Yesterday, many Israelis and Jews around the world marked the 25th birthday of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas five years ago. Israeli demonstrators demanded his release but seemed to focus more on the unwillingness of the Israeli government to release 1,000 imprisoned terrorists — including many with Jewish blood on their hands — than on the killers who are holding Shalit.

That is the irony of all such activist efforts undertaken on behalf of a hostage being held by terrorists. It is the democratic governments who are forced to weigh the dangers of releasing terrorists against the imperative to ransom a captive who wind up being in the crosshairs of the controversy rather than the criminals. Our own Evelyn Gordon summed up this dilemma neatly last year when in writing about the case in the May 2010 issue of COMMENTARY she stated that despair over peace had led to defeatism about dealing with such instances of terror:

So long as the only factors in the equation that determine Israeli thinking are love of their children and the imperative to ransom captives, no political leader is likely to have the courage to resist the overwhelming public pressure for a deal. So there will be more Gilad Shalits, and the price the country will pay for their freedom will go even higher.

As much as we should all sympathize with the Shalit family, those seeking to increase the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to give in to extortionate ransom demands are aiding Hamas, not Gilad Shalit. The only legitimate point of discussion about this issue should be the determination of the civilized world to isolate and bring down the independent terrorist state in Gaza that is holding the 25-year-old prisoner. So long as this group is able to exert sovereignty over that territory and continue to launch terror strikes at Israel with impunity, there will indeed be no end to the number of Israelis killed or kidnapped.