Gilad Shalit and selective compassion

Submitted by AWL on 15 July, 2010 - 9:37 Author: Solomon Anker

Israeli public opinion has been in a huge compassion drive for years since the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive by Hamas.

The heart behind the compassion is moral and linked to the terrible suffering of other Israeli soldiers captured in the past. However, the intensely psychotic randomness of this compassion has been the most extreme form of propaganda in Israel’s history.

The twisting of so much information by the mainstream Israeli media has totally contradicted all the usual arguments they used to defend the military occupation.

The most obvious is the terrorist argument, where Hamas are still terrorists for capturing Shalit, even though he was not a civilian but a soldier.

What I mean is that there are 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, with at the minimum hundreds in terrible conditions and circumstances as bad as Shalit.

One cannot ignore how Gilad Shalit suffers but the Israeli media and the Israeli public totally ignore the suffering that Palestinians endure in Israeli jails, and the suffering of their families.

But this is not at all the point. These compassionate arguments for Shalit and his family are merely the propaganda tool of the Israeli government and the Israeli media.

This is not some faraway conspiracy but something all educated Israelis are aware of, as many right-wing and even centralist pro-Israel activists openly admit the use of propaganda in the defence of the Israeli military's reputation.

And this whole Shalit issue is primarily a tool to defend the Israeli military and the Israeli state's reputation. The reason is the victim card.

Anti-Zionist activists tends to fly off and quote Norman Finkelstein’s “Holocaust Industry”, but whether or not there is some truth in this, the fact remains that the Jews did suffer terribly, and one can see links between this suffering and the actions of Israel in its early days. However, as the decades have passed, this level of victimhood has gone down as the power structure has changed.

As a result this effective victim card needs to find a new PR figure, and in these years it’s Shalit.

The suicide bomb was the old feeling of victimhood the Israeli media easily used to make the Israeli public feel they are the only ones suffering.

However, now that this does not exist, Gilad Shalit has become the latest tool.

The amazing ignorance of the suffering of Palestinians which has seen thousands die (whether military or civilian is irrelevant since Shalit was a soldier) since Shalit’s capture four years ago, continues. Every time a voice of compassion appears in the Israeli media about Gaza, many come out to destroy this compassion by saying “What about Gilad?” And because Gilad and his family suffer, then we cannot have any compassion for Gaza, whether hundreds, one thousand, and even more die.

This selective compassion appears just as much on the Palestinian side and just as much in any conflict. A lack of compassion for the suffering of the “other” and an exaggeration of “our” suffering is not always intentional, but, unfortunately, can come naturally.

Certainly many who do have compassion for the suffering of Israelis in this conflict have come under fire from hawkish pro-Palestinians.

Of course, the Palestinians have suffered more in terms of numbers killed, yet this is still the same “Gilad Shalit Selective Compassion Syndrome”.

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