gilad schalit 2 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 2)
In an attempt to put pressure on the Hamas leadership in Gaza to release
Gilad Schalit, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation this week
approved a bill that, if ratified, would take away some of the amenities
enjoyed by Hamas terrorists currently incarcerated in Israeli prisons,
including many captured by the IDF during December 2008-January 2009’s
Operation Cast Lead. No longer would these inmates be allowed to enjoy
the cultural edification of multi-channel cable TV. Nor would they be
permitted to pursue a higher education through Israel’s Open University.
Access to books and visits by relatives might be curtailed. Prolonged
isolation of prisoners is also being considered.
Obviously, the Geneva Convention governing the proper treatment of
prisoners would not be compromised. Prisoners would continue to have
access to lawyers and medical treatment.
Until now, Israel has shrunk back from adopting more stringent prison
conditions, for fear this would hurt efforts to free Schalit. This, even
though sources close to the Schalit family say they have been pushing
for just these measures for at least a year. For a time there was hope
that Hamas would back down from at least part of its demands to free
terrorists responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks ever to be
mounted against Israeli civilians. But as time has gone by, it has
become apparent that Hamas will not budge on an “exchange” that Israeli
security experts argue would significantly compromise security. Now
Israel’s official mediator in the Schalit case, Hagai Hadas, is of the
opinion that a stiffening of prison terms can’t hurt.
REGARDLESS OF whether taking away their TV remote controls or their
capacity to maximize their academic potential brings Schalit’s release
closer, it is frankly offensive that Hamas inmates should enjoy such
perks at a time when Schalit’s Hamas captors have failed for almost four
years to so much as confirm his well-being, and when they continue to
flout international humanitarian laws – notably by refusing to allow the
Red Cross to visit him.
True to form, without allowing himself to get mixed up by the facts, a
Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, has had the gall to utilize the
term “inhumane conduct” in reference not to his own organization’s
mistreatment of Schalit, but to Israel’s treatment of Hamas inmates.
Knesset member Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al), for his part, has misused the
freedom of speech rightfully guaranteed him to call the proposed
sanctions against Hamas prisoners “demagoguery.”
Though the double standards embraced by Abu Zuhri and Tibi are
maddening, and though the ongoing outrage of Schalit’s incarceration is
infuriating, Israel is right, of course, to rule out the kinds of prison
sanctions that might reduce its handling of Hamas prisoners to the
bankrupt moral level shown by Hamas in its abuse of Schalit.
To be told that Schalit is being treated according to Islamic standards
of dealing with prisoners of war – as promised in 2007 by Abu Mujahid, a
spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees, one of three
Hamas-linked groups that kidnapped him – offers little comfort. The
Koran (2:191) teaches that “persecution is worse than slaughter,” and
this is interpreted by some Muslim jurists to justify abandoning Islamic
rules of war when fighting Israel, which purportedly persecutes through
its “occupation” of lands belonging to Islam.
In contrast, the 13th article of the Geneva Convention dealing with the
rights of prisoners of war, to which Israel is committed, opens with the
sentence, “Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.”
There are those who would argue that a democracy can never prevail
against a terror state unless it suspends its freedoms. In reality, the
opposite is true. A democracy’s strength derives from its insistence on
those freedoms, those moralities, that are denied those who must live
under the rule of the likes of Hamas.
In the case of Schalit, an attempt to apply pressure to his captors by
denying Hamas inmates benefits and opportunities that Israel has no
moral obligation to provide, while remaining thoroughly committed to the
provisions of international law on the treatment of prisoners,
represents a belated correction of balance. As Schalit nears the end of
his fourth year in captivity, may this and other efforts speed his