Yesterday marked five years since Israel Defence Force soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted. It’s been three years since Gilad’s captors have allowed him to send a letter or release a video statement. Gilad has been continuously held in conditions that violate international law; even the Red Cross can’t visit him.
Interesting to note that the Hamas prisoners, in Israeli jail for posing “security threats” to Israeli citizens – which really means: wanting to murder innocent civilians – are pitching a hunger strike because they are no longer going to be able to finish higher degrees of education while in jail! Note that if they’ve already started their degree, they can finish it. They’ll also still be able to have family visit and receive telephone calls, but fewer calls than previously allotted. It’s really a striking difference in conditions: terrorists allowed to pursue higher degrees of education and communicate with the outside world on a regular basis, while Gilad Shalit is being denied even visits by the Red Cross – a college degree isn’t even in the picture.
While reading about Gilad, I came across the following video:
It was pretty sobering and gave me pause to think. (Interesting to note, current PM Netanyahu lost his brother, Yoni Netanyahu, in the Entebbe operation mentioned in the end of the video – it’s from this that he developed ‘his hard line with terrorists.’ In the Entebbe operation, no terrorists were swapped for Israeli hostages – the IDF ran a covert operation to rescue them.)
What effects are the protests having? Is it making it harder for Gilad to return home? Is it setting an example and letting terrorist organizations know that the key to ‘driving the country mad’ is to kidnap an IDF soldier?
I, too, want Gilad Shalit to return home. Yet is it really possible to negotiate with terrorists? In both meanings of that question – how is it possible to negotiate when the “price” or “barganing chips” – the prisoners whose release Hamas demands – are indeed terrorists? And when the people demanding the “price” are also terrorists?
When I arrived in Israel and heard about Gilad’s parents’ tent next to the Prime Minister’s house, I immediately wanted to go visit the tent. Yet now I am not sure if that’s the right thing to do. I refuse to go simply “to go,” as if it’s some sort of tourist attraction – to do so would be disrespectful to Gilad, his parents, and the Prime Minister as well. And for Gilad’s sake, is it really the right thing to do to visit the tent? Perhaps it is best to put my trust in PM Netanyahu, who served in an elite unit of the IDF and no doubt is also in agony over the entire situation.