Middle East: Arab Attitudes on Freeing Gilad Shalit

Last Saturday, August 28th, Gilad Shalit turned 24 – his fifth birthday in captivity since June 25th, 2006. Each year there are renewed calls for his release. This year has been no different, with French president Nicolas Sarkozy writing a letter to Shalit's parents and Britain calling his detention “unjustifiable”.

What, however, are the attitudes of Arabs bloggers towards the question of Gilad Shalit? Posts reveal a different perception. While these attitudes cannot be said to represent all Arabs, they are the points of view from posts written recently.

Circumstances of Capture

Since his capture from a tank on patrol in Kerem Shalom, near the Amitai base bordering Gaza, efforts have played up his youth to focus on him as a boy with parents instead of a soldier on active duty.

However, according to Palestinian blog kolonagaza7, Shalit is:

لأنه عسكري مقاتل، وأُسر من ارض المعركة داخل دبابته، وهو يقتل ويدمر ويطلق الرصاص والقذائف على المدنيين الأمنيين

He's a military combatant, captured from the battlefield inside his tank, and he killed and destroyed and shot bullets and bombarded civilians.

Kolonagaza7 continues:

في 28 من أغسطس تمر علينا ذكرى مرور 24 عاماً على ميلاد “جلعاد شاليط” والمسكين لا يزال منذ أربعة سنوات في الأسر تحت قانون “مقاتل غير شرعي” هذا القانون الذي ابتكرته دولة الاحتلال لتضمن بقاء أسرانا في السجون دون محاكمة ولفترات مفتوحة.

On August 28th, we commemorate the 24th birthday of “Gilad Shalit”, the unfortunate who remains in captivity after four years under the law of “unlawful combatants”, a law which the State of Occupation [Israel] invented to retain our prisoners without trial for indefinite periods of time.

This refers to Israel's creation in 2002 of The Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law.

The Exchange Rate

A key issue has been the release of imprisoned Palestinians. Originally, Hamas called for the release of all under-18 and female prisoners in return for Shalit. Later, an additional 1,000 prisoners were added. The number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons is over 10,000 – many are minors, as My Intifada points out:

وقلت لهم الا تعلمون ان أصغر أسير في العالم هو يوسف الزق الموجود في سجونكم، فردت إحداهن أن الفلسطينيين إختطفوا جلعاد شاليط، فقلت لها لدينا (11 الف) جلعاد شاليط في سجونكم، افرجوا عنهم ليفرج عن شاليط.

I said to them, don't you know that the youngest prisoner in the world, Yousef Al-Ziq, is in your prisons, and one of them replied the Palestinians kidnapped Gilad Shalit to which I replied we have 11,000 Gilad Shalits in your prisons, release them to release Shalit.

Resentment of the Reaction

There is also resentment of Israel's reaction, a campaign that killed hundreds of Gazan civilians in retaliation, expressed by Mohamed Shahata (محمد شحاتة):

قتلت إسرائيل بسبب “جلعادها” مئات الفلسطينيين .. هدمت غزة على من فيها .. وضربت الفلسطينيين بالقنابل المحرمة دولياً ..ولما فشلت في الوصول إلى أسيرها المحتجز دفعت فرنسا وألمانيا وأمريكا ومصر بعدتهم وعتادهم ومخابراتهم في سبيل إنقاذ جنديها المأسور جلعاد شاليط.

Israel killed hundreds of Palestinians because of “their Gilad”…they demolished everything in Gaza…and struck Palestine with internationally banned bombs…and when they failed to reach their captive they pushed France, Germany, America and Egypt with promises and equipment and intelligence services to save their imprisoned Gilad Shalit.

Internal Anger in Israel

Another facet is the anger from the Shalit family towards the government of Israel and Netanyahu. On the 10th of this month, a group of 36 soldiers signed a letter accusing Netanyahu of failing to secure Shalit's release. The signatories include two brigadier generals and two colonels. In March of 2009 a poll indicated as many as 69 per cent of Israelis supported a deal to free Shalit. Awareness of this internal conflict is commented on by Yafa on the Move – Occupied Palestine (بحرك يافا – فلسطين المحتلة):

عائلة الجندي الإسرائيلي الأسير “جلعاد شاليط” ستحيي هذه المناسبة في تظاهره احتجاجية أمام منزل رئيس حكومة الاحتلال الإسرائيلي

The family of the prisoner, Israeli soldier “Gilad Shalit”, will celebrate this occasion [his birthday] in a protest demonstration in front of the house of the president of the Israeli occupation government.

