Shalit Wasn't Kidnapped

From the moment Gilad Shalit was identified as 'kidnapped,' he was sentenced to everything that has happened to him since.

It was the Israeli government that coined the term "kidnapped soldier," and the media obediently joined the chorus. Gilad Shalit has been a prisoner of war for 1,205 days. The behavior of Israel's governments, politicians and generals who are responsible for this scandal evokes outrage and anger in every reasonable person, not just combat soldiers. Prisoners of war are not left in captivity. Wounded soldiers are not left on the battlefield. The state has an unwritten contract with each person drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, all the more so with someone in a combat unit. This is a breach of contract, a breach of faith - in short, a contemptible act.

The violation starts with the choice of terms, and the process of denial began immdiately. The Israeli government refused to call the taking of a prisoner of war by its real name, arguing that it was a "kidnapping." The Israeli media, which on security matters marches in lockstep like a Prussian regiment behind the generals, joined the chorus. Everyone, everyone almost without exception, spoke from the first day about the "kidnapped soldier." The term is significant. Every army in the world is accustomed to exchanging prisoners of war. Usually this is carried out at the end of a war. Sometimes it also takes place during a war. The army releases the enemy's fighters in return for its own fighters.

When it comes to kidnapping, the situation is altogether different. When criminals kidnap someone and demand a ransom, the question can arise whether to pay the price, which could encourage further kidnappings. It rewards criminals.

The world media also accepted the Israeli terminology almost without exception. All over the world there were references to the "kidnapped" Israeli soldier and not the "prisoner of war." The British and German newspapers that used the term would not have thought to use it about their countries' own soldiers in Afghanistan. From the moment Gilad Shalit was identified as "kidnapped," he was sentenced to everything that has happened to him since. The full force of Israeli propaganda's powerful supremacy over all the competition, if there is any, finds expression in this case.

The negotiations between Israel and Hamas, with German and/or Egyptian mediation, is about an exchange of prisoners. The exchange involves two sides, Shalit and the Palestinians. Around the world as well as in Israel, there is only talk about the release of the Israeli soldier. The Palestinian candidates for release are simply objects, merchandise, without human characteristics. Aren't they counting the days, along with their parents and children?

They are classified as "terrorists" with "blood on their hands," criminals beyond the law, lowly murderers. And when people talk about the release of hundreds of murderers in exchange for one Israeli soldier, they confront a powerful psychological barrier - life and death through the use of words.

Loaded concepts dictate the conduct of leaders. The different and contradictory narratives of the two peoples make understanding impossible, apparently even with respect to small issues. The psychological barriers are powerful. With regard to Gilad Shalit, there must be a demand for expedited negotiations to achieve a prisoner exchange in the very near future. Until then, the intermediaries should be given absolute assurances that there will be no attempt to free Shalit by force. In exchange, Hamas should agree to have Red Cross representatives visit him, perhaps with his family as well.

Everything else is manipulation and lip service.