Twitter campaign for Shalit's freedom
Twitter campaign for Shalit's freedomIsrael news photo

Two new Twitter campaigns aim at 23,000 signatures to demand the freedom of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit by his 23rd birthday on August 28. Hamas and allied terrorists abducted him more than three years ago but have not honored Geneva Convention laws that call for visits by the Red Cross. His fate and physical and psychological condition are not known although he is thought to be alive.

Using her Twitter identity @ASoldiersMother, one concerned mother has launched her second social media campaign to gain attention to the plight of Gilad Shalit. A “Gilad Awareness Day” campaign on Twitter on June 25 was dedicated to marking the third anniversary of his kidnapping. Twitter is a social media application that allows people to send 140 character messages to others who are on the sender’s list of followers.

Simultaneously, the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) has formally joined the Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF) campaign to free Shalit. Its “Tweet4Shalit” is a virtual grassroots movement encouraging thousands of supporters to sign onto Twitter to tweet the “#GiladShalit” with the goal of making Gilad a top ten Twitter “Trending Topic” on the day of his birth.

With some lists having “followers” in the thousands and even tens of thousands, “@ASoldiersMother” hopes to easily reach the goal of signatures to demand action. The petition demands that “the Red Cross work to see Gilad Shalit immediately and refuse any and all continuation of aid programs to Gaza until the Hamas government, duly elected by the people in Gaza as their chosen representatives, agrees to allow Red Cross representatives to see Gilad.”

The petition also demands the United Nations take a more active role on behalf of the soldier. Within hours of the petition’s being posted on the Internet, tens of thousands of people had already received messages requesting them to sign. Many left comments of encouragement or anger as they signed the petition.

“My daughter is exactly his age and I cannot imagine what the effects of something like this happening to her would be on all of us,” wrote Gillian Clinton.

“How dare we be silent!” asked Simcha Weinberg.

“This is inhumane to keep Gilad Shalit prisoner. We demand is immediate release,” commented Betty Seidner.

When asked what she hoped to gain by promoting the petition, @ASoldiersMother responded, “I want to send a message to Gilad’s family that we haven’t forgotten him and that we, too, are thinking of him. I want to send a message to the United Nations and the Red Cross that this young man must be given the rights of a prisoner of war, and I want to make our own government here in Israel aware that we must do more to free Gilad.”

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed not to negotiate with the terrorists who abducted Shalit and not to return to the bargaining table with Palestinian Authority PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas before the soldier was returned safely to his home in the Galilee.

However, he quickly backtracked and promoted deals that would have allowed 1,000 terrorists and prisoners to be released in return for Shalit. Shortly before he left office, the Cabinet rejected the proposal, following advice by the security and military establishment. Officials said the release would endanger Israel’s security and the lives of soldiers who terrorists would consider to be additional bargaining chips.

Although the Red Cross has not been able to visit Shalit, Israel continues to allow Arab families to visit terrorists.

They can refuse to admit Palestinians to our health centers until we know that Gilad is getting whatever health care he needs,” explained @ASoldiersMother.