To Gilad Shalit’s family and supporters,
Your son has returned home; congratulations. I’m sure you are relieved, and deservedly so. You’ve waited five long years for this day, to be able to see your son in the flesh. Today he stands before you, and now I do too.
I want to ask you an honest question. Irrespective of the fact that Shalit is your son or your neighbor or a young man, has justice really been done? It doesn’t require a stretch of imagination to say yes. Shalit returned home, and within the coming days, so will 1027 Palestinians. But the real answer is no.
This prisoner swap has yet to challenge the status quo. Tonight, thousands of Palestinian Shalits, figuratively speaking, will sleep in Israeli jails. Tomorrow, they will wake up, still locked behind bars and basement walls. They will wonder why the world hasn’t taken them as seriously as the real Gilad Shalit, the Israeli one whose blood is apparently much more valuable than theirs. They will wait. Another day will pass; they will sleep and repeat.
I want to ask another question. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? Collectively, the freed Palestinians are painted as mass murderers concerned with nothing else but a second chance to target the Israeli state while Shalit is hailed as a champion, an innocent bystander uninvolved in the upkeep of the occupation and accidentally donning a military uniform the day he was captured.
I am sorry to have to tell you what you repeatedly refuse to hear, but your son, your friend, your neighbor, your hero, your Shalit was captured at a time when he was actively complicit in maintaining the occupation of Palestine. He was doing something illegal, according to the international laws that trump Israel’s state laws, which sponsor, encourage, and implement this illegal complicity. He was dressed in military fatigues at the time of his capture, not because he just so happened to be wearing an army costume but because at any given moment, his commander could have ordered him to toss a grenade at a group of “suspicious” Palestinians on the other side of the border and he would have been obligated to do so.
Shalit is a documented member of a standardless army and the evidence exists for that. But I am not asking for your son, your friend, your comrade to be put back in jail for the crimes you refuse to acknowledge. I see no problem having him sit at the dinner table with his family, something that thousands of Palestinian prisoners, charged with no real crime, will be unable to do tonight, but I’m terribly saddened by the double standards you promote.
When you were calling for Shalit’s release, you presented yourself as proponents of justice. So why have you turned a blind eye to the underage Palestinian children missing from their homes, the elderly widows incarcerated for shouting at the soldiers uprooting their olive trees, the fathers demanding entry to Jerusalem to catch the holy Friday prayers? Why do you insist on defending one man, a true criminal, while ignoring the thousands who have only committed the crime of being Palestinian?
Tonight, shortly after midnight, the army your son served on will covertly kidnap two or three Palestinian teens in Ramallah and hide them in unknown prisons for months before indicting them with trumped-up charges. Will you continue to turn a blind eye?
I am still standing before you, and I will not move, I will not duck from your path, I will not veer to the side until justice is served and until it is no longer a crime to be Palestinian.