The Invisible Palestinians

Caroline Glick
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Posted: Jun 28, 2011 11:45 AM
The Invisible Palestinians
Sunday was the first day of Sgt. Gilad Schalit’s sixth year in captivity. Schalit was kidnapped on June 26, 2006 and has been held hostage by Palestinian terrorists affiliated with Hamas in Gaza ever since.

For five years, Schalit has been held incognito. His terrorist captors have permitted him to send but one letter to his family and released but one video of Schalit over this entire period. He has been denied visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross. He was clearly emaciated in the video.

Over the past five years, Hamas has engaged in periodic indirect negotiations with Israel through a German mediator and others. While their demands have varied from time to time, essentially they want Israel to release around 1,500 terrorists from its prisons in exchange for Schalit. And they want the terrorists to be released to their homes in Judea and Samaria and Gaza where they can pick up killing Jews where they left off.

And it isn’t only Hamas demanding these things. In an interview with IMRA news agency on May 25, Fatah negotiator Nabil Shaath said that the Fatah supports Hamas’s demands. Shaath explained that once the Fatah-Hamas unity government is formed Schalit will become the responsibility of the unified Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority will continue to hold Schalit hostage and demand that Israel release thousands of terrorists as ransom for his release. As he put it, “We have 7,000 political prisoners in Israel by design – taken by the Israeli authority. They have to be also freed.”

So the Palestinian leadership from Fatah and Hamas alike are unified in their view that it is perfectly acceptable to hold Schalit captive. As far as they are concerned, it is acceptable to stand in breach of international law and basic standards of humanity in order to extort Israel to free mass murderers from prison. And it is acceptable to the Palestinians for these murderers to return to their work killing as many Jews as they can get their hands on.

It is hard to think of a more despicable comment on the state of Palestinian society than their wall to wall support for the taking and holding of hostages or their desire to see mass murderers released from jail. A person could be forgiven for thinking that on the fifth anniversary of Schalit’s abduction that the media would be full of articles describing in detail the evil that is Hamas and Fatah which celebrate Schalit’s victimization and the suffering of his family.

But that person would be wrong. The media coverage of the fifth anniversary of Schalit’s kidnap devoted no attention to his Palestinian captors. In fact, if a person were simply going by what he learned from the Israeli media over the past several days, he would likely believe that either Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is hiding Schalit in his cellar, or that Netanyahu is colluding with Hamas to keep Schalit captive in Gaza.

Aping the increasingly grotesque genre of reality television shows, local celebrities and washed-out headline-starved failed former security brass got together with Yediot Aharonot and put on a reality TV stunt for the public to mark the anniversary.

One after another these supposedly concerned citizens walked into a knock-off solitary confinement cell furnished with a dirty toilet and television cameras. The beautiful ones sighed, cried, kicked, and whined for an hour apiece. Their performances were broadcast live on Yediot’s Ynet news portal.

Channel 2 rebroadcast the highlights on the evening news.

The purported goal of the campaign was to “raise public awareness,” about Schalit’s plight. As if the Israeli public isn’t aware of his plight. For the overwhelming majority of Israelis, the mention of Schalit’s name evokes profound concern and sorrow.

BUT THEN, Yediot knows that. And raising public awareness was not the goal of their televised pimping of Schalit’s suffering with the help of shameless celebrities and far-left retired generals. Their goal was to turn the public against Binyamin Netanyahu – Schalit’s imaginary jailer.

This message was delivered not only by the likes of radical failed Shin Beit chiefs Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon. It was delivered by Gilad Schalit’s father Noam Schalit at his press conference on Sunday.

Noam Schalit declared, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, you do not have the right to sentence Gilad to death. The weakness and the stubbornness you are showing in this crisis is an immediate danger for Gilad’s life and health. More than that, it is a danger for the values of the State of Israel, on which generations of Israelis were raised.” There is no doubt that Noam Schalit is acting as he is because he wants to get his son home alive. But there is also no doubt that by pressuring Netanyahu and the government and accusing them of being responsible for his son’s captivity, Noam Schalit is only making things worse.

Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Its terrorists in prison want to destroy Israel.

Hamas’s leaders view Schalit’s illegal incarceration and the anguish it causes in Israel as a source of pride for the movement and Palestinian society as a whole. It views the release of terrorists as a means of strengthening the jihadist movement politically and militarily.

Every time Noam Schalit blames the government for his son’s plight and demands that our leaders free terrorists to bring him home, he strengthens Hamas’s negotiating position.

