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Israel has the bodies of five Islamic Jihad militants who died when a tunnel stretching from Gaza into Israel was destroyed. Hamas has the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and holds captive a handful of Israeli civilians. Should Israel return the bodies, or use them as leverage?

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This is a segment from The “On the Road to Perdition with Waze” Edition.

One comment on “Body Politic

  1. Greg Pollock says:

    I think Israeli public discourse is more cognizant of it’s country’s use of force than is that in the United States. The US has black ops, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the daily probability of a (possibly ongoing) black op operation is over 50%, yet the public knows little of their outcomes or effects; we aren’t supposed to know and are fine with that. While Israel has such ops, the up front nature of conflict, putting aside occupation, is quite revelatory. I wonder if any public has ever known so much about what its country does.

    But that doesn’t mean I like the resolutions this public comes to. In the case at hand, returning or retaining bodies, I would favor the former. Bodies cannot be said to be combatants; they cannot return to strike again if released. At some point, if this conflict is to resolve, enemies must be seen as human–that is, as not much more distant that the most distant within Israeli society. Returning bodies unilaterally might eventually shrink distances later. I doubt that Islamic Jihad will see their retention as anything more than combat from the dead; it will not motivate exchange of hostages nor held Israeli dead. A unilateral return would have no immediate payoff, but it would set limits to pokers of death and signal respect for burial and grief as such. I do not think such respect can be contingent on reciprocity; one does it to show what one is, an example not provided in the currency of reply. The issue is not what they are but what you are. Relatives of these dead unreturned will be told to buck up for God and People. But, returned, there is a signal that the enemy is not always as horrible as they are told. This is, however, a secondary reason for return; the primary reason is self interrogation of what you are.

    I have found, however, that such morality is ever postponed for the quite deliberation of our grandchildren.

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