One Israeli soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. This equation has fostered more or less the following logic: The life of an Israeli is more valuable than that of a Palestinian. How much more valuable? Much more. In fact, 1,027 times more valuable. After the prisoner exchange, when nobody was looking, there were displays of self-satisfaction. We patted one another on the back and reflected on how sensitive and humanitarian we are. And look at them, we mused.
Yet behind this feeling of superiority lurked a murky, inverted truth. The fact is, the release of one Israeli soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners is not normal; certainly it does not represent an inferior love felt by a Palestinian mother for her son compared to an Israeli mother.
As it turns out, such price lists and equations reflect the Israeli consciousness and what's inside. In the Israeli consciousness, the relation between the life of a Palestinian and the value of a Jewish Israeli is derived with mathematical certainty, 1:1,027, meaning that an Israeli life is as important as that of 1,027 Palestinians. This equation derives from the way we, not Hamas, view reality: 1,027 Palestinians are worth one Jewish life not because the Palestinians minimize the importance of their own lives, but because we diminish the value of their lives. This is a mirror image of the prejudice we Israelis harbor and which has enabled the immoral activities we have sponsored for dozens of years.
The source of this equation isn't to be found in the Shalit affair, since that affair just skims the surface of a deeper reality. The source is to be found in our daily lives, where cameras don't penetrate. After the mass release last week, thousands of Palestinian prisoners remain in Israeli jails. This number, especially the way many prisoners are "collected" into cells in the middle of the night after arbitrary IDF raids (most of them violent, without the option of consulting an attorney ), says something about our disdain for the value of their lives.
Anyone who visits military courtrooms gets a sense of the automatic ease with which the detainees from the territories (many of them minors ) have their detention extended. More importantly, such a visit reveals the incomprehensible truth that the state maintains two separate justice systems for two populations. The military-legal framework gives expression to Israeli prejudice and prolongs the occupation without the occupiers suffering any undue guilt feelings.
Hamas figured out how to exploit these feelings of superiority. If the Jews view themselves as worth more than the Arabs, lots of "Arab goods" can be demanded in exchange for a small portion of "Jewish goods." By the same token, if the Jews so easily collect "Arab goods" and confine them in their prisons, clearly they will not have a hard time offloading such "goods."
The equation inherent in Gilad Shalit's release is a trivial by-product of market economics that features the price of a Jew and the price of an Arab, according to how these values are rated by the wealthy buy-side, the Israelis. This is the capitalism seen in the cottage cheese controversy, only this time it features human beings. Its racist foundations are exploited by the oppressed side to gain bargaining power.
The Shalit deal is, in fact, a public display of Israel's racist price index. The ceremony occurs every few years, and the index is designed to update the market values of the region's various races. As of October 2011, in the Israeli market, the price of one Jew equals 1,027 Arabs. And the price increases every day.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now