If It’s About Rights, Then All Are Equal Under the Law

It is sad that Gilad, Udi and Eldad were missing from the Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev family seders this year. Not only their families, but all of Israeli society felt their absence.

Our lives continue normally, but the abduction of our soldiers and the lack of information about their fate touches each and every one of us.

Moreover, the refusal of their captors to permit the International Red Cross to visit them — their complete isolation from the world and the lack of any knowledge regarding their health — is one of the most serious crimes being perpetrated by the Palestinian terrorist organizations.

What could be more natural than for the celebrated international human-rights organizations, which rush to condemn Israel for crimes real and imagined, to cry out in protest against this ongoing cruelty to the soldiers' families?

Amazingly enough, until now only a feeble murmur of mild protest has been heard.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on June 29, 2006, which defined the abduction of Gilad Shalit as a war crime. The main thrust of the statement, however, was a condemnation of the Israeli attack on the Gaza power station that came in its wake.

Amnesty International, the organization that has — with the support of its Israeli branch — implicitly blamed the Israeli occupation for the many cases of "honor killing" in the territories in which Palestinian women have been murdered by their families, on June 27 called for the release of Shalit, but also added a knee-jerk condemnation of the Jewish state.

But at least these two organizations demanded the release of the abducted soldiers. Unlike them, the Israeli human-rights organizations issued a joint statement on the same day in which they neither condemned the abduction as a war crime nor demanded the young man's release.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel issued a statement in which it demanded that Gilad Shalit be given medical care. Yet it did not insist that he be released, or that his captors provide a sign of life from him.

Since then, ACRI — largely funded by donations from the Diaspora via the New Israel Fund — has not returned to the matter of abducted soldiers at all, and no mention of them can be found on its Web site.

ACRI has kept silent. And it's not that the human-rights organizations don't know how to wage an international campaign. On the contrary, if they wanted to, they could surely have considerable influence on getting the soldiers released.

Why hasn't ACRI demanded the release of the Israeli captives? Why did it make do with a one-time request to provide Shalit with medical care? Why hasn't it at least demanded that the International Red Cross be allowed to visit the captive soldiers? Why has it refrained from taking a stand regarding the soldiers abducted to Lebanon?

After all, their seizure is itself a war crime, and has been defined as such by Human Rights Watch. And if even Amnesty International has seen fit to demand Shalit's release, what is preventing ACRI from lending its voice to this appeal?

These organizations had even petitioned the High Court of Justice against the holding of Hezbollah abductees by Israel. Aren't Israeli soldiers entitled to at least that which terrorists and enemy citizens receive? There's no limit to hypocrisy, it seems!

One increasingly gets the feeling that human rights — the issue that, quite rightly, has been placed at the top of international priorities — is no more than a pretext for a very particular worldview. ACRI objects to Israel being defined in its constitution as a Jewish state, though it is willing to include historical mention of the Jews' right to self-determination in the preamble. The fact is that human rights can be safeguarded in a nation-state, too, as is the case in most European countries.

There is no connection between ACRI's opposition to Israel's definition as a Jewish state (as stated in the U.N. partition resolution) and the preservation of human rights. One can, of course, object to Israel's Jewish character, but those who use human rights to further this position are exploiting the issue for political ends that have nothing to do with genuine rights.

Amnon Rubenstein is a former minister of education of the State of Israel.


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