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The Shalit debate gets animated

    The cartoon that appeared on YouTube mocking those Israelis in favour of a prisoner-swap deal with Hamas
    The cartoon that appeared on YouTube mocking those Israelis in favour of a prisoner-swap deal with Hamas

    As Israel and Hamas have resumed negotiations in recent days over a deal to free Gilad Shalit, the lobby against a deal has enjoyed unprecedented exposure.

    Hamas is demanding that in return for Mr Shalit, an Israeli soldier abducted in 2006, Israel frees 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including some who have launched attacks on civilians.

    Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin are known to have deep reservations about the proposed exchange, including fears that freed prisoners will perpetrate more attacks and that Hamas will capture further soldiers. Yet grassroots efforts to publicise arguments against a deal have had very limited success - until now.

    A satirical animation, which mocks the immensely popular campaign for a prisoner exchange, has received almost 160,000 viewings on YouTube since it was posted earlier this month.

    The video mocks followers of the campaign as naive simpletons who are playing into Hamas's hands by boosting the price it can demand for him. "Supply and demand," explains a Hamas character as he raises the price he rings up on a till.

    The cartoon was made by a 31-year-old Israeli man, signed up to YouTube under the name "Chirdap", who agreed to be interviewed only on condition that his identity is not revealed.

    He said that he made the animation - which cost "nothing more than my spare time" - out of concern "for the safety of the entire Israeli civilian population", and out of a desire to redress what he views as the Israeli media's attempts to "create a fake consensus" in favour of a prisoner exchange.

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