Gil Troy is an American academic. He received his undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees from Harvard University and is a professor of History at McGill University.
The author of eleven books, nine of which concern American presidential history, and one of which concerns his own and others' "Jewish identity," he contributes regularly to a variety of publications and appears frequently in the media as a commentator and analyst on subjects relating to history and politics. Twitter: @GilTroy. Website: www.giltroy.com.
Sat Jul 19, 2008 9:14 am A moment of moral clarity
A moment of moral clarity
As Lebanese leaders cheer return of a child-murderer, Israel mourns its two soldiers
By Gil Troy
July 18, 2008
How do you welcome a child murderer as a hero?
Depending on the tone, this question becomes an attempt to clarify, or an expression of outrage. Stated calmly, "How do you welcome a child murderer as a hero?" can be a factual question - such as the one that faced Lebanese leaders this week as they proceeded to celebrate the freeing of Samir Kuntar from an Israeli prison, where he had been held since 1979 for murdering 4-year-old Einat Haran, her father Danny Haran, and a policeman.
Stated angrily, "How do you welcome a child murderer as a hero?" is the question Israelis are asking - and the rest of the civilized world should be asking, too.
On the night of April 22, 1979, Kuntar, working with three other terrorists, took Danny and Einat hostage, marching them to the Mediterranean beach after seizing them in their home in the coastal city of Nahariya. After shooting Danny in front of his daughter, then drowning him to make sure he was dead, Kuntar turned on Einat. Swinging his rifle butt, he smashed the 4-year-old's head against the rocks, until she too died.
Adding to the horror, Einat's mother, Smadar, hiding in a crawl space, accidentally smothered 2-year-old Yael Haran while trying to stifle her whimpering.
Any civilized court of law would hold the attackers responsible for the toddler's death, too. Judging by the euphoria in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories this week, by the terrorists' barbaric, topsy-turvy immoral logic, the additional carnage enhances Kuntar's heroic status.
Of course, this kind of language is terribly impolite. We Westerners are not supposed to call ourselves "civilized" and deem others "barbaric." For decades now we have been told that such terms are too judgmental, too culturally-determined, too imperialistic, too arrogant.
We have been so sensitized and issues have become so relativized many of us have lost our moral bearings. We have to call Kuntar a "militant," a "fighter" but not a "terrorist." We are supposed to explore Kuntar's motivations.
And besides, whatever his motives, we are expected to excuse his crimes by pointing to equally heinous Western sins, or the religious-cultural-nationalist foundations for his actions.
And yet, occasionally, illuminating moments of moral clarity shine through the haze of amoral theorizing that emanates from our finest campuses, that is disseminated by our most technologically sophisticated media. We all witnessed such a moment this week with Israel's heart-breaking prisoner exchange.
As the two coffins bearing the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser arrived in Israel from Lebanon, the nation of Israel plunged into mourning. These two young men became the entire country's collective children. Strangers who had never met either of them wept bitterly, sharing the pain of the family and the friends, remembering other losses, fearing more tragedies in the future.
By contrast, the massive celebrations in Lebanon for Kuntar and four other terrorists revealed not only the thuggery of Hezbollah but the descent of Lebanon itself. Rolling out the red carpet for a murderer, dispatching the country's top leaders to greet someone who crushed a 4-year-old's skull, declaring a national day of celebration, revealed just how thoroughly the Lebanese leadership had succumbed to the brutal sensibilities of Hassan Nasrallah and his Hezbollah terrorists.
At first glance, it is easy to conclude that the country that is mourning lost this week and the country celebrating won. In fact, Israel won a great moral victory. Israel showed why Westerners should and will support the Jewish state, empathize with the Jewish state, identify with the Jewish state.
We want to side with the country that moves heaven and Earth to bring its boys home, to protect its citizens; not with the country of bloodthirsty mobs deifying cowards who smashed the skull of a 4-year-old girl with a rifle butt on a lovely Mediterranean beach. We learn about a people by observing whom they love and whom they hate. Joy is fleeting and often triggered by base instincts. Sometimes collective anguish is a sign of moral strength, not national weakness.
"I'm proud to belong to those who love and not to those who hate," Ofer Regev said while eulogizing his brother Eldad. Israelis should be proud of this moment of moral clarity - and wary of enemies with such distorted value systems. Israel's - and the West's - enemies are wrong.
