Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Am I Waiting for Gilad Shalit?

The hottest trend on Facebook now is for people to change their status to "...has been waiting for Gilad Shalit for two years". Over the last several days, a significant number of my friends have joined the wave. This morning, I received my own invite. If I wish, on June 25, I can also up the ante and change my facebook profile picture to that of Gilad Shalit.

I am not sure what to do.

On the one hand, yes, I want Gilad Shalit to come home. On the other hand,I have to admit to being very troubled with Noam Shalit's stance toward the recent truce between Israel and Hamas. He has demanded that the government condition any truce and any easing of conditions on the return of his son. Thousands of Israelis are suffering under daily rocket barrages from Gaza. Thousands of Israeli children are growing up in an active war zone. Israelis are being killed and injured. Why are we supposed to do nothing to help them? Why are their lives less important than that of Gilad Shalit?

What am I saying if I change my status? Am I saying that I believe that everything and anything should be conditioned on Gilad Shalit's return? Or am I saying that we should be making every effort to bring him home AND to bring quiet, and that the two processes may well be separate. And that, in fact, to the extent that numbers have any relevance in respect to setting our priorities, thousands of Israelis trounce one. Seven years trounces two.

Which brings me to another, rather cynical, question I have beating around my brain. I ask myself this: Gilad Shalit has been in captivity for two years. Sderot and its surroundings have been under attack for seven. What was Noam Shalit doing about this during the long five years of attacks when his son was safe at home and when the people of Sderot were suffering? Where was his outrage then?

Did he give a shit?

But I am conflicted because I am not a soldier. I came too late to serve. I am conflicted because I do not have children who will serve (at least not yet). Who am I to say anything? Who am I to have an opinion? How am I any different from the armchair Zionists, the hawks and the doves, who pontificate from afar without ever risking having to suffer the consequences of their plans?

If it were me, I know what I would believe, or at least I know what I believe now, when it is all theoretical. My life is not by definition more important than that of another. But what if it were my child?

Whether I change my status or not, I am taking a stand. I just wish I really knew where I stood.


Rony and Talia said...

There's a very interesting op/ed about the FB groups in today's (Hebrew) Ynet: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3559138,00.html.

Basically it asks if the whole act of changing your profile pic to that of Gilad Shalit isn't actually an insult (in Hebrew it's ביזיון). Basically over the next two days Gilad Shalit's picture will be poking people, writing on people's walls, joining groups, etc. I am guilty of being one of those FB people (and I am most likely the one who sent you the invite!) but it HAS made me think twice.

I'm not sure what I'd do in the same situation. I am 100% with everything you said (lives of thousands vs life of one etc.) but doesn't our religion say every life is important? Look how many hundreds - and sometimes thousands - if prisoners we release in exchange for dead bodies. On the other hand, I think that were we the parents of Gilad Shalit, and we would be seeing our child as one of those being hurt, then it's entirely possible that we wouldn't be able to see so far beyond our own issues.

That said, I WOULD like to point out that in the months after Gilad's kidnapping, Poppa Shalit DID tell Olmert NOT to launch a huge offensive in Gaza because of his son.

Gila said...

Thanks for the link--just popped over there. I did not look at it in the same way as the Op-ed writer, but he has a point.

In respect to the Shalit family requests not to invade, I was actually wondering about that. I could not remember what their stance was, if any, and did not have time to look it up. This makes his current objection to the truce even more problematic. Quiet is bad. Invasions is bad. So what is good? From his POV, I deduce (and perhaps incorrectly?) that nothing, absolutely nothing, concrete can be done to try to ease the situation in Sderot et.al. until his boy is home?

Who is being held hostage now?

ממש לא נראה לי

Anonymous said...

I don't think that Noam Shalit believes that all truce components should be fulfilled only on the condition that Gilad is included, but rather just the opening of the border crossings (and maybe the easing of other conditions as well, but I'm not sure). I don't think that he's against the ceasefire itself, though.

