Home > Bruce S. Ticker, Gary Ackerman, Gaza, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinian Authority, United States of America > Class and crass in saga of Sgt. Gilad Shalit

Class and crass in saga of Sgt. Gilad Shalit

 

By Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA–What a touch of crass. The Free Gaza Movement lacked the sense to even pretend that they recognize Jewish humanity when it smacks them in the face.

Before the violent Memorial Day clash with Israeli commandos, their Freedom Flotilla was supposedly packed with food, clothing and construction materials for the people of Gaza, but they had no room for a letter and package that Noam Shalit and his family wanted to send to his son, Gilad Shalit, held hostage by Hamas since June 25, 2006, according to media reports.

In Washington, D.C., two congressmen – a Jew and a Christian, a Democrat and a Republican, a New “Yawker” and a “heartlander” – jointly introduced House Resolution 1359 urging the immediate release of Shalit, the Israel Defense Forces sergeant seized by Hamas terrorists in a cross-border raid. They hope the measure passes before the fourth anniversary of Shalit’s kidnapping.

Rep. Gary Ackerman, whose district covers Jewish communities in Queens and Nassau County, chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, and represents portions of Queens and Nassau County. Rep. Dan Burton, of Indiana, co-sponsored the resolution in his capacity as senior Republican member of the subcommittee; about 10,000 Jews are estimated to live in or near Burton’s district.

The timing of 1359, announced in a news release from Ackerman, affords supporters of Israel an ideal opportunity to reassess efforts to seek Shalit’s release. No sustained drive to press for his freedom has ever been evident in the United States, though loosely organized efforts crop up every so often. Strong street protests in Israel may even be counter-productive, writes Haifa University Professor Steven Plaut.

Their common cause reflects the elementary injustice of Shalit’s plight. What Hamas persists in doing to the sergeant is intolerable. It is a compelling issue that ranks in priority close to Iran’s nuclear threat and the arms build-up in Gaza and southern Lebanon. Shalit’s kidnapping is a blatant act of war that justifies use of force by Israel. How can anyone dispute this?

Our protests in both America and Israel must be persistent, coordinated and full-throated, but we cannot be optimistic that it will spur Shalit’s release. That would be the best result, but at minimum we need to call the world’s attention to Shalit’s struggle. When critics pressure Israel, we should remind them of Ackerman’s words when he announced his legislation: “This outrageous and deeply immoral conduct is absolutely contrary to both international law and the most basic standards of human conduct.”

It is refreshing that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism – the umbrella organization for the Conservative movement – announced its launch of a drive to raise awareness of Shalit’s plight.

USCJ stated in an e-news article on its Web site that participants can join a Yellow Balloon campaign to mark the fourth anniversary by e-mailing virtual yellow balloons along with a message to friends, who can e-mail messages to others. The campaign, run by USCJ’s youth and young adult services department, urges the display of real yellow balloons in front of synagogues, affiliated organizations and private residences during the week of June 21.

“If this campaign keeps international pressure on the world community, we will have accomplished something,” says Richard Moline, USCJ’s youth and young adult services director, in the e-news article.

USCJ also calls upon people to lobby their elected officials and write his parents to express support.

In this vein, we can all write to our representatives in Congress asking them to sign onto Resolution 1359, especially those members of Congress perceived as harshly critical of Israel. Interestingly, some members of Congress called on Israel to expand access of supplies to Gaza without mentioning Shalit’s situation. That group includes Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania.

This is also an opportune time for Jewish organizations to demand that leaders of the Free Gaza Movement explain why they refused to deliver the Shalit family’s letter to Gilad.

Congress already passed a resolution on Shalit’s behalf during the preceding congressional session, said Ackerman, also co-sponsor of the first resolution. If you are learning this only now, you are not alone. Coverage of Shalit’s situation has been sporadic in the mainstream daily newspapers, and reporting in American Jewish newspapers has not been much better.

The media share the blame with Jews and other supporters of Israel who exerted limited effort to make news about Shalit. They were too busy pursuing less substantial matters such as disparaging Jimmy Carter, objecting to a potential Israel-bashing conference, demonstrating against a mosque near Ground Zero and hunting down Mel Gibson with the zeal of Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive.”

These other concerns are important and should be addressed, but we are talking proportions here. We need to focus on what is most significant, and I think a soldier’s kidnapping qualifies.

Israelis have been active holding demonstrations, but Haifa’s Steve Plaut reports in a commentary that they may be hurting Shalit’s cause. He writes, “These protests issue demands to and put pressure on the Israeli government rather than on Hamas. Hamas is indifferent to the desires and passions of the demonstrators. By demanding that ‘everything’ be done to obtain Shalit’s release, the only real effect of the protests is to raise the price it will take to obtain Shalit’s freedom. The protests also make such a release more remote and unlikely.

“The terrorists understand perfectly well that all this only serves to increase the pressure on the Israeli government to offer ever-greater capitulations,” he adds.

Many people are appalled that Israel would even consider Hamas’ demand that it release 1,000 or more Arab prisoners including – perhaps especially – mass murderers in exchange for Shalit. Israelis correctly fear that releasing prisoners will only encourage Hamas and other terrorist organizations to abduct more Israelis.

Maybe there are other ways for Israel to retrieve Shalit. One suggestion: Perhaps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can refer to the attack on Gaza last year by telling Hamas, “If you return Sgt. Shalit, we will not finish the job.”

Hamas may never give up Shalit no matter what we do. Yet if Jews do not show that we care, why should the rest of the world care?

** 

Bruce S. Ticker is a Philadelphia freelance journalist. He blogs at www.Jewishconcerns.blogspot.com. He can be reached at bticker@comcast.net.

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  1. J.J.
    June 11, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    To James Booe. I’m a little confused. In message no 2 you say that you make no claim for FGM, but then in message no 3 we have a full report from you as “we”, speaking as someone who was on the boat. So what and who are you if not a representative of FGM (which, incidentally, is a group now affiliated with IHH, the Turkish terrorist group also involved in this incident – see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/31/AR2010053103445.html : “Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state”). And incidentally, if I were you I would avoid calling myself a representative of FGM anyway, because it stands not only for Free Gaza Movement, but also for Female Genital Mutilation, which seems like an apt analogy given Hamas’ fundamentalist platform and imposition of Sharia Law).

    Now, regarding Shalit, no one is interested in knowing whether a letter was delivered to him or not and whether someone is lying or not. He is a POW, a Prisoner of War. As such, under the rules of the IIIrd Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Prisoners of War of 1949, he should have been visited by the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) as soon as he was captured. It’s been 4 years now and Hamas has still not allowed the ICRC to visit him. This is a clear “grave breach” of the Geneva Convention no III, in other words a war crime that is inexcusable and unacceptable. By denying Shalit regular visits by the ICRC, Hamas is not winning any point. They show themselves to be what they are: primitive savages for whom the rules of the civilized world have to sway. As such, and their behavior so far has only confirmed this unavoidable conclusion, they are not mature enough to run a country and become a nation-State on a par with the other nation-States of the international community. Rather than trying to gain PR points with this pathetic sham “humanitarian” flotilla, they would gain considerably more credit and credibility if they simply freed Shalit, showing to the world that they are smart and compassionate. That would do a lot to improve their image and give them more stature, leading to possible political recognition, but it appears that they are not smart enough to think that far out of the box. They’re stuck in their self-imposed hard Islamic box, and they’re incapable of getting out of it, to their detriment and that of the unfortunate population of Gaza stuck under Hamas’ thumb.

    As for equating Shalit to the 11,000 Palestinian security prisoners, please, don’t be insulting. These guys have nothing to do with “political” prisoners. They are hard-core criminal terrorists who ended up in a well-deserved jail for attacking innocent Israeli civilians. They are not to be freed until they do their time, in particular the many among them who have blood on their hands. Releasing these guys would be akin to release sex offenders near schools. They can’t help themselves and they will hurt other people again, so they’re better off in jail.

    J.J. Surbeck
    T.E.A.M.
    Training and Education
    About the Middle East
    http://www.sandiegoteam.org

  2. James Booe
    June 11, 2010 at 4:50 am

    http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2010/06/10/new-footage-of-the-aid-ship-attack/

    While Israel’s military confiscated the vast majority of the video footage and photographic evidence of last week’s attack on the Mavi Marmara, Iara Lee managed to smuggle roughly 15 minutes of never before seen footage out, which was released today.

    The video shows a largely calm civilian crew in the lead up to the attack and the panic that ensued. It also shows two people from the ship using the infamous “slingshots” to fire at the Israeli helicopter. Mostly the scene breaks down from there, with people in life jackets running around and the occasional wounded person.

    Though one 15 minute video can never possibly be an all-encompassing view of what really happened, it certainly underscores passengers’ claims that they weren’t “preparing for battle,” and nowhere to be seen are the mythical 50 Turkish soldiers, which Israel at one point claimed were hiding on board armed to the teeth.

  3. Eva Deutsch Costabel
    June 10, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Major Jewish Organization are letting down the Jewish community once again, it is their mission to help
    the Jews in distress. They are heavily financed and have the clout to get action, instead they are collecting large salaries and doing nothing. It is time to clean house and instead support Jewish organizations who help Israel and the Jewish community.
    A Holocaust survivor

  4. James Booe
    June 9, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    OK, sorry, maybe I should have put quotes around that. I make no claims to having a position with FGM, I’m merely quoting their article. Feel free to contact FGM directly for clarification. I’m just pointing it out as you’ve obviously missed it. I’m seriously not trying to be confrontational, but the letter issue was debunked in May.

    Weapons – you mean the faked IDF photos or the “deadly” electric saw and binoculars?

    Violence or self-defence? Who got shot 30 times and mostly in the head execution style?

  5. June 9, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    To James Booe: “We”? Can you please identify yourself and your position with the Free Gaza Movement? Also, can you explain what all those weapons were doing on the Turkish ship, as shown in the IDF video? Why did the people on the ship choose violence over non-violence? Thanks — Don Harrison, editor

  6. James Booe
    June 9, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    “This is also an opportune time for Jewish organizations to demand that leaders of the Free Gaza Movement explain why they refused to deliver the Shalit family’s letter to Gilad.”

    The answer is quite simple; this allegation is simply not true:

    Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit’s father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit’s family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and deliver it to UN officials inside Gaza. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners.[6]

    http://www.freegaza.org/en/home/56-news/1174-israels-disinformation-campaign-against-the-gaza-freedom-flotilla

    Peace,
    ==
    jb

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