Powered by WebAds

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A sacred cow comes under attack

Tzfat (Safed) Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu is blaming the Shalit family for the abduction of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.
“One of the major factors contributing to the erosion of Israeli society was the atmosphere of ‘me as the individual’ and the loss of national identity,” Eliyahu wrote.

“The Schalit family and the group that put in motion the campaign around it [for the release of their son] enhanced this erosion,” he wrote. “It adopted an attitude of whining and playing on sentiment. They blamed everyone [and] perpetuated the culture of ‘I deserve it.’ It was as if the only important thing to consider is today, not what happens tomorrow. As long as they get their son back, damn the consequences, even if it means that innocent civilians will pay the awful price. And the awful price has come. Three young boys were kidnapped.”

Eliyahu drew a comparison between the Schalit family and its vocal public relations campaign to bring pressure to bear on the government for their son’s release after five years in captivity, and the reaction of the families of the kidnapped youngsters who went missing 10 days ago.

“Today, a new spirit is blowing,” the rabbi wrote admiringly of the families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah. “It is a spirit of might and heroism, a spirit of responsibility, a spirit of unity. It’s a more responsible, healthier, more moral spirit. This spirit is alive and well in the army and the government, the Knesset, and the entire public. It’s a spirit of remedying the defects of the past.”

“This spirit is being fostered by the families of the young people,” the rabbi wrote. “With quiet conduct, they have managed to tug on the heartstrings of the Israeli society and to rehabilitate it. There are no accusations of guilt, no whining, no public pressure, no bitterness. What they do have is belief.”
During the time that Gilad Shalit was being held, I had plenty of criticism for his father. Here's one
You can't help but feel sorry for the guy but for the past five years, Noam Shalit has done more than anyone in the world to convince everyone that his son's release is 'just' a question of paying Hamas' price, and therefore pressure has been brought on the government of Israel and not on Hamas. He is also rumored to have vetoed an IDF rescue mission out of fear that Hamas would kill his son if such a mission were undertaken. It is questionable whether such a mission is even possible today - how would you have any element of surprise?

What is Shalit suggesting? Reinstating a full blockade? It was his friends that forced the government to stop that. Cut off water and electricity? The only people who favor doing that are the Right, who are anathema to the Shalit family because they're not willing to trade thousands of terrorists for Gilad's release.

And so the stalemate continues and only Hamas benefits.
And another
I have a real problem with this kind of interference in the government's foreign policy prerogative. It harks back to a previous set of negotiations in Oslo, in which Beilin (whom Yitzchak Rabin famously referred to as "Peres' poodle) participated - the illegal negotiations with the PLO that produced the Oslo 'declaration of principles' in 1993. In the United States, the Logan Act, a criminal statute prohibits private citizens from engaging in "correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States." Israel doesn't have a Logan Act, but it should.

Suppose that next month Beilin and Noam Shalit (whom I had figured as a leftist almost from Day One after his son was kidnapped) go to Oslo and come back with an agreement with Hamas: Israel will release 1400 terrorists and Hamas will release Gilad Shalit. Despite the fact that such an 'exchange' would endanger every Israeli citizen, the pressure on the weak Olmert-Barak-Livni government to accept such an agreement would be enormous. That is why private citizens (and Beilin - who is not in the government - is a private citizen in this regard) should not be interfering with the State's conduct of foreign policy by negotiating with its enemies about anything.

