Tzur Goldin: My Brother’s Body Can’t Be Left Behind — or Exchanged for Terrorists
In 2014, a UN-US brokered ceasefire brought a pause to the fighting in Operation Protective Edge. During that ceasefire, my twin brother, Hadar Goldin, of blessed memory, a lieutenant operating inside Gaza at that time, was ambushed, killed, and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists.
His body has yet to be returned to Israel for burial.
Hamas also still holds the body of Oron Shaul, another soldier from the same operation, along with living Israeli citizens who are held captive by this terror organization.
Those realities shape what Israeli Remembrance Day means to me.
Israeli Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism has always been the most powerful day of the year for me. This is the day that marks our national honor, and the day in which the basic values that unite Israeli society take center stage. It is a day of national solidarity and pride in our liberal, democratic, and Jewish character, and that which is laid down in order to preserve it.
On this day, our country stops and thinks of our fallen. We think of those who went into battle, never to return. We think of the wounded veterans. And we think of the civilians who fell victim to terror attacks.
I never imagined becoming one of the community of bereaved families; a community made up of members who never sought to become part of it. The years since Hadar was killed and kidnapped have been characterized by pain for me.
Yet, as a family, we are not only bereaved. We are also captives — captives of a dreadful limbo as we wait for Hadar to be returned home.
We will forever be bereaved. Our mission is to cease to be captives.
The experience of these past six years has brought unimaginable pain and responsibility to me and to my family, and yet our mission is far from over.
The outcome of our battle to bring my brother home is one that goes to the very core of our national values. On this day, the value we must recall above all others is that of our common duty to fight for the return of every soldier and civilian in captivity, whether they are dead or alive.
I too fought in Operation Protective Edge. Hadar and I were operating a mere 500 meters from one another during the fighting. I know the mindset of a soldier.
Soldiers go into battle knowingly endangering their lives — and they think of their families at home and wonder how they would cope if something were to happen. Yet soldiers also derive strength from the knowledge that their brothers in arms — and their country — will do all that is needed in order to bring them back to Israel if they are injured, or if the worst should happen.
It matters not if such soldiers are serving in the Gaza districts of Rafah and Shajiah, or inside Lebanon or elsewhere; the notion that Israel will retrieve her soldiers, come what may, is invaluable to the members of the IDF.
That value must never be forgotten. And its importance must never be reduced, or Israeli society as a whole would be harmed. That is the value that my family is fighting for today. We want to see that value acted upon, not merely spoken about.
We must find the resolve to do everything in our power to bring back our soldiers.
In Gaza in 2014, I evacuated dozens of wounded and killed soldiers from the battlefield. Included within that number were my friends and soldiers serving under my direct command. Not for a moment did I imagine that the day would come when I would be away from the physical battlefield, but fully engaged inside the political, security, and diplomatic battlefield, fighting for this very value to be upheld, albeit by different means, with the fate of my own brother hanging in the balance.
Since the storied Entebbe raid of 1976, Israel has been in a fight against the terrorism of kidnapping. Terror organizations have created an equation; they kidnap soldiers and civilians and exploit them as an asset — and Israel pays a high price, time and again, in order to gain their release.
They also force Israel to choose between two types of moral injustice: leave soldiers on the battlefield — effectively the case for Hadar — or release thousands of terrorists in exchange for the return of our soldiers.
My family and I believe in a third way.
In consultation with leading experts in Israel and the US, we have begun the work needed to bring about the change that is needed.
Terror organizations must be made to realize that the kidnapping of soldiers or civilians is a liability for them, not an asset. We must make them understand that it is they who will pay a price, not us.
In order to shift the paradigm, measures to improve the humanitarian situation inside Gaza must not be undertaken until our captives are returned.
Implementing this standard will bring the Gazan people to the understanding that when Israel’s soldiers are kidnapped, it is not just Israel’s soldiers who are held captive, but the Gazan people themselves — two million in number, who are being held hostage by 30,000 terrorists, whose barbaric actions result in the continued denial of a better humanitarian situation inside Gaza.
As an international community of nations, we must broadcast the message that terrorism will not win.
We must stand firmly behind the idea that while Gaza can certainly be rebuilt and rehabilitated, and can become economically prosperous, no long-term solution that might result in the opening of border crossings or the enactment of confidence-building measures can come about while Hamas continues to hold Israelis — dead or alive.
Terror organizations like Hamas must not be allowed to extort a sovereign state.
Together with Professor Irwin Cotler, we have succeeded in the adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 2474, which states that no regional conflict or permanent humanitarian agreement can be settled before MIAs and captives are returned. Our efforts are not only for the good of Israel, but the good of all that is decent and right.
My brother Hadar and Oron Shaul, and all other captives, must come home, and no terrorists must be exchanged for their release. Achieving that goal, which is possible, will save a great many lives in the future.
Hamas cannot have it both ways. It cannot be the beneficiary of humanitarian solutions while simultaneously engaging in acts of terrorism.
This year, I think about my brother Hadar and all the other captives. May the memories of Israel’s fallen be a blessing.
Tzur Goldin is the fraternal twin brother of Hadar Goldin. Tzur and Hadar were operating as officers in elite units in Gaza in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge. During a UN-US brokered ceasefire, Hadar was ambushed, killed, and kidnapped by Hamas. Hamas is still holding Hadar’s body for ransom to this day.
Tzur is a publishing adjunct at The MirYam Institute.