Olmert’s Corruption, In a Word


By Buzzy Gordon

Published July 17, 2008, issue of July 25, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A number of emotions vie for top billing in the wake of the tragic exchange that took place this week between Israel and Hezbollah. Sadness and sympathy for the Goldwasser and Regev families, of course; shock and disbelief at the inhumane callousness of Hezbollah, naturally; but outrage and disgust for the Israeli government should be right up there as well.

The anger has been building for weeks, ever since the Israeli Cabinet issued its original statement announcing the exchange agreement. The manipulative character of the Olmert government is shamefully revealed by the Orwellian language employed in the Cabinet communiqué.

The wording of the Cabinet’s decision is worth repeating verbatim, as it reveals the full measure of cynicism behind the government’s verbal hi-jinks:

“The abducted soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev will be returned to Israel; a report on the disappearance of Ron Arad… will also be delivered to Israel, as well as remains from the Second Lebanon War.

In exchange for the return of the abducted soldiers, the State of Israel will release prisoners and detainees being held in its prison facilities, and will transfer bodies and information, as follows:

i) Prisoner Samir Kuntar and four illegal Lebanese fighters being held by Israel will be released to Lebanon.

ii) The bodies of dozens of infiltrators and terrorists, including eight members of Hezbollah, will be delivered to Lebanon.”

And then, in an addendum to the communiqué, the government quotes Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as declaring, “As far as we know, two soldiers, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, are no longer alive.”

Wait a minute! The Israeli government had just told us that we are getting Goldwasser and Regev back, in exchange for five live prisoners and the bodies of scores of other assorted terrorists. Quite logically, the human beings being sent to Lebanon are all either in one category or another: either living and breathing two-legged creatures, or corpses.

Apparently, however, Goldwasser and Regev fit into neither of these categories. Unlike the very specific word used to describe the dead men Israel is sending north, we were not told we were getting their bodies back. On the contrary, we are getting our “abducted soldiers” back — albeit with the unfortunate proviso that they are no longer alive.

Israel is a country whose experience with negotiations and treaties has taught its diplomats to choose its words very carefully. The only possible explanation for the kind of obfuscation going on here leads us, sickeningly, to the most cynical of conclusions: That Olmert and his Cabinet wanted us to believe that somehow they had done the impossible by bringing our boys home, as promised.

It is only a nitpicking detail — an afterthought, really — that they might be coming back in body bags, and not waving and smiling.

The people of Israel have lived through enough deception from this government, the same one that brought us “victory” in the war against Hezbollah. We do not deserve to be toyed with over and over again by politicians trying to obscure the most shameless of facts — that it is willing to set free a vicious murderer in exchange for a pig in the poke.

The deal is as treyf as the animal in the saying: Israel’s Cabinet appears to be concerned only with taking credit for the return of the abducted soldiers.

Nor is this the only instance where the government despicably whitewashed the deal. The announcement used the word “prisoner” to describe Kuntar. The term may be technically correct, but so, too, was Natan Sharansky once a “prisoner.”

Would anyone in the Cabinet really presume to lump Kuntar and Sharansky together? It sounds a lot more innocuous for Israel to be setting free a mere prisoner than the actual bloodthirsty monster that was welcomed home this past week as a hero in southern Lebanon.

Former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin coined a unique term for terrorists of Kuntar’s ilk: “m’ratzeah.” As close as I can come to translating it, it means an assassin who has no other raison d’etre for living but to kill innocents.

That is the word we should be resurrecting for this occasion, not the inadequate modifier “prisoner” that an Olmert, but never a Begin, would countenance.

Buzzy Gordon is a former spokesman for Israel’s Government Press Office.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.