What is Kofi Annan doing for the kidnapped Israeli soldiers?
BY JUDEA PEARL AND RUTH PEARL
Monday, August 28, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
As the parents of Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal's reporter who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Pakistan in 2002, we share the anguish of the families of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and their frustration with the international community for failing to secure the release of their loved ones. For more than six weeks now, these soldiers and their families live each day tortured by unimaginable fears and shattered hopes, praying desperately for the nightmare to end; we relive this nightmare each time an innocent person falls victim to the inhumanity of terrorist abduction.
Whatever success the U.N. Security Council would presume to claim, it cannot be said that Resolution 1701 has effectively addressed the direct cause of the fighting--the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser, 31, and Eldad Regev, 26, by Hezbollah, and the earlier abduction of Gilad Shalit, 19, by Hamas. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for the unconditional release of these soldiers has been ignored. Moreover, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, the terrorists have not only seized the soldiers as hostages for political blackmail, they have not allowed the Red Cross to visit them. Their families do not know their physical condition; they have no proof they are even alive.
And so now these families of Ehud, Eldad and Gilad are asking to meet with Kofi Annan. They wish to plead with the secretary-general to use the full weight of his moral authority to mobilize and intensify the efforts of the international community he leads--an influential body that has managed to compel two fierce armies to cease hostilities--to address this flagrant violation of humanitarian law.
On that score, these families are correct: The time has come for Mr. Annan to personally and aggressively intervene, and to insist publicly that, at the minimum, the Red Cross, or his personal humanitarian representatives, be given immediate access to these soldiers.
Will he? It seems unlikely. Sadly, this is not the first time that concerned parents have turned to Mr. Annan in much the same circumstances. Six years ago, another delegation of distressed families came to the U.N. with a similar tragedy, following the abduction of three Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah from under the noses of Unifil and, by some accounts, with their help. The investigation that was subsequently conducted found that the U.N. had made "serious errors in judgment" by hiding information that "would have been helpful in an assessment of the condition of the three abducted soldiers." At that time, the U.N.'s interest in appearing "neutral" overshadowed its commitment to the preservation of human lives. The world cannot afford a repeat of such inaction and poor judgment.
Undoubtedly, the secretary-general will tell the families of Ehud, Eldad and Gilad that he has dispatched a high-level team to Beirut that will urge the release of their loved ones. But that team negotiates behind closed doors. And by not publicly demanding the unfettered access of humanitarian representatives to the kidnapped soldiers, Mr. Annan has deprived his team of the force of credibility and seriousness they need in those negotiations.
When our son Daniel was in captivity, millions of people around the world prayed for his safe return. In that prayer, they made a solemn pledge never to allow abductions of innocent people to become the norm of civilized society, no matter the political purpose, regardless of grievance or goal.
Kofi Annan's resolve against these acts of terrorism will determine to a great extent what norms will govern our society in generations to come, and whether organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas will gloat in unruly appetite or be reined in by moral principles. We urge Mr. Annan to make bold and brave efforts to ensure--as a legacy and gift--that we will not allow our children and our world be taken captive by terror. Mr. Secretary-General, this time, help bring the boys back home.
Mr. and Mrs. Pearl are co-founders of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org), a U.N.-affiliated NGO.