November 29, 2011

Letter to the Editor: To Israel, an individual’s life is priceless

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To the Editor:

Re: “The News Media Are Balanced 1,027:1,” Opinion, Nov. 28

To my good friend and Sun columnist, this response to your article Monday should come as no surprise.

I spent last semester abroad in Israel. I will never forget moving into my apartment in Jerusalem: The view of the West Bank from my bedroom window was spectacular. And then I learned that the blinds on that window were bulletproof. You know, just in case.

I will also never forget visiting the city of Sderot and feeling at ease in its giant indoor playground. And then I was told that Sderot had been attacked by a Palestinian rocket the previous day. But not to worry, the indoor playground was also a functional bomb shelter.

Monday’s article suggests that the state of Israel values one Israeli life to be worth 1,027 Palestinian lives. But I disagree. In 2006 Hamas militants invaded Israel and captured a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. With its new hostage as leverage, Hamas proposed the prisoner swap that took place this October, after five years of negotiations. This seems to suggest that it is actually Hamas that values one Israeli life to be worth 1,027 Palestinian lives.

The state of Israel is surrounded by enemies. Cities like Sderot are under constant attack. Military service is therefore compulsory for Israeli citizens over the age of 18. The capture of Gilad Shalit was not merely the capture of a nameless, faceless soldier. It was personal. To Israel Gilad Shalit represents each and every son, brother, and friend serving in the military. The prisoner swap reinforced the government’s commitment to the soldiers who risk their lives for Israel. It reflected the public’s plea to bring home their son, their brother, and their friend. By no means does this exchange suggest that an Israeli life is worth more than a Palestinian life. Instead, the controversial release of Gilad Shalit suggests that Israel values life above any cost. An individual’s life is priceless.

Monday’s article also suggests that the news media have reported on Gilad Shalit’s release, but not on the release of the Palestinian prisoners. But again, I disagree. I do not find the list of Gilad Shalit headlines to be compelling. Many of these articles, and nearly all of these sources, do report on the Palestinian prisoners. In fact, BBC provided a prisoner list and ran an article titled “Who are the Mid-East Prisoners?” In a separate article, BBC lists “key initial releases.” This includes Nasser Iteima, who was involved in the bombing of an Israeli hotel. Also on the list is Yehia Sanwar, one of the founders of Hamas’s militant wing. Now I must admit, I agree with the claim in Monday’s article that the news media have failed to humanize the released Palestinian prisoners. But how do you humanize a terrorist?

I spent last semester abroad in Israel. But truthfully, I felt closest to Israel this October from more than 5,000 miles away. I was sitting in Libe Café when I learned that a prisoner swap would take place. And I will never forget the pride I felt in the nation of Israel for its courage and commitment to return Gilad Shalit home to his family.

Ashley Green ’12