NOTE*** It is not my preference to reduce humans to ATM transactions. Trust me, if I ruled the world, things would be different. I am simply saying, that the use of humans as bargaining power, in itself reduces the prisoners to currency, I simply ask that we take the metaphor a step further to understand the implications of the exchange rate****
Today, the front of the NY times read “DEAL WITH HAMAS WILL FREE ISRAELI HELD SINCE 2006”. (Small variation in the online title)
Why doesn’t this article read “Deal with Israel will free over one thousand Palestinians” The title alone implies that the most significant implications of this decisions is the freeing of one. ONE. man. The accompanying picture is of the Israeli soldier’s friends and family who are, understandably, shocked and excited to the point of tears at the news.
Once again, you would never find pictures of the thousands of Palestinians who will be celebrating the return home of their own family members. It is blatant bias, such as this, that goes over the heads of most USians and that reinforces the importance of some people over the others. In this case, it is the value of ONE Israeli militant over 1027 Palestinians. Denied their humanity, the Palestinian Prisoners are only significant in that they were the trading power to free the Israeli. Not humans, but a currency. A currency with a painful exchange rate. While someone benefits from a drastically imbalanced exchange rate in the economic sphere, no one would argue that having a weak currency is beneficial in the international market. Hamas took their foreign investment to the bank and received a large number of their local currency in exchange. Yet, the implication is, that on the large scale, what Hamas entered the figurative bank with and left with was of equal value. 1000 Palestinians to 1 Israeli. Hamas had to participate in this exchange, but by doing so, it reinforced the inequality.
I have often heard people, regarding this issue, complain that Hamas is being selfish to demand 1000 prisoners for one man. However, the disproportionality of this ratio was not established by Hamas. The US and Israel have long operated under the mentality that a small number of Israelis are significantly more important than a large number of Palestinians. In the 2009 invasion of Gaza, the over one thousand Palestinian casualties, most of which were children and women, were justified by the need to “defend” Israel from rocket attacks whose combined casuality implications are minimal by comparison.
Israel and the US happily accept the 1000:1 ratio when it works in their favor, and US and Israeli media validate and encourage the inequality through their journalism. Hamas simply monopolized off of their unfavorable place in the equation and, in this small example, benefited from it.
Why does the US, which likes to pretend that it cares about human rights and will approach MANY different issues under this façade -Darfur, Libya, Somalia, to name a few- refuse to approach this issue in that manner. Should the headline not read “Israeli/ Hamas prisoner deal results in the freeing of 1,028 political prisoners.”
The answer, (to me at least) is that the US does what is in its own best interest, and then finds a media angle to cover it up. Enter Iraq in the name of Freedom, Libya in the name of Human Rights, and blindly support Israel in the name of Democracy. At the same time, label democratically elected Hamas a terrorist organization, continually violate the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and fund the occupation (lack of freedom) of the Palestinian territories. Our hypocrisies are evident, and the motivations behind them, apparent.
In a healthy society, the role of journalism would be to expose them, not to propagate them.