Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Gilad deserves better than this

    When details of Gilad Shalit's conversations with military investigators were published last week, a vocal minority criticised him. One Israeli commentator even called for Gilad to stand trial for "negligence". I was disappointed but not surprised by these responses. During the years I spent campaigning for Gilad's freedom, I encountered relentless negativity from some friends of Israel.

    I was told that campaigning was futile, as Hamas would never release Gilad, except in a coffin. When the wonderful day came that he walked free, the doom-merchants changed tack, telling me that Hamas would have tortured him daily for five years, so he would be "as good as dead".

    Whenever I questioned these claims, I was told I was hopelessly naïve. "You don't get it," they told me, employing the condescending catch-phrase so beloved of the more cultish members of our movement. Thank goodness enough of us did "get it" and never gave up.

    Since the fuller account of Gilad Shalit's experiences has emerged, some say he was too weak or passive on the day of his kidnap. It's easy to criticise from afar, isn't it? None of us can know how we would have reacted. These armchair heroes remind me of the fat old men you see at football matches, who wheezingly berate the young athletes on the field.

    Uglier still was the palpable sense of disappointment at Gilad's revelation that he was not tortured, other than "slight annoyances" in the first days. So caught-up are some in the quest for anti-Hamas propaganda that they would almost have preferred tales of brutality. Gilad is merely a pawn in the political cause of such Israel "supporters"- just as he was for Hamas. It's very sad when people on both sides place ideology ahead of humanity.

    They would almost have preferred tales of brutality

    Many missed the real revelation of the story: Gilad Shalit's commendable honesty. He could have claimed convincingly to have forgotten the circumstances of his abduction, or presented a more flattering account. Instead, he told the story in all its uncomfortable truth. This speaks volumes for his character.

    I was already familiar with his admirable character, as I spent a day with him earlier this year. We had tea with his family and then strolled between London landmarks.

    He is a sensitive, kind and observant young man, aware of and grateful for the enormous efforts so many made on his behalf. It was wonderfully surreal to walk down London's South Bank, discussing European football with the man who was for so long a hostage, a face on thousands of leaflets and news bulletins. How surreal freedom must be for him.

    The deal for his release came with a price: more than 1,000 prisoners were set free. Although I was in favour of the exchange, I understand the perspective of the people who opposed it. It would be good if those who continue to feel bitterness over the deal could move on and leave their resentment behind, or at least channel it towards those who struck the deal, rather than at Shalit himself, who had no part in the negotiations.

    So he didn't act like an ice-cool Spartan on the day of his capture? These things happen when you push everyone into national service. Even the bravest of IDF troops are not guaranteed reward or respect, as the Mavi Marmara commandos discovered last week when Netanyahu sold them out with his apology to Turkey.

    Israeli soldiers are criticised enough by opponents of the Jewish state. Friends of Israel should not be adding unwarranted judgments of their own.

Blogs

Pesach breakfast ideas

The Fresser

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pesach breakfast ideas
Comment

10 resolutions for anxious liberals

Edie Friedman

Friday, December 30, 2016

10 resolutions for anxious liberals
Comment

When it comes to rabbis, who is really in charge?

Miriam Shaviv

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When it comes to rabbis, who is really in charge?
Blogs

Fressing at the launch of Emma Spitzer's book, ...

The Fresser

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fressing at the launch of Emma Spitzer's book, ...
Comment

Year in review: USA 2016

Jonathan Cummings

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Year in review: USA 2016
Comment

No community has a monopoly on abuse

Sandy Rashty

Thursday, December 1, 2016

No community has a monopoly on abuse
Comment

Breaking out of the bubble in India

Eli Baigel

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Breaking out of the bubble in India
Features

Year in review: the arts 2016

Keren David

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Year in review: the arts 2016
Comment

Hamilton shows us immigrants can get a shot

Erica Brown

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hamilton shows us immigrants can get a shot