In the 17th of February edition of the Jewish News (UK), Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, published an opinion article urging support for the Meet Gilad campaign which CIE created. The campaign is currently being run in London with support from 20 major Jewish community organisations, and under the coordination of the Israeli Embassy. We are very pleased to see such strong support for the campaign we started, specially as we gear up for the next phase of the Meet Gilad campaign which we will launch just before Pesach.
The Chief Rabbi’s article:
Source: Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Bereavement has closure, but Gilad’s parents are denied it, Jewish News (UK), 17 February 2011, pg 9.
Since 25 June 2006, Gilad Shalit has been held hostage by Hamas, and we have been praying for him ever since.
It is hard to imagine the suffering he has been through. But it is all too easy to know the agony his family has been through, especially his parents Aviva and Noam.
There is only one thing worse than losing a child, and that is being cut off from all contact, not knowing how he is being treated, wondering whether he will survive the ordeal, unsure whether they will see him again and when. That is emotional torture. Grief has a limit. Bereavement has closure. But Gilad’s parents can know no closure. That is just one of the evils of hostage taking, and why it has no place in any society that claims to be civilised.
What makes Gilad’s position worse is that Hamas continues to refuse the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to him. The ICRC is mandated by the international community, under the Geneva Conventions, to visit prisoners of war and civilian internees to verify whether they are being treated according to relevant international standards.
The purpose of the detention visits is to ensure respect for the life and dignity of the detainees and to prevent torture, ill-treatment or abuse.
Thus far, that has not happened. The only contact between Gilad and the outside world in four-and-a-half years consists of three letters, an audio tape and a video.
The video, showing Gilad alive and still in captivity, was received by Israel in return for the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners. Several human rights organisations have made it clear that the terms and conditions of his detention are contrary to international humanitarian law. The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which released a report in September 2009, has called for him to be released. In November 2010, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also joined the calls for Gilad to be released.
Gilad Shalit was the first Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994, who died during a rescue attempt. In exchange for Gilad’s freedom, Hamas is demanding the release of 1,000 prisoners including 450 jailed for violent attacks on Israelis. This includes a myriad of Hamas leaders responsible for the planning of multiple terror attacks and suicide bombings in Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly said that he would be willing to accept the release of 1,000 prisoners but not those who, once released, “will greatly strengthen Hamas’s leadership and will give great support for new terror attacks”. The use of human lives as bargaining chips is horrendous and repulsive, and the denial of access by the Red Cross deeply disturbing.
For this reason, the Embassy of Israel alongside 10 other community organisations has launched a national, two-week Gilad Shalit Awareness Campaign, which started on Monday.
I urge members of our community to support the Meet Gilad campaign and to attend the vigils that will be held on 24 February. I urge them also to lobby their MPs, to write to their local papers, and generally to raise awareness of Gilad’s plight.
This is a cause that the whole community can and should support; it goes to the very heart of our traditions. Pidyon shevuyim, the redemption of captives, is a fundamental mitzvah in Judaism, and the sanctity and significance of a single life one of our highest values. Gilad’s fate symbolises the future of human rights in the Middle East. If his captors can be persuaded to show some signs of humanity, there is hope.
And we, as a community and as individuals, should do what we can to persuade as many as possible to work for that hope: for the sake of Gilad and his family and for the sake of the future between Israel and her neighbours.