03 July, 2010

What price for Gilad Shalit?

There are so many angles The Age could have taken for a story to mark Gilad Shalit's four years in captivity. As a counterpoint to their regular stories of the suffering of Palestinian families, they could have told us of the anguish suffered by his family, not having any idea where their son is being held, or any idea of the prospects for his release. They could have highlighted this blatant breach by Hamas of international law relating to the treatment of prisoners of war (although you could easily argue that Gilad is actually a kidnapped hostage, in which case Hamas's treatment of him is even worse), and the fact that no international aid organization (surely there are plenty of them operating in Gaza) have been allowed to visit him even to verify the conditions under which he is being held. They could have talked about how his captivity has challenged Israeli society who are struggling to reconcile the needs of one against the needs of the many. They could even have highlighted the absurdity that Israel is prepared to free thousands of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are being held for murderous terrorist activity, in exchange for a single soldier who was not even engaged in a direct combat role at the time of his capture - now there is a case of disproportionate!

But no. In another Jason Koutsoukis special, what we do read about is an attack on the Israeli PM for saying that they will not pay "any price" for the return of Gilad Shalit. He quotes an Israeli human rights advocacy group who claim that 750 Palestinian prisoners from Gaza (aren't they prisoners of war by any standard?) have been denied family visits (is there a box on the visa application form for Gazans wanting to visit Israel that says "prisoner family visit"?), and makes a bizarre contrast between them and Israeli prisoner Yigal Amir, who is accorded the rights of any other convict in Israel.

But the kick in the teeth in yet another biased report is the quote from a prominent Palestinian politician who claims that "everyone knows that Gilad Shalit is safe, that he is being looked after very well" ... and "... that Shalit's family has the right to visit him ...", finally giving the lame excuse that "it's complicated".

Where is the peace convoy headed to Gaza to visit Gilad Shalit and check on his well-being?

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