As with most people, I genuinely hate to be pessimistic, but, as with most pessimists, I can’t help it. Upon learning that captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit would be returned home safely, I originally intended to write an article promoting a positive message of peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, that message of peace and prosperity will once again elude the state of Israel.
I foolishly believed that October 18, 2011 would be the day that a real peace - not just peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or Israel and Hamas - between Israelis and the Palestinian people, would be within our sights.
With the eyes of the world on Israel and the Palestinians as they dramatically exchanged prisoners, an idealist peacenik’s dream easily came to mind. This dream, wherein we would all finally view the conflict through the eyes of the family and friends who have suffered, was finally within reach.
I truly felt that Palestinians and the Arab world would see the heartbreaking footage of Shalit being reunited with his family the same way that Israel and the global Jewish community saw it. For once, it appeared that the families - not the politicians - were the important ones in the conflict, and that compassion would transcend borders. Palestinians being reunited with Palestinians, while an Israeli was simultaneously reunited with his country, genuinely made it appear that something truly great was in our grasp. I sincerely believed that the Israeli and Palestinian publics were seeing the conflict through each other’s eyes, and that there was a window of opportunity for both people to unite over the mutual cause of love for one’s family.
These beliefs crashed on the rocks of a tragic Middle Eastern reality. Haaretz documented a rally in Gaza welcoming home the newly released mass murderers: “The joyous crowd crammed into a sandy lot, where a huge stage was set up, decorated with a mural depicting the 2006 capture of Shalit during an attack on an Israel Defense Forces base near the Gaza border. ‘The people want a new Gilad!’ the crowd chanted.”
Crowds of revellers amassed in Gaza and the West Bank, with Palestinians vowing to continue waging jihad against Israel.
The reason why peace has eluded us was demonstrated in full force, and the core of the conflict was exposed; Palestinians vowed to repeat the trauma, while the entire Jewish community wept for Shalit’s family. The people of Israel heard demoralizing calls not only from Hamas, but from the Palestinian people as well, as they promised that these kidnappings would persist. Instead of merely celebrating the return home of their beloved terrorists, the Palestinians promised more war and more bloodshed. Abba Eban’s immortal phrase (“The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”) was confirmed on 18 October, 2011.
As if this was not enough, there came an absolutely despicable interview by Egyptian reporter Shahira Amin, who forever demeaned the term ‘journalist.’ Almost immediately after his release, and before he could even see a doctor or his family, Shalit was interviewed by an Egyptian television channel. Once it was discovered that Shalit had been interviewed with armed Hamas strongmen in the room (certainly coercing him into the interview), it made the already disturbing footage that much more uncomfortable. Decent people everywhere questioned whether Amin and the Egyptians who conducted the interview had any respect for Shalit’s human dignity whatsoever.
Despite Shalit appearing in immense physical and emotional discomfort, Amin displayed no compassion for the young man who had just left five years of hell. Instead, she took to badgering him with insensitive and plainly inappropriate questions. Amin illustrated her magnificent journalistic finesse by asking the newly released prisoner questions such as, “There are more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Will you help campaign for their release?” and, “What has the experience brought you? Has it made you stronger?”
Amin later said that she felt sympathy for Shalit, whose age is similar to that of her children. Yet any decent mother, let alone any civilized human being, would never stall the reunification of a son with his family to conduct a coerced and heartless interview. Bear in mind, also, that this interview was not conducted by a Gazan or West Bank media source; rather, it came from a reporter from Egypt, a Western ally with a formal peace with Israel. The single most tragic aspect of the interview was that Amin treated Shalit as if he had done something wrong.
These are not isolated incidents, but rather are microcosms of the broad and deep hatred for the state of Israel in the Arab world. Perhaps a brilliant cultural theorist can analyze why Gaza and the West Bank are the only two places on the planet where mass-murdering villains are given a heroes’ welcomes, or how a mother could stall the reunion of a young boy with his mother and father to hound him with insanely idiotic questions that would make anyone with a brain and a soul cringe. Regardless of the answer, peace continues to elude the state of Israel.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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photo credit IDF