Let The Enemy Decide The Rules

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17 Jul 2008

By the time this article is posted the so-called ‘prisoner swap’ will have been completed. But we really need to be honest about this… it wasn’t really a prisoner swap. Prisoners are alive.

Only monsters hold dead bodies for ransom…but we have only ourselves to blame for trading live prisoners for dead bodies.

One can argue forever about whether or not the unprovoked cross-border attack in which Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were captured was reason enough for Israel to have gone to war. But once that Rubicon was crossed and we’d accepted the attack as a ‘Casus Belli‘ and sent troops into combat, there was no excuse for not using all means at our disposal to fight the war until our enemy was begging for terms of surrender.

Instead, our leaders dabbled and deliberated and argued over whether to even call what they were waging a ‘war’. They squandered every advantage they held at the start of the war by installing lawyers and politicians to select bombing targets instead of allowing the IDF officers in the field do what they’d trained their entire lives to do; win!

We waited weeks to commit ground troops to battle, and when we finally did, we watched them being shuffled aimlessly around southern Lebanon without objectives or support.

Worst of all, we were forced to watch helplessly as Hezbollah conducted carefully orchestrated press tours painting Israel’s pinpoint bombing as monstrous… while Katyusha rockets were fired indiscriminately all over northern Israel.

Throughout the short summer war we heard voices from around the world – and even from within our own country – who argued passionately for restraint. “The Lebanese people are not the enemy“, they declared. “Hezbollah is the enemy!

These useful idiots pleaded for the IDF to spare the poor, hapless Lebanese who were caught between Israel’s mighty army and Hezbollah’s well entrenched forces… pointing out that the Lebanese deserved mercy because they are a modern, secular people just like us.

‘Moderate’ Lebanese blogs were linked, and the grand old days when Beirut was known as the ‘Paris of the East’ were invoked repeatedly… while doctored photos of burning Beirut neighborhoods became like fixed wallpaper behind the media’s talking heads who dutifully read Hezbollah scripts about Israeli atrocities.

Ignored was the fact that these cosmopolitan Lebanese had watched approvingly for decades as Hezbollah set up rocket batteries and supporting military infrastructure in their towns and villages. Ignored was the cover and support these poor secular Lebanese willingly provided to Hezbollah for a generation.

Nobody seemed particularly worried about Israel’s blameless civilians who were forced to live in bunkers under relentless bombardment. Israeli casualties were chalked up to ‘the fortunes of war’ while Lebanese casualties were paraded before the world as martyred innocents.

And when it came time to accept a shameful ceasefire that amounted to nothing more or less than surrender, Israeli leaders again failed (doomed, actually) the captured soldiers by refusing to establish enforceable terms for their safe return.

From the first moment of the attack that sparked the war, Hezbollah/Lebanon refused to abide by any modern conventions of warfare. Not a single tenet of the Geneva conventions was honored by our enemy… yet we were inexplicably expected to fight the good fight according to the Marquis of Queensbury rules.

And even after the war’s end, we had to have our face rubbed in how brutally we’d behaved by a couple of clueless Israeli journalists. Under cover of convenient foreign passports, they traveled illegally to Lebanon in an effort to show how nice and normal these wonderful Lebanese people are… as if to say ‘How could we have ever entertained such aggressive, warlike feelings towards people who are so much like us???’ Jane Fonda could have done no worse!

Where are these journalists now that their so called ‘story’ has come to its dénouement with the docile, cosmopolitan Lebanese we took such pains to spare holding massive state-sponsored celebrations for the return of heroes whose only fame comes from murdering Israeli civilians. Could their silence indicate that even they are having a little trouble putting lipstick on this particular pig?


When attacked by a wild animal you don’t negotiate or ask what rules it wants to use in the fight. You strike it down without mercy and without remorse. If you are attacked by a pack of wild animals you fight savagely and without restraint until all of them are dead or neutralized. To do otherwise doesn’t mean facing ignominious defeat. It means you move down the food chain and become an entrée!

The only way Israel can regain its deterrence in the region after this recent debacle is to make it clear to all that, from this day forward, we will play by whatever rules our enemies are willing to honor.

No Rules = No Restraint.

If our towns and cities are fair game… so are yours. Don’t complain that our weapons are better, or more powerful. You should have thought of that before attacking us.

If you portray the killing of civilians as heroic, then we will surpass you in heroism. Don’t cry to the world about your precious civilians and then prepare a national celebration to honor a monster who deliberately destroyed a family, and whose final act before being captured was to gleefully crush the skull of a small child against a rock.

If our soldiers won’t enjoy the protections of the Geneva Conventions… neither will yours. A dead prisoner will be worth a dead prisoner in any exchange. If we run out of dead prisoners to trade, we will make more. As you’ve ably demonstrated today, live prisoners can be unapologetically turned into dead ones quite easily.

If this is the only way we can force our enemies to keep our POWs alive and to feel some accountability for their welfare… then so be it. Otherwise our long-neglected death penalty will be dusted off and employed without hesitation or sentimentality. And since those who attack us refuse to wear uniforms or insignia, henceforth they will not be entitled to the niceties of a trial or POW status. Those we capture in the field will be summarily executed.

For more than 60 years Israel has dreamed of being accepted among the family of nations and being allowed to live peacefully within secure and recognized borders. Yet again and again we’ve been forced onto the battlefield by our neighbors, and required by the world to engage a savage enemy as if we were chivalrous knights.

It is worth noting that even at the Battle of Agincourt (fought between the French and English in 1415), the accepted rules of Chivalry were set aside when one side was faced with an untenable choice between chivalry and victory:

After repelling two French attacks against their vastly outnumbered army, the English held more enemy captives than they themselves had soldiers in arms. Upon seeing the French massing for a third attack the English King, Henry, ordered his men to begin killing the prisoners since he could not spare the soldiers to guard them… and if left alone the captive French knights could easily join the next French attack using weapons that still littered the field.

However, as soon as the next French attack failed to materialize, he ordered the execution of prisoners to be stopped.

Modern scholars nearly universally condemn Henry for his order to execute the French prisoners. After all, the rules of the day required that those asking for quarter be granted protection without question. However it is interesting to note that at the time, neither the French nor any contemporary commentators seem to have had a problem with Henry’s decision. It was the only logical thing to do under the circumstances.

Given a choice between victory and chivalry, Henry chose victory.

In this day and age Israel can do no less. We need not hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct than our enemies… especially in conflicts not of our making. Until we learn this simple lesson, we will have to endure many more shameful ceremonies such as we witnessed today.

Make no mistake; there will be another war in the not-too-distant future. Our recent capitulation has all but guaranteed that. Our appeasement and public displays of weakness have served only to whet the appetites of our enemies as they publicly proclaim that what the world witnessed today is proof that relentless armed struggle is the only way to confront and destroy the Zionist entity.

I can only hope that when the next war comes, we will have leaders in place who have the wisdom to first win the war… and only then, try to negotiate terms for peace.

May the families of those who were miserably failed by their government be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

David Bogner, formerly of Fairfield, CT, lives in Efrat with his wife Zahava (nee Cheryl Pomeranz), and their children Ariella, Gilad and Yonah. Since moving to Israel in 2003 David has been working in Israel’s defense industry on International Marketing and Business Development. In his free time David keeps a blog (www.treppenwitz.com) and is an amateur beekeeper.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.