“The real tragedy actually was letting a psychologically unfit teenager like Gilad Shalit wear the military uniform in the first place.”
Dr. Ashraf Ezzat
Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners to get Shalit back.
Beyond the debate over the rationale of Israel’s deal to release 1000 prisoners for one kidnapped soldier lies a simple fact: this Shalit deal is not only unbalanced but also mysterious in so many ways.
The mystery in this swap deal lies not in the acquiescence of the Israeli side- albeit unusual- to Hamas’ unbending demands for releasing the kidnapped soldier, it lies not in the success of the Egyptians brokering the deal where Mubarak and the Germans’ diplomacy had failed before; it lies not in the timing of the deal that coincided with the highest peak of Israeli perceived intransigence toward recognizing a Palestinian estate, it lies not in the Hamas attempt to steal some of the thunder the Palestinian authority generated by forwarding its bid for UN statehood …, rather the mystery of this swap deal lies in Gilad Shalit, the Israeli kidnapped soldier himself.
As the story goes, Shalit, an Israeli army corporal, was abducted in June 2006 by militants while he was patrolling along the Israeli-Gaza border. The Hamas militants surprised his tank crew, killed two of his comrades and whisked him back into Gaza where he was held virtually incommunicado until his release.
We all grew familiar with photos of Shalit that advocates for his release began to post on the internet since his capture by Hamas. They were snap shots of a young and smart Israeli man in military uniform. While you can’t tell much about a person from his photo, it’s not before you have at least watched him talk that you can get a little bit closer to knowing what kind of person he is.
Shalit’s kidnapping and his 2009 video
On watching Shalit in his 2009 video in which he showed the whole world that he was safe and treated well in his captivity and also urged Netanyahu to concede to Hamas’ demands, something about that footage struck me as odd.
Though shalit had been in captivity for well over three years during which the Zionist controlled mainstream media turned him into a national hero, his first appearance in 2009 video revealed to me another aspect- devoid of any heroism- of Shalit’s personality that we couldn’t discern from the previous photos campaigners for his release flooded us with.
From the first moment shalit started to talk in the video as he was reading from some dummy card he somehow sounded, throughout the 2-minute and 40-second video, dummier than the card he was looking at.
I’m aware that I’m talking about a man who has been long in captivity and maybe subjected to unimaginable hardships and that he must have been told to act according to a preplanned scenario so as to make everybody get the feeling that he was ok and taken care of.
But with all that in mind I still couldn’t explain Shalit’s monotonous tone, his inability to change facial expression and to convey his hidden feelings through any body language or gesture - signs that stray away from the hyperarousal features of anger and irritability of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But what primarily triggered my discomfort, or suspicions actually, was Shalit kicking off his video with a totally unexpected idiotic smile hardly befitting of a man languishing in solitude, as if he had just listened to a joke, that later turned into a recurring smirk characteristic of some pathological stereotype.
Those signs somehow began to summon up the physician inside me, and as I was trying to connect some of the dots I realized that the Israeli captive I had just watched talking in the video was not unfamiliar to me, I’ve seen this smirky face so many times before, not in Israel, but as I was examining cases with autism.
Now and before some of you with their jaws dropping start to wonder what kind of point I’m trying to prove here.
Well, and before anybody jump to any conclusions, all I’m saying is that upon watching Gilad Shalit’s 2009 video I started to have my doubts as a physician if the man Hamas captured and kept in some secret hiding place for years was suffering from some kind of pervasive development disorders(PDDs) long before he was kidnapped.
What is “pervasive development disorders?”
PDDs, refers to a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic personality skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. Children with these conditions often are confused in their thinking and generally have problems understanding the world around them.
There are five types of pervasive development disorders: Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett’s syndrome and Pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS)
While most of these conditions typically are identified in children around 3 years of age — a critical period in a child’s development – they are called development disorders- one condition amongst them might linger with the child into his teens undiagnosed, namely Pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS) which refers to children who have significant problems with communication and play, and some difficulty interacting with others, but are too social to be considered autistic and often to referred to as “atypical autistic”.
There are no laboratory tests to diagnose a PDD and that is why the doctor often seeks input from the child’s parents, teachers, and other adults who are familiar with the child’s symptoms.
