jail prison cell 88.
(photo credit: )
What did Gilad Schalit eat yesterday? Is he getting proper nutrition, enough to drink? We have no idea. There has been no sign of life from him for over two years, as Noam Schalit, father of the soldier abducted from inside Israel in June 2006, told Richard Goldstone's Geneva-based UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict this week.
Schalit pointed out that his son isn't only being held for ransom - a war crime in itself - but that he's being denied the most rudimentary rights specified by the Geneva Convention, among them regular Red Cross visits.
A bill now pending before the Knesset, introduced by MK Danny Danon (Likud) and co-sponsored by 11 other lawmakers, would redress some of the imbalance between how Israel treats Hamas prisoners and how Hamas is treating its Israeli hostage. If brought to a vote, the bill is expected to pass.
Hamas is holding Schalit at an unknown location, and we shudder to think of his conditions. Does he ever see the light of day? What is the state of his health? How much living space has he been granted? Where does he sleep? What sanitary facilities are at his disposal? Is he kept bound?
No one has ever visited him. There was just one audio recording on the first anniversary of his kidnapping.
The ransom Hamas demands for Schalit is the release of over 1,000 lawfully imprisoned terrorists. The disproportion here is not only numerical; Schalit, 19 when snatched, had committed no wrong and had never spent a day in court. The Hamas prisoners were tried with all the privileges of due process and convicted, many for heinous crimes such as dispatching suicide bombers.
One of them, for instance, Abdallah Barghouti, engineered massacres which claimed 67 Israeli lives. Ahlam Tamimi escorted the bomber to Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria on August 9, 2001 and was an active accomplice in the murders of 15 innocents, seven of them children. Five of the slain were members of a single family - parents and their three children.
Yet according to sources inside Israel's prison service, these murderers enjoy comfortable accommodations. In fact, the conditions for convicted terrorists are superior to those of common criminals.
Within the high-security penitentiaries, terrorist convicts enjoy semi-autonomy. They have their own kitchens and determine their own menus. At their disposal are free canteens, open round the clock, where they can drop in and prepare food and snacks as they please. They are allowed to accumulate personal equipment. Each cell is outfitted with a TV set offering 12 cable channels.
Regardless of formal prison regulations, the convicts have computers and cell phones. They get all the books and magazines they wish, along with games, recreational material and hobby kits. Many pursue their studies and some have even taken academic degrees.
They are allowed to see their families frequently and enjoy conjugal visits. Some prisoners marry while behind bars and have brought children into the world.
THE SCHALIT bill wouldn't touch most of these perks. It aims only to limit visits to Hamas prisoners while access to Schalit is denied. The bill wouldn't even eliminate all visits. It would just restrict them to what is stipulated by the Geneva Convention - visits by Red Cross representatives once every three months. It would, additionally, permit regular consultations with a lawyer. This is still far more than Schalit gets.
Yet security officials close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, concerned that passage of the bill could negatively impact the negotiations for Schalit's release, opposed a vote on the legislation this week by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation (where a majority exists in its favor). Hamas has threatened that the bill "would complicate negotiations for a swap" - not that there's been any demonstrable progress thus far.
Schalit's minimal Geneva Convention protections have been flouted by Hamas. The only thing that hasn't been attempted is a modest measure to redress the absurdity whereby convicted mass murderers are enjoying perks here, while our abducted hostage is held incommunicado, perhaps literally kept in the dark.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation is tentatively scheduled to resume discussion of the bill on Sunday, though continued opposition by the security establishment may delay action further. We urge prompt approval.