Almost a year ago I wrote on the difficult question of whether paying a ransom for the release of the Chandlers, the British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates, was right or wrong. It’s my view that paying cash to kidnappers makes the crisis of Somalia worse by a) giving the pirates vast resources for new kit and weapons and b) giving them a reward for kidnapping which will inevitably encourage them to repeat their crimes.
The personal urge for friends and family will always be to pay up and save their loved ones – but the result is that the freedom of many others will be infringed as a result.
The same goes – in spades – for today’s deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his five year captivity by Hamas.
I’m delighted for Shalit and his family that he is free – the prospect of losing half a decade of your youth to imprisonment in the hands of a fascist movement committed to the annihilation of your whole race does not bear thinking about, and it is a miracle that he is alive. The deal to release him, though, is a pact with the devil.
It would be bad enough if the Israelis had traded money for his release, but they have gone further, releasing over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. We’ve yet to learn all of their identities, and some may well be uncharged detainees, but we know for a fact that many of them are convicted murderers, bomb-makers and terrorist masterminds. They include
- The perpetrators of the Passover Massacre, 2002 – a suicide bombing on a hotel which killed 30 people
- A woman who lured a 16 year old boy to his death through internet chat rooms
- A bombmaker who has pleaded guilty to building devices that killed 66 people and wounded 500 more
- A bus hijacker who killed 16 passengers and injured 27
One of the most disturbing is Ahlam Tamimi, a woman who was involved in blowing up a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem, apparently chosen specifically because it was full of families. As well as stating repeatedly that she does not regret her actions,
In a documentary on Palestinian prisoners, she was asked whether she knew how many children had been killed in the attack. She did not. When told the number was eight, she smiled.
As well as the moral element of releasing such people, we should consider the practical implications. Some extremely dangerous people are being set free, potentially to commit acts of terror again. Over 200 of them are deemed too dangerous to be allowed to live in Palestine, and I am hardly comforted by the news that they are going to be resettled in Turkey instead. People willing to kill en masse for their cause are unlikely to now retire and take up market gardening for the rest of their days.
Furthermore, the deterrent effect on would-be terrorists of lifetime imprisonment has now been fatally diluted – the bar to entry for a young man or woman considering joining Hamas has been lowered yet further.
Worst of all, Hamas will be learning a lesson from this: kidnap Israelis, and you will get what you want on a vast scale. Even leaving aside the hundred of killers disappearing back into the underground, and the removal of a deterrent for individuals, this will have a deadly affect – Hamas has tried and tested a terrorist tactic and found that it works. This is a green light for more kidnaps and more attempts at kidnap that will surely end in death.
There are 6,000 more Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. After today, can anyone doubt that Hamas will be thinking about who to kidnap to get them released, too?