Oh please. When did CNN ever run an article like this, on the difficulty of adjusting to daily life for a newly-released prisoner, about any of the three-quarters of a million Palestinians imprisoned by Israel since 1967?
Looking pale, thin and emotional, Gilad Shalit was reunited with his family Tuesday after more than five years in captivity. Now he faces what is likely to be a bewildering few days, weeks and months as he readjusts to a life of liberty.
While no one yet knows exactly what he went through, other captives' experiences give an insight into his likely state of mind -- and suggest that although he has his freedom, other challenges lie ahead...
Let's get some perspective here. It might be true that "no one yet knows exactly what he went through", but the mere fact that he was able to walk to freedom after a quick once-over by Israeli doctors gives us a pretty good idea of some of the things he didn't go through.
For example, we know that he wasn't tied up by his captors and beaten so viciously that his testicles had to be surgically removed. Benan Oudeh was 15 years old when that happened to him at the hands of Israeli soldiers who accused him of throwing stones, during the first intifada:.
The Defense Ministry a few days ago gave NIS 2.4 million to 28 Palestinians who were tortured by the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service. The payment was made after an out-of-court settlement was reached with the plaintiffs, who agreed that suits brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate and District courts would be turned down.
One of the plaintiffs, Benan Oudeh, 31, of Qalqilya, arrested a few years ago for throwing stones, told Haaretz yesterday that his testicles were beaten so badly in the interrogation room that they had to be amputated...
-- Out-of-court deal awards Palestinians NIS 2.4 million; Ha'aretz, 1 Feb 2006..
And we know, for example, that he wasn't tied up then violently shaken over and over again by captors who thought shaking was a convenient means of torture because it left no marks, but forgot that if done too violently and for too long it leads to brain damage, coma and death. Which is how 'Abd al-Samad Harizat, one of 8,000** Palestinian prisoners to undergo "violent shaking", was killed by members of the Israeli General Security Service during the Oslo "peace process": .
'Abd al-Samad Harizat, a 30-year-old computer expert from Hebron, was arrested around midnight on 21 April 1995 and fell into a coma soon after 4pm on 22 April; he died on 25 April without regaining consciousness. Physicians for Human Rights sent an expert, Professor Derrick Pounder, to observe the autopsy, carried out by two Israeli forensic pathologists. The autopsy found that 'Abd al-Samad Harizat had died from ''violent shaking'' which had caused a sub-dural haemorrhage within the skull. Pressure from the lawyer of the Harizat family later obtained information about his interrogation: he had been shaken 12 times between 4.45am and 4.10pm, 10 times by holding his clothes and twice by holding his shoulders. “There is no doubt whatsoever about the cause of death; it's very clear he has died from unnatural causes, and that he has died from torture”, said Professor Pounder.
-- Amnesty International, Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, 1 September 1998
And we know for sure that Shalit wasn't left paraplegic by interrogators from the Israeli General Security Service who systematically tortured him, then told him: "Now you are paralyzed, as we promised". Which is what happened to Luwaii Ashqar, while he was a prisoner at the Kishon detention facility, during the second intifada:.
"We have to make you do a little sports," the Shin Bet interrogator said, launching four successive days of questioning accompanied by brutal physical torture. The result: Luwaii Ashqar can no longer stand on his feet. He sits in his wheelchair, dressed in a fashionable quasi-military suit, super-elegant, new Caterpillar-brand shoes on his paralyzed feet. ..
Was there a judgment by the High Court of Justice? There was. It banned precisely the types of torture he underwent: the "banana posture," the "shabah" (body stretching with hands tied to a chair), "invisible" blows and the "frog posture" (being forced to stand for hours on the toes in a crouching position) - all the way to a vicious kick to his chest that bent his body backward while he was tied to a chair with his arms and legs, and which was the probable cause of the partial paralysis of his legs.
Throwing up with the vomit entering his nostrils, losing consciousness and being given only saltwater to drink, relieving himself in his pants, not sleeping or resting - all of that for four consecutive days and nights.
What does the interrogator Maimon tell his children when he goes home? What do Eldad and Sagiv tell their wives about their daily labors before they turn in? That they tortured another helpless prisoner until they turned him into a cripple? That they beat this charming young man brutally and that at the end of the interrogation he was tried for only marginal offenses? And where is the Supreme Court, which in 1999 prohibited precisely the chain of torture that Luwaii Sati Ashqar, 30, who was married three years ago, underwent in the Kishon detention facility?
- Now You are Paralyzed, as we Promised; Ha'aretz, 16 Jun 2007.
So whatever "challenges lie ahead" for Gilad Shalit, we can be sure they're not challenges of quite the same magnitude as those faced by thousands of Palestinians like Benan Oudeh, 'Abd al-Samad Harizat, and Luwaii Ashqar, none of whom ever got a sympathetic retrospective from CNN. Because, whatever he endured in captivity, Gilad Shalit at least endured it as an Israeli soldier in the hands of Hamas, and not as a Palestinian prisoner in Israel.
** Eight thousand, according to Israeli former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.