845 days have passed since Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted in a cross-border raid and taken into captivity. 845 days without knowing his exact whereabouts or what condition he is in. Negotiations have started up and then been stalled, with Hamas calling for the release of over 450 prisoners in exchange for Gilad. Now comes a report from a Saudi newspaper quoting a Palestinian source claiming that Israel is willing to meet Hamas’ demands and release the prisoners. Please read ‘Report: Israel ready to free all prisoners Hamas demands for Shalit’ from Haaretz.
The paper claims that once Tzipi Livni has formed a new coalition, the government will meet to approve the deal. The Israelis have denied this report. It is hard to believe that Tzipi Livni would jump straight into this deal, given the political implications that could lead to her opponents calling an early election. During a recent Hamas-Egypt dialogue, Hamas officials claimed that the negotiations were at a stand-still because Israel was “unreliable”.
As the world financial crisis continues and the American elections continue to dominate the “World” section of our local papers, we are not hearing very much out of Israel at all. While the shaky ceasefire is still holding, I came across two different stories which seem to suggest that the relative quiet is an indication that terror groups are using this time to prepare for a return to violence.
The first story, entitled ‘Just married and determined to die’ appeared on BBC, talks about the trend of training females to become suicide bombers. When asked whether she had any reservations killing children, the woman interviewed stated, ‘It is not important because all of them have violated our land. Children are civilians, but they grow up to become soldiers… They are all brought up to hate us. Palestinian is only for Palestinians. We must kick them all out in any way we can.”
The second story brings the conflict to a technological level with a new website launched by Hamas called “AqsaTube”, which has been modelled on YouTube for video-sharing. The twist with AsqaTube is that it is “the first Palestinian website specialising in Islamic and jihad audio-visual productions”. Please read ‘Welcome to AqsaTube: Hamas’ ‘jihad audio-visual Web site’ from Haaretz and ‘AqsaTube glorifies terrorism online’ from Jpost. It was said to have been taken offline by its French service provider but as of today, it looks like it is still up.
For a real peace to be attainable, attitude and education needs to change. A population cannot sustain itself by being fed a diet of hatred and incitement.
On the topic of incitement and hatred comes my next story, straight from Iran. I came across the following story on Monday and have been waiting for it to be reported in our papers. The story centres on a 12-year-old cancer-stricken Iranian boy who was flown into Israel to receive emergency treatment on a brain tumour, following two failed surgeries in Iran and Turkey. Please read ‘Israel grants rare entry to cancer-stricken Iranian boy’ from Haaretz. The story was picked up by other news networks around the world (for example ‘Israeli hospital treats Iranian boy’s brain tumour‘ on Fox News) but did not make it into our local papers.
Perhaps our Middle East correspondents do not find it newsworthy that Israel has vowed to treat the child despite Israel and Iran having no formal relations and despite the fact that Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to “wipe Israel off the map” and more recently, let loose about Israel in an address to the United Nations.
Sheba CEO Zeev Rotstein stated ‘We hope that with the love and affection we give these kids we are paving the way for at least some understanding between people… We can’t change the politics. We are not politicians. We do this because we feel it is our job.”
There are a number of organisations in Israel that are dedicated to saving the lives of children regardless of where they come from. One such organisation is ‘Save a Child’s Heart. To read more, click here.