Most Australians would be hard pressed to name more than a couple of Israelis - and one of them is sure to be Gilad Shalit. The young armoured tanks corps corporal was captured in 2006 on the southern border of Gaza by members of the Palestinian armed resistance. Since then he has been held captive in a secret location somewhere in the Gaza Strip, while efforts to gain his release in a prisoner swap have come to nothing.
Israel currently incarcerates over 11,000 Palestinians in prisons within Israel, in harsh conditions and frequently subject to torture and medical deprivation. Many are imprisoned without charge, almost all are political prisoners. They include women, the elderly, community leaders, politicians and elected members of parliament (the moderate Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as a successor to Yasser Arafat, has been imprisoned since 2002 on trumped-up charges). More disturbing is Israel's practice of jailing children for demonstrating against the occupation, usually by throwing stones at Israeli tanks and armoured personnel vehicles.
The children of Bil'in are particularly at risk. Twelve of them have been imprisoned this summer alone. Stepping up their efforts to crush the popular resistance by villagers to the theft of their lands, the Israeli occupation forces now raid the village nightly, destroying property, terrorising the inhabitants and carting away the children and young men.
So, while I hope for Gilad Shalit's safe release, let's forget about him for a while - after all, he was a soldier on active duty, patrolling the open-air prison that is Gaza. Let's devote our thoughts and our sympathy for the 11,000 faceless and nameless Palestinians now rotting in Israeli jails.