Friday, June 26, 2009

The Importance of Gilad Shalit

Jonathan Tobin - 06.25.2009 - 1:45 PM

Three years ago today, Hamas terrorists crossed the international border between Gaza and Israel to attack an Israeli army post. They killed two Israelis and kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit. He remains their prisoner to this day, held somewhere inside the Gaza territory ruled by the Hamas movement. Unlike Hamas killers held by Israel, Shalit has received no Red Cross visits. He is held incommunicado while his kidnappers hold off-and-on indirect negotiations to ransom him by forcing Israel to release hundreds or more terrorists including those convicted of perpetrating massacres onIsraeli civilians.
Some will say that Shalit was a solider in a war against Hamas and therefore, unlike a civilian, had to take his chances. If his fate is hard, we are told, that’s too bad but the Palestinians in Israeli hands aren’t at a beach resort either. And, as we are constantly reminded by celebrity tourists like Jimmy Carter as well as by the press, Palestinian civilians in Gaza are living in terrible conditions.

But it is curious that Shalit’s captivity is dismissed by most of the same people who are quick to attack Israel for behaving as if it is fighting a war against the Hamas rulers of Gaza. If Shalit’s fate is merely a caprice of war rather than a human rights issue, then how can anyone fault Israel for treating those who attacked its sovereign territory — and continue to do so by every means they can — as an enemy in a state of war against the Jewish state? How can it be okay for Hamas to hold an Israeli soldier hostage but not okay for Israel to attack Hamas terror bases and infrastructure as it did last December and January? Why is it an imperative for Israel to lift the limited blockade on Gaza (which attempts to prevent Hamas from rebuilding its military infrastructure while letting in food and medicine) so long as it is illegally holding an Israeli prisoner? What does it say about world opinion that it condemns Israel for cruelty toward the Palestinians while Iran’s ally Hamas is given impunity to commit terror and even to profit from kidnapping.

The anniversary of Shalit’s captivity also comes at a time when the Obama administration is attempting to restart peace talks in which Israel is being asked to make concessions on security and territory as a precondition of discussing peace. This insistence on pressuring Israel takes no account of the realities of Palestinian politics and society that render the entire project a fool’s errand. Hamas remains in power in Gaza, and might well be in charge of the West Bank too if Palestinians there were offered a free choice. Those in Washington and elsewhere who blithely talk of the need for Israel to freeze settlements or to lift roadblocks ignore the nature of Hamas — a military/political entity that continues to support the eradication of Israel and the massacre of its Jewish population. They forget that a total withdrawal of Israeli settlements and soldiers from Gaza four years ago didn’t bring peace or even an attempt by the Palestinians to build their economy. Instead it brought Hamas into power, first by elections and then by an armed coup, and the conversion of the strip into a vast terror base sheltered amid a civilian population.

While we must pray that Gilad Shalit is either ransomed or rescued soon, the lack of interest in his fate or the nature of his kidnappers on the part of the same people who are so quick to lecture Israel is a reminder of the absurd double standard by which that country is judged .

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