The Ongoing Tragedy of Gilad Shalit

This year for the Passover Seder some Israeli families left a symbolic empty chair for Gilad Shalit, the soldier who was abducted by Hamas on June 25, 2006, and remains in captivity today. Nineteen years old at the time, he is described as “well-mannered, quiet and introverted”—an account that fits the clips of him that have been shown, in some periods with high regularity, on Israeli TV since his kidnapping.

Apparently both the Olmert and Netanyahu governments have judged that there is no military option for rescuing Shalit even though he’s located, so to speak, next door to Israel in Gaza. The Israeli defense establishment either doesn’t know more precisely where he is, or does know but regards the spot, and his situation—heavily guarded? surrounded by explosives?—as infeasible for a rescue attempt.

Somewhat surprisingly, about half a year ago the Netanyahu government was involved in negotiations with Hamas for Shalit’s release in return for a draconian number of terrorists, generally reported as about a thousand. It still wasn’t enough for Hamas and the negotiations broke down. Before they did Hamas released a coerced video of Shalit, made on September 14, 2009, in which he addressed his family members and spoke of his desire for freedom. In a segment this week on Israel’s Channel 2 news, Shalit’s parents said they had heard nothing of him since then, and possibly no one else in Israel has either.

As Shalit’s captivity approaches four years, the cruelty of what is being inflicted on him and his family—even if completely to be expected from a group like Hamas—is limitless. In stark contravention of international law, even the International Red Cross has not been allowed to visit him. Although Hamas has practical aims—coercing a higher price out of Israel, pressuring its government and its society more generally—the cruelty is also an expression of sheer hatred, a phenomenon in itself.

The phenomenon has a deeply sobering effect in Israel but does not necessarily impress others. When EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited Gaza two weeks ago, there is no indication that she sought a meeting with Shalit or, as David Harris put it in an open letter to her, “press[ed] [her] hosts on why no one has been permitted to visit him since his abduction.” When, during her visit, a Thai worker in Israel was killed by a Hamas rocket, the most Ashton could say was “I condemn any kind of violence, we need to move forward to get the peace process moving toward a successful resolution.”

Ashton’s apparent softness or blindness toward Hamas is consistent with a trend: the EU’s official research institute, the Institute for Security Studies, has published a series of reports urging engagement with the Gaza-based group and others of its kind. The most recent, titled “Engaging Hamas: Rethinking the Quartet Principles,” argues that the EU’s three conditions for recognizing Hamas—renouncing violence, recognizing Israel, accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements—should be relaxed in the interests of “peace.” The paper makes no mention of Shalit.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her part, seemed to touch the right base last week in her speech to AIPAC by proclaiming that “Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and returned to his family.” But the Obama administration’s fervor to create a Palestinian state—reportedly within two years—exposes the shallowness of the words. Such a state would have to be ruled, at least in part, by Hamas. The administration can’t have missed that fact, but is not deterred by it.

Meanwhile Gilad Shalit has lost almost four years of his young life sitting in some cellar. Seriousness about the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” presupposes relating to this with something beyond empty platitudes.

  • Ron Grant

    There is more room in this world,and surely in that part of the world,for magnanimity on the part of both Israel and Hamas.While this lone Israeli soldier was taken in a daring Palestinian commando raid and given the nature of the conflict and numbers of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons we can understand Hamas motives,this son of Israel needs to go home.Stay well,Gilad Shalit.

  • Lori Costello

    May Gilad remain steadfast, Also his family, Reasons of this is A Mystery. Trust God and know his ways are not ours. Gilad may you be protected in the place were you are. May Israel stand and not be in Bondage no more. Say Enough Israel to all the Hate.

  • William Smart

    The Zionists kidnapped two of the British soldiers who'd just fought Hitler, murdered them and booby-trapped their bodies.

    Hamas is law-abiding and compassionate in comparison.

    In addition, Israel murders 100s of policemen and then claims to be puzzled that Hamas cannot control militancy. It kidnaps thousands of legislators, teachers, doctors and completely innocent civilians. And tortures them. Again, Hamas smells of roses in comparison.

    • Steve

      You're a moron. Change that, you're an anti-Semitic, moron.

