(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two-and-a-half years after he was taken captive, the Caucus for the Return of Avraham (Abera) Mengistu was initiated by members of Mengistu’s family in cooperation with the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee chairman Avraham Neguise (Likud).
In a special event at the Knesset on Monday, some 15 MKs from different parties, including Zionist Union, Likud, Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu, expressed sympathy for Mengistu’s cause and called on the government to make greater efforts for his release from what is believed to be his captivity by Hamas in the Gaza strip.
Mengistu, who suffers from mental illness, crossed the border into Gaza in July 2014. Some 51 lawmakers signed in favor of opening the special caucus, in addition to the existing one for the return of the soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who died during operation “Protective Edge,” whose bodies are also being held by members of the terrorist group.
Ilan Mengistu, Abera’s brother, said a change in attitude is necessary to make progress in this matter.
Brother of missing Israeli Avraham Mengistu calls for government to bring him back from Gaza (July 9, 2015)
“We made a mistake when we remained silent,” he said. “I am sure that if it was a relative of a Knesset member or of the prime minister – and I do not wish it to anybody – no one would have remained silent.”
Ilan Mengistu explained that the family has remained quiet up to this point because of their manners, and because government officials promised that efforts were being made to advance to secure Abera’s release.
“It seems like this is not a top priority for the government.
The fact that almost three years have passed proves that we were wrong by being quiet.”
Caucus chairman Neguise reiterated Mengistu’s call for action and called on the government to change the way Israel treats Hamas prisoners it holds.
“We shall not remain silent,” said Neguise. “The activists were quiet in order to give the government the room to act, but those days are over. What the government has to do now is immediately halt all the visits of Hamas prisoners’ families in Israeli prisons and stop all humanitarian aid to the organization in Gaza.
It is impossible that Agrenesh and Eilin [Mengistu’s parents] do not know if their son is alive while the terrorists’ families from Hamas are visiting here with Israeli assistance.”
Neguise also criticized international aid organizations on what he sees as their hypocrisy.
“If those human rights organizations are only working for the well-being of the residents of Gaza and ignore a mentally- ill Israeli who is being held there, we can assume that they do not really care.”
MK Oren Hazan (Likud) blamed the government for not acting on the matter, calling the lack of action racist.
“If his name was not Abera and he was not black we would have seen this country on fire,” he said. “We should not wait for an inclusive agreement with the Palestinians in order to release him. We just need to be tougher on Hamas.”
Hazan also said that government officials who claim they have been acting behind the scenes to return Mengistu – are lying. “When I was a member of the Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy Committee, they never mentioned their efforts on this matter, not even once.”
He said. “They are fooling us and taking advantage of the family’s innocence.”
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) said that he didn’t think twice before joining the initiative because of its moral values.
“I never had a doubt whether to join a caucus that is set to help a man that was forgotten by most people,” he said.
“This [returning Mengistu] is not a humanitarian act, but an obligatory act, by the government that is responsible to its citizens. We all grew up with the Jewish moral idea that the state is not leaving behind someone who was abducted. But it seems that that state forgets its morals when it is a citizen of Ethiopian descent.”