By Gideon Levy
The gun of lies appeared in the opening of the first act. A week after Gilad Shalit was abducted, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the July 2, 2006 cabinet meeting, “I want to say something about the soldier’s release: We shall not negotiate with Hamas on releasing prisoners, directly or indirectly.” A prime minister’s word.
Olmert’s first lie was enough to denounce his complete conduct in the Shalit affair, but we tend to forgive any lie, even one so blatant, even if uttered by the prime minister.
This firm statement did not stop Olmert from saying, in the same breath, “We’ll do everything to bring about Shalit’s release – and when I say everything, I mean everything. Everything possible, everything necessary.” Nobody pointed out the inherent contradiction.
That too was a lie, as Uri Blau reported in Haaretz yesterday. Secret IDF documents show that finding Shalit was not a first priority. Since then, the lies have been fired volley after volley: brainwashing, distorting and deceiving, with the media’s consent and sponsorship. Meanwhile, Shalit rotted in captivity.
Olmert’s “we’ll do everything” began with Operation Summer Rains, which was payback for the abduction. Twenty Palestinian parliament members and eight ministers were abducted from their homes and imprisoned as “bargaining chips,” which didn’t help matters one iota. In the course of the operation we also killed 394 Gaza residents. If it doesn’t do any good, at least it won’t do any harm, we thought. It did not do any good, of course.
After the glorious operation, the negotiations that “we shall never conduct” began, brokered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt. On July 1, 2006, Hamas demanded the release of 1,000 prisoners. Since then, Hamas has not budged from its set price – no bargaining, haggling, reductions or end-of-season sale.
Israeli officials said Hamas has toughened its stance. Hamas did not toughen its stance. If you ask the prime minister and security commentators why Hamas “toughened” its stance, they will explain it’s because of the tumultuous public campaign to free Shalit. The truth is that Hamas has not changed its position for 1,000 days. Before or after the Shalit family’s protest tent. Blaming public opinion, then, is also a lie and a calumny.
The next big lie, after the talks with Hamas began, was that we’re not negotiating with Hamas, but with Egypt. This was a redundant, despicable and harmful deception. Israel was negotiating with Hamas. Directly or indirectly, whether the organization recognizes our existence or not, Israel has been negotiating with Hamas for a long time. Let’s refute this lie at least. After doing so, perhaps we will recognize that it’s better to negotiate with Hamas directly, and not only about Shalit.
“We spared no effort, but we came up against a brutal, murderous, pitiless organization, devoid of basic human emotions, which was unwilling to meet the challenge,” Olmert said in announcing defeat on Tuesday. A prime minister who launched an offensive on a besieged, helpless population in Gaza, during which 1,300 people were killed and 100,000 left homeless, with an army that acted with unrestrained violence, has no moral right to speak of brutality, murderousness and lack of pity.
Is Hamas devoid of human emotion? Maybe, but it is fighting for the release of its people, who have no chance of gaining their freedom in any other way but a deal. Nothing can be more humane than that. Even the Israeli propaganda about the “price” of Shalit’s release is based on a lie. Nobody can seriously argue that releasing 325 terrorists wouldn’t harm Israel’s security, and releasing 450 would. Would 125 men, closely watched by the Shin Bet, make the difference?
Studies have shown that most of the prisoners released so far, especially those who spent many years in prison, did not return to terrorist activity. But the officials tell us a different story. And above all, who decided that releasing prisoners is an Israeli “surrender,” while Shalit’s continued imprisonment is a “victory?”
Now that lying has failed miserably, perhaps we should try something different? Let’s tell the truth without any propaganda: Shalit’s fate is important to us, but not enough.