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Our politics continue to divide us

Published: October 8, 2010
Section: Opinions


Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier. He was abducted by Hamas on June 25, 2006 on the border of Israel and Gaza. Gilad Shalit. He has remained in captivity somewhere in Gaza for more than 1,560 days since his abduction.

The Israeli government has tried to secure the return of Shalit many times during the last few years in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and accused terrorists. The story of Gilad has been a tragic one. In 2009 Hamas released a video of Shalit in exchange for 20 female prisoners. This video showed a frail, but very much alive, Shalit pleading for the Israeli government to find a way to release him.

The Goldstone Report also mentioned Gilad Shalit multiple times and recommended “that Palestinian armed groups who hold Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in detention release him on humanitarian grounds. Pending such release they should recognize his status as prisoner of war, treat him as such, and allow him ICRC visits.”

Unfortunately, the Red Cross has not visited or treated Shalit, nor has he been released. Current talks for his release have stalled. Hamas demands that in return for Gilad Shalit they want Israel to release all female and underage Palestinian prisoners as well as an additional 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Today in Israel there is a large movement demanding his freedom and, along with their popular slogan of “Gilad is still alive,” people all over the country sport bright yellow strings in solidarity with him and his family.

This past week, one Brandeis club decided to commemorate as well as draw awareness to Gilad Shalit’s plight. In addition to that, this club, the Brandeis Zionist Alliance, wanted to advocate for Shalit’s cause by asking for him to receive a visit from the International Red Cross. They did this by hanging up a sign in the Shapiro Campus Center with the amount of days that Gilad Shalit has been held in captivity and denied access to the International Red Cross.

Unfortunately, another Brandeis club, and an unchartered group of students (that consider themselves to be a club), chose to disrespect this soldier, his family and students on campus that associate with Shalit’s struggle. Next to the sign that Brandeis Zionist Alliance had hung up, they hung up a sign stating that Israel holds 189 Palestinian prisoners in jail “indefinitely without trial.”

I have personally attempted to remove myself from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because I am a student government leader. Additionally, my experience this summer traveling through Israel and the Palestinian Territories and participating in an internship through the Students Crossing Boundaries Fellowship also has made me step back from the politics. This Fellowship allowed me funding and the opportunity to intern at the Interfaith Encounter Association in Jerusalem and also to truly learn so much about the conflict.

Israel is a country where fireworks are confused for firefights, bags at a bus stop are confused for bombs, Arabs are confused for terrorists, security is confused for Apartheid, justice is confused for war crimes. This is a country where the people are just confused. Living in Jerusalem allowed me access to a place that has become, in my opinion, the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I also learned that the continued aggravation from one side to the other does not work. It only in creases tension and destroys the hopes I have for the future of two states. I also learned that the goal is not just a two state solution, that’s just the smaller objective. The big picture is peace, its coexistence, and it’s a world where one nation no longer has to enforce a blockade, and another nation doest have to result to the celebration of martyrdom as a form of resistance.

That is why when I see that sign in Shapiro, I feel disrespected. Not just as a Jew, not just as an Israeli citizen, but also as a human being. To completely denounce the plight of Gilad Shalit and compare it to that of 189 prisoners, is ridiculous and unheard of. Unfortunately there are still people in this world and students at this school that believe the only way to advocate for their cause is to anger the other. But if they truly understood the conflict, if they truly understood the meaning of a human life, they would acknowledge the suffering of the other. That acknowledgement does diminish their plight. For a Palestinian to recognize the suffering of the Israeli people does not mean their own suffering does not exist. For an Israeli to recognize the plight of the Palestinian people does not denounce the pain they have endured. Unfortunately, not enough people in this world are able to properly understand that.