A nation that risks so much even just to bring two corpses home, a country that celebrates life not death, is not only a worthy ally - but a dangerous adversary when provoked.
Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:18 am Gil troy's sensitive article
This is probably the best piece I have read about the tragic exchange of prisoners.
The critical comment that has been posted made me feel physically sick
How can any civilised person not see the moral difference between Israel who received back two of its murdered sons with great sadness and dignity, with the whole country and supporters of Israel around the world feeling the pain and mourning, and the triumphal return of a bestial murdering terrorist, received like a hero with a public holiday, singing and dancing in the streets and distributing sweets to the children.
If that does not give the message why it is virtually impossible to bring the Palestinians to the peace negotiating table, I don;t know what will.
You have two different cultures here - one which values life and is prepared to make huge sacrifices and take enormous risks just to honour the remains of every Israeli and another that has no value for human life and is prepared to treat a man who kills a four year old child by smashing her head against rocks with his rifle butt.
Joy Wolfe StandWithUs UK representative
_________________ Joy Wolfe
StandWithUs UK liaison representative
Mon Jul 21, 2008 9:55 am Intentional vs. Consequent morality
Of course Gil Troy's article was heartwarming to clearly moralize and contrast civilized humans with humans who act as immoral beasts.
That my remarks made you sick is a reflection of that same distorted distinction Troy made. He should have called for their heads on a platter!
I was brutal, savage, and cruel; Wolf is the moralist. How laudable to be moral when there are beasts lurking to kill your children.
Your soldiers are dead. The beasts rejoice.
If instead of a rifle butt a stone had fallen off a cliff and crushed the child's head, there would be agonizing sadness but no moralizing on the bestial intentions of the stone.
But beasts have intentions and intentions have consequences. Suffer with high moral sermonizing the consequences of beasts--or find and kill them and suffer no more consequences. That is just and moral! But do not dare confuse cowardice with morality.
Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:56 pm Must Disagree, Mr Kessler
I too read the piece with an appreciative, but cynical & jaundiced eye. I too, wonder how much more Israel and her peoples can bear, and will. However I came to no such conclusions, so I confess I do *not* understand all of your views; nor I suppose is it imperative that I do so ultimately.
I ask you this though sir...Who is stronger, the person who strikes blindly, immediately back when struck, or the person who chooses their battles times and places? Who is wiser, the opportunistic murderer who kills children, women,fathers and rejoices;(and is praised) Or the person who studies his opponents for weaknesses, methods and waits...striking with a scalpel, rather than a machete? Who is more moral, a country, religion or persons who celebrate death, the murder of innocents and noncombatants, rape and torture, lies and miss no opportunity for mayhem...or one that celebrates life, protects what they must, how they must, and takes no joy in killing or maiming, nor are they praised (as murderers are elsewhere) who even help their enemies?
This is what I see sir. A country trying terrifically to win hearts and minds, to lead by example, show restraint and moral courage. Taking no pleasure in the killing or harsh measures sometimes required. Giving up land and security in a hope of peace, that 'something' will finally be enough. Watching, waiting and studying their enemy's methods.
I fear for Israel, as I also fear for my own country sir. For history is replete with the truism that "in any long confrontation between barbarism and civilization, civilization will lose." (Unless very proactive, far-seeing and if need be, ruthless.) I fear those seeking both our countries destruction and subjugation, harbor no 'politically correct' views, multi-cultural vision, suffer from no overwhelming compulsion to peacefully co=exist with others. They will cheerfully use our own best tendencies and laws against us, to further their own needs and ends. Then slide the knife in our backs, while professing to be friends, Such is the way of cowards IMHO; and with every deceitful, murderous act, they show their true colors. Truly "By my acts, shall you know me." with a slight twist in meaning.
What I suspect sir, is that a straw will break our backs...as surely as the proverbial camels'. I don't profess to know what it will be; a chemical or biological attack, perhaps a nuclear or dirty bomb in either country...but that will be IT, and perhaps Islam will largely die that day, purged by a pogrom of biblical scale...as all nations finally realize just how deadly this intolerance can be. I personally hope it never comes to that, another Carthage...but that is truly what I fear they will bring on themselves, never understanding or accepting their culpability, responsibility and role in it.
Thanks for allowing me my rant....(Stepping off soapbox now and taking meds..)