MIAs - a failure of political will

The greatest intelligence service in the world should be able to shed some light on the fates of our MIAs

ron arad 88 (photo credit: )
ron arad 88
(photo credit: )
Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz are still missing; and no one seems to give a damn. Oh yes, their families, friends and the International Coalition for Israeli Missing Soldiers care deeply. But, those who should also care - our government officials - seem to have removed the case of our MIAs from their radar screen. For them, it is as if they never existed. Ron Arad's name does crop up now and then, but quickly fades from sight. As for Guy Hever - Guy who? As of this writing, Baumel, Feldman and Katz have been missing for 8,580 days; Ron Arad for 6,992 days; and Guy Hever for 3,034 days. But, who's counting? How is it that Mofaz, Halutz and Sharon, all military leaders, have somehow not embraced the IDF's code of ethical arms: "Do not abandon a comrade on the battlefield?" While no one in Israel mourns the loss of Yasser Arafat, he may, ironically, have held the key regarding the fate of Zachary Baumel. Arafat found Zachary's army dog tag when he searched the remains of Ahmad Jibril's belongings after he was assassinated. He promised Yitzhak Rabin he would verify what happened to Baumel through his operatives in Syria. He never did. It seems as if the present government has just assumed that the matter of the MIAs was buried with Arafat. THERE IS something that does not register with me. Israel's intelligence services are considered the best in the world. Their foreign counterparts stand in awe of Israel's capability to not only identify potential terrorists, but to often target them with pinpoint accuracy. In 1981, Israel located Iraq's nuclear reactor and obliterated it. At the height of the plane hijackings in the 1970s, Israel sent undercover agents to Europe who, one by one, gunned down Arab terrorists who plotted these hijackings. Israel flew thousands of miles to Entebbe, Uganda to rescue 200 Israelis who were facing certain death at the hands of terrorists. Adolph Eichmann was captured in Argentina, Mordecai Vanunu in Italy. To successfully execute such daring feats requires an extremely sophisticated intelligence operation. So why do we know nothing of the whereabouts of the MIAs? If it is not a failure of intelligence capability, then it must be a failure of political will. The last serious talk about the MIAs was a little less than two years ago when the prisoner exchange took place with Hizbullah. In return for 400 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners, including Hizbullah leaders Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, Israel received the bodies of Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Sawaid, all kidnapped and murdered by Hizbullah; and Elhanan Tannenbaum, a reserve officer in the artillery corps, who was involved in some sort of shady business dealings. At a national ceremony for Avraham, Avitan and Sawaid, our Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, said: "The decision to bring the boys home for burial was a Jewish decision." He added his personal commitment to bring home all other Israelis missing in action. Since his boast, Sharon has been missing in his actions to fulfill this promise; otherwise, how does one explain returning the recently held bodies of Hizbullah fighters instead of using them as bargaining chips to gain some information about the MIAs? A failure of political will to deal with such a crucial issue as the MIAs is a manifestation of one's moral commitment. Every political decision has its moral equivalent. Therefore, the government's lack of political will to pursue the matter of our MIAs is a reflection of moral laxity. Going into battle for one's country is the ultimate expression of one's dedication to his people and nation. A soldier should, at the least, expect his government to stand by him and his family. If this is not the case, citizens may not so readily be willing to endanger their lives for the state in the future, knowing that they may be left on the field of battle to fend for themselves. And yet, it is too easy to hold our government exclusively responsible for this moral lapse. After all, our political leaders express the will of the people. Therefore, it is not only a matter of moral integrity, but of moral responsibility to pressure our elected representatives to pursue the matter of the MIAs with intensity and steadfastness. There can be nothing more painful than the loss of a child. But, even in the death of a child, there is some comfort in mourning that loss - a sense of closure. Not being able to mourn one's child because he is missing in action wreaks the most devastating emotional turmoil imaginable. Our tradition acknowledges this painful reality. "The sword is worse than death, famine is harsher than the sword, but captivity is the worst of all," says the Talmud. If, in our prime minister's words, bringing home the MIAs is a "Jewish decision," then putting the MIAs back on the national agenda is a Jewish moral imperative. he writer is the author of Jewish Schizophrenia in the Land of Israel.