Kidnapping, human rights and hypocrisy

In the real world, three days after the kidnapping became public knowledge, those who claim to promote moral causes are largely silent.

June 17, 2014 22:54
4 minute read.

IDF soldiers search for missing teens. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)


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In a moral and just world, where universal human rights was more than a slogan to be exploited when politically convenient, the kidnapping of three Israeli teens would have produced immediate and widespead outrage, demands for action, and even demonstrations at the United Nations demanding their release.

But in the real world, three days after the kidnapping became public knowledge, those who claim to promote moral causes are largely silent.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has not called an emergency meeting or appointed an investigation to be headed by a highly respected international figure.

Similarly, the network of powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive hundreds of millions of dollars annually, ostensibly to advocate for human rights, again show their disdain for the rights of Israelis. The only significant exception is the International Committee of the Red Cross, which issued an immediate and clear statement demanding “the immediate and unconditional release of the three teenagers.”

The others, including London-based Amnesty International, The International Federation for Human Rights (Paris), Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (Brussels), and Defense for Children International (Geneva), Human Right Watch (HRW, New York), and Defense for Children International (Geneva), have remained silent. While always quick to issue condemnations, publish glossy reports, hold press conferences and launch international campaigns for accusations directed at Israel, no such actions have been taken to draw attention to the kidnapped Israelis.

Even if they lack any empathy for Israelis, these champions of human rights might have condemned the Palestinian use of kidnapping as a means of freeing terrorists. These organizations frequently invoke the language, if not the substance, of the rule of law and due process as necessary guarantees for human rights. But when it comes to attacking Israel, these norms are suspended.

No “human rights” NGO has produced even a short report on the violent attacks against Israeli civilians for the purposes of hostage-taking and bargaining, including the Ma’alot elementary school attack (1974), the No. 300 bus hijacking (1984), the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit (2006- 2011) and many more examples before the most recent kidnapping.

HRW’s silence on the kidnapping contrasts with its rabbit-punching hits at Israel over the ambiguous incident during a violent demonstration on May 15, in which two Palestinians were reportedly killed. Ken Roth, HRW’s Israel-obsessed leader for almost three decades, did squeeze in a mention of the kidnappings on his hyperactive twitter account, devoting 140 characters to the issue. Yet even this minor recognition was morally muddled, to understate the case.

According to Roth: “Attending school at illegal settlement doesn’t legitimize apparent kidnapping of #Israel teens. They should be freed.”

By leading with the “illegal settlement” comment, Roth was signaling a justification for this act of barbarism, before reluctantly acknowledging the Israeli boys’ basic human right to freedom.

Responding to Roth, Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, noting that while the hostages were being held, “Why would Roth even bother to mention that the youths – two of them aged 16 – studied in an ‘illegal settlement’?...

Although Roth appears to insist that this fact ‘doesn’t legitimize’ their kidnapping, the only possible reason he mentioned it was to equivocate his appeal” for their freedom.

Israel’s many human rights proponents, such as Yesh Din, Adalah, PCATI (the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel), the local branch of Amnesty, etc., are also suddenly invisible. These groups, which get millions of euros, pounds and krona from their European government patrons (and some dollars from the US government) under the banner of “human rights,” are exclusively focused on attacking Israel. Unlike Roth, they could not even muster a few tweets on behalf of the kidnapped teens.

The only exception is B’tselem, which issued a brief statement (but no further action) expressing “great concern and worry over the fate of the three abducted yeshiva students... B’Tselem also shares the fervent hope that the three teens will be returned safe and sound to their homes....

Those currently holding the teens must release them without delay.”

So far, so good. But then they add the artificial “balance” similar to Roth’s tweets: “...the authorities must adopt every possible measure at their disposal to uphold human rights. Israeli authorities must also refrain from meting out collective punishment to the local population. Likewise, the security forces must take whatever steps necessary to prevent any violence directed at Palestinians.”

If the powerful human rights community, with its massive resources and immediate access to media and to politicians, would act morally, this would not prevent Palestinian terror attacks, or the kidnappings to trade for the terrorists. But it would remove the hypocrisy from the human rights movement, show Israelis that they count as humans with rights, and perhaps increase the costs for would-be kidnappers. But this imaginary scene depends on a moral and just world, which is far removed from today’s reality.

The author is president of NGO Monitor, and professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.

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