Distraction from the issues

Others see the case used as a way of distracting international attention away from other issues, such as the recent “Freedom Flotilla”, notes hakika:

تم تجهيز مجموعة من السفن الإسرائيلية [بعد أحداث أسطول الحرية] للانطلاق من ميناء “هرتسليا” إلى المياه الإقليمية قبالة شواطئ غزة، تحمل صورًا للجندي الإسرائيلي جلعاد شاليط

Then they put together a group of Israeli ships [after the Freedom Flotilla] and launched from the port of Herzliya into the regional waters near the coast of Gaza holding pictures of the Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit.

Questions on Priorities

Some wonder if holding onto this bargaining chip is worth the cost. Gilgamesh (جلجامش) writes:

نعود قليلا إلى الوراء والى مدة عام تحديدا عندما شنت إسرائيل حربها الضروس والدموية بحق أهالي القطاع وكان احتجاز الأسير شاليط من أهم الأسباب التي دفعت الكيان الى معاقبة أهالي القطاع وحماس بالنار والخراب لكننا فوجئنا ان حماية الأسير حينها كانت اهم ما يشغل بال الحركة التي كانت تعلن ان شاليط نقل الى مناطق آمنة وهو بخير من دون ان يرف جفن الحمساوين ألما او قلقا على الأبرياء الذين سقطوا جراء هذه المحاولة

We return a little to the past one year exactly when Israel waged its violent and bloody war on the families of Gaza and the prisoner Shalit was one of the most important reasons that pushed this entity to punish the families of Gaza and Hamas with fire and ruin. Yet we were surprised that the protection of the prisoner was more important to the movement [Hamas] which announced that Shalit was moved to a safe area and he was fine without blinking an eye to the pain and worry of the innocents who fell during these actions

Both Sides Disingenuous?

Comment on the unwillingness to deal comes from The Other Door (الباب الاخر) who writes:

طبعا كل هذا لأن الطرفين, الاسرائيلي والحمساوي غير معنيين بصفقة ! اسرائيل بحكوماتها لا تريد ان تعقد صفقة كل ما يتذكر منها الناخب الاسرائيلي انه تم تحرير اسرى فلسطينيين, قتلوا اسرئيليين . وحماس ايضا الا تريد ان تعقد صفقة تخسر فيها الورقة الرابحة, والتي حصلت عليها بجهد جهيد وتحافظ عليها بكفوف الراحة فجلعاد شاليط اغلى عنصر في حماس وهي بدورها لن تتنازل عنه, على الاقل ليس مقابل الف اسير وان كان بضمنهم اسرى v.i. p

Of course all of this is because the two sides, the Israelis and Hamas, aren't interested in a deal! Israel, with her government, doesn't want to make a deal – thinking about the Israeli voters – by freeing Palestinian prisoners that killed Israelis. And Hamas also doesn't want to make a deal and lose its trump card, which it acquired through huge efforts and is protecting with velvet gloves because Gilad Shalit is the most valuable member of Hamas and they aren't going to lose him, at least not without a swap of a thousand prisoners including V.I.P's


  • Gilad who? As George Carlin once quipped, ‘Why do we call Israeli terrorists commandos, and Palestinian commandos terrorists?’

  • I think this kind of attitude is obscene. It is also a lie that he was “He’s a military combatant, captured from the battlefield inside his tank, and he killed and destroyed and shot bullets and bombarded civilians.”

    He was in fact kidnapped inside Israel and therefore violation according to international law. He might have been a soldier but he was not fighting nor engaging in any activity. He was clearly taken or rather stolen from his home. That is the Truth. All this spin on the truth appears to be part of the standard operation of the Arabic press.

  • MERC, If this is the kind of response you want to play with then maybe the experiment of “global voices” should be renamed “Global BS”.

    Your comment is beside the point of the article. If you feel that Israel is the enemy, it is your right. However, if you want the Truth of the situation then I am afraid you can’t handle the truth. Just the anti-Israeli propaganda.

  • Steve, GS was not part of a military machine that is constantly pounding the Palestinian people in one form or another? And how many Palestinians have been “taken or rather stolen from their homes”?

  • Merc,
    “military machine that is constantly pounding the Palestinian people ”
    You have been reading to many bad novels or too much propaganda.

    I am not going to get into a tit for tat regarding the takeover of the West Bank after the 1967 war. If you can some how get over your self-righteousness and deal with what is at hand then maybe there is a chance for peace. But the blame game is real OLD and worn out. I have a million of these arguments in my arsenal too.


  • The questions too difficult for you, Steve?

  • No MERC, Just not worth discussing with you. NO more feedback from me on this thread. Have a good life.

  • rain

    I think the whole kidnapping thing, done by all sides, is a sick tactic!
    my heart goes with the family of Gilad, and each person who cares about him, just like my heart goes with the family of each person kidnapped for whatever the reason might be.
    whenever i see such thing, i really wonder if we are worthy of calling oneself a humanbeing.

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