Apparently in prisoner exchange programs in the Middle East an Israeli life is worth more than an Arab life. While in theory some may agree with this since the Arabs vastly outnumber the Israelis and the extremists that Israel deals with really don’t hold much respect for the life of their enemies much less their own, the concept still seems odd to me.

One of the stories this week was that Israel has decided to release 20 Palestinian prisoners in a prisoner exchange. You are probably now thinking “Wow – so I guess the Israelis will receive 20 prisoners in exchange”. Not quite. Israel is releasing the 20 prisoners, all of who were convicted of crimes in a court of law, for just evidence that one IDF soldier, Schalit, who was kidnapped, is still alive. I am obviously biased toward Israel but doesn’t this exchange seem unfair to anyone? One side is handing over 20 convicted criminals and the other side is just providing evidence that a kidnapped soldier is still alive. From what I understand to actually get back the soldier the Arabs are requesting 1000 criminals. How did the Arab/Israeli prisoner exchange program become so lopsided? I will give my answer in a few but figured it would be informative to show some other examples of exchanges. I am thinking a fair number of unions wish they could negotiate with this kind of upper hand.

  • 2003 – Israeli Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three IDF soldiers killed along the Lebanese border were returned in exchange for 435 prisoners. Israel also returned the remains of 59 Lebanese soldiers.
  • 1996 – Hizballah released the remains of two Israeli soldiers in exchange for the remains of 123 Lebanese soldiers.
  • 1998 – Hizballah returned the remains of Sergeant First Class Itamar Ilya in exchange for the remains of 40 Hizballah soldiers
  • 1985 – In exchange for three Israeli soldiers held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Israel released 1,150 Palestinian political prisoners.

The two things that are disturbing from just the examples in this blog are the inequality between what Israel has to give in order to receive an Israeli body (dead or alive) and that both sides appear to be holding the remains of each other’s soldiers. I am not sure how common this is but I would think that holding the remains of a soldier is a bit twisted and doesn’t really serve much purpose. Not sure why nobody has negotiated a policy in the Middle East of simply handing over all dead soldiers.

Anyway, enough rambling and back to my theory of why this type of negotiation takes place. The Muslim extremists normally holding Israeli lives have zero respect for life. This is consistently demonstrated by the way they treat their own people, the way they shoot rockets indiscriminately into cities, the way they use their own people as human shields and off course by promoting suicide bombings. What is most disturbing is the extremists do this in the name of Islam. Where are the people that practice Islam as it was meant to be practiced with not only respect for human life but respect for your enemy?

In closing, this type of behavior should be kept in the back of your mind as you read articles of Israel being inhumane or description of the extremists as “freedom fighters”. People are defined by their actions and not by how the media decides to paint them. I hope once again my article has shed some light on the realities of the conflict in the Middle East as the facts are very far from the fiction that you see on television.

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Peter Rabbit writes a monthly column on politics and world events for The Casual Observer, specializing in the Middle East. His articles can be found in Carrots of Wisdom.

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