    • Dave

      Whereas a "booby trap" today are very un-smart comments like yours intending to trap the unwary into an intelligent response. It's also called "baiting" for hostile responses. Only the foolish try talking back to parrots.

    • shuli

      Smart? is that your name….. seems like stupid would be more appropriate. Hamas controls what they want, at the the behest of Iran and other haters and crazies in the region. our current p.c. culture has turned the world upside down. May you live long enough to be held captive by the compassionate folk of Hamas and then eat your your words.

    • Chris


    • Chris

      Seriously, can you offer sources for all of your claims?

  • Ben

    Yes William, genocidal Islamic terrorists who murderous election is visible on youtube are so admirable and romantic. Meanwhile Israel does not kidnap and torture innocent civil servants – well possibly in your antisemitic psychopathic head they do.

    • xman

      He probably knows about youtube videos of Islamic terrorists who murder in cold blood, and you can bet he gets a 'hard-on' watching them.

  • xman

    Of course William Scum must be sick at the thought that his hero Adolf Hitler failed to destroy Judaism on this planet. It is retarded sickos like him who side with the enemies of civilization. And why is he using a computer to pour out his wicked antisemitic pile of s*ite here and show himself to be a vacuous Jew-hating monster on a par with Hitler? Many computer components and much of the operating system was devised in Israel, much to the chagrin of the Jew-hating little Hitlers who post here.

  • Ron Grant

    Note that William Smart qualifies his assertions with “in comparison”.And the Israelis are no innocents in the ways of terrorism e.g.Irgun,Stern gang.
    Still,Shalit needs to go home.Let Hamas show compassion,even if unrequited.Muchiboy

  • Bill

    It's sad that what's left of the legitimage, rational, international community has been unable to publically condemn such clear violations of international law like kidnappings and extortion – when Israel is the victim. This kind of blatant bias is itself an "act of aggression" and makes the U.N. and EU leadership as promoters by their tacit approval.

    Israel is in the center of the coliseum and the fight is merely a sport for the pathetic "international community." It's no longer even necessary to acknowledge the 40-state Arab-Islamic block which is able to turn the world, including Obama's America, into an international community of puppets controlled by petrodollars and terrorism. He is joining the appeasers of Europe in opening the gates.

    • Ron Grant

      “It’s sad that what’s left of the legitimage, rational, international community has been unable to publically condemn such clear violations of international law like kidnappings and extortion – when Israel is the victim.”
      While many Israelis have indeed been victims of terrorism,I do not consider Israel a victim.Really,unless and until Israelis acknowledge their Palestinian victims,they will be that less humane.It will be as if all the suffering of the Holocaust was for naught,as if humanity has learned nothing of suffering.For every Palestinian victim of Israeli injustice,it is as if every Jewish victim of the Holocaust suffered for nothing.You,of all people should know better.You,who have suffered so much for so long,can so readily victimize another vulnerable people,and deny,rationalize and persist in that victimization.That being the case,is there any hope for humanity? Muchiboy

      • Meir

        Ron, stop please with your moralizing drivel and comparisons of the 'suffering' Palestinians with the Holocaust. The Palestinians have themselves to blame. Jews lost 6 million-Palestinians have a bourgening population according to their own sources. What an odious comparison you try and make.

  • Carole

    William Smart has probably been fed lies about the Jews and actually believes them, very sad that he`s so gullible and does not know what is really going on!

  • Candy

    My goodness! Four years of captivity. This young guy is going to need a serious piece of ,,,, candy when he gets released.

    • xman

      If he ever gets released. Those savages probably murdered him and buried his corpse at least three years ago.

  • Crusader

    Don't expect mercy , these are muslims to whom an infidel's life means nothing ,cruelty has no bounds .

  • von Starkermann

    As a lover of German culture, I must admit that the Red Cross has an absolute mandate to visit this prisoner of war. The fact that Hamas does not allow this in itself is a gross violation of International Law and should be punished. As a visitor to Israel and the surrounding Arab States on numerous occasions, it baffles me that the Government of Israel regardless of it being Left, Right, or Center does not do more vis-a-vis with its prisoners held outside of Israel proper.