On Sunday, Netanyahu admitted that the pressure worked. Netanyahu did in fact agree to what had been Hamas’s demands for the release of more than a thousand terrorists for Schalit and Hamas didn’t even bother responding to the offer.

On Monday, Hamas said that Netanyahu’s offer was too low.

With Noam Schalit and the media in its court, Hamas knows there is no reason to rush into anything. So its leaders raised the price still further.

SINCE SCHALIT was first kidnapped, his family has repeatedly invoked the plight of IAF navigator Col. Ron Arad who was taken hostage by Shi’ite terrorists when his plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986. Arad has been held hostage for the past quarter century.

The Schalits say their pressure campaign against the government is fuelled by their desire to prevent their son from sharing Arad’s fate.

These statements show that the Schalits fundamentally misunderstand what happened to Arad and what is happening to Gilad. It wasn’t for lack of will that Israel has failed to bring Arad home. Arad disappeared because Israel never had good intelligence information about his whereabouts.

If it had, Arad would have been rescued, dead or alive. According to recently retired IDF chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the same has been the case with Schalit.

In their refusal to recognize that they are hurting their son by directing their anger at the government rather than the Palestinians and their international supporters, the Schalits are unconscionably egged on by the media. As Yediot marked the fifth anniversary of Gilad’s internment with their celebrity solitary confinement stunt, Maariv marked the fifth anniversary by interviewing 25 celebrities about their activism on behalf of Schalit.

All these celebrity attacks on Netanyahu are consistent with the past five years of media coverage of Schalit’s confinement. It is also consistent with their past coverage of the captivity of every other IDF hostage taken by Arab terrorists in recent years.

THE SCHALIT family’s counterproductive behavior is the result of a combination of desperation, ignorance and manipulation by PR agencies. But what explains the media’s behavior? Why are they helping Hamas? Some media critics attribute their behavior to journalistic laziness and a desire to create sensational stories that will sell newspapers. No doubt there is some of that at work.

But lazy reporters and editors in search of screaming headlines have other options.

They could pit Noam Schalit against the father of one of the victims of the murderers whose release the Schalits and their supporters are demanding. That would make colorful page 1 copy.

The media could have a reporter spend an hour researching the Israeli and international self-described human rights community’s silence on Schalit’s plight and the shameless absence of any concerted demand by the self-proclaimed human rights community for his immediate release. Over the weekend, Israeli and international “human rights” groups B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Israel; Bimkom; Gisha; Human Rights Watch; International Federation for Human Rights; Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza; Physicians for Human Rights, Israel; Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; and Yesh Din all got together to release a statement about Schalit. They failed to call for his immediate release.

Certainly a banner headline reporting this outrage would have sold papers.

All of these stories and journalistic stunts are low-cost and would sell newspapers.

And at a minimum, none of them would harm Schalit’s chances of getting released.

Yet the media have opted to sell the tale of the government’s culpability for his suffering due to its failure to bow to Hamas’s ever-escalating demands.

The media’s behavior is puzzling not merely because they have options besides supporting Hamas. It is puzzling because their obsessive coverage of Schalit arguably hurts their tireless efforts to sell the public on the notion that it is a terrific idea to give Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem to Schalit’s captors. By reminding the public of Schalit, the media are also reminding the public that the Palestinians are not interested in peace and that they use the land Israel gives them to attack us. That is, their Schalit campaign undermines their appeasement campaign.

Finally, their demand that Netanyahu “release” Schalit is alienating their readers.

In the face of their intense campaign, “for Gilad” according to a poll published last month by Maariv, only 41 percent of the public agrees with their surrender at all cost strategy and 51 percent opposes it.

So by any rational measure, the media are acting against their own interests by pushing the pro-Hamas line. The only explanation that remains is irrational. But it is also consistent with the media’s serial irrationality on everything concerning Israel’s relationship with the Arab world generally and the Palestinians in particular.

The explanation is that like the rest of the Left – in Israel and worldwide – the media hold Israel responsible for Hamas’s imprisonment of Schalit because they perceive the Arabs generally and the Palestinians specifically as objects rather than actors. The only actors they see are Israel and the US.

Just as the international Left sends ships to aid and comfort Palestinian terrorists in Gaza to fight the so-called “occupation” which ended six years ago, so the Israeli media says the government is holding Gilad Schalit hostage. In both cases, the Palestinians are invisible, and inert.

To its credit, after five years of inaction, last Thursday, the Red Cross finally asked Hamas to prove Schalit is still alive. Gazans reacted to the move by attacking the Red Cross office in Gaza.

This major story received little mention in the media. And that makes sense. How can they cover a story about a group of people they can’t be bothered to notice?

caroline@carolineglick.com