16.10.11

Gilad Shalit - 1000 Palestinian prisoners swap after "massive publicity campaign."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15325046
Gilad Shalit - worth a 1000 Palestinians
Gilad Shalit was a POW in a very nasty brutal conflict. His story and that of his parents and friends, is touching and tragic, but no more so than a million others in a Middle East full of war, terror, superstitious nonsense and brutal religious repression and hatred, going both ways.
Hamas poster
 Hamas, a well known terror organization with a stated goal of killing as many Israelis as possible, whether military or civilian, is now set to gain in popularity and strength. With this one soldier held captive they have achieved what years and years of negotiations have not - to bring home to their families hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, both people convicted (on presumably both solid and not-so-solid grounds) of deliberate attacks on civilians and those held in indefinite detention without charges for years.

How would you like it if you friend, brother or father was picked up at a checkpoint, thrown in jail and held without charges for years?

Some of the people going home is a good thing. Some of them are not guilty of a damn thing, other than being Muslim and having dark hair, a beard and speaking Arabic instead of Hebrew or English or Russian - and being born in the wrong place. A place overrun and occupied for fifty long years where people are treated as sub-humans.

Others coming home is not such a good thing and makes me think that this prisoner swap could turn into a Very Bad Thing(tm).
Palestinians celebrating 9/11

Key initial releases
  • Nasser Iteima
  • : Helped bomb Netanya hotel in 2002 - 30 people killed
  • Walid Anjes
  • : Helped bomb Moment cafe in Jerusalem in 2002 - 11 people killed
  • Yehia Sanwar:
  •  A founder of Hamas militant wing. Serving multiple life sentences
  • Jihad Yaghmour:
  •  Took part in execution of Israeli solder Nachson Waxman in 1994
  • Mohammed al-Sharatha
  • : A leader of the elite Hamas 101 unit. Multiple life terms
  • Nael Barguti:
  •  Arrested in April 1978 and convicted of role in death of Israeli soldier
  • Rawhi al-Mushtaha: 
  • Senior Hamas leader. Multiple life sentences
  • Amna Muna:
  •  Serving life for luring Israeli teenager to his

What you have here is a very mixed bag of results. A soldier coming home is a good thing. By all accounts Gilad Shalit does not appear to be a hardline racist or anti-Arab or be militantly against the more legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. He's just a kid who was born in Israel and followed his brother into the armoured corps of the Army and happened to get caught up in a nasty war. He's not a settler. But is he worth 1000 people? Is he worth the release of very solidly proven terrorists? I think not.

You now have a huge propaganda victory for Hamas. They have achieved things that moderate politicians haven't. They have proven that the only way to really get innocent, un-charged with any crime, indefinitely detained Palestinians home - is in prisoner swaps. The take-home, hard, "money" message is that Israel budges for no-one. Israel is in charge. Unless they simply cannot achieve their goals any other way. It's raw power, a zero-sum game of brinkmanship and geopolitics. Nothing matters other than force and the threat of force. If you look a little deeper you'll even find people inside Israel advocating not releasing unnecessarily detained, held-without-charges, Palestinians from jails that do not want them - just for the purpose of use as bargaining chips. Is that really the standard that Israel wants to hold itself to? Collective punishment? You hold my soldier so I will hold your hundreds of civilians?

Some of those people should never have been detained in the first place - and certainly not without right to counsel or to mount a defense against their accusations. Israel is in the wrong here, in many respects, and releasing some of these people should have been done anyway, much sooner. So them coming home is a good thing. Them coming home due to a prisoner swap - maybe not so much.

Will it lead to further taking of Israeli prisoners? Maybe. It certainly encourages it - but it's not like this wasn't a big priority of Hamas already, so it really doesn't make too much difference there. If you and your loved ones and especially the more easily captivated by the human-interest angle on this - yes, that would be many women, though certainly not all - if you're getting suckered in by a huge media push to get Gilad Shalit's face in the public dialogue, the political discourse, the media, the websites - then you're missing the point.

The point is that his story, while tragic and horrible, is one of millions. For every Gilad Shalit, how many people in the Middle East are unjustly detained and thrown in prison for years and years with no charges, or on no evidence? How many Palestinians are in Israeli jails due to the colour of their skin, their facial features, their religion, where they're from and what language they speak?

I'm guessing a lot. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_prisoners_in_Israel

Where is the media attention for these guys? Where are the international campaigns for their release?

They're there. They're on Al-Jazeera. They're on European news once in a while. They're not in mainstream US media because that angle doesn't sell advertising or make the US and its allies look good. It's not explosive, visceral, thrilling news video. It's just business the way it's usually done in the Middle East. Hell - it's not even particularly bad compared to the standard of the rule of law (or lack thereof) in the region. Israel probably does a lot better in this regard then their neighbours to the North, South & East.

Oy vey.

EDIT:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/massive-publicity-campaign-helped-secure-israeli-soldiers-release/2011/10/17/gIQAxFsOrL_story.html
JERUSALEM — Gilad Schalit’s expected release after five years in Hamas captivity owes much to a public relations campaign that turned the Israeli soldier into an icon, portraying him as the nation’s son with bumper stickers, billboards and TV ads.

PR firms and communications experts working for Schalit’s parents drove a sophisticated campaign that also enlisted celebrities, musicians and an army of thousands of volunteers. It was aimed at pressuring two Israeli prime ministers to negotiate the release of Schalit, captured in a daring cross-border raid by Gaza militants in 2006.

In the end, it was a mix of the publicity efforts and a new flexibility by both Israel and Hamas that sealed the deal, which involves swapping the soldier for 1,027 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. The exchange was expected to take place Tuesday.

When he was captured, Schalit was an unknown 19-year-old serving in a tank unit on the Gaza border. The PR campaign made his face one of the most recognizable in the country.
The media and public opinion has always had a say in the public discourse, and perhaps in this case that is not such a bad deal. The politicians and the extreme right wing and the settlers have gotten a collective bloody nose in this case and been forced to surrender, more or less. The long-standing attitude in both Israel and perhaps to a lesser extent in Palestine (but to a greater extent when speaking of Hamas et al), that any gain for the other side is a loss to their side - was forced to give way to the idea that you simply have to take the other side's demands into account.

Now if that old corrupt terrorist Yasser Arafat hadn't walked away from the deal that the Israeli side accepted back in the day.

Could this be a new start? Certainly. Anything that changes a horrible status quo with more and more settlements being built, and Gaza and the West Bank suffering more and more - is a good thing. But if the released terrorists now turn around and are implicated in even more deeds, the whole process could easily lead to another invasion of Gaza. Here's to hoping that people on both sides of this are tired of the incessant killing and bulldozing and rockets and suicide bombs.

More at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15337433

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