Gilad Shalit and “The Cruel Calculus of Death”
October 12, 2011 - 5:17 am
Gilad has a long struggle ahead of him. There is no normal after what he experienced. He will certainly deal with feelings of guilt, fear, shame and grief. But tragically, that would be the case, no matter what the terms of his release were: whether Israel gave up one thousand prisoners for him, or none. And it’s laughable to think that somehow Hamas would have given him up with a “whoops, we’re sorry” and no morally ambiguous demands. But unless those demands included killing, incarcerating, torturing or otherwise harming innocents in exchange for Shalit’s freedom, I think the moral reasoning that guides most Judeo-Christian ethics and the modern legal structures that grew out of them comes down on the side of Shalit’s freedom.
Grief is not logical. The grief that Gilad and his family, and the families of victims of terror, must bear is mighty. In today’s Israel, no one is untouched by terrorism. But those with the emotional and mental fortitude to support Gilad and his family owe them this act of kindness, as their neighbors: to leave bitterness out of Gilad’s homecoming, or the homecoming of any other soldier whose freedom is the subject of a harsh moral test. Don’t pry into his psyche and surmise on his potential remorse. Welcome him with open arms and be grateful he is home.
It is impossible not to think of these moral dilemmas. Even if one is solidly in favor of Gilad’s release, it is impossible not to fear for his mental health under the burden of the price of his freedom. But if one is concerned, the best way to work off worry is to think of ways to help the person one is concerned for.
If Gilad were my brother and I wanted to comfort him, I would start by discouraging people from associating him with the crimes of terrorists who will be released in connection with Gilad’s release. No one has forgotten those victims, and no one will forget simply because Gilad has been released and so have the terrorists. But connecting their memory explicitly with Gilad’s release, whether it’s to shame him or more innocuously, because of a misled feeling of sympathy, accomplishes absolutely nothing.
If Gilad were my brother, or if one of the victims of a terror attack by a released Hamas member were my brother, I would urge the people who were concerned for our family to focus on the future: how to convince the world to stand on Israel’s side; how to perfect anti-terror devices, physical and diplomatic, to prevent another situation like this from arising; how to combat the ideology of death that is embodied by radical Islam; and how to perform acts of kindness and generosity to honor the victims of terrorism, dead and alive.
Grief is not logical. That is why it is the duty of those with some distance, however slight, from the tremendous event that Gilad’s release would be, to provide public support to him and his family and the families of terror victims. Sometimes that means it’s better to keep a few of our thoughts and speculations about his mental state to ourselves.