Four years of captivity
June 25, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured four years ago by Hamas and has since been held captive and incommunicado in an undisclosed location. The fourth anniversary of his confinement has been marked by international demonstrations, a statement from Human Rights Watch, and an essay by philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. At least this anniversary hasn't been marked by a Hamas-produced cartoon mocking the Shalit family. Four years previously.

It can be hard to remember that four years ago there was no blockade of the Gaza strip and that sanctions were generally expected to bring Hamas back to the negotiation table. The present blockade is at least partially a reaction to this kidnapping.
posted by Joe in Australia (36 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: this is more of the same. Please do not post here about I/P issues unless there's something happening that is of interest to the larger community that you can talk about without resorting to the same old GRAR. MetaTalk is your option. Thank you. -- jessamyn

I think this proves that they haven't been mistreating him.
posted by andoatnp at 12:00 PM on June 25, 2010

I don't see the big deal here. Both sides keep prisoners.
posted by Sukiari at 12:01 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

And it turn the blockade has increased poverty in Gaza and entrenched Hamas as the group that will stand up to Israel. Once again Israel shoots itself in the foot.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:03 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

More seriously, I was thinking of doing a post about Gilad but it's just such an immense topic I got bogged down in all of the possible things to link to. Here is the video of him in captivity (scroll down) that was exchanged for Israel releasing some female prisoners in 2009.
posted by andoatnp at 12:06 PM on June 25, 2010

I hope that one day Gilad Shalit will be free, and can return to his family. It's already been 4 years. Yes, he was a soldier and so his captors felt justified in abducting him. What we need more of, is simple human compassion.

Compassion, for the likes of Mordechai Vanunu for example. Someone who was "lured to Italy by a Mossad spy, where he was drugged and kidnapped by Israeli intelligence operatives.[1] He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted in a trial that was held behind closed doors.[1] Regarded by peace activists as a hero for taking a stand against weapons proliferation, Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize many times."

How much time did Vanunu spend in prison? And also in isolation? "Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement."

At least once Gilad Shalit is released, he can go back to his life, unobstructed. If only Vanunu had been so lucky: "Released from prison in 2004, he became subject to a broad array of restrictions on his speech and movement. Since then he has been briefly arrested several times for violations of those restrictions, including giving various interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. He says that he suffered "cruel and barbaric treatment" at the hands of Israeli authorities while imprisoned, and suggests that his treatment would have been different if he had been Jewish (Vanunu is a Christian convert from Judaism).[5]
In 2007, Vanunu was sentenced to six months in prison for violating terms of his parole. The sentence was considered unusual even by the prosecution who expected a suspended sentence.

And yes, there is also international pressure in the case of Vanunu: "In response, Amnesty International issued a press release on 2 July 2007, stating that "The organisation considers Mordechai Vanunu to be a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate and unconditional release."[6] In May 2010, Vanunu was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail on suspicion that he met foreigners, violating conditions of his 2004 release from jail."
posted by VikingSword at 12:07 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think this proves that they haven't been mistreating him.

I take no side in I/P debates, but that's pretty clearly propaganda (watching the world cup helped cure his despair not over his being a prisoner but over Israel's policies? O RLY?)
posted by Bookhouse at 12:09 PM on June 25, 2010

Funny how the hundreds and hundreds of political prisoners held by Israel don't make the news, but the one the Palestinians hold gets worldwide attention.

Israel would be more likely to get Shalit back now, if they'd honored earlier prisoner-swap agreements. When they tricked the Palestinians into releasing prisoners, but then didn't release the ones they promised, they helped ensure that Shalit is very hard to get back.

And, of course, the US still has a couple of hundred in Guantanamo, and so far, about 85% of detainees that have been able to present evidence before a civilian court have been declared to be unjustifiably imprisoned. Yet, a lot of them have been there for twice as long as Shalit has been in Palestinian hands, and probably in conditions far more dire, at least for the early years of their captivity.