I know that someone is going to say, "but all Beilin and Noam Shalit did was to ask the Norwegians to bring back a sign of life." There are three responses to this. First, the same thing could have been accomplished through the Red Cross, which is a proper channel. The Israeli government could have approached the Norwegian government, which would have been a proper channel. And Beilin comes to this incident with unclean hands because he has a history of undermining governments in this exact manner.
But perhaps this is the most important part, which came out after the terrorists for Gilad deal. 
Yes, of course, the Shalit family had a public relations campaign. Now that the terrorists for Gilad trade has been made, the campaign has been exposed.
About four years ago, after year and a half of silence in the media and the sense that Gilad Shalit was beginning to be forgotten, Shalit's father, Noam, enlisted the help of a public relations firm. Until that moment, the Shalit family had operated without the close help of media consulting. Noam was determined to change the public discourse and offered to pay Tammy Shinkman, of the public relations firm Rimon-Cohen-Shinkman, as much as it took. "At first, they [the Shalit family] offered to pay us, and we of course, without second thoughts, said 'no chance.' We insisted that we would do it voluntarily," says Benny Cohen, a partner of the firm who ran the operational strategy and work behind the scenes of the Shalit campaign.

Immediately after the firm began working for the Shalit family, the media was flooded with countless messages and news items calling for Shalit's release. Meetings were held with newspapers and broadcast media in attempts to convince them to cover the soldier's struggle on their front pages and in their top headlines; politicians were asked to join the campaign; and celebrities decided to lock themselves in a makeshift jail cell, believed to be similar to what Shalit was kept in under Hamas captivity, in solidarity with the soldier.

The country was filled with billboards, flags and stickers, and pictures of the kidnapped soldier printed in the nation's colors - blue and white - became an iconic symbol. The Shalit family's struggle made headlines and brought crowds of supporters out into the streets. The change marked an unprecedented and historic shift.

"It is connected to the empowerment of emotions. The strategy was to make everyone empathize with the terrible fear that his or her child could leave and never return," Shinkman once said in an interview with the Globes newspaper. "The codes of communication are clear: You get a response when you reveal a personal side. The Shalit family had a hard time exposing itself to the public. They were an introverted family, and Noam himself is a bereaved sibling. And yet it was important to facilitate emotional involvement, to highlight the fact that every parent would expect this kind of public solidarity if it happened to them, and this was done by massively amplifying the dose of the family's exposure to the public."

"You have to remember that mutual responsibility for one another is part of the Israeli ethos and this does not exist in other cultures," Cohen adds. "It means that when we speak of one child, we are talking about everyone's child, not just some distant soldier fighting in Afghanistan. As soon as we realized this would be our strategy, we did a lot of work to keep the Shalit story alive, for example, during Purim, releasing photos of Gilad dressed as a clown when he was a child.

"There were many periods of quiet, so every few months we had to find some other idea that would push the media to give us coverage. There were two other sources that played a big role - the advertising agency Shalmor Avnon Amichai voluntarily produced movies, designs and slogans for us, for example the ad showing the word "help" written in handwriting; and also Kobi Gamliel who was able to get 800,000 people to change their profile pictures on Facebook."

What they did worked.
But what if the Shalit family had not been in the position to say "we'll pay you whatever it takes"? What if the Shalit family (like the leaders of the tent city this past summer) had not been from a socio-economic group that Israel's mass media loves? What if, for example, he had been a religious Hesder soldier from Judea and Samaria or from a development town? I have my doubts whether the families of such soldiers would ever have attempted to do what the Shalits did in the first place, but Israeli society needs to do some soul-searching and ask itself those questions.
Well, now we have the answer as to who a religious family from Judea and Samaria (okay, two of them don't live in Judea and Samaria, but two of the kids go to school there) would react and it's nothing like the Shalits. Rav Eliyahu's criticism is very much in place. The Shalit family manipulated Israeli society into paying an exorbitant price, and that price has encouraged other kidnappings. There has been no ransom demand:  maybe because the terrorists are waiting for the families to start making the kinds of demands the Shalits made, or maybe because the 'Palestinians' have decided that kidnapping random Israelis and making them 'disappear' has a chance of being a more effective tactic to spring terrorists. It's time to tell the truth.

Labels: , , , , ,


At 6:12 AM, Blogger debbie said...

And there has been no comment whatsoever from the Shalits, has there?


Post a Comment

<< Home