Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lost no time in exploiting Hamas’ capture of an Israeli soldier to justify Israel’s long-planned re-occupation of the Gaza Strip and mass arrest of the Hamas leadership. In his haste, he has inadvertently achieved a rare thing. He has managed to reduce the absurdity of Israel’s position to a known ratio: 9000 to 1.
Nine thousand captured Palestinians languish in Israel’s notorious “security prisons”, including 380 children and 115 women. Every day Israeli troops and Border Police kidnap, interrogate, torture and imprison Palestinians, often by the dozen. The arrest raids never stop, regardless of summits, truces, or cease-fires. It is estimated that 650,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel since the current occupation began in 1967.
Arrest and incarceration is such a common experience that it has become a virtual rite of passage for Palestinian boys; men go to prison. In the past year we’ve read several reports of pre-teen boys, some as young as 8, approaching Israeli soldiers and asking, even begging, to be arrested.
But God forbid that even one of Israel’s tender teen warriors should be captured in battle, as young Gilat Shalit was. That would be going too far. That would justify blowing up key bridges and destroying the electricity source of two-thirds of the Gaza Strip. Columns of invading tanks and scores of US-supplied jet fighters and combat helicopters would be required to hunt for the missing soldier, and attack the Palestinian Interior Ministry. From top to bottom, little Gaza would be subjected to yet another round of fierce shelling from land, air, and sea. All in a day’s hunt.
I hear that now, after bridges and power stations, they’ve started bombing a university.