This is important to Shalit and his family, and in some ways you can't meaningfully compare evils this absolute, but criticism of Shalit's imprisonment would be much easier to take seriously from states that demonstrate that human rights have some importance to them.
posted by Malor at 12:10 PM on June 25, 2010 [11 favorites]

I dont necessarily agree with the jailing of Vannu, but I mean, there is a difference between breaking a state secrets law (which most countries have, and punish people for breaking) versus a random kidnapping.
posted by rosswald at 12:11 PM on June 25, 2010

The big deal, to me, is that both sides have turned him into a symbol for the greater conflict. So now the captivity of one living, breathing human being is used to justify decisions that impact thousands of other lives, and releasing him from captivity would mean losing something much bigger than one prisoner.
posted by sallybrown at 12:11 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Last comment, there was also this potential Israeli law from last month: "Hamas accused Israel on Sunday of trying to extort it into releasing abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, after a ministerial panel approved a bill to worsen conditions for Hamas prisoners jailed in Israel."
posted by andoatnp at 12:12 PM on June 25, 2010

It really does seem like both sides are using him. Israel is using him as a symbol of how horrible Palestinians are and Hamas is using him as a bargaining tool. Hamas should let him go. Israel doesn't care about this guy.
posted by anniecat at 12:15 PM on June 25, 2010

State secret laws? Vanunu was a whistleblower. Israel which seems to have a giant hard on for the so far non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons, has itself actually introduced a huge nuclear arsenal into the Middle East. Of course, they were trying to keep it "secret" for as long as possible. And Vanunu blew the whistle - that's a good thing, in the case of such "secrets".
posted by VikingSword at 12:15 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's kind of sad that the Palestinians have to negotiate on the basis that freeing one Israeli is worth freeing hundreds of Palestinian. I mean, it gets them more of their people released, but it recognizes such a disparity in their value.
posted by pseudonick at 12:21 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

As we all know, taking any position on the ME evokes passionates responses, so I will say only that which is non-controversial.

The physicist was a traitor, no matter how you or I feel about nuclear weapons; he betrayed his country and the oath he took when he took on the work he did. The soldier is an example of how Israel and many other nations feel about Life and their military--they will do everything possible to rescue or ransom their own to get them back. By contrast, what have you heard from the Arab press about their prisoners? Do they hold demonstrations for each one, yearly?
True he has become an icon, much as Rachel Corrie has for the anti-Israeli folks.
ps: potential laws are but potential...not law. Look at the nutty stuff many in our congress propose.
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on June 25, 2010

Your agreeing with man is irrelevant VSword. He knew he was breaking a law, and he broke it. Good or bad, you generally get jailed for that.

Shalit wasn't arrested. There were no charges. They didn't even know who he was. Comparing the two instances is... wildly off-base
posted by rosswald at 12:24 PM on June 25, 2010

No, but he also wasn't a civilian; he was an armed and uniformed combatant.
posted by Malor at 12:28 PM on June 25, 2010

He knew he was breaking a law, and he broke it. I think there were a whole lot of laws broken when Israeli agents kidnapped him on foreign soil - foreign laws, but laws all the same. I'm not sure laws are what's at issue here, otherwise why didn't Israel ask for his extradition, like any law abiding nation would, certain of the rightness of their position?

Shalit wasn't arrested. There were no charges. They didn't even know who he was.

Gilad Shalit was a soldier. In uniform. Under Geneva Conventions definition he was not an innocent civilians but a legitimate target:

"To qualify under the Third Geneva Convention, a combatant must have conducted military operations according to the laws and customs of war, be part of a chain of command, wear a "fixed distinctive marking, visible from a distance" and bear arms openly."

He was abducted by the military wing of Hamas. In a cross-border raid. From foreign soil.

Comparing the two instances is... wildly off-base

Shalit was abducted by the military wing of Hamas. In a cross-border raid. From foreign soil. I don't know - I see A LOT of parallels.
posted by VikingSword at 12:35 PM on June 25, 2010

I feel very sorry for Shalit and his family. As a conscript soldier he's not a civilian, but only just.

There are lots of "buts" about Israel's treatment of its prisoners. They mitigate some hypothetical version of Shalit as a tool of propaganda perhaps, but not Shalit as an individual. At the end of the day the guy's a human being and his wellbeing is of equal importance as that of anyone else.

