Gilad Shalit and his emotional homecoming after five years in a Palestinian prison was the major news story of the day. Not only was it picked up by every paper, people were actively seeking out information on him, pushing his name into the top Google trends throughout the day.
Shalit became something of a cause célèbre in Israel after he was captured by Palestinian militants who tunneled into Israel and attacked an Israeli army post where Shalit was serving. As BlogPost’s Elizabeth Flock wrote last week, “The story of [Shalit’s] imprisonment is a long and convoluted one, involving many failed arbitrations, diplomatic efforts and rescue attempts.”
While the world focused its attention on Shalit’s release, the 447 prisoners released Tuesday in exchange for Shalit’s freedom, and the 580 more scheduled to be released in two months, have been the focus of secondary stories. There was also little mention of the more than 4,000 remaining Palestinian prisoners, including 164 prisoners under the age of 18.
The Al Jazeera correspondent in Latin America wrote on Twitter:
So the whole world knows the name of Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit. Does the world know the name of any of the 1027 Palestinian prisoners?
Pro-Palestinian blogger Asad Abukhalil called the media coverage “a festival of your racism,” saying the international media slanted all of its coverage on the one Israeli solider, and portrayed all the Palestinians as terrorists.
Indian novelist Sunny Singh wrote, “Dear international media, thank you for that detailed coverage of Shalit's release. Can you now give some info on the Palestinian prisoners?”
However, the sheer number of prisoners on the Palestinian side made it difficult for news stories to include all 447 names of the released prisoners, though some bloggers felt they should have been included. The numbers also caused a huge amount of debate.
To some Israelis, the price for Shalit was too high: releasing that many prisoners would only up the chances of more kidnappings, critics of the prison swap said.
Some Arabs saw the numbers as a sad commentary on their governments. Syrian blogger Soori Madsoos wrote, “I just envy their govt because it cares for it's citizens. Their govt is prepared to pay the ultimate price for one citizen.”