I can certainly understand his frustration with the government, and I can understand his need to feel that he's doing everything in his power to pressure them into bringing his son home (not to mention his feelings that the government doesn't seem to be making it a priority to do so...).

That being said, I can also understand your dilemma, and I imagine it's one that you share with many Israelis these days.

Rafi G. said...

the government has its obligations and the parents have their obligations. They are his parents and they have to do everything they can do get their son back.
The government has to have its own concerns at the forefront and do what it can to promote its interests.
Yes the government should do whatever it can to get him and the others back, but for the government the price can be too high, while for the parents it can never be too high.

Baila said...

When I read posts like that, Gila, it makes me realize what a shallow person I am. I was invited to join , and barely thought about it, because, hell, who doesn't want Shalit home? Even though I've been reading the newspapers, I didn't factor much thought into it. I was annoyed though, that for some reason FB wouldn't allow me to upload the photo.

I did briefly wonder about Regev and Goldwasser and the other MIA's--will we be changing our status for those soldiers as well?

sparrow said...

I think this discussion is very important. As an outsider, my observation is that whilst Shalit is a prisoner, Hamas will always have a bargaining chip, and this could go on indefinitely. AS we all know, no promises or conditions are kept on their side, whatever pain the Israelis are willing to take.
My stance would be, get Shalit home asap, take the "hit", so they can't ever use him again in negotiations. But I would also say make sure they have no opportunity to take any more prisoners and start the whole miserable process again.
Open to being shot down in flames!!
On another topic. Thanks for your blog Gila, I enjoy you very much and hope one day I will have the pleasure of meeting you.

Anonymous said...

As I wrote to you, I can't and won't do it. Not so much because I'm a non-conformist, and not because I don't want Shalit and all other captured MIA soldier home and free, but basically because it seems trite and missing the point and doesn't express how I feel about the complexity of the situation.

Brave post, and I'm proud of you for raising it!

Anonymous said...

Never ever do anything against your will or beliefs.

Lurker said...

Thousands of Israelis are suffering under daily rocket barrages from Gaza. Thousands of Israeli children are growing up in an active war zone. Israelis are being killed and injured. Why are we supposed to do nothing to help them? Why are their lives less important than that of Gilad Shalit?

You seem to be operating on the mistaken assumption that the temporary pause in attacks ("tahdiya") to which Hamas and Israel have agreed, is something aimed at "helping" the residents of Sderot and the western Negev. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth. Hamas wants a brief respite only in order to freely regroup and rearm for the next wave of attacks on Israel, without having to worry about Israeli strikes on their operatives engaged in the regrouping and rearming. As Hamas politburo leader Ayzat Arishak said on Friday, the "tahdiya" is in no way an abandonment of the "armed struggle". It is "local and temporary", he said, and is merely a "fighters respite" to allow the Palestinian people some "breathing space" prior to the next round of the "armed struggle". When the next wave comes (and it is coming soon, as Arishak promised), the residents of Sderot, Ashkelon, etc., will be the ones who will pay dearly for the few days or weeks of "quiet" that the government just purchased. So to suggest that the cease fire is going to "help them" is preposterous.

And that, in fact, to the extent that numbers have any relevance in respect to setting our priorities, thousands of Israelis trounce one. Seven years trounces two.

Are you seriously trying to suggest that living under the threat of Kassam attack is equivalent to being held prisoner for two years by fanatic terrorists holding a gun to your head?!

I have to admit to being very troubled with Noam Shalit's stance toward the recent truce between Israel and Hamas. He has demanded that the government condition any truce and any easing of conditions on the return of his son.

When Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas, Olmert launched a war in Gaza -- which, he told the Israeli public, and his own cabinet, was for the express purpose of obtaining Gilad Shalit's release. He gave an explicit commitment, several times, that Israel would not let up until Hamas returned him -- adding that this was an absolute and unbreakable demand, about which he would not negotiate: The following is from the transcript of his statment to the Cabinet at the time: "We will respond, and the response will be forceful. It won’t be an operation of one or two days. A line has been crossed. The policy of Israel always has been not to abandon soldiers. I repeat: No negotiations will be conducted. We will continue to conduct military and anti-terrorism operations."

