There are several things that come to mind when you hear about the release of Gilad Shalit in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
- The exchange rate. One Israeli life is worth 1,000 Palestinian lives. Or appears to be, whether in this instance or in the vengeance Israel visits on Palestinians when an Israeli dies in an attack. And it could be more than 1000 when you consider Israel will just round up hundreds more in the next raid.
- How many of the 1,027 have had a fair trial (jury, lawyer allowed to see evidence, allowed to see lawyer, etc) and been convicted and how many are being held without charge, without access to lawyer and family, in unsuitable conditions, tortured, or in any other violation of Israeli or international law. How many or what percentage of ALL Palestinian prisoners are political prisoners?
- The bias toward Israel in the media and dehumanization of Palestinians. We all know about Gilad Shalit and the plight of his family. This is the same with suicide bombing victims' families of the past. Do we ever get a story on a Palestinian whose house was demolished, whose brothers and father were arrested for no reason, whose family members were killed by "stray bullets" to the head, any IDF operation, being an IDF human shield, or violating curfew? Of course not. We give more airtime to Israeli victims than we did Rachel Corrie, a US citizen killed by the IDF! The most you will see is a few pictures of nameless Palestinian women crying over rubble. There will be no human interest story, no names given, no follow up for the thousands (of innocents) who die at the hands of the Israeli Occupation Army. Often, the justification is given that the deaths are so constant that it takes a major extraordinary event, not just the daily struggle to survive to make news and be worth a journalists' effort to write and send to their boss.
- Why not release all the lawmakers and politicians they have arrested so that Palestinians can get on with state building?
- Why release the hundred(s) of prisoners that have been proven in a fair trial to have blood on their hands. Is it worth it to free one guy?
- The large settlement approval that comes on the heels of Shalit being freed. I thought the deal was to promote peace? Why do something immediately that is blatantly illegal, on a large scale and very public?
So that last one seems surprising until you realize Israel likes to announce these things when American officials visit or when everyone seems to be thinking about coming to the table to talk.
It seems like it isn't often Ban Ki-Moon has anything to say about Israel, but he's calling the recent settlement plan coming in the wake of the release of Gilad Shalit and the PA UN bid unacceptable.
This rabbi makes a good point about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. They don't get trials, are sometimes tortured, are held in inhumane conditions and if changes to Israel's protocol are made, they could demand the same of Hamas.
I find this sentence in a Telegraph article quite interesting:
Hundreds of those included in the exchange were convicted for their involvement in deadly attacks on Israelis, but the Palestinians regard the detainees as heroes, calling them political prisoners.
Ok. It says hundreds were indeed convicted for deadly attacks. Let's say this is true. I don't know. I haven't been able to find much out about the Palestinian prisoners. And I don't know if those convicted of resisting the occupation army are considered among these hundreds of guilty, which would inflate the number. If hundreds are guilty that leaves hundreds (a majority? who knows.) that have not been tried or are being held even though innocent. These ARE political prisoners! And whether they are found guilty or not, conditions of prisons are deplorable and treatment can border on torture, so that would be reason enough to consider them heroes- Israel's giving them this reason, this badge of honor or surviving conditions in Israeli prisons- but that could be a reason even the guilty are revered. (Though most or many -again, who knows- could be innocent political prisoners.)
A few lists of the names of the prisoners. No word on the status- political prisoners, fair trial, numbers, convicted. The NY Times makes sure you know kidnappers and murders are being released, though. I'm sure the implication is that all in Israeli prisons are treated like they are here and all are guilty, blah, blah, blah.
Palestinian prisoners in general: