And at that point the foreign news channels like the BBC, France 24, and CNN started their fancy split-screen stuff, commenting on what they perceived as a symmetry—the jubilant Israeli throng outside Gilad’s home on one side singing “Shalom Aleichem” (Peace Be Upon You), the simultaneous Hamas rally in Gaza on the other. A rally where the crowd chanted “The people want a new Gilad!” as they hailed the momentous arrival of murderers of men, women, and children, and where “a wall painting lampooned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, depicting him with his face ground into the dirt by the boot of a gunman, signing a paper with the words ‘Swap deal’.”
And it wasn’t only Hamas and its fans; in the West Bank ostensibly moderate Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, sharing a stage with three Hamas men, greeted another set of released terrorists with the words: “We thank God for your return and your safety. You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland.” Abbas also expressed hope that senior Hamas and Fatah terrorist masterminds, excluded from the deal, would soon be released as well.
Yes, the price Israel paid for Gilad Shalit’s freedom is terrible, but just as the large majority of Israelis (including myself) who support the deal experienced difficult moments on Monday as they found out just who was being freed, presumably some of the deal’s opponents had second thoughts on Tuesday as they saw the profound scenes of deliverance of an innocent individual who paid in suffering only because he was prepared to defend his country.
And yes, the Gilad Shalit deal is a victory for Hamas, over both Fatah and Israel. Over Fatah, because it boosts Hamas’s popularity in that ongoing rivalry, winning Palestinians’ hearts with the “heroic” feat of obtaining the freedom of murderers. And over Israel, because the kidnapping of Shalit achieved its purpose of forcing Israel to disgorge these killers from its prisons.
But the victory over Israel is only a victory in a battle. The war will be won by the side that is infused with light.
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