Limelight Hostages Upset Israeli War Cabinet – OpEd


Despite the destruction of Gaza, Hamas and the Palestinian resistance may have won the first round of the war on the Strip so to speak. How so, you might ask? 

The prisoner’s exchange deal of the latest truce deal in Qatar, proved a prudent way of proving this. The deal was fostered after strenuous negotiations in Doha, including the Egyptians, Americans and Israelis, to create a four-day pause in the war period and the freeing of 150 Palestinian hostages against 50 Israelis kept by Hamas. 

Palestinians have since praised the deal, which it is argued elevated Hamas and the resistance movement in Palestinian politics and especially among the people to the distaste of Israelis, who are incidentally in favor of extending the deal. 

Cameras flashing 

The exchange of prisoners has proved to be a powerful tool for both sides and in the way it was used. Such a periodic exchange, although made in the evening and late at night, that may have been dictated by the Israeli authorities, was a major eye-opener to many and reflected the fact we are all humans.

Under the eyes of the jeeps of the International Red Cross, covered Izz Al Din Al Qassam bodyguards carried the old women to be exchanged whilst waving goodbye to semi-masked men and what appeared to be women fighters. This is certainly not what Israeli Prime Minister Bengamin Netanyahu wanted to project to the world. 

According to his standards, Hamas fighters as per the Izz Al Din Al Qassam Brigade and the rest of the Palestinian resistance, were portrayed as blood-thirsty terrorists which is what he and the Israeli propaganda machine wanted to show to the international community. These images added the human elements to the so-called terror-wielding men. 

Ever since the release of the two Israeli old ladies – Yocheved Lifshitz (85) and Nurit Cooper (79) and who said they were treated so well by their captives – the Israeli government had not wanted to repeat what they called the same mistake of letting hostages talk to the press and say nice things about their captors. 

But the Israeli government was mistaken. The first hostages release made over the initial four-day truce period, in which at least 13 Israeli women and children were released on each of the consecutive days – not to say anything of the surprise release of foreigners made under the gaze of the cameras, was full of cordiality and warmth.

All smiles 

These were not the hostages the Israeli media made us believe of being badly treated by their Hamas guards. As they entered into the night limelight, they appeared happy, elated in their stride, all smiles, waving to their captors. These are not hostages who were being kept in underground tunnels for 47, 48, 49 and 50 days.

Semi-hooded bandana-strapped Hamas guards escorted the old ladies to the waiting International Red Cross cars, and of the some who couldn’t walk, were carried there and carefully placed inside the 4×4 vehicles. Do bloodthirsty terrorists do this kind of thing? 

And, then there was a case of another young lady on crutches. She was given the same treatment, allowed to walk in her own pace time, no hurrying her up or rough-handling. This didn’t look like a hostage-for-prisoners swap. 

Day-after-day – the release of hostages in four batches from Friday till Monday – were the same, captives would wave to their captors, as the vehicles sped away. These images couldn’t be controlled by the Israeli government and its spin-doctors because they were done intuitively and by instinct. 

Bear with a sore head 

The Israeli government acted as a bear with a sore head. Never mind they ordered the bombing of the living daylight out of Gaza, destroying neighborhoods, communities and turning them into wreckage and rubble with deaths nearing 15,000 in less than seven weeks, they wouldn’t allow the newly-released talk to the press.

But then they would have told them they were treated kindly and humanly like Lifshitz and Cooper when the former said: “We ate bread, white cheese and cucumbers, just like them” and they provided the old lady with a doctor to monitor her health, and told her they believe in the Quran and wouldn’t harm them. She was one of the up to 250 hostages Hamas took back into Gaza after dramatically crossing into Israeli territory on 7 October and allegedly killing 1200 Israelis. 

But such words, according to the Israeli government shouldn’t be heard, not by their public, a great majority of whom have against them and don’t want war, nor of the international community which had long campaigned for a ceasefire on Gaza after the daily massacres seen on their screens and the social media.  

In complete opposite 

This was in complete contrast to how the Palestinian prisoners were released. According to the Minister of National Security Itamar Bin-Gvir, who opposed the temporary truce deal, said the Israeli police need to quash any attempt of Palestinian celebrations at the site of the inmates drop off. 

The prisoner’s were being release from Israeli jails and dropped in Bietounia, near Ramallah. There, many relatives of the mostly women and children, were waiting for them and ready to celebrate as normal people would do. In theory, the Israelis had no control over them because these are autonomous Palestinian territories.

However, quite a few of the released were from East Jerusalem under Israeli jurisdiction. Bin-Gvir told the Israeli police to go into their homes and break up any attempt at show joy and to use force if necessary. And as shown on Al Jazeera and other satellites the police were seen raiding the houses of those prisoners that were returning home and braking up any of the gatherings. 

It was in bad taste and completely lacking of human emotions and exactly opposite to how the Israeli captives were treated by Hamas.

Dr. Marwan Asmar

Dr. Marwan Asmar holds a PhD from Leeds University and is a freelance writer specializing on the Middle East. He has worked as a journalist since the early 1990s in Jordan and the Gulf countries, and been widely published, including at Albawaba, Gulf News, Al Ghad, World Press Review and others.

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