Guardian got it wrong — Noam Shalit didn’t say he would kidnap Israelis if he were Palestinian


Britain’s Guardian newspaper has a story that is being picked up by various outlets around the world. The headline: “Gilad Shalit’s father: I would kidnap Israelis if I were Palestinian.”

The story’s first sentence reported that Noam Shalit “said he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.” According to The Guardian, Noam Shalit made the statement in a television interview.

Yet the only direct quote The Guardian provides on the topic doesn’t by itself substantiate the sensational headline. The quote is: "We also kidnapped British soldiers when we were fighting for our freedom" — a statement of historical fact, not an assertion of what Shalit would or would not do in the event of a hypothetical change of nationality.

Moreover, I couldn’t find any English-language Israeli outlet that had reported on Shalit’s statement — surprising given the provocative nature of the words being attributed to him by The Guardian. So I was a little suspicous.

I had a Hebrew-speaking colleague track down the interview with Israel’s Channel 10. It turns out Shalit didn’t quite say what The Guardian says he said.

Here’s a transcript (translated from Hebrew) of what Shalit actually said:


Q. So you support talking to Hamas?

Shalit: I support talking to anyone.

Q. Including Hamas?

Shalit: Including Hamas. Everyone who wants to talk with us.

Q. As a Knesset member, would you go out tomorrow to talk with [Hamas Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh?

Shalit: Haniyeh’s not yet ready to recognize us. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet.

Q. And if he recognizes us?

Shalit: If and when we get the bridge, we’ll cross it. Of course.

Q. That is, even if the kidnappers of Gilad themselves one day are senior officials in the Palestinian administration and agree to recognize Israel, you would sit with them as an Israeli Knesset member.

Shalit: Presumably — I said that if they change their ways and are prepared to recognize us and recognize that there is a Jewish state, that there’s Israel, there’s the State of Israel, yes, and they stop the war against then yes – absolutely.

Q. Shake his hand?

Shalit: Yes.

Shalit: How did Barak say? If I were Palestinian, it’s possible I too would be a terrorist or a freedom fighter — how they call them — or something else.

Q: If you were a Hamasnik, would you abduct an Israeli soldier?

Shalit: I don’t know but maybe I would fight IDF forces in a different way, I don’t know.

Q: But you don’t rule it out.

Shalit: If I were a Palestinian?

Q: Yes, abducting a soldier to release prisoners.

Shalit: We also kidnapped British officers way back when, when we were fighting for our freedom.

Q: You’re a cold fish.

Shalit: Thanks.

So, to recap: Shalit didn’t really say that he would kidnap an Israeli soldier if he were a Palestinian. When asked by the interviewer whether he would do such a thing, he gave equivocal responses. He said he didn’t know what he would do if he were a Palestinian but suggested that he might have tried to fight the Israeli army “in a different way.” Asked whether he would rule out kidnapping, he noted — factually — that Jewish fighters kidnapped British officers during the British Mandate period.

So he didn’t categorically say he wouldn’t kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian, but — contra The Guardian — he also didn’t say he would. (Britain’s Jewish Chronicle had a more accurate report on the interview.)

He also said that that he would be willing to shake the hands of Hamas leaders, but conditioned that on them recognizing a Jewish state and stopping their violence.

It will be interesting to see if there is any fallout from the interview for Noam Shalit. Several months after the prisoner exchange that won his son’s freedom, Shalit announced (somewhat controversially) that he would run for Knesset with the Labor Party.

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