Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A question on campaigning

Last Friday, shortly before Israel entered into the Jewish festival of Sukkot, Israel (and her supporters around the globe) came together as one in joy, as we learned that Gilad Schalit is alive, and seemingly well.

If and when Gilad Schalit does finally return from Gaza, I hope that he publishes his story. I am sure he had many interesting experiences over his time as a prisoner of one of the most extreme terrorist organisations on the planet. But more than anything, I want to know if he was aware of the campaign for his return.

Recently I posted my reservations about the campaign on this blog, but I now feel that a revision of my thoughts is needed. Or more accurately, a question has been posed.

The question is simple, but exceedingly difficult to answer: would Gilad Schalit have been killed had the campaign not been as strong and as vocal as it was. In previous years, Israel has had soldiers captured, but not once has a soldier returned to Israel alive.

My gut feeling is that in previous cases, most times a soldier went missing in action in enemy territory, the soldier died either while falling, or before falling, into enemy hands. I have a suspicion, however, that maybe one or two Israeli soldiers have been captured alive previously. Schalit was alive when captured, but over the course of the last three years, I, and many others, have wondered whether he had been killed by his captors.

One of the slogans adopted by the campaign has been the hopeful and yet firm, "Gilad is still alive." Many people have responded strongly against this slogan, ranging from statements that it's best not to get our collective hopes up, to messages I've seen left on facebook stating that "people should stop being so silly; Hamas realised that Israel would do a deal with them regardless of whether he was alive or dead and have almost certainly killed him by now."

Mercifully, such pronouncements have been proven false. Moreover, given that for the first time ever, a captive Israeli soldier has been proven to be alive in enemy hands, I am lead to ask the important question of whether the campaign for Schalit's release actually ended up keeping him alive. Even though I remain extremely concerned on two counts that the campaign is counter-productive, (that a swap of hundreds of terrorists for one man is dangerous and sets a precedent, and that by campaigning so publicly, we are only reducing the chances of a deal being done; for more, read my previous blog entry,) the possibility that the campaign contributed to keeping Schalit alive one that intrigues me.

I have to reconcile these concerns with the possibility that by campaigning as publicly as we did, Schalit's life was spared. We don't know much, hence my interest in hearing Schalit's story, but we do know he is alive. We take this as a given, but maybe the continuous high-profile campaigning provided Schalit with a stay of execution (quite literally). Normally when we talk about perspective, we state that it is vital to look at things in the long-term, as the short-term is less important. But in this case, while I do take issue with the long-term effect of the campaign, if it is proven that it saved Schalit's life, then I believe that it has proved itself to be worth all these ramifications.

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment