Palestinian Prisoners Swap Romance & Freedom for Shalit
2 weeks on from the October 18th, 2011 execution of the Shalit-Deal, and some human stories of Palestinian prisoners off-set the tale of one Israeli soldier in captivity, and some background.
Albawaba redresses the balance with some Palestinian names and stories behind the prisoner-swap Shalit-Deal.
It has been nearly a couple of weeks since the historic deal between Hamas and Israel saw the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for 1,027 (technically 1,050 counting an earlier tranche release from the deal, see below) Palestinian political prisoners. Ashraf Ma'ahser -- Shalit's-kidnapper-- is now long-dead.
The possibly misnomer title 'The Shalit-Deal' gives weight to the release of the single detained Israeli soldier, over the one thousand plus Palestinian prisoners. Perhaps it should have been renamed Shalit-1001 Palestinian Prisoners Deal (of course it was 1050 in total). Fatah is since making noises about not empowering Hamas too much. I guess there's no 'fair' in love and war.
Speaking of love, love stories have emerged of imprisoned lovers or 'fiances' who did not give up hope.
Just today brings the dramatic announcement of matrimonial union, after 18 years of estranged engagment .. The Freed Palestinian Prisoner " Zahir Kabha " has married his fiance " Raida ". See the panel in pictures of the whole story with both 'prisoner' narratives side by side.
Shalit happened to be captured while on active military duty. A member of an elite army,more than able to fend for itself, he was painted as an innocent young minor civilian. However, In the words of a released woman Palestinian prisoner, "He wasn't coming to Gaza to throw flowers at the Palestinians".
Obviously his kidnapping ordeal cannot have been a walk in the park. He claims that treatment improved with time over the course of the 5 years, while his father quibbles that he was under-nourished on a 'Gazan' diet of hummus and pitta. Gazans under seige have probably got a complaint or two regarding their diet, not to mention untried, uncharged, languishing long-term prisoners in jails who have faced years of squalor in Israeli prison.
Regardless of the nature of the Palestinian 'political' or 'nationally heroic' criminals and their variously disproven or dubious 'crimes' or how Israel and its backers see the 'lopsided' exchange, these are Palestinian sons and daughters who, after many years, and with few if any family visits, are coming home. The unsurprising Israeli reaction and fears that this move should legitimize terrorism or encourage kidnappings, should be kept in check. After all, more kidnappings would keep Hamas's image as rogue representatives and not legitimate negotiators as Fatah.
Some are working behind the scenes now to empower Fatah, the much more moderate West Bank Palestinian leadership, and want the Israeli government to negotiate the release of remaining prisoners with Fatah so that Fatah is strengthened, not just Hamas emboldened. While there is media worry about divisions and further polarization—the two sides are nontheless making inroads to unity once again: Gabon, one of the countries with a deciding power while the UN Palestine decision is hanging in the balance, declared this week that it would support the Palestinians in voting for a Palestinian state.
As for Egypt, this week making headlines for its own prisoner deal (see slideshow), she wants kudos for this deal: Egypt, which played an important role in bringing both Hamas and Israel to agree on the deal, promised that the deal would bring more results that would include the end of the siege on Gaza that lasted for more than five years.
However, some stories of euphoric release were marred by prionsers finding themselves released effectively from one prison into another. Some hapless prisoners have been released into Gaza but have loved ones in Ramallah or West Bank; thereby not effectively freed to live an ordinary life with their loved ones.
Breakdown of Shalit-Deal:
In exchange for the release of Israeli army Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since 25 June 2006, Israel will release a total of 1050 prisoners in three stages.
"The first stage of the release actually took place in September 2009 when Israel released twenty-three prisoners in exchange for a Hamas-broadcast video indicating a “sign of life” from Shalit. These prisoners included twenty women and three men from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The agreed-upon remaining 1027 prisoners are to be released in two stages. The first major stage, scheduled to take place on 18 October 2011, will see Israel release 477 prisoners, including 450 men and twenty-seven women prisoners. These prisoners were the subject of the fiercest negotiations, with each prisoner’s fate discussed via indirect negotiations between the contending parties, beneath Egyptian and previously German mediation.
- 218 will be released to their homes without any conditions (including 133 to Gaza; sixty-eight to the West Bank; nine to East Jerusalem; seven to inside Israel, including one to the Occupied Golan Heights; and one to Jordan);
- 204 will be deported, including forty abroad, rumored to be sent to Turkey, Qatar, Syria and Jordan. Of these, 164 will be taken to Gaza, eighteen of whom will be able to return to their homes in the West Bank within three years;
- Fifty-five will be released with some form of security arrangement, the nature of which has yet to be fully disclosed. This includes forty-nine to the West Bank and six to Jerusalem.
It should be noted that the Palestine prisoner problem is as yet ongoing. Now, people are appealing forthe release of child prisoners. There are, still, 164 Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 incarcerated in Israeli jails, including 35 minors aged 12 -15.