The great language heist
The moment he agreed to negotiate for the return of Regev and Goldwasser without demanding proof that they were alive, Olmert turned himself and the state into a doormat for terrorists.
If words are indeed a window to the soul, then perhaps one can understand - but certainly not justify - the murder of our language that took place this week.
"Udi and Eldad come home." This deliberate butchery of words and the cynical distortion of their meaning, a kind of Israeli newspeak, is an etymological-psychological symptom of the suicidal tendencies gnawing at the soul of the country, culminating in a swap of the living for the dead. The distortion also erodes the efforts of other countries to fight terror. After all, Israel was one of the leaders in that fight, once upon a time.
Of course, a line runs from the infamous Ahmed Jibril prisoner exchange to the Nasrallah deal, which will be remembered with shame in the years to come. The line also passes through the deal that led to the release of Elhanan Tennenbaum. The picture that emerges is one of a breakdown in the resolve of Israel's leadership and its ability to fend off pressure from the soldiers' families (the only ones, by the way, who are blameless in this story).
The line is not a direct one. There have been zigzags. Israel's tough stance in the Nachshon Wachsman kidnapping was a swing in the right direction, even though it ended badly. In the case of Gilad Shalit, Olmert and Barak are trying to stick to some kind of principles and not cave in entirely.
But Israel's conduct in the Regev and Goldwasser case is not just a continuation of its weakening stance or a sharp turn for the worse. It is a total break. Walking straight into the trap that Nasrallah set for him, with his eyes wide open, Olmert has scrambled together, and thereby trampled underfoot, the most basic tenets of human ethics and Jewish tradition - the sanctity of human life, which comes before all, and the principles of "respect for the dead" and "Jewish burial," which are certainly important, but on a totally different level of importance.
The moment he agreed to negotiate for the return of Regev and Goldwasser without demanding proof that they were alive, Olmert turned himself and the state into a doormat for terrorists. He has turned the sacrifice of those who died in the Second Lebanon War into a sacrifice in vain.
But Olmert is not the only one guilty of castrating the language and obfuscating the meaning of words with his constant talk of "our boys coming home." Many others in the world of policymaking and shaping public opinion are just as much to blame. After all, they knew that "Udi" was not Udi anymore, and the same for Eldad. They knew that "coming home" no longer applied.
So why, for heaven's sake, keep pumping out this deceitful and misleading terminology? To suppress any genuine, open public debate? To deter anyone who sought to avoid being swept up in the populist waves of necrophilia that permeated the speeches of our leaders and dictated newspaper headlines?
A primitive death cult, sanctifying death and the dead, is polluting our culture. Charlatans who spout their perverted ideas of "Jewish tradition" are turning the tools used in the truly sacred task of scraping down tanks and burnt-out buses to collect remnants of human flesh into a spade for digging into the dark corners of our national psyche.
A few courageous individuals dared to speak out and warn of the sickness developing in our midst when soldiers were sent out, at risk of death, to crawl on their knees and sift through the sand with sieves along the Philadephi route in Gaza, in search of the remains of their comrades.
All this from a nation that lost six million of its people, whose burial sites are not only unknown, but also do not even exist. Indeed, Israel was built on their ashes. The fathers of this country swore: Never again. That is the essence of Zionism, which meant - or once meant - that Jews would never again be hapless murder victims with no one to defend them and avenge their deaths. Now it seems the oath has been revised: Never again will Jews be killed without doing everything to ensure that their remains are buried in sacred soil.
In a sad coincidence, just as I was scanning the newspaper headlines on Wednesday, I was informed that an old friend and colleague of mine had died. I could not help but reflect that my friend would not be "coming home." He would be taken from hospital to the funeral parlor, and from there, to a place of dust, worms and maggots. The same is true for our two soldiers, whom a serious, resolute, ethical leader would never have agreed to call "abducted" from day one, when he already knew with almost total certainty that they were dead.
But Nasrallah not only snatched two corpses. He kidnapped straight talk and common sense.