Friday, October 22, 2010

The Gilad Question

The hearts of Israel appear to have been hijacked by a specky reservist from Galilee. His slightly bewildered face, as if foretelling his current predicament, shines out from billboards, broadsheets, and blogs.
While unremarkable in his own right, since being kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, young Gilad Shalit has been commandeered by the media as a living symbol of Israeli identity: the younger generation of Israel’s society is being held to ransom by their impetuous neighbours and compromised by their dithering government.

Military service is a right-of-passage for all young Israelis. By being caught at this time, between a boy and a man, Gilad appears at his most vulnerable and most emotive.

This video, posted on Youtube, is a reaction against the media frenzy around Shalit . While the representation of Palestinians is obscenely xenophobic, but they are not the real victims of this satirist’s art. Instead he points the finger of blame for failed negotiations over Gilad’s release firmly in the direction of the general public, rather than towards Hamas or Netanyahu.

The contradictions evident in the campaigns to free Gilad, which fret about his health, distraught family, and his position as an innocent pawn in a government game, deny all recognition of responsibility for Palestinian prisoners held in violation of international humanitarian law.

Khalid Meshaal, interviewed by Newsweek, had this to say: “Yes, Gilad Shalit is a human being. But 8,000 Palestinian prisoners are human beings, too. Gilad Shalit has a family. Those 8,000 prisoners have families, too. Yes, Gilad Shalit has a right to be free and we are conscientious of giving him this freedom and to release him. But we have thousands of our captives who have a right to be liberated and be free.”

By publically squaring up to Israel over Gilad, Hamas is testing the waters for direct peace talks. By campaigning so passionately for the release of one soldier, a section of Israel’s public is pushing their own government into a corner, through the manipulation of media which subversively dictates public opinion.

Many Palestinians are eagerly awaiting a prisoner swap too: for the return of their loved ones, and for the return of a potential new leader – Marwan Barghouti.

Barghouti, a populist leader respected by both Fatah and Hamas members, has languished in an Israeli jail under 5 life sentences and yet still has a considerable following amongst all Palestinians who believe this man may be the key to peace.

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