Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gilad Shalit and Israel’s Mass Hysteria

He is finally back. It has been reported that 79 per cent of Israel’s population approve of the prisoner exchange.

Not all, but many of the 1027 Palestinian prisoners are murderers, men and women with blood on their hands. Many have made it clear that they do not regret their deeds and many of those released are likely to go back to terrorism. Some Palestinian terrorists who have been released in the past, have gone back and killed again. So why has Netanyahu agreed to this deal?

Natanyahu has previously made it clear that he is against such swaps. He attacked previous governments for agreeing similar exchanges and is ideologically opposed to what he has just done. With this deal, Israel has handed Hamas, with its unwillingness to recognise Israel, its call for the Jewish state to be abolished and for the continued armed struggle against Israel, a coup vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority run by Mr Abbas which has chosen the non violent route to achieve statehood. It may be that that Mr. Netanyahu wished to do just that: weaken that Palestinian element that does not fit Israel’s view and propaganda. If Hamas gains power in the West Bank in addition to ruling the Gaza Strip, Israel will be able to claim that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. This would suit Netanyahu and his friends and enable them to continue with building of further Jewish settlement in the Occupied Territories.

However, I believe that what really pushed Netanyahu to act against his deep convictions was the Shalit family campaign. Much has been written in the last few days about solidarity in Israeli society as the driving force that generated the deal. I would call it mass hysteria. Well and professionally orchestrated mass hysteria into which the Shalit family has very successfully propelled Israel’s population. Wherever you went, you could not avoid seeing Gilad’s photo, on big road signs, on car stickers, in electronic media in social networks. Calls for the government to pay whatever price to get Gilad back became part of life in Israel. They set up a camp in front of the Prime Minister’s residence, held marches in which wives of senior cabinet members took part, infiltrated every public debate with their propaganda of “Free Gilad Shalit”. This family managed to force Israel’s President, it’s Prime Minister and his wife meet with them, almost at command. Families whose sons were killed in action do not benefit from such attention. This was an amazing, well-oiled marketing operation.

The willingness of parents to turn the world upside down to get their son back is obvious. Yet, the by-product of Shalit’s release is the message given to the Arab world that Israeli society will pay any price to release a prisoner. In their hysteria they did not consider the almost certainty that Israelis will die as direct result of the release of unrepentant murderers. The next murder will turn the same people hysterically to demand action against Hamas. In such actions Israeli soldiers might get killed. This is why the deal was wrong. Hysteria does not lead to good decision-making. Unfortunately, that is how weak and visionless governments function.


  1. also ein Israeli (als Soldat) ist den Israelis so viel wert wir 1000 Palestinis (als Terroristen) wert sind. Da weiß jeder
    Palestini, dass es sich lohnt, einen Israeli zu fangen.

    Absolut irre: voll von Rassismus und Programmierung von weiterem Irrsinn.

  2. As always interesting. Netanjahu reconfirmed his lack of qualification for his job,it makes no sense to exchange 1 soldier for 1000 terrorists. Your interpretation is interesting and sounds plausible to a total outsider.

    Send them all to jail!!

  3. David
    You ask why Netanyahu made this deal. To me, the obvious answer is, Egypt. The Egyptians mediated the exchange. They have long sought to exercise some control over Hamas, not because they like Hamas but because they have problems nearer home with the god-fearing types.

    The Egyptian “revolution” never was; it was a popularly-inspired military takeover. The military have problems about legitimacy and how to manipulate political forces to ensure that their privileged position in the State (and economy!) is preserved. This deal makes it easier for them to ride off the Muslim extremists and goes down well, I should imagine, with virtually all Egyptians.

    Netanyahu must have nightmares about Egypt abrogating the Egypt/Israel Treaty and I suspect this deal was thought to be a price worth paying, apart from the domestic reasons adduced in your blog.

  4. To put it mildly, the first part of your blog sounds pretty farfetched, i.e. that Netanyahu exchanged Shalit solely to weaken Abbas.

    I wish I could say the same about the second part. Unfortunately it is very probable that you are dead right (pun intended).

    I wouldn`t call it hysteria though. The masses have a right to be irrational or sentimental or short sighted, even if many of its constituent individuals realize the mistake. Ultimately it speaks for their humanity that in their unreflected sentiments Jews are willing to set many unrepenting murderers free in exchange for a single Jewish soul.

    Of course a more selfconfident and less troubled government than that of Netanyahu would have resisted.

  5. David,
    The IDF fights terrorists in the west bank and the Gaza border on a daily basis. So now there are some more, big deal. As long as the conflict persists, there are going to be casualties, soldiers and palestinians, and there's no avoiding that.

    Gilad Shalit could be everybody's son. Every family with a soldier thanks god that they are not the Shalit family, but they could have been. His return is an announcement to all IDF soldiers and their families - you are not alone, Israel is behind you. It means a lot.

    The next announcement should be a political one, one that will endorse a Palestinian state and end the bloody conflict. but it seems that it won't be Bibi who says it.

  6. Lieber David:
    Rational betrachtet hast Du natürlich recht. Aber wenn man diesen armen Jungen am Tag seiner Ankunft in Israel sah, dann muß man Natanjahu loben. Wahrscheinlich werden viele Familien, deren Kinder in der israelischen Armee dienen, diesen Deal gut finden - aus Angst ihr eigener Sohn oder ihre eigene Tochter könnten mal in palästinensische Gefangenschaft geraten. Politik ist nun mal ein Jonglieren mit Emotionen. Grüße, Corinna