Hamas denying a chance for Goldins to bury their son is antisemitism

The Goldins pointed out to Carr that it is a daily torment for them not to be able to fulfill their final obligation to their son, and to inter his body according to Jewish law.

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September 11, 2019 21:39
4 minute read.
THE FAMILY OF Hadar Goldin protests last year in Jerusalem.

THE FAMILY OF Hadar Goldin protests last year in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 On August 1, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, two hours after Hamas agreed to a UN- and US-brokered ceasefire, terrorists ambushed three Israeli soldiers from a tunnel located in the basement of a house in Gaza. One of the soldiers was Hadar Goldin. For the last five years, Leah and Simha Goldin have been meeting with global leaders asking for their assistance in asking Hamas to return the remains of their son Hadar. While many say Hamas’s refusal is a political one that is tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I think they are looking at it incorrectly. The truth is that Hamas denying the Goldin family the opportunity to give their son a proper Jewish burial is antisemitism.

The Trump administration has made a priority of monitoring and combating antisemitism. It deserves much credit for its laudatory effort to delegitimize the BDS movement, which seeks to destroy Israel as a Jewish homeland through boycott, divestment and sanctions. The administration also moves to prevent incitement and harassment against Jewish and other students who defend Israel on US campuses.

Since coming to office last February, State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr, who is responsible for directing US policies and projects aimed at countering antisemitism throughout the world, has pressed governments in the Middle East – including key US allies – to end the use of antisemitic textbooks in their schools, and has worked with European governments to create a “robust infrastructure” to protect hard-pressed Jewish citizens from violent hate crimes and incitement. The State Department has adopted a new and expanded definition of antisemitism, which in addition to condemning centuries-old stereotypes for the demonization of Jews, also calls out “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

With this in mind, I recently told Elan Carr when he visited the Hampton Synagogue on August 24, that the Trump administration has missed an opportunity to call out a particularly egregious act of antisemitism: the refusal by Hamas, the radical Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, to return the remains of two Israel soldiers to their families for burial, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whom it captured and killed during war with Israel in 2014. Clearly, Hamas is holding the remains of Goldin and Shaul, as well as Israeli hostages Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as a bargaining chip to extract political concessions from Israel. 

WHEN I met Carr, together with Hadar Goldin’s anguished parents, Leah and Simha Goldin, I pointed out that Hamas’s denying the Goldin and Shaul families the ability to bury their sons for five long years since their deaths is an act of blatant and inexcusable antisemitism that transcends the Israel-Palestine conflict, and should be framed as such. Hamas knows that Judaism, like Islam, not only requires a proper burial but dictates that it must be done as quickly as possible. Traditionally, Jews endeavor to bury their dead family members within 24 hours of death because of the belief of Jewish sages that the soul is in turmoil until the body is properly interred in the ground.

The Goldins pointed out to Carr that it is a daily torment for them not to be able to fulfill their final obligation to their son, and to inter his body according to Jewish law. Noting that Hamas’s abduction and murder of their son took place soon after the terrorist organization signed a United Nations-sponsored peace agreement with Israel brokered by then-US secretary of state John Kerry, the Goldins pointed out that neither the Obama nor Trump administration effectively pressed Hamas in the ensuing years to return the remains of Hadar and Oron or the two Israeli hostages it still holds.

As someone who has worked to strengthen relations between Muslims and Jews around the world for more than a decade, I have been inspired by the many similarities between the Muslim faith and my own, including in areas like circumcision, marriage, modesty and dietary laws. One of the most striking of these similarities is that Islam, like Judaism, dictates that the bodies of deceased persons should be buried within 24 hours of their demise.

In 2016, I arranged for 10 prominent American Muslim leaders, including Reps. Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, as well as Dr. Sayyid Syeed, now president of the Islamic Society of North America, to send a letter to Hamas leader Khalid Mashal, appealing for the return of the remains of Goldin and Shaul to their families. Urging the Hamas leader, “Do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just,” the American Muslim leaders stated, “As Muslims, we understand the importance of proper burials for the deceased. The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave honor not only to the lives of all humans, but also to the remains of our brothers and sisters in humanity. Mr. Goldin and Mr. Shaul have already been denied this final act of compassion and dignity for years.”

Unfortunately, Hamas spurned that appeal, and the global community has remained largely mute in the face of this barbarism. It might be too much to expect either mercy or moral consistency from a violent and fanatical movement like Hamas but let us at least call them out for what they really are. It is time for President Trump himself to speak out vociferously against Hamas’s heinous behavior of holding of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. Any delay in returning the remains of Jews to their families for burial is a blatant act of antisemitism.

The writer is president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.


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