Meh mail

I don’t wish to distract from my two previous posts, which relate to the embarrassing narcissism and conceptual shortcomings that appear in the Dish’s epic post “Israel Derangement Syndrome II” — and to Sullivan’s account of a conversation that to me appears largely fictionalized. However, the Dish has posted some more conveniently meh mail that should be conveniently dispatched. Here’s the reader’s email:

Beinart insists that anti-blockade activists should demand the release of Shalit, a uniformed soldier captured on the battlefield. For what it’s worth, I am against the blockade and in favor of Hamas releasing Shalit, but I am also in favor of Israel releasing the thousands (I’ve heard the number 11,000) of Palestinians who are rotting in Israeli prisons without trials.

By the way, everyone knows Corporal Shalit’s name – how many of us can name a single Palestinian being held by Israel? Beinart? Anyone?

Well, the email might be somewhere between meh and just plain slimy:

Beinart insists that anti-blockade activists should demand the release of Shalit, a uniformed soldier captured on the battlefield.

He was captured in Israel, not in during any military operation and not in a territory in which two enemies were fighting. So “on the battlefield” is rhetorical nonsense, unless the phrase only signifies that Shalit is a soldier, a fact which the reader has already stated.

For what it’s worth, I am against the blockade and in favor of Hamas releasing Shalit,

It doesn’t seem worth very much, based on what follows …

but I am also in favor of Israel releasing the thousands (I’ve heard the number 11,000)

The link is to a Wikipedia article, which states off the bat an estimate of 7000 prisoners.

(Nice fact-checking, Andrew and company.)

This number is from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics as of this April. The 11,000 number is from Adalah, a legal group that tends to inflate statistics by every possible means when it serves their media campaign — and it’s from April 2008.

The ultra-leftist human rights group B’Tselem — which often inflates its figures but not nearly as much as Adalah —  records figures for Palestinian detainees every month and says there are around 6500 prisoners this month.

of Palestinians who are rotting in Israeli prisons without trials.

Um, the statistics in the Wikipedia article do not say that these prisoners have not had trials. In fact, they indicate that the vast, vast majority have received trials and been sentenced.

B’Tselem’s figures note that of 6484 prisoners this month, 4974 are serving a sentence (the result of a trial) and 1120 are currently in the midst of their trial.

Last month 5063 were serving a sentences, so at least 89 people finished their sentences, whatever length they were, and got out of prison …

The reader wants to portray some huge number of Palestinians — say, “11,000,” for him the real number is of no importance — are in jail indefinitely, like Shalit, and can only get released by way of some political fiat. In fact, that is another major reason why Shalit’s imprisonment is nothing like theirs.

Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to matter to the reader what these prisoners have done, in terms of either non-political crime (ex. robbery, murdering a friend, etc.) or terrorism. He says Shalit was fair game, a soldier “on the battlefield”; but he discounts that any Palestinian prisoners who have attempted or succeeded in terrorist acts against Israel could be “soldiers” in the same sense. In fact, he carefully describes Shalit as a uniformed soldier, knowing that the uniforms Hamas gives out are for their policemen.

And he apparently believes that when Palestinians commit crimes which are not politically related, they deserve a Get-Out-of-Jail-in-Israel-Free card because they are Palestinian. As though, unlike any other nation in the world, Israel should have no right to hold people who have committed crimes inside their borders.

What matters to this superficial reader is just that these are Palestinians in jail … He doesn’t even care to look for information as to whether they have had a trial; he prefers his own cartoon stereotype. And BTW, “rotting in Israeli prisons”? … Not even Adalah alleges a leprosy epidemic in Israeli jails.

— Jokes aside: the Red Cross can visit Palestinian prisoners; lawyers can; family members with entry passes (now given much more infrequently) into Israel can visit most Palestinian prisoners; most can exchange letters with their family and sometimes telephone calls; Palestinian prisoners can obtain their high school diploma in jail and most can take university correspondence courses … For four years, none of the locations that have held Gilad Shalit have been seen by the Red Crescent Society; no letter exchange has been allowed between Gilad and his family.

By the way, everyone knows Corporal Shalit’s name – how many of us can name a single Palestinian being held by Israel? Beinart? Anyone?

“Marwan Barghouti,” duh —

On May 20, 2004, he was convicted of 5 counts of murder – including authorizing and organizing the Sea Food Market attack in Tel Aviv in which 3 civilians inside Israel were killed. He was acquitted of 21 counts of murder in 33 other attacks for “lack of sufficient evidence.” On June 6, 2004, he was sentenced to five life sentences for the five murders and 40 years imprisonment for the attempted murder.

Look up Jeffrey Goldberg’s interviews with him, if you get the chance.

There are around 250 Palestinian prisoners in “administrative detention.” There are important legal questions about whom among this group should be in this category, and whether this is a fair legal category for any person, even someone who is likely to be a murderer. However, this reader does not raise this question, preferring to see the mere fact that someone is of a certain ethnicity, in a certain ethnic conflict, as sufficient grounds for that person’s legal impunity or amnesty.

Shalit does not deserve a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card because he is a Jew or an Israeli. He deserves it because we recognize that part of Hamas’ response to a territorial withdraw was a territorial ingress. While kidnapping Shalit, they killed Israeli soldiers stationed inside Israel for the country’s defense.

A sincere believer in the two-state solution will recognize the special significance in the imprisonment of Gilad Shalit: He is now the only Jew in the Gaza Strip.

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