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A Story of Betrayal

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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TODAY IS the 1196th day in captivity for the soldier Gilad Shalit.

A prisoner of war must not be left in captivity. A wounded soldier must not be left in the field. The state signs an unwritten contract with every person who joins the army, and most definitely with everyone who serves in a combat unit.

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The behavior of the Israeli governments in these 1196 days, of the politicians and the generals who are responsible for this outrage, is a violation of this contract, a betrayal of trust. In short: an infamy. It enrages and infuriates every decent person, and not only combat soldiers.

THE BETRAYAL is already in the terminology used. In the words of the Book of Proverbs (18:21): "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."

A soldier captured by the enemy in a military action is a prisoner of war -- in every language, in every country.

Gilad Shalit was captured in a military action. He was an armed soldier in uniform. In this context, it does not matter whether the action itself was legal or illegal, and whether the captors were regular soldiers or guerrillas.

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Gilad Shalit is a prisoner of war.

THE DENIAL started at the first moment. The Israeli government refused to call the capture by its proper name and insisted that it was an "abduction" or even "kidnapping."

The disciplined Israeli media, marching behind the generals in lockstep like the Prussian guard, joined the chorus. Not a single newspaper, not a single radio or TV announcer ever spoke about the "prisoner of war". All of them, almost without exception, from the first day on, spoke about the "abducted" or "kidnapped" soldier.

The words are important. All armies are familiar with exchanges of prisoners of war. Generally, this happens after the end of hostilities, sometimes while the war is still going on. The army releases the enemy fighters in return for the release of its own captured soldiers.

This does not apply to abducted persons. When criminals abduct a person and hold them for ransom, the question arises whether the price should be paid. Payment may encourage more abductions and reward the criminals.

The moment Gilad was defined as "abducted," he was condemned to what followed. He also lost his honor as a soldier. A soldier is not "abducted." The millions of soldiers captured during World War II -- Germans, Russians, Britons, Americans and all the others -- would have felt insulted by any suggestion that they were "abducted."

THE GREATEST danger hovering over the head of Gilad since falling into captivity does not come from Hamas, but from our own army.

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It was clear that, given an opportunity, the army would try to free him by force. That is deeply embedded in its basic ethos: Never give in to "abductors."

If I were Gilad's father and a praying man, I would pray every day: Please, dear God, don't let the army find out where Gilad is being kept!

Our army commanders are prepared to expose prisoners to immense risks in order to free them by force, instead of exchanging them for Palestinian prisoners. For them it is a matter of honor.

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