General symptoms that may be present to some degree in a child with a PDD include:
- lack of social awareness;
- lack of interest in socializing/making friends
- inability to infer the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others;
- either gazing too intently or avoiding eye contact;
- lack of changing facial expression, or use of exaggerated facial expressions;
- lack of use or comprehension of gestures;
- unusually sensitive to noises, touch, odors, tastes, or visual stimuli;
- Inflexibility and over-adherence to or dependence on routines; stereotypes and repetitive motor patterns.
Egyptian interview and Shalit’s near collapse
Shalit slightly showed some of the PDD symptoms in his 2009 video like the lack of changing facial expression and use of gestures and he certainly bewildered us with his stereotyped smirk. But it was not before his release did we get a chance to scrutinize at his case more closely.
The Egyptian TV was keen on having the first interview with shalit shortly after his release. But what the Nile TV channel host did not know was that she was going to interview a psychologically disturbed man with personality disorders.
The interview was not part of Shalit’s release deal, Gilad shalit could have refused- or strongly avoided any thing that reminded him of the painful interrogating sessions during his captivity was he a PTSD case- but since he didn’t seem to object, the Egyptian TV grabbed the chance and promptly put him in front of the camera and lights. … Not knowing that for a PDD case this TV interview was the ultimate situation where his pathological vulnerability could be exposed for all to see.
On hearing of Shalit being interviewed on the Egyptian TV, that was simultaneously aired live around the globe, the Israeli government went crazy and slammed this exclusive interview as outrageous and exploitative.
There was no logical explanation for the fury of the Israelis over this interview by Egyptians- who mediated the swap deal- except maybe they have lately been aware that Gilad Shalit is suffering from autism-like condition and that they feared he could not handle the interview, probably make a fool of himself and consequently embarrass the Israeli defense forces (IDF) … and that he surely did.
Pale and dazed and shifted in his seat, Gilad Shalit struggled to breathe and seemed to mumble –signs of poor communication skills & uneven language development- as he arduously answered the questions of Shahira Amin, the Nile TV anchor.
This time there was no preplanned scenario, no rehearsals, and no dummy card. This time shalit had to face his most dreaded fears, namely communication and sociability, alone, without the help of his parents who I think lied about their son’s psychological condition for years before finally coming clean on the hidden matter.
As the Egyptian host threw her questions Shalit’s psychological condition, which the Israeli medical records only referred to as low medical profile, was violently been triggered allowing his symptoms to be exhibited more clearly especially for the professional eye.
What we couldn’t elicit from the 2009 video was explicitly out there in front of our eyes in the Egyptian interview. Suddenly all the main symptoms of a case with PDDNOS were exhibited in this interview as shalit’s lack of interest in socializing, avoiding eye contact, lack of changing facial expression and repetitive motor patterns were clearly evident in the video.
As the interview progressed Shalit’s psychological stress was getting so unbearable he looked as if he was going to pass out. Shahira Amin was so alarmed from his near-to-collapse condition she had to stop the shooting to offer him some biscuits and a glass of water, and she could be heard in Arabic as she said “Guys, Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible, he is very sick, I can sense it”
Mrs. Amin was not mistaken in her judgment, Gilad Shalit was a very sick man alright, but he was not suffering from any organic diseases- as later confirmed by his medical examination in Israel, rather his ailment was purely psychological.
After the spectacle this interview with Shalit made, the Israeli government swiftly snatched Shalit by a helicopter back to some Israeli air base where the swift official ceremony for his release proceeded without Shalit himself whom they said was not to be interviewed soon.
Shalit’s medical check-up in Israel proved normal; In addition to a slight injury to one of his hands caused by shrapnel, Shalit was found to be suffering from a vitamin deficiency caused by lack of sunlight.
This story of Gilad Shalit that has dragged out for over five years is about much more than a released Israeli prisoner suffering from some kind of vitamin deficiency; it has more to do with the culture of a military state where its 18-years old boys must be enrolled in a mandatory draft for the ambitions of the Israeli defense forces even if some of them had “low medical profile” or what later appeared as personality disorders.
Kidnapping Shalit was definitely a sad story for his family and an embarrassment for the Israeli government but the real tragedy actually was letting a psychologically unfit teenager like Gilad Shalit wear the military uniform in the first place.
Shalit story is more about the psychology of a nation that existed, and still does according to a code of abnormalities.