About a year ago, Olmert broke his promise, and began negotiating with Hamas over terms for a cease-fire. He promised, however, that Israel would not, under any conditions, make any agreement with Hamas that did not include Gilad Shalit's release. He repeated this assertion over and over -- to the media, to the Cabinet, and to Noam Shalit. He repeated this promise as recently as two weeks ago, on June 15, at the weekly Cabinet meeting, just before the ministers voted to support Olmert's deal with Hamas. (His promise that there would be no deal without Shalit's release was included in the official Cabinet communique released to the press the same morning.)

All Noam Shalit is demanding is that Olmert keep his word. The word that he gave personally to Noam Shalit, to his own government ministers (prior to asking for their vote), and to the Israeli public.

I find something very awry, to say the least, in your perspective: Our Prime Minister has disdainfully broken his own explicit promise, made to the Cabinet and the public, without even bothering to explain himself. And when a private citizen demands that the PM keep his word -- a word that was given personally to that very citizen, in fact -- the party whom you choose to attack is not the Prime Minister, but rather the citizen who has dared to remind us all of the Prime Minister's promise. Olmert breaks two years of public commitments, and the thing that "troubles" you is the fact that Shalit is calling upon him to keep those commitments?!

What was Noam Shalit doing about this during the long five years of attacks when his son was safe at home and when the people of Sderot were suffering? Where was his outrage then?

Did he give a shit?

Do you have reason to believe that he was not outraged then?

Do you have evidence that he didn't "give a shit"?

If not, then why are you suggesting this??

First you attack Gilad Shalit's father for the sin of calling upon the Prime Minister to keep his own promise. Then you attack him for not "giving a shit" about the residents of the western Negev before his son was kidnapped, without providing even a shred of evidence to back up your charge.

To say that your attacks on Shalit are unjustified would be a gross understatement.

RivkA with a capital A said...

I agree with Lurker.

I found this post disturbing. I am not into the facebook thing, but I am apalled that the government has abandoned Gilad Shalit, despite their promises.

Of course Noam Shalit is up in arms.

Does anyone talk about Zachary Baumel these days? His father believes he is still alive. No one cares.

The more time passes, the more Gilad Shalit risks turning into another Zach Baumel.

Ask yourself: what would you be doing if it was your son?

Gila said...

I believe some of you are missing the point-which means I did not articulate it well. (My apologies). The question is really NOT what the government should think or what its priorities should be or what Noam Shalit should think or what his priorities should be.

The question is what I should think. What should my priorities be? My priorities will not be the same (nor should they be the same) as those of Noam Shalit. My priorities may or may not be the same as the government. It depends on me. It depends on the government.

Should I be willing to condition any action with or in Gaza on Gilad Shalit where thousands of Israelis are suffering from ongoing rocket attacks. Should I think it okay to effectively hold these people hostage?

I don't. Nor do I play the "let's compare suffering game". In this case, I think it is fair to say that both sides have a valid case for the suffering awards.

As for whether a cease-fire or an invasion is a more practical solution FOR THE SITUATION IN SDEROT--suffice it say that I am neither a experienced military strategist nor an experienced diplomat. I do not know what is the right option. To my eyes, we need to do one or the other. We need to do something. Doing nothing, or virtually nothing, is not an option. We have been doing that for a while. It is not working.

I emphasized the bit on "for the situation on Sderot" for a reason. The solution (be it long-term or short-term) for that issue may be entirely separate from that of Gilad Shalit. Gilad Shalit might be acheived with a prisoner exchange. (Will not get into the pros and cons of that. I have heard a fair amount of stuff from both sides--no idea what is true).

As for my comments on Noam Shalit not caring about Sderot before his son was kidnapped--apparently here I was also unclear, and again, I apologize. I do not know what his views were before. My issue is that the people of Sderot and its environs were suffering long before this kidnapping. They were begging for relief long before this kidnapping. Now, voila, someone comes from out of nowhere and says "we must condition any action that will help Sderot--military or diplomatic" on the return of my son.

