Who says the general public isn't involved? Who dares claim it lacks a worthy civil protest movement? Just look at how the nation is shouting, nay, screaming for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Kindergartens and universities, cars and balconies are awash with a sea of banners calling for his release; television franchisee Reshet has launched a campaign, presenter Oded Ben-Ami has started a day count and journalist Gadi Sukenik has had a clock ticking on his show since the abduction in 2006, asking viewers to send text messages to show support. How moving. Even the ticket machine in the parking lot is adorned with Shalit's photo - for 16 shekels you can buy a parking ticket and take part in a protest.
Everywhere we see protest tents and marches, drivers honking and demonstrators shouting in unison: "We want him home and we want him now." And who doesn't want Shalit to come home? What can we agree more about than that? The prime minister's wife, the infrastructure minister, the president - they all support the protest but act like observers who bear no responsibility; they jump on the bandwagon going nowhere.
This protest is for spoiled people seeking deluxe activism. It's a Purim protest, a demonstration in costume, just like the national campaign against traffic accidents or the light aircraft aerial display organized by supporters of the release of airman Ron Arad, missing since falling captive in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Only one banner needs to be raised reading "release 1,000 terrorists." That banner shouldn't be put up outside the Prime Minister's Residence but outside the Hadarim Prison where Palestinian prisoners are held. How many of the thousands of activists who support Shalit's release are willing to do that?
Just like other crucial matters like, say, peace, we are all in favor - but at what price? That's another matter. Let's not get into it. It's enough to say we favor a two-state solution. When exactly? Why not now? What about the Jewish settlements in the West Bank? Let's not quarrel over trifles and spoil everything.
As is their wont, Israelis demand to fly business class but pay with bonus points. Peace for peace, Shalit for Shalit. They want to have their cake and eat it too; for Shalit to be released without releasing Palestinians. The media fan the flames, crying that the prisoners have "blood on their hands;" politicians preach that we should stay quiet "lest the price rises." But the price has not risen or fallen, nor will it fall in the future. But how many of Shalit's supporters even debate that issue?
The only issue worth a real protest might be a campaign against the release of prisoners altogether, whether now or in the future. But such a campaign would be too controversial, so better stay far from that fire. Meanwhile, no one has started a campaign for releasing Palestinian prisoners that would free Shalit - not Reshet, not its sister franchisee Keshet, Ben-Ami or Sukenik. If people truly cared about Shalit's fate and saw it as more than a media stunt or gimmick, this would be their campaign's goal. But that would start a fierce public debate, which would be unacceptable to the decent protesters' sensibilities and their holy political correctness. Just listen to all those who worry about Shalit's fate; you'll never hear them say a word about the price that needs to be paid for his release.
It bears repeating: If you want Shalit to return then shout out for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Protest the lost time wasted on a campaign of fear against the question of the "price," or Shalit will become a second Arad. Don't believe the tall tales that the war in Gaza helped in talks with Hamas, and campaigns for his release are damaging. Don't believe that "progress" is being made in talks over his release. Hold to account our cowardly leaders who did not do everything they could - just as was the case with Arad. Only then can we say the public is involved and cares. Only if that cry is heard and replaces the current hollow one will we know that Israel really wants every mother's boy to come home.
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