“We were formed in ranks, with Russian soldiers guarding us–Englishmen, Americans, Dutchmen, Belgians, Frenchmen, Canadians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Australians, thousands of us about to stop being prisoners of war. And on the other side of the field were thousands of Russians and Poles and Yugoslavians and so on guarded by American soldiers. An exchange was made in the rain–one for one.” (Vonnegut p. 6)
Kurt Vonnegut paints a vivid picture of how the prisoner exchange went after the end of World War II in Slaughterhouse Five. At the end of the war, soldiers from many countries were displaced, usually found behind enemy lines as prisoners of war. Back in WWII the numbers were in the thousands. I’m not sure why, but it seems that Vonnegut wanted to tell us that there was no formal way of returning soldiers back to their respective countries other than playing a mass-scale game of ‘Red Rover’.
Today, prisoner exchanges still happen, although the world probably will never see one on such a massive scale as Kurt Vonnegut witnessed. Prisoners are traded with the captivating country for prisoners from their own country. Such a situation is about to happen between Palestinian Hamas and Israel. The deal, however, isn’t going to be the big game of ‘Red Rover’ that was talked about in Slaughterhouse Five. In fact, it is a one sided deal, that primarily favors Hamas.
As talks continue, it appears to be that Israel will release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli captive, held for over three years. Though at first the deal doesn’t seem fair, to traded hundreds of prisoners for one, it is actually a strategy that will try and promote peace in the future.
“Hamas, the Iranian-backed militant group that controls Gaza, is also hungry for progress. Exchanging Schalit for hundreds of prisoners would provide a swift popularity boost for the militant group among Palestinians, who see the imprisonment of thousands of their countrymen in Israeli jails as one of their main grievances against Israel.” (AP)
Be as it may, I don’t see this exchange as promoting peace at all. I see it as a bold move for Hamas to get many Palestinians out of jail, most of whom I believe will fight against Israel shortly after being released. I see the whole deal as a mistake for Israel. I think they can figure out another way to get the one soldier back from behind enemy lines. Yet, who knows. Maybe I’m wrong and Hamas is ready to deal. Maybe the prisoners aren’t soldiers. The problem is, I don’t know. What I do know is that this is one war that needs to end as it has been dragging on for way too long.
Progress Seen in Hamas-Israel Talks about Possible Prisoner Swap
24 November 2009
The Associated Press