As the third anniversary of Gilad Schalit’s captivity draws near (he was abducted in June 2006), it’s painful to contemplate what he must be suffering. Most likely he is being held underground in a dark, booby-trapped concrete bunker, deprived of human contact. His family has no idea of what may have been done to him; his physical and mental condition are unknown.
His treatment is probably much worse than that of the inmates of Guantanamo Bay, but unlike the global outcry over Guantanamo, only Israelis and a small number of Jews living outside of Israel have expressed real concern — and that has lately taken the form of demonstrations against the Israeli government for not meeting the impossible demands made by Hamas for his release.
The International Red Cross has asked to be allowed to visit him several times and has been turned down. The most recent update on the ICRC website — among countless news releases detailing the ‘humanitarian disaster’ Gazans experienced during the ‘siege’ and the recent war — is from December 2008. In it, an official says,
There are limits to what we can do and to what international humanitarian law entitles us to do when it comes to visiting people in detention or to finding out what happened to people who go missing in an armed conflict.
In the case of Gilad Shalit, we deplore the fact that political considerations have outweighed humanitarian concerns, and respect for basic humanitarian principles, making it virtually impossible to help him or his family.
As a humanitarian organization, we have limited leverage in these matters. All we can do is to remind those who control the situation of their obligation to act in accordance with the spirit and letter of international humanitarian law. The parties to an armed conflict, be they States or non-State groups, have to uphold the law.
I would have expected at least a clear statement that Hamas is violating international law, but apparently ‘deploring’ is the strongest emotion that they can generate (compare the above to the ICRC report from 2007 entitled “The occupied Palestinian territories: Dignity Denied“).
But for the greatest reality inversion, consider the position of Hamas:
Let’s first be clear that Schalit was no innocent captive. He was an Israeli soldier who aimed and shot his weapon, and probably other armaments, at Palestinian civilians. Furthermore, Israel has imprisoned over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, many without trial, and many of whom were abducted from their homes at night. They have also been subjected to torture. — Ahmed Yousef, senior Hamas official
I very strongly doubt that Schalit ever fired anything at Palestinian civilians. And to compare his situation to prisoners in Israeli jails — who are together with other prisoners, receive regular visits from the Red Cross and family members, have electricity, postal, telephone and television privileges and who for the most part have been tried and convicted of crimes up to and including multiple murder — is beyond ridiculous.
Schalit is at least deserving of the treatment demanded by the Geneva Convention for prisoners of war. Hamas’ refusal to follow international law in this regard, not to mention the continuing illegal bombardment of civilians and attempts to infiltrate into Israel and carry out terrorist attacks, mark it as a terrorist, outlaw entity.
The usual foreign-policy ‘realists’ and supposedly civilized media like the NY Times are obscenely calling for Hamas to be a part of a Palestinian unity government. Here is what the ‘realists’ advocate:
In brief, shift the U.S. objective from ousting Hamas to modifying its behavior, offer it inducements that will enable its more moderate elements to prevail, and cease discouraging third parties from engaging with Hamas in ways that might help clarify the movement’s views and test its behavior.
It’s hard for me to find an analogy strong enough to illustrate the wrong-headedness of this. Moderate elements in Hamas? Are there elements in Hamas who are not passionately dedicated to the liquidation of the Jewish state by means of violent jihad? Can Siegman, Scowcroft, Brzezinski, et al. point to even one? Would they have advocated offering ‘inducements’ to encourage the moderate elements in Hitler’s SS?
Hamas represents a pure distillate of the violent and racist attitudes in Palestinian society. The cruelty they display in their treatment of Schalit makes this clear. So why are they treated as anything more than the pathological criminals that they are?
Unfortunately, Hamas’ obsessive hatred is the perfect weapon for Iran, which sees Israel as an obstacle to its geopolitical goals — domination of the Mideast and its oil resources and opposition to the US — and so this gang of racist murderers receives financial support from Iran and political legitimacy from those in the US and Europe who would prefer appeasing Iran to resisting it.
There is only one way to bring Schalit home and only one way to lay the groundwork for the ultimate reconciliation of Israel and the Palestinians, and that is the destruction of Hamas as a political and military power. Israel’s failure to do this in the recent Operation cast Lead will bring about even more warfare and suffering for both Jews and Arabs in the not-so-distant future.