June 26, 2011
That's how long it has been, to the day, since Gilad Schalit was first captured by Hamas.
A corporal in the Armor Corps at the time he was taken, he has since been promoted to staff sergeant. He was abducted by terrorists who had entered Israel via an underground tunnel, near the Kerem Shalom crossing where he was patrolling. To this day, his exact whereabouts have been kept secret.
Hamas has not permitted even a single visit to Gilad by the International Red Cross -- which just last Thursday made a (futile) request for such a visit, or at least proof that he is still alive. (There has been no such proof for about two years.)
Hamas's conduct in the matter is in defiance of international humanitarian law. Not infrequently, I write about international law: and here's an example of how little it means in certain situations. Hamas -- which claims it cannot allow visits without revealing his whereabouts -- simply does not care.
There is no decently motivated, caring human being -- Jew or not -- who is not pained by the reasonable assumption of what Gilad, if indeed he is still alive, must endure day in and day out. There is no parent whose heart does not go out to Noam and Aviva Schalit, for the nightmare they are living.
And so the question that faces us, is how to determine what can be (properly) done to facilitate or bring about the release of Gilad Schalit.
As Gilad holds dual Israeli and French citizenship, the French have been involved at some level, to no avail. Sarkozy wants the IRC to deliver a letter to Shalit, but this is small stuff smacking of PR. Additionally, French Ambassador for Human Rights, Francois Zimeray, said on Friday:
"In a few months, the international community will have to [deal with the question] of recognizing a Palestinian state. I do not know what our position will be. That is not the point. The only thing I can say is when one pretends to be a state ruled by law, one has to show respect for basic international humanitarian law."
True. But does Hamas care about being a state? Not last I looked. Words, and more words.
It is Israel, of course, that is said to hold a major key: Hamas wants its terrorist "activists."
Hamas would have let Gilad out by now, had the Israeli government -- this government or the previous one -- acceded to demands for the release of a certain number (1,000 or more) of Hamas prisoners held by Israel -- in some cases prisoners convicted of terrorists acts in which innocent Jews were killed and certainly including leaders and planners within the terrorist community. The name most frequently mentioned in this regard is Marwan Barghouti, who is actually Fatah and not Hamas associated; serving five life sentences, he should never see the light of day again.
But while this nation would dearly love to see Gilad back home, it cannot be at any price. Were these prisoners to be released as demanded, the vast odds would be that we would be trading Gilad's life now for the lives of other innocent Israelis later. What is more, to accede is to encourage the capture of other soldiers later, because we've demonstrated that this is a way to secure the release of prisoners in Israeli jails. Lastly, this would have a demoralizing effect on the families of terrorist victims who want to see justice done, and on IDF and other security forces who risk their lives to captures these murderers -- and may wonder why they should bother any more.
For these reasons, I believe that pressure on PM Netanyahu to accede to Hamas demands, however well-intended, is simply wrong-headed. As a matter of fact, the vast amount of publicity generated here demonstrating that the public is clamoring for Gilad's release stiffens Hamas resolve.
There are arguments advanced regarding the possibility of using other means to secure Gilad's release. Some are simply not feasible. But now we're looking at something that might possibly have some effect in "motivating" Hamas to release Gilad:
PM Netanyahu on Thursday night announced that there was going to be a reduction in the privileges accorded to imprisoned terrorists.
At least in theory, this would generate unrest among the thousands of residents of Gaza who have relatives in Israeli prisons, and generate anger at Hamas -- which need only release one man. It turns the tables, just a bit.
This is hardly a new issue, and it's one I've written about before. International law as well as Israeli law address the rights of prisoners, and there are certain stipulations: a specified amount of space in the prison cell, allocated time for exercise, some recreation, etc. etc. Netanyahu is not suggesting that we abrogate these basic rules.
But what Israel accords her prisoners now so far exceeds this as to take the breath away. Terrorists complicit in/responsible for murders of Israeli innocents can get conjugal rights and secure advanced academic degrees while in Israeli prisons. And there is yet more. These conditions prevail because of some very bleeding-heart attitudes on the part of our courts (who respond to appeals), as well as on the part of decision-makers within the system.
Netanyahu, while vague with regard to specifics, says the situation is about to change. Let us hope so.
"Why did this take five years?" Noam Schalit has asked. And I think that's a very good question.
Remember the girl who isn't sure if her boyfriend loves her, and so she pulls the petals from a daisy, one at a time, intoning, "He loves me, he loves me not"?
Well, that is how I see Mahmoud Abbas these days. "Go to the UN." "Go to the UN not."
I just wrote about how he seems to be giving up on achieving statehood via the UN, and is now indicating that given the right parameters, he'd rather come to the negotiating table.
But today Abbas declared that, "Until now there have been no new incentives to return to negotiations." This was at a meeting he had convened in Ramallah to make preparations for going to the UN in September.
Declaring that he was not giving up on reconciliation, he said he would be prepared to go to the Gaza Strip [to forge that unity agreement].
"For a long time I said I would go to Gaza, and now I say I am still determined to go to Gaza and it will be a surprise for all."
His message here, of course, is for Obama and the EU: You guys aren't doing enough. You want me to back off from the UN, you've got to deliver. Otherwise, you'll see, I'll go to the UN. You think I won't? I will.
Mahmoud, you're getting to be something of a bore.
Daniel Pipes has written a lovely article, "Not Stealing Palestine, but Purchasing Israel," which I recommend that you read, share, and save.
"Zionists stole Palestinian land: that's the mantra both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas teach their children and propagate in their media. This claim has vast importance, as Palestinian Media Watch explains: 'Presenting the creation of the [Israeli] state as an act of theft and its continued existence as a historical injustice serves as the basis for the PA's non-recognition of Israel's right to exist.' The accusation of theft also undermines Israel's position internationally.
But is this accusation true?
"No, it is not. Ironically, the building of Israel represents about the most peaceable in-migration and state creation in history. To understand why requires seeing Zionism in context..." (emphasis added)
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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