It has been a week since Gilad Shalit was released back to Israel as part of the prisoner swap Israel made with Hamas, freeing 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier who had been in captivity for over five years. Trying to collate the different sources and viewpoints on this momentous event in modern Israeli history brought home to me just how varied the reactions of to events of this nature by different interest groups are. Each group (depending on how nuanced your analysis is, those groups will either be large, encompassing who political ‘wings’ or much more granular) brings their own message into current events, and with the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap — as with many aspects of the Middle East conflict — those messages can be diametrically opposed. I am not saying that political analysis of this sort is wrong or not worth listening to. It is biased, as everything everyone says is, but this type of analysis, bringing one’s own lens to bear on an issue, is immensely important in order to glean the various truths that interest groups bring to light.
So to take Gilad Shalit as an example, I read many enunciations of mainstream pro-Israel opinions highlighting the importance Israel (and, by extension, the IDF) places on each life. In contrast, the mainstream media painted Palestinians as rejoicing over the stupidity of the price Israel is willing to pay for one life, or at least the sentiment that trading 1,027 people for 1 was a good deal for the Palestinians. I think, in fact, that the families of the 447 released prisoners were happy in a very similar way to Noam and Aviva Shalit (see here). Finally, the less-heard voice in the media was a genuine Left-wing voice highlighting the imbalance of power, the occupation, in showing why this is always how prisoner swaps transpire, in a roughly 1,000:1 ratio.
I think that, without considering all of these legitimate perspectives (with the exception of the caricature that I noted of the Palestinian view by the mainstream media, if in fact it is just a caricature), one will lose sight of some of the important factors at play in how an event of this magnitude affects different groups in society. It is crucial not to forget that for some, this deal is just a further reminder of the occupation; for some, this deal means reconnecting with long-lost family members or friends and rejoicing over that; and for some, this means championing the value the State of Israel places on returning all of its soldiers home at all costs.