TO put it crudely the exchange of Hezbollah and Israeli prisoners, dead and alive, on the Israeli-Lebanon border on Wednesday was almost a piece of grand guignol theatre. The bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006 were exchanged for 200 Hezbollah and Palestinian bodies and five live Hezbollah prisoners. Numerically it would seem that Hezbollah got the better of this bizarrre deal, especially since one of their living number had been in jail for thirty years as Israel's highest-value prisoner. One wonders for how many of the eleven thousand Palestinian prisoners still held by Israel, Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in Gaza two years ago and believed to be still alive, might be exchanged.
But the sums do not end with these prisoners. There is a deep belief in Israeli society that the government should do its utmost to bring back its captured prisoners, whether they are dead or alive. That belief should be respected. But it should also be remembered that in seeking to carry out this responsibility the Israeli government launched the 34-day war in 2006 in which more than one thousand Hezbollah/Lebanese civilians lost their lives in Israeli bombardments.
The figures did not add up on Wednesday in another respect. TV and press coverage - including that of Al-Jazeera - focussed almost exclusively on the grief of the families of the two Israeli dead. Was there no grief among the families of the 200 Palestinians whose coffins were carried across the border?


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