“Hamas treated me well,” Gilad Shalit told the interviewer this morning, a line well suited to Hamas apologists. Max Blumenthal is game to use it, and chastises the U.S. media for focusing on Shalit himself for the human-interest element of the story—clearly a political decision, since as we know human-interest stories aren’t what sell papers—and not mentioning the broader context of the occupation, nor the stories of some of the Palestinian prisoners who were freed or some of those who weren’t so lucky. (And speaking of context, Blumenthal chooses not to include the context of why Hamas was in a position to be treating Shalit well in the first place: namely that it had kidnapped him in 2006. Maybe he expects his readers to know that already. I expect most readers to know about the occupation already.)
Here’s what Blumenthal doesn’t mention: that the “interview” this morning on an Egyptian television network was the final sadistic nail in the coffin of the five-plus years’ captivity of a teenage Israeli soldier. To be very clear, the interview was not agreed to by Israel—the original plan was for Shalit to be in Egypt for less than 15 minutes, merely an intermediate point between Gaza and Israel—and the Israeli government is shocked and appalled by the propagandistic spectacle (the English-language interviewer asked Shalit leading questions about Egypt’s indispensable role in brokering the deal and whether more Palestinian prisoners should be free). If you watch the video and see this poor kid barely able to keep his eyes open and wanting only to see the family he’s been kept away from for a fifth of his life, you will be shocked and appalled, too. See that picture? The hand on Shalit’s shoulder belongs to a Hamas thug standing behind him. At a moment when Shalit must still not have been sure that the deal for his freedom was going to go through, he was subjected to this. Frankly, it’s fucking enraging.
Anyway, it’s a shame that Blumenthal only elects to display his formidable skills as a press critic (really, this was great!) when it suits his prior agenda. And does Blumenthal really want the stories of the prisoners told? The one who killed a few dozen members of three generations of one family during a Passover Seder? The one who blew up a Sbarro’s pizza joint? If he thinks that standing those stories against Shalit’s story, even with the full, appropriate context of a brutal, unjust four-decade-long occupation explained, will somehow manage to make us care less about Shalit and more about an unequivocal terrorist group, then he can go for it.
I’ll prefer to focus on what Noam Shalit told actual members of the media earlier today outside his house in the north of Israel. “When I first saw Gilad,” he said, “I did not say much, I just hugged him.”