I do know what I would think if this were me. I do not know what I would think if this were my son (and THAT I stated explicitely in the post). But I also do not know what I would think if I were living in Sderot.

I don't suppose that I have any Sderot-based lurkers.....

There is always pressure to

Lurker said...

Gila: Nor do I play the "let's compare suffering game".

But in your post you do exactly that:

Why are their lives less important than that of Gilad Shalit?
...in fact, to the extent that numbers have any relevance in respect to setting our priorities, thousands of Israelis trounce one. Seven years trounces two.

Gila said...

That is not comparing suffering. That is comparing numbers. There is a difference. Comparing suffering is to say "an individual being held hostage for two years is suffering more than a community under attack for seven years".

I do not know who you are (because you are, effectively, anonymous). As such, I have no idea what your experiences have been. As for me, I have never done either. Both seem pretty lousy, from my point of view. Both entail quantities of suffering worthy of respect.

Again, the issue here is not whether or not the government has done or said X. Olmert has his opinion. I have mine. What I am asking myself here is what do I believe? What do I think is the right thing to do? Given that the a significant portion of the "Free Gilad Shalit" campaign seems to weigh every act vis a vis Gaza based on how it impacts Gilad, without consideration on the ramifications for the rest of the country, do I want to identify myself with it by adding that tagline onto my Facebook status? Do I want to take this political move?

You see, I like to think before I do.

Or, as Clarence Darrow put it: Do you think about the things you do think about?

I believe that we should arrange for Gilad Shalit's release with all due speed. I also believe that we should arrange for the relief of Sderot and the Negev with all due speed. I do not believe that one should be contingent on the other; that one should be held hostage to the other. At the same time, I realize that it may not be possible to separate the two. For example, many propose invading Gaza in order to stop the rocket fire. However, that could easily result in Gilad being killed.

But if we do not stop the rocket fire, how many Israelis in Sderot, in Ashkelon and in the kibbutzim will be killed? For that matter, if we release prisoners, how many of them will return to terrorist acts and how many Israelis will die? (Bonus thought to agonize over: assuming we could confirm the fate of Goldwasser and Regev, should Kuntar be released in exchange for corpses?) How many more soldiers and Israelis will be kidnapped because we have demonstrated that this is a valid currency?

And this is where the numbers come in.

I am not saying that I am against a prisoner exchange etc. I am saying that the matter and my view of it is a bit too complex to be expressed in a simple Facebook game.

If you believe something else, that is fine. These are my opinions, not yours. Many people have different opinions. That is why there are so many blogs.

RivkA with a capital A said...


You opened the pandora's box...

There is an inherent connection between the Kassams falling in Sderot and Gilad Shalit. There is also an inherent connection between the Kassams that are now falling in Sderot, and the Kassams that were falling for years in Gush Katif.

If you want to stop the Kassams falling in Sderot, you need to destroy our enemies, rather than capitulate to them.

By withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, and destroying the Jewish communities there, we gave a very powerful message to Hamas and the PLO/PA -- keep showering us with Kassams and we will run away.

So, Hammas and the PLO/PA learned their lessons well, and are continuing to shower rockets on Sderot.

Gilad Shalit was kidnapped right outside the Gaza Strip. He was kidnapped in defiance of the State of Israel, when Hammas saw our weakness, after we ran away from their Kassams.

We ran away from the Kassams, we ran away from our soldier (when we still had the chance to get him back), and we are running away now.

But this is more than just about our cowardice.

By not making our soldiers a priority, we are, again, teaching Hammas an important lesson: we don't care about our own.

When our soldiers are kidnapped and then abandoned by our government, then that decreases morale. It weakens our army.

Hammas understands what our government does not.

If you really care about the people suffering from the barrage of Kassams in Sderot, then you need to remember Gilad Shalit and you need to remember the residents of Gush Katif.

