5 Gilad Shalit Spin Games to Watch For

Gilad Shalit

Israel and Hamas confirmed a deal to release Gilad Shalit within days. It’s a relief that there’s an end in sight. There will be plenty of debate about the wisdom of releasing terrorists, but the joy of Shalit back will be good news indeed.

With Shalit to dominate headlines over the coming days, here are five spin games to watch for.

1. Whitewashing the terror activities of the prisoners being released.

Some of the names we’ll see in the coming days are a rogues gallery of terror. Marwan Barghouti, for example, was convicted in a civilian court for his role in terror attacks that killed five people. Mona Awana befriended 16-year-old Ofir Rachum online and lured him to Ramallah, where he was executed by Awana’s friends in the Tanzim militia. Ahmed Sa’adat gave the order to assassinate Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze’evi.

Activism is practiced by activists and terrorism is practiced by terrorists. Which words will your newspaper use?

2. Hamas is becoming moderate.

The media said the same thing when the Islamists agreed to participate in Palestinian elections, yet again when they won, and each time they entered into national unity talks that have yielded nothing. The deal is a strategic decision on their part, and they will plan more kidnappings.

You’ll know Hamas has genuinely moderated itself when it recognizes Israel, renounces violence, and accepts the previous agreements that Mahmoud Abbas is now throwing out the window by appealing to the UN for statehood.

3. Bibi did this to weaken Abbas.

It’s true that just about anything boosting Hamas is bad for Abbas. But that’s an effect of this Shalit deal, not its cause.

4. All the Israel-Gaza fighting is a cycle of violence.

Expect reports looking back on the conflict and the circumstances of Shalit’s abduction describe a “cycle of violence.” It’s a shorthand, non-judgmental, and more polite way of saying It was a bloody mess when Palestinians did . . . and Israelis responded with . . . prompting Hamas to . . . .

Unfortunately, this shorthand offers no context. This non-judgementalness equates terror with the defense against it. And this politeness is undeserved for people whose self-declared goal is to destroy Israel. Nonetheless, there are ways to add context without getting drawn into details you can read about elsewhere.  But cycle of violence (and its cousin, tit-for-tat) fails on all counts.

5. If not for Israeli intransigence, Gilad Shalit might have been home years ago under the same terms.

Perhaps. I don’t know the details of the prisoners swap negotiations conducted under the Olmert and Netanyahu governments. But I will say this: Democratic societies elect leaders to make difficult, gut-wrenching decisions in good faith.  

And you know what? As the euphoria passes in Gaza and the West Bank, perhaps some Palestinians will quietly suggest that if not for Hamas stubborness, hundreds of prisoners might’ve been home years ago under the same terms too.