The media and myth-information

Does everything in life have a price....

Palestinian media incitement (photo credit: Palestinian Media Watch (
Palestinian media incitement
(photo credit: Palestinian Media Watch (
Now that the euphoria over Gilad Schalit’s return is subsiding somewhat, the public’s attention is turning toward any number of nagging questions regarding his imprisonment and release: How was he treated while in captivity? Was he tortured? What devices did he employ to keep up his spirits and retain his sanity, particularly during the long spells of solitary confinement, silence and darkness? What did he learn about the nature of our enemy, Hamas, that we did not already know?
But Schalit is not the only one who needs to be interrogated. Our government – basking like a Florida sunbather in the glory of the public’s overwhelming support for the prisoner “swap” – also needs to answer some very hard questions. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni has already called for a full-blown investigation into the way the Schalit saga was handled (or mishandled); in particular, what red lines we crossed when we bowed to the terrorists’ terms, and the overall effect this deal will have on future hostage crises and our national security. While I am not necessarily a hassid of Livni’s, it is axiomatic that in a real democracy, the opposition plays a crucial role in challenging the establishment’s “conventional wisdom,” and ensuring that the party in office does not enjoy absolute carte blanche in decisionmaking.
But I have a few questions of my own, centering on the gargantuan gap between what the powers that be would like us to believe, and what I perceive to be the Truth.
For starters, let’s examine this myth that “we never abandon a soldier in the field.” Livni and former justice minister Amnon Rubinstein – neither of whom are darlings of the Right – have publicly affirmed that every soldier must understand that he risks his life when he goes into battle, and that while we will do everything in our power to safeguard him while in the field and rescue him if he is taken captive, there are limits to what we can and will do to secure his release. The safety of the nation will always precede the safety of the individual, and he may very well have to wait until the end of the conflict for a prisoner exchange. And if that moment never comes, well, then, as Rubinstein said, “we must remind ourselves that war is hell.”
MOREOVER, THE high-minded officials who trumpeted this so-called “creed of the IDF” haven’t always practiced what they preached. I call your attention to another case of a soldier in distress, a case that had a very different and tragic ending.
Back in October of 2000, the intifada was in full swing. Although under the accursed Oslo Accords the city of Nablus was abandoned to Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority, Joseph’s Tomb was meant to stay under our control, allowing for full freedom of worship. Yet it was the scene of numerous attacks by Arab mobs, who to this day routinely desecrate the holy place. In one such incident, Border Policeman Cpl.
Madhat Yusuf from Beit Jann, on guard at the tomb, came under fire from Palestinian gunmen.
For six excruciating hours, Yusuf – who, ironically, bore the name of the site – lay bleeding on the ground. The IDF knew where he was and knew he was dying. It could have called in helicopter gunships, platoons of troops, tanks and artillery to rescue him. And yet – according to Likud MK Ayoub Kara, whose request to establish a state commission of inquiry to investigate the affair was rejected – Yusuf was left to bleed to death while then-prime minister Ehud Barak “negotiated” his rescue with the chief of the “Palestinian Preventive Security” forces, Jibril Rajoub. IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz refused to give the order to save Yusuf, presumably so as not to cause casualties on the Palestinian side. In the aftermath of the soldier’s death, successive prime minister Ariel Sharon declared: “The terrible incident with Cpl. Yusuf was – to the best of my knowledge – improper, egregious and unreasonable, and in complete contradiction to the IDF’s policy of not abandoning the wounded or dead in the field.”
Why was Yusuf left to die?
Was it because he was a Druse soldier, rather than a Jewish one? Or was it perhaps because he lacked a massive publicity campaign behind him, one that would have exerted intense pressure on the men who make the decisions for our nation and then bestow lasting glory on the rescuers?
SPEAKING OF selective justice, the government will have to answer why it chose to keep in jail the killer of Rahamim Ze’evi – one Israeli – while freeing many others who killed dozens of men, women and children. And why the government chose to ignore the court’s instruction that the bereaved families be given more than 48 hours’ advance notice of the killers’ release, and that they be told the list of names prior to the media being given the information. Both of these most basic rights were callously denied.
While on the subject of bereaved families, let’s clear up another myth. We are not “angry” or plagued by sour grapes. We rejoice that a precious soldier of Israel was liberated, but we are filled with righteous indignation, disappointed and even disgusted by the almost complete lack of empathy or consideration for those who fought and died for this country.
Did members of the cabinet fan out across the land to at least listen to the opinions of the bereaved, even if they were then to be rejected? Did MKs show any solidarity with the victims, other than worthless lip service? Did the media devote significant air time to those who would now be condemned to relive anew the death of their loved ones, who would see their children’s killers come home to a hero’s welcome, showered with praise and cash? Or were we only one step above the Israel-haters at CNN, who gave lengthy interviews to the poor, suffering wives of those terrorists not (yet) on the release list, wondering when they, too, would be home to help in the annual olive harvest?
If the nation is serious about “embracing” bereaved families, let them invite us to their schools and social groups. Not only to tell our side of the story, but to enlighten them about the existential threat we face from Hamas. For we who have stared the monster in the face know better than most just how dangerous and desperate an enemy we have, and how valiantly we must steel ourselves and fight to eradicate the menace.
FINALLY, THERE is that pervasive sentiment that “no price is too high to save our boy.” Nonsense. Everything in life has its price. As I asked one hysterical mother who was methodically mumbling her mantra of “Free Gilad at all costs,” if the freeing of Schalit meant that her son would take his place in Gaza, or that her daughter would be passed around for a month to the various Palestinian terror groups, would she agree to that? And I say to each of the politicians who accepted this extortion, if the price to free Gilad was that you would have to retire permanently from politics and give up all your perks and privileges, would you agree? Really?
The price for this exchange was not just prohibitive in what we gave up – hardened criminals unleashed on our society, the threat of many more murders, the breakdown of law and order. It was a defective deal for what it failed to win: a pledge that no attempt would be made in the future to kidnap more soldiers, a hint that there might one day be a lasting peace between the antagonists. Instead, Hamas immediately issued an in-your-face declaration that it would now strive even harder to capture our soldiers, and that it was committed to unending, total conflict to wipe out Israel and exterminate its citizens.
It was a foregone conclusion that the appeal by the bereaved families to the court to stop, or at least delay, this deal was doomed to failure; in a limited democracy such as our own, trying to fight City Hall once it has made up its mind is an exercise in futility. But still, I signed on to the petition to the court, for one main reason: I wanted to join many others in going on record to say that we will not sit idly by, in pathetic passivity, if anything like this ever occurs again. We love our country too much for that to happen.
The writer, whose son Sgt. Ari Weiss fell in battle against Hamas terrorists in 2002, is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.
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