Friday, July 2, 2010
On Five Year Old Birthdays and Anniversaries
My soon to be five year old son is the only member of our family with a summer birthday and one of those kids whose school birthday celebration will be bunched up with all other summer birthday kids. He had a hard time understanding that his party last Friday did not make him five years old, so we’ll make another party in two months when he really turns five. Hopefully he won’t feel short changed in his birthday celebrations. As we sat in his class enjoying the birthday rituals, I couldn’t help but think that in one gigantic way, it was hardly a day for celebration. Because that same day, June 25, marked the fourth anniversary of the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Palestinian terrorists. On June 25, Gilad Shalit began his fifth year in captivity with not so much as a letter from home, a visit from the Red Cross or representative of any international body, while existing in conditions far less humane than those under which Israel holds captured Palestinian terrorists--who enjoy cable TV, distance learning, air conditioning and visits from the Red Cross, families and friends. Hopefully Gilad Shalit will come home soon. Very soon. But until then, I will connect his captivity with my son’s growing up. I will now measure Gilad's imprisonment by my own son’s growth, vividly aware of his transition from infant to little boy, of his starting to do things for himself and experience all that life encompasses in five years. I am now more aware of the things Gilad has lost. Of the familial sanctuary stolen from him on the day of his abduction. The week of Gilad Shalit's kidnapping also marks the fifth anniversary of what was then an unrelated event, but has since become more related and relevant. Just days before his abduction, the International Red Cross (ICRC) finally undid a great historical injustice by accepting Magen David Adom as Israel’s member. (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Health/MDAadmitted.html) These coterminous events are connected because the Red Cross is mandated to enforce that prisoners worldwide be held under universally acceptable humane conditions. But since then, the Red Cross has held Israel to selective and inconsistent standards. While stating that it cares deeply about Shalit and his well being, http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/israel-shalit-interview-230610, it has been unsuccessful and inept at making any progress on Gilad’s condition. It has never visited him. It has not been able to assess under what conditions he’s being held or his medical condition. It can’t even deliver a letter to him from his family. Yet, while they make claims that they care, on the Red Cross’ own web site under “The ICRC in Israel and the occupied territories” (http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/israel!Open), a sample of some 30 articles and postings display a grossly imbalanced view of their position. Shockingly, of 30 postings, 20 are pro-Palestinian and lay out the troubles of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, positing or inferring that Israel is the sole cause of their troubles. Five postings present either a pro-Israel perspective, or one that at least makes Israel and Israelis look human. The remaining five can generously be described as neutral, except to the extent that of the Palestinians’ troubles noted, it can be inferred from the predominance of the majority of the postings, are Israel’s fault too. Magnifying this imbalance, the tab for “Israel” on the Red Cross web site opens to “Israel and the occupied territories.” Israel can’t even get its own tab, much less a balanced view. And the tab for “Palestine” opens to…you guessed it: “Israel and the occupied territories.” Yet, in neither is there mention of Israel's suffering through a decade of rocket's being fired at nearly 20% its population within 30 minutes of Gaza’s border. Or of Israel's anguish as a result of Palestinian terrorism in the past decade, and since its founding. There’s no consideration of post traumatic stress or the extent to which Israel has had to go to ensure the safety of its citizens. Oh… and did you see any Red Cross condemnation of Hamas, its bloody and illegitimate coup, and the cruel, militant terror state to which Gazans have been subjected under Islamic domination, purging fellow Arab Moslems and Christians? Of course not. Why would the Red Cross document or publicize Hamas’ inhumane treatment of fellow Arabs, let alone their terrorizing and murdering Israelis. While the Red Cross 'claims' they care about Gilad, its deputy head in “Israel and the occupied territories” absolves Hamas of all responsibility because, “Hamas is a non-state party to the conflict. As such, it is not obligated to allow family or Red Cross visits.” http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/pierre-dorbes-of-the-red-cross-has-hamas-agreed-to-anything-you-asked-for-regarding-gilad-shalit-1.297575 These sad facts hardly build one's confidence when the Red Cross’ head of operations for the Middle East states, “We are still working just as hard as we did when Gilad Shalit was first captured.” The Red Cross has a contemptible double standard: To uphold human rights for Gazans, even Hamas and other terrorists, and blame Israel for all their troubles, while making excuses to justify why they have not done anything tangible for Gilad Shalit. If I were the head of the Red Cross, I’d show up in Gaza and begin a public hunger strike until I were allowed to visit Gilad with a doctor, speak with him openly, and deliver a letter from his parents. That’s assuming the head of the Red Cross really cares. In thirteen years, my son will don the uniform of the IDF to defend us from Hamas and any existential challenges we may face. I am not holding my breath that we’ll have peace by then. As Gilad Shalit’s parents have begun a march (http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=179725) to secure their son’s freedom, as a parent of the little boy who will one day put his life on the line to defend the people and State of Israel, I pray that this will be Gilad’s last year in captivity and that he will be home with them soon. Until then, maybe the Red Cross will do something more than pay lip service to Gilad’s cause.