “bloody hands”?

The Palestinian public is frustrated. On the one hand, it wants to see its prisoners of war freed from Israeli captivity, just as the Israelis wanted to see Gilad Shalit freed, yet on the other hand, Israel releases inmates/prisoners of war only as part of “bargains,” mostly those struck with the Hamas. The Palestinians learned that if they want to bring Israel to its knees, they must use force, or they must kidnap in order to get back their own people.

Netanyahu, who coined the phrase “They will get when they give” is strengthening Hamas while at the same time weakening Abu Mazen, assuming that the worse the Palestinian situation will get, Hamas will gain more power, and as a result the world will not put pressure on Israel to make peace with “murderers”.

Currently Abu Mazen is demanding — as he has been demanding for years — the release of Palestinian prisoners of war. Abu Mazen knows the Palestinians will cheer him on for releasing the prisoners and that will strengthen his position and power, but Netanyahu is aware of this and will do anything to make sure Abu Mazen doesn’t get any “credit points” from his people.

Nineteen years ago, my son Arik fell in battle with the Hamas. Israel canonizes its fallen, yet, to my deep sorrow, defiles its citizens. If Netanyahu truly wanted peace, he would release the Palestinian prisoners of war – the non-sadist ones — without the hypocritical and sanctimonious “bookkeeping”.

About the Author
Yitzhak Frankenthal is the Executive Director of the Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace, and has in the past founded and managed the Parents Circle — Families Forum, an organization made up of over 500 Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families.
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