While it seems that the entire state of Israel has either taken to the streets or been glued to the television cheering for the release of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit after 1,941 days of Hamas captivity, something entirely different is going on in the back channels of social media.
On October 11, 2011, when the prisoner exchange deal was first announced, many of the leading social media activists were busy re-organizing the #j14 social protest to support and align with the #OcuppyWallStreet movement and the entire wave of protests we have seen this year.
Along with the relief and happiness for Shalit's family, the activists couldn't help but wonder about the timing of this deal, claiming the government could and should have done such a deal years ago and now it seemed to some that it was a “spin” aimed to bury the protest coverage and re-frame the collective memory of Netanyahu's regime.Some were even directing their criticism towards Israeli society and/or challenging the longstanding Israeli ethos of treating one of our own as worth a thousand of others.
A few typical examples include [*Bibi = Benjamin Netanyahu's nickname]:
@a_Daydreamer: Well did go, Netanyahu, for pulling the Gilad Shalit card. I'm sure he kept it for times of distress.
@ygurvitz: Gilad Shalit is the last resort for these bastards
@Vandersister: So all it took to free Shalit was a general workers strike and collapsing the health system? Why didn't you say so earlier?
@yairtar: What a wonderful people we are, oh, the solidarity! It is exciting how Israelis will do anything for someone they don't even know… unless he is a cancer patient/contract worker/homeless/simply poor
The Shalit deal is Bibi's way to overcome the low tide of his image. For cheap rating that will probably last for a month, Bibi sells all of us and frees 1000 prisoners. No soldier in the world is worth 1000 people, not even Bibi himself
Bibi is preparing the ground for the next elections with a speech that most of it is “I, I, me”. You are right that we are all united and our hearts have expanded but the fact you did a wonderful thing today doesn't make anyone forget the truth – that it's still pretty shitty here, and only a month and a half ago there was a social protest here that almost buried you down under the power of its wrath.
During the past week it was the same activists who campaigned on social media, mainly through spreading a Facebook event, asking people not to watch mainstream media on the day Shalit is returned, to show that the people cannot be turned back to blind media consumers that easily and to let Shalit be after five years in captivity instead of prying into his life.
Yesterday, as all Israeli and most international media have been following Shalit's return live, Prime Minister Netanyahu is heavily critiqued for the choices he made throughout the entire day, especially upon insisting meeting Shalit first and having army officials there, before he even saw his family or a doctor (due to his weak condition).
While most mainstream media are taking on a formal coverage angle, it is left for social media and a few marginal sections of the online newspapers to highlight this critique of how PM Netanyahu has exploited and objectified Shalit.
@YehudaNuriel: Alon Ben David (TV news reporter – c.v): “Bibi will be the first person Gilad meets. According to PM's office, it was the request of Shalit's family. Shalit family told us there was no such request”. Awesome.
@Jeronimo_: I have brought your child back home” says Netanyahu to the Shalit family, so no one will miss the connection.
I'm not sure I understood from Bibi's speech – who is responsible to the return of Shalit? Who decided? Who's a leader? Too much subtext….
@Galchs: funny, bibi forgot to mention in his speech that Noam shalit was camped across his house for a few years and he didn't come out to talk to him even once
In Netanyahu's eyes, Gilad Shalit isn't more important than the supertanker cockpit or lighting Shabbat candles with Madonna. According to his worldview, he is the star of these events and the cause is just the exquisite set stressing his importance, his efforts, his accomplishments and his necessity as a PM… When becoming a PM one has to loose quite a bit of shame, manners and respect. This is how, apparently, Netanyahu allows himself to be the first to greet Shalit and to push himself in euphoria to the picture of the father hugging his returned son… Netanyahu is a hero once more. Gilad shalit is already an indirect object.
Many who seem to have noticed and shared this “photo – opportunity” critique already responded to it in the language of social media – by starting a meme over it. A series of photos were posted and circulated on Facebook portraying Netanyahu as a self-promoter in other historic moments: