It’s been 6 days since the three teenage students, Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shayer, were kidnapped on their way home from school last Thursday night and still there has been not a word from them or their captors. David Horovitz has expressed perfectly what the nation of Israel is going through with his article “A Nation United in Foreboding“.
As we brace, we parents also feel an undeniable relief that it was not our children, this time, who fell into the hands of our enemies. Most of us know that we would demand any and every measure, including the release of every last killer from our jails, if it were our children who were being held, even as we recognize that our leaders’ readiness to go to outrageous lengths for the sake of past captives can only have contributed to this latest act of inhumanity. Time after time, Israel has shown terrorists that they can target us, murder us, kidnap us, and that even if they are captured and tried and jailed, they can confidently anticipate that they will be set free, as beneficiaries of the next act of vicious extortion.
Many in our anxious nation also spare a little thought for the wider injustice of it all — the fact that Hamas draws succor from an international community, led by the United States, that proved willing to legitimize it as a pillar of the Palestinian “unity” government even though it remains committed to Israel’s destruction …
We live, in our sliver of contested land, in a region where Islamic extremism, notably right now in Iraq and Syria, departs ever further from the framework of humanity. We strive to retain our stability, our democracy, our resilience. We count our true friends on the fingers of one hand. And we brace for the worst, while hoping against hope that those astounding, inspirational parents will be vindicated in their optimism.
Meanwhile the people of Israel are united in prayer like I have never seen before, not even when Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. The social media are full of pictures of prayer sessions; the news broadcasts are interrupted with announcements of Tehillim (Psalms) sessions in various communities (of which I’ve been to several already); and on some radio stations they close each broadcast with the reading of a chapter of Tehillim.
The Knesset held its own prayer session too:
There was even an unprecedented prayer session with Jews and Muslims together at the site of the kidnapping. This news items gave hope that maybe, one day, we will be able to live in peace with our neighbours.
About two dozen Jewish residents of the Etzion bloc and rabbis arrived at the junction where officials believe the kidnappers drove after abducting the three yeshiva students.
The prayer session was organized by the Tag Meir forum, a grassroots organization created to fight Jewish nationalist vandalism targeting Palestinians. Prominent rabbis and public figures, including former Meimad minister Rabbi Michael Melchior; educator Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun from nearby Alon Shvut; and Hadassah Froman, the widow of rabbi and peace activist Menachem Froman from the settlement of Tekoa, recited psalms or spoke at the event, alongside a handful of Muslims.
“Our hearts are torn at this moment, and my heart goes out the mothers of these children,” said Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Hawa from the Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur on the Mount of Olives, before reciting the first chapter of the Quran, the Fatiha.
“There is a wall between our two nations, and we hope to remove the wall separating the hearts of humans … we pray that God return these youngsters to their mothers as soon as possible, God willing,” he added, speaking in Arabic.
Rabbi Meyers noted that NCSY and the Orthodox Union has established a Virtual Vigil to help us in this endeavor.
Solidarity has also been expressed from some very unusual quarters (h/t Israel Matzav). In particular, young Mohammed Zoabi has made a huge splash in the media with his multi-lingual video “Bring back our boys”. Watch him in action. One can’t but admire his articulateness, his perfect command of three languages, but most importantly of all, his utter courage.
Poor Mohammed has a rotten witch for an aunt however, a woman who ought to be in jail for treason rather than “gracing” the Knesset with her presence. Hanin Zoabi (who even sailed on the Mavi Marmara with the terrorists) had the chutzpah to deny that the kidnappers were terrorists! Huge outrage at Zoabi’s inflammatory comments were expressed at the Knesset, with calls for her expulsion to Gaza and certainly out of the Knesset – but Zoabi is still sitting pretty. She is a disgrace to our Knesset and the Knesset is a disgrace to our own self-respect and national honour. It is yet another sign of our being so open-minded our brains have fallen out.
Young Mohammed has also been threatened with violence if not worse for the “sin” of loving his own country. I sincerely hope these threats are being taken seriously by the police and that he is being given adequate protection – unlike the criminal negligence displayed at the time of the boys’ kidnapping. He is keeping a low profile for now.
UPDATE: His revolting aunt Hanin has now been provided with a bodyguard by the Knesset after she received death threats. Has anyone provided a free bodyguard to Mohammed who is in much more immediate danger?
Condemnations of the kidnapping were swift to come in from several countries. The Americans condemnaed the kidnapping on Sunday:
On Sunday, the United States “strongly condemned” the kidnapping of Frankel, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, in a statement by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The United States strongly condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate release,” Kerry said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. We hope for their quick and safe return home. We continue to offer our full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and we have encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services. We understand that cooperation is ongoing.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of 3 Israeli teens who were kidnapped last week. May they be reunited with their sons soon,” the White House said in a Twitter statement.
A petition on the White House website “demanding that President Barack Obama and his administration use all means necessary to assist the Israeli Government in their efforts to locate these captive children,” had garnered some 14,000 signatures by Tuesday evening.
However the “usual suspects” withheld condemnation of the terrorists until it became too uncomfortable to do so. It took the EU 5 days to issue a belated condemnation:
The EU condemned on Tuesday the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, calling for their immediate release and safe return five days after the abduction took place.
“Such acts can only undermine international efforts to encourage a resumption of peace negotiations. We are following developments closely and remain in constant contact with our Israeli and Palestinian counterparts,” the European Union said in a statement.
Note to EU representatives: the kidnapping has nothing to do with undermining the peace talks. It has everything to do with humanity and moral behaviour and the monstrous actions of terrorists. That is what should be condemned, and the peace process should not be mentioned in this condemnation.
The EU Ambassador finally made a more definitive, if belated, declaration.
Also on Tuesday, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen made a statement while visiting the city of Elad this morning, the hometown of kidnapped student Eyal Yifrach.
“The kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’er and Naftali Fraenkel has brought condemnation and messages of solidarity from across the world. We stand with the Israeli people during these difficult days and offer our full support to Israel as the search for the three continues,” he said. ” The European Union has called for the immediate and unconditional release of these three boys – it is, frankly, despicable that children’s lives should be put in danger in this way.”
The European Union’s remarks trailed various statements from other entities in the international community that poured in by Sunday, immediately following announcements that the yeshiva student had been taken from a hitchhiking point in Gush Etzion.
On Monday, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s failure to quickly condemn the kidnappings of Israeli youths had “not gone unnoticed.”
The officials said that while the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the International Committee of the Red Cross all condemned the kidnappings by Sunday, as of Monday afternoon there was no statement from Ashton or her office.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at the limp and late condemnation, coming as it does after a declaration hailing the Fatah-Hamas unity deal which was so disgusting that Israel saw fit to summon the ambassador over their blatant one-sidedness:
The head of the Foreign Ministry’s European division, Rafi Schutz, on Monday morning complained to Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen about a proclamation adopted by the EU’s foreign ministers and their Arab colleagues after a meeting between the groups last week in Athens.
“The declaration was so blatantly one-sided, it basically read as if it was dictated by the Arab League,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel. “It hails the Fatah-Hamas union and praises the Palestinians’ ‘commitment to democracy and human rights,’ but doesn’t reflect negatively in any way on the rockets fired from Gaza at our citizens, or anything else the Palestinians do wrong.”
The 10-page declaration does not explicitly mention Hamas, nor does it mention rocket attacks against Israeli civilians or any other form of Palestinian terrorism, …
On the other hand, the declaration — adopted last Wednesday at a summit headed by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby — is not short of harsh criticism for alleged Israeli violations.
The EU however are saints compared to the UN who are still “not sure” that Eyal, Naftali and Gil-Ad were kidnapped at all! And yet their condemnation, when it did come, also condemned Israel. No surprise there then:
A spokesperson for United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday night that the UN has no “concrete evidence” that Eyal Yifrah, 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gilad Sha’ar, 16, were “actually” kidnapped by Hamas terrorists last Thursday.
The spokesperson, Farhan Haq, was quoted by Voice of Israel public radio as saying the UN does not have an independent investigative unit that could confirm the kidnapping.
Making Haq’s words more confusing is the fact that Ban already condemned the kidnapping on Saturday, noting particularly that two of the kidnapped Israeli students are minors.
Indeed, Ban took the opportunity to equate between the kidnapping and the IAF counter-terror air strike on Gaza terror targets on Saturday, after four rockets were fired from the Hamas-enclave into Israel.
Ban expressed “deep concern on the trend toward violence on the ground and attendant loss of life, including today of a child in Gaza as a result of a recent Israeli airstrike.” He urged both Israel and the terrorists to “exercise restraint and lend urgent support for the release and safe return of the three youths.”
And how could we manage without that bastion of fairness and neutrality, Human Rights Watch? They condemned the kidnapping – but condemned Israel’s reactions too!
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch on Monday condemned the kidnapping of the three Israeli youths in Gush Etzion, but also had words of criticism for Israel with respect to its arrest campaign of Hamas terrorists, part of the ongoing investigation into the kidnapping.
“Any Palestinian armed groups unlawfully holding three Israeli teenagers should release them immediately and unconditionally,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
At the same time, however, the statement said, “Israeli forces searching for the three should respect the laws of war with respect to the Palestinian population in the occupied territory and not carry out mass, arbitrary arrests.”
With respect to the arrests of more than 150 members of Hamas, the group said, “No one taken into custody should be arbitrarily detained. Anyone arrested should be released unless promptly brought before a judge and charged with a credible offense.”
Human Rights Watch also took issue with the general closure on Hevron and the shutting down of crossings to Gaza, as ordered by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon following the kidnapping.
“While international law permits restrictions on freedom of movement, they need to be strictly limited and proportional to achieve a specific and lawful aim,” said the group’s statement.
When they talk about proportionality, what do they really mean? Is Israel allowed to kidnap three Palestinian schoolchildren? Is Israel allowed to randomly fire missiles at civilian populations in Gaza every time missiles are fired into Israel? I would love to hear the UN’s and HRW’s definition of proportionality, especially in time of war.
Israel’s own Human Rights organization B’Tzelem also issued a “two-sided” condemnation in which they “instruct” Israel what it is and is not allowed to do.
A condemnation qualified by “but” is no condemnation at all. A condemnation in which Israel is “reminded”, or rather chastised, as to what actions it is “permitted” to take in its own self-defence is in fact a way of restraining only Israel. It thus becomes a tacit condoning and encouragement of terrorism. If Israel is not allowed to react freely, what other intention can be read into those condemnations?
Furthermore, if a pro-forma condemnation, with or without criticism of Israel, has to forced out of someone, what value does that have? It’s like forcing a child to say sorry when they really don’t mean it, or forcing a fake compliment from a friend.
I’d rather not hear any condemnation at all. I think Israel is wrong to demand condemnations from other countries. If they can’t see fit to immediately condemn such an outrageous act as kidnapping school-children, let their immorality stand naked in the public forum for all the world to see. Why should we allow these countries and entities a get-out-of-jail card just for the pleasure of reading their hypocritical words? Words which in any event are then diluted by “balanced” criticism of Israel?
As a very wise sage (Thumper the Rabbit from Disney’s film Bambi) said: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.