By Khalid Amayreh
There are unconfirmed reports that Israel may be willing to release a large number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of an Israeli occupation soldier held by Islamic resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip.
Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, has been quoted as saying that Israel has shown "significant flexibility" in its stance regarding a prisoner exchange deal on the imprisoned soldier, Gilad Shalit.
"Israel's extreme position regarding the deal has become significantly more flexible in light of Hamas' resoluteness regarding its position and demands," Hamdan told the Gaza-based daily newspaper "Falasteen", which is identified with the Hamas movement.
"If it was up to Hamas, we could have reached a deal within one round of negotiations," Hamdan said, adding that his organization wants to recover its prisoners to "their natural place."
Meanwhile, the Zionist Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed on Tuesday, 16 August, that there was "a grain of truth" to reports of renewed negotiations taking place in Cairo for a prisoner swap deal to secure the release of Shalit.
Barak told Israel's 103 FM, however, that despite the validity of the rumors he "preferred not to say anything [about the negotiations], because it doesn't help."
Israel had hoped that a combination of brutal onslaughts against the Gaza Strip and random arrest of anyone associated with Hamas in the West Bank would coerce the Islamic liberation movement (Hamas) to release Shalit unconditionally.
However, the resoluteness and exemplary steadfastness of Hamas seems to have frustrated and exhausted all Israeli efforts to get Shalit released.
This is not to say, of course, that Israel has completely lost hope for "rescuing Shalit. The Israeli intelligence continues to make intensive efforts around the clock to discover the whereabouts of Shalit.
Moreover, a huge monetary ransom amounting to millions of dollars is still being offered to anyone, e.g. Palestinian informers and collaborators, who would give information that would lead to rescuing Shalit, possibly in a military operation.
None the less, its seems that Hamas has learned its lesson quite well, taking every possible and necessary precautionary effort to hide the whereabouts of Shalit, so much so that it has refused to allow representatives of the Red Cross to visit the imprisoned Israeli soldier.
Hamas didn’t embark on such an ostensibly cruel conduct because it wanted to torment or persecute Shalit.
Hamas realizes that Islam instructs Muslims to treat prisoners of war kindly. But Hamas felt, rather justifiably, that it had to behave extremely cautiously because it didn't trust Israeli intentions, especially the possibility that Israeli agents disguised as RC representatives might try to carry out a certain foul play to rescue Shalit.
In this case, the hopes of thousands of Palestinian families for the early release of their beloved ones from Israeli dungeons and concentration camps would be dashed, and despair would reign over the Palestinian public opinion which accords the prisoners' issue paramount attention and concern.
There is no doubt that the Palestinian community in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip has suffered so much agony and pain as a result of Nazi-like Israeli brutality, so much so that giving any concessions to Israeli supremacists with regard to Shalit would be a real betrayal of our people and the just cause of the prisoners themselves, many of whom are held as hostages, captives and bargaining chips without charge or trial.
In 2008-9, Israel carried out a virtual genocide in Gaza , killing, maiming and incinerating (using white phosphorous) thousands of Palestinian civilians, including more than 330 children and minors.
Israel also utterly destroyed thousands of homes, mosques, and other buildings. More to the point, Israel consistently refused to allow Gazans to rebuild their homes, partially in order to force Hamas' leaders to release Shalit.
This happened as the Nazi-like entity maintained a hermetic siege from sea, land and air that virtually morphed the coastal enclave into a modern-day Warsaw Ghetto. The nearly pornographic brutalization and savaging of the estimated 1.6 million Gazans infuriated millions of Arabs and Muslims around the world, contributing to the outbreak of revolutions against Arab tyrants such as ex-president Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak is widely believed to have connived and colluded with Israel to starve and torment Gazans during the Jewish state's criminal onslaught in the winter of 2008-09.
In the West Bank, Israel waged a concerted witch-hunt campaign against essentially peaceful Muslim activists, dumping thousands of them behind bars in unbearable conditions.
Professors, lawmakers, medical doctors, teachers, engineers, intellectuals and college students in the thousands have been thrown in Israel's cruel jails and given hefty prison sentences on concocted charges.
And when these innocent inmates are released, having served their prison terms in full, they were rearrested and given new prolonged administrative detention terms just to satisfy the cannibalistic and sadistic whims of Israeli intelligence officials, seeking to vent their frustration and vindictiveness over their failure to liberate Shalit from Hamas' custody.
Last week, the Israeli occupation forces rearrested Ayed Dudin from the village of Alaka near Dura in the southern West Bank. Dudin had been released a few weeks earlier, having served nearly six years in administrative detention, without charge or trial.
Just imagine being taken away from your family and beloved ones for six years or even ten years without knowing the reasons behind this oppression. Or worse, imagine being snatched from amongst your family on Christmas after agonizing for so many years in jail without knowing why you were there in the first place.
The same thing applies to dozens of democratically elected Palestinian lawmakers who are agonizing in an open-ended incarceration for nothing other than taking part in elections whose outcome Israel and her guardian ally, the United States, didn't like.
These people, considered le crème de le crème of the Palestinian society committed no crime, violated no laws, and certainly did no violence.
Yet the so-called Israeli justice system has been treating those totally innocent people as terrorists and common criminals.
In light, the extent of the Israeli oppression meted out to the Palestinian people, along with the utmost leniency with which the West, particularly the Jewish controlled American government, treats Israeli violations of Palestinian human and civil rights, forces Hamas to adopt an extreme attitude regarding the Shalit issue.
Besides, there is really no symmetry between Israel and Hamas. Israel is a barbarian occupying power that holds the entire Palestinian people hostage to terrorist Zionist whims. Israel not only oppresses Palestinians. It kills them, shoots them, steals their land and destroys their property rather haphazardly and on a daily basis.
On the other hand, Hamas is a relatively small organization that seeks freedom for its people. Hamas long agreed to play by the rules of justice and fair play. But Israel constantly insists on adopting a policy toward the Palestinians based on bullying and coercion.
This tried policy, however, won't work with a people who have been through it all, from creation to destruction.
Hence, the ball is decidedly in the Israeli court with regard to Shalit; it has always been there.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|