I'd love to see Shalit get released and become an advocate for peace. I'd like for him to have been treated well enough by Hamas to respect the plight of Palestinans. Fingers crossed, eh?
posted by MuffinMan at 12:40 PM on June 25, 2010

I don't see the big deal here. Both sides keep prisoners.

Shalit's not a prisoner, he's a hostage.
posted by Dasein at 12:43 PM on June 25, 2010

Malor, there was no war at the time. He was patrolling an internationally-recognised border. If he was a combatant, it was only because Hamas defined him as one.

Anniecat, Israel actually invaded the Gaza strip to get him back, and another poster mentioned a (stupid and immoral) bill that would impose worse conditions on Palestinian prisoners in an effort to get him released. I think it's pretty clear that Israel's government cares a whole lot about him.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:43 PM on June 25, 2010

I think this proves that they haven't been mistreating him.

They're torturing him with Vuvuzelas! Those inhuman bastards.

Yeah, it's interesting how pro-israelis always respond to stuff like the Gaza blocade and "Cast Lead" by bringing up this guy, as if one person justifies killing thousands of people and cutting off food to over a million. And of course it ignores the thousands of Palestinians held in Israel.
posted by delmoi at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

this is always interesting.
posted by rainperimeter at 12:56 PM on June 25, 2010

Do you have any more balanced sources?
posted by rosswald at 12:57 PM on June 25, 2010

(probably came out a little harsh, I would genuinely like to learn about the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, just from other sources)
posted by rosswald at 12:59 PM on June 25, 2010

I think this proves that they haven't been mistreating him.

And I think your comment proves a lot of people are blind to sarcasm.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:09 PM on June 25, 2010

Delmoi, do you actually know that he isn't being tortured? Hamas doesn't even let the Red Cross visit him.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:11 PM on June 25, 2010

I dont think you know the definition of genocide
posted by rosswald at 1:17 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hamas doesn't even let the Red Cross visit him.

Same as Israel. There is so much 'tu quoque' happening in I/P that it has to be filtered out before commenting, or even deciding that a comment is good to post.
posted by rhizome at 1:21 PM on June 25, 2010

What the Israelis are doing is exploiting the phenomenon Stalin described: "One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic."

So, they have one Gilad Shalit - a human face to the suffering on their side. Journalists can focus on that, can publicize it from their comfortable perches in one of the most developed countries in the world - Israel. What gets lost, as a mere statistic are the thousands upon thousands of faceless Palestinians rotting in prison - all out of view of journalists who generally do not hang out in the hell-hole that is Gaza. There is both an information imbalance and deliberate propaganda effort.

The same pattern repeats itself endlessly. Israeli victims of terrorism - in single numbers - gain immediate and wide publicity. The thousands of victims of the IDF are just one big mass of indistinguishable "others", alien in every way, including for the journalists in the West (except Al-Jazeera).

But the world is becoming - at long, long last - wise to these maneuvers.

We should have compassion for all victims in this war, including Gilad Shalit - but we should not forget, in our compassion the innumerably greater number of victims who don't have such able advocates for their cause.
posted by VikingSword at 1:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

He knew he was breaking a law, and he broke it. Good or bad, you generally get jailed for that.

This is of course why the Israelis don't have a problem with the guy who defrauded the German government to get one of the passports used in the Dubai assassination
posted by delmoi at 1:27 PM on June 25, 2010

Wow, really? You're defending kidnapping and holding a guy for 4 years with "Jews are racists", burnhanistan? Guess that's about what I'd expect from a Muslim. See how offensive that is?
posted by Justinian at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2010

Delmoi, do you actually know that he isn't being tortured? Hamas doesn't even let the Red Cross visit him.

My point was that he was being tortured. With vuvuzelas.

It was a vuvuzela joke, a type of joke that has been popular on the internet since the World Cup started.
posted by delmoi at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2010

George Orwell's Notes on Nationalism:

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
posted by dirty lies at 1:30 PM on June 25, 2010 [9 favorites]

Behemoth: How many headlines do you think I could find with the terms working in the other direction?
posted by rhizome at 1:31 PM on June 25, 2010

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