Because the Kassams are still falling. And there will be more.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you have been saying. These two issues are entirely separate and shouldn't be conditioned on each other. Just like Noam Shalit is asking the government to condition a cease fire on the release of his son, what would happen if the government reaches a deal for the release of Gilad Shalit and Sderot goes to the Supreme Court and demands that the deal for releasing Shalit also include cessation of Kassam rockets everywhere and anywhere in the South.


Anonymous said...

perhaps if people actually cared about the older MIA's they wouldnt have been forgotten. peopel keept talknig about shalit but how long before they forget like the others? just last week everyone was talknig about 2 year anniversary of the shalit captures. withing two days of that anniversary, during the same week was 26th anniversary of the capture of baumel.jatz and feldman.

but no one cared.

A Soldier's Mother said...

Hi Gila,
If it helps any, most of Israel is conflicted about what to do - both with the deal for Eldad and Ehud, as well as Gilad Shalit and the residents of Sderot, Askhelon, etc.

It is very clear that the great disengagement plan was a huge joke...on us and we are all paying the price. Nobody is paying it more than the people of Sderot and Askhelon, and the Regev, Goldwasser and Shalit families.

What were they doing for the 5 years before these past two years? Obviously, not enough. But at this point, what we are left with is today's reality.

If you had asked me the day before yesterday how I felt about these prisoner swaps, I would have told you that I was 100% opposed to them, that I believed it was further capitulation and, like Sharon's pathetic plan, would just make things worse.

Today, I feel differently about the deal for Eldad and Ehud? Why? So, first - why was I against it? Because I believed it was wrong to exchange Samir Kuntar, the child killer, for two dead bodies...and I was sure they were dead. Now - I still believe they are dead, but having listened to the families, I understand that they too believe this. It isn't that they are fooling themselves. Karnit Goldwasser's words were clear - she wants to go home and be alone with her pain. Those simple words changed what I felt because she is suffering more than most could imagine. I do have a son in the army. I live with that fact every day, all day and a part of my heart is simply terrified all the time. And I'm lucky, because he's in artillery and he's really fine and I can call him and he comes home often and I can hug him. Today is Monday - he'll be home Friday. Karnit and the families don't have that, haven't had it for two years, and will never have it.

As for the Shalit family, I can't judge them, not now. As bad as the situation is for the children and families in Sderot, they, like me, live with the reality that they can see their loved ones. Yes, many have died and been injured, but I think the not knowing is the worst of all.

For the Regev and Goldwasser families, and perhaps even for the Arad family, the unknown is about to become known and the pain they have lived with for two years will give way to a much harder pain, but even that pain is probably easier to bear than the not knowing and the fear.

For the Shalit family, this deal may well have pushed the price for Gilad above what we can pay.

If we are lucky, Samir Kuntar will die of a heart attack the minute his foot touches Lebanese soil (hopefully they've been feeding him 100% MacDonalds hamburgers morning, noon and night). For all that Kuntar is an animal, I doubt he'll be sent on another mission to Israel; I doubt he'll do any more killing.

But the price that Hamas is demanding includes hundreds of murderers (of Sbarro planners, and several other major attacks). I don't know that the Israeli government will last long enough to agree to such terms or that the Israeli people would support it.

I'm not changing my FB picture...instead, I'm going to hope that somehow in Gaza, there's some undercover unit that's going to stumble on where they are holding Gilad and with super technology, hear him talking, break in, and bring him home...

I'm going to hope that very soon, we'll be able to celebrate in the wild happiness that Lebanon is about to experience.

For all their worrying, the Shalit's have known that their son is basically ok and that there is tremendous international pressure (French, American, etc.) to keeping Gilad alive. It isn't great, but it isn't the same as what the Goldwasser and Regev (and Ron Arad and Zachary Baumel and Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz families have suffered).

Anyway, I hope whatever decision you make...goes easy for you.


Anonymous said...

I do not think it matter what Gilad's father o mother or whatever thinks or says. I think is wonderful that the people are waiting for this young soldier. Just that. I am also waiting for Gilad to leave that dark room and come to the light of freedom and to be embraced by his parents and friends and people that are waiting for him.