Noam Shalit Is Wrong

In a brief article published on the front-page of the East Jerusalem-based Arabic daily, al Quds, 5 August, Noam Shalit claimed that Israel’s criminal blockade of the Gaza Strip was primarily imputed to the capture by Palestinian resistance fighters of his son, Israeli occupation army soldier Gilad Shalit, more than two years ago. Shalit also claimed that his son’s “captivity” is one of the main reasons why Israel can’t release thousands of Palestinian political and resistance prisoners languishing in Israeli detention camps. Well, I think that Shalit, a French citizen who had immigrated to occupied Palestine to arrogate land and property that belong to another people, is insulting people’s intelligence. He should realize that indulging in prevarication, lies and half truths can’t be an authentic substitute for an honest approach to his son’s “plight” which is really very negligible when compared to the enduring nightmare of more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israel. In fact, Shalit’s condescending approach to Palestinian prisoners epitomizes the overall Zionist perception of non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular, namely that they are lesser people, with lesser rights, including the right to life.

In truth, there is a weak linkage between the criminal blockade of Gaza and the Shalit affair. After all, Israel has been murdering, tormenting, starving and blockading Palestinians for ages. There are tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank who are barred from traveling or seeking work. This has nothing to do with the Shalit affair, but has everything to do with Israel’s strategic goal of annihilating the Palestinians as a people and seizing what has remained of their homeland. Indeed, claiming that the capture by Palestinian fighters of an Israeli occupation soldier, who may well have a lot of innocent blood on his hands, is the reason for Israel’s Nazi-like policies in the West Bank and Gaza is a flagrant expression of ignorance or malicious mendacity.

Are we to believe that the cold-blooded murder of Ahmad Mousa in Nilin a few days ago was motivated by the imprisonment of Gilad Shalit? Are we to believe that the systematic demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem is attributed to the Shalit affair? Is the Gestapo-like reign of terror by Jewish settlers against innocent Palestinian shepherds and peasants in various parts of the West Bank connected with the same issue? More to the point, it is also absolutely untrue that Israel would have been more willing to release Palestinian prisoners had it not been for the Shalit affair. In fact, only fools and ignoramuses would give Israel the benefit of the doubt in this regard. Israel was holding many thousands of Palestinians, many without charge or trial, long before the “abduction” of Shalit.

The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did everything he could, often obsequiously, to gain the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli dungeons, but to no avail. He revoked the Palestinian National Charter, he imprisoned and tortured opponents of the Oslo Accords to please and appease Israel, he built a casino in Jericho to accommodate Israeli gamblers, he even traveled to Tel Aviv to kiss the head of Lea Rabin, the woman whose husband ordered the Israeli army to break the bones of Palestinian children during the first Intifada, the man who didn’t hesitate to reveal his wish to see Gaza, with its 1.5 million people, drown in the Mediterranean. The same thing occurred with regard to Jordanian prisoners who are still languishing in Israeli jails despite the signing of the peace treaty and the exemplary relations between Israel and the Hashemite kingdom.

And how about Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen’s supplications for the release of Fatah and other prisoners, some of whom, like Said al Ataba and Abu Ali Yatta, have been in Israeli jails for more than three decades? Have all his begging and pleading succeeded in getting Israel to release those prisoners? Yes, Israel does occasionally release some prisoners to help prop up Abu Mazen’s public standing. However, we all know that most of the prisoners released in the context of these “gestures of good will” are people whose jail terms have already expired or about to expire. Besides, it is well known that in return for each Palestinian released, the Israeli Shin Beth (the chief domestic security agency) rounds at least five Palestinians. This consistently arrogant Israeli behavior toward Palestinian prisoners, which is contrasted by a scandalously liberal approach toward Israeli terrorists and criminals, has convinced millions of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims that the only way of getting their sons, daughters and beloved ones released from the Israeli hell is Hezbullah’s and Hamas’s way. Israel has only itself to blame.

In his article, Shalit also claims that the often open-ended imprisonment of Palestinian activists in Israeli jails is an inevitable outcome of previous Israeli-Palestinian wars! What wars is he talking about? The Palestinian people have been on the receiving end of Israeli barbarianism, savagery and ethnic cleansing for ages. The Palestinians never waged war on Israel? The Palestinians are victims of Israeli Nazism. How can a people who are dying on a daily basis at the hands of Zionism’s indifferent hands wage war on a country that possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons and is in tight control of American politics and policies? How can the victims of barbaric aggression and ethnic cleansing be initiators of war?

Finally, Shalit claims that the closure by Israel of the Rafah border crossing is related to his son’s affair. This is not true. We all know that Israel kept the Rafah crossing and other border crossings closed, nearly completely, long before the capture of his son. Interestingly, Shalit argued that it was his son’s captivity that was holding thousands of Palestinian civilians hostage, people who he said were “uninvolved” and suffering from abject poverty and acute shortage of basic consumer goods. Well, thank you Mr. Shalit for recognizing the innocence of your state’s victims. Thank you for admitting, though indirectly and probably inadvertently, that Israel is a terrorist state that murders, starves and torments innocent civilians for political reasons. But if they are innocent people, and they indeed are, then why don’t you tell your leaders that blockading, harming and starving innocent people is wrong and incompatible with moral and religious ethics? Do Jewish ethics condone tormenting innocent people who committed no wrong?

One may really sympathize with Noam Shalit especially at the personal level. However, Mr. Shalit should also try, even for a brief moment, to put himself in the shoes of the fathers, mothers and relatives of 10,000 Palestinian prisoners who, unlike him, don’t enjoy the benefit of a potent world-wide media machine that has effectively made his son the most famous prisoner in the entire world.

Isn’t that fair enough?

Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. Read other articles by Khaled, or visit Khaled's website.