On the 18th October 2011, Gilad Shalit was freed by Hamas militants into the custody of Egypt and from there flown by helicopter home to Israel, back into the arms of family and friends who had not seen him for five years. In return 1,027 Palestinian’s are to be returned home.
In most scenarios a trade of such imbalance would seem almost preposterous to any other nation. That is unless the captive in question was in some way unique, un-disposable. Gilad Shalit, however, was not. He holds the rank of Sergeant First Class, the lowest non-commissioned officers rank, aged nineteen, and with a low medical profile. The Palestinian prisoners released were all convicted prisoners, some of whom convicted for acts of terrorism and murder. Regardless of this the high ransom for such a captive remains, in many ways, accurate.
In a recent article Israeli Novelist A.B. Yehoshua had this to say:
“[Israeli] soldiers are well trained and rely on advanced technologies and military abilities that are superior to those of the Arab countries – and far better than those of Palestinian militant groups. By demanding the release of more than 1,000 prisoners in exchange for one soldier, Hamas is conceding the stark military reality of this imbalance: thousands of their prisoners, fighting with knives, explosive belts, and primitive rockets, are worth only one Israeli soldier.”
Suggesting Hamas was not aware of this “stark military reality of imbalance” seems almost childish as this is not a reality they act in blissful ignorance off but is rather one they have been forced to live with in their streets and town, which remain the parade grounds for Israeli tanks and the targets for Israeli bombs. Hamas are more than aware of this imbalance and it is this blinding reality that had them seek the numbers they did.
Yehoshua’s statement must make us ask if Israel really understand the one sided nature of this never ending war?
For generations the Israeli media have been playing Hamas and other militant groups off as simply terrorist organisation committing terrorist acts. Since the election of 2007 in which Gaza won a majority it is clear that they are, as much as Israel, America, and the EU would like to deny, the democratically elected head of Gaza making their acts those of war. War being the way we must begin to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict. The shear number of prisoners Israel was able to release explains the imbalance of this war.
The famous quote states, ‘The death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million a statistic”. As the media confirms, the capture of Sergant Gilad Shalit was a tragedy and his release a cause for great joy. The arrest and detainment of thousands of Palestinians over the years and the statistical nature of their release simply a note.
Read A.B. Yehoshua article, A Thousand To One, here.