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Update – 2 October 2009

Posted by Emily Chrapot on Friday 2 October 2009 at 12:45pm:

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For 1,195 days Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been held in captivity by Hamas terrorists.

For 1,195 days, his exact whereabouts have remained unknown.

For 1,195 days the only “sign of life” his tortured family has received has been three letters and a very poorly recorded audio tape.

For 1,195 days the family has agonised over his condition, his well-being and his state of mind.

For 1,195 days, Hamas has continued this charade, grossly celebrating his capture in ways a civilised society could not even fathom. The latest is in the form of cartoons and animations showing that kidnapping Israel soldiers is the key to releasing prisoners (see more).

Hamas has set the “price” for the return of Gilad at over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners that are currently in Israeli jails, most of them serving jail terms for their role in terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Despite the heavy price tag and the implications of releasing people with blood on their hands, Israel has been prepared to do it. This says a lot about the value that the Israelis place on one life, but it also says a lot about how much Hamas values the life of Palestinians.

This is not to mention the difference between Gilad Shalit and the Palestinian prisoners serving time in Israeli jails. These prisoners are responsible for crimes such as murder, attempted murder and planning attacks, among other things. They stood a fair trial and are their families know their whereabouts, their condition and have visitation rights. Gilad, on the other hand, was abducted from Israeli soil, committed no crime, and is now being denied even the most basic human rights. For an interesting article on the cost of human life and the price Israel is willing to pay, click here

Yesterday, the Israeli press was reporting that Gilad’s family was to receive the most convincing sign of life yet – a video tape of Gilad taken about two months ago. The deal, brokered by German and Egyptian mediators, would see the Shalit family receive the one-minute video tape in exchange for the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners (see more). Apparently, Hamas will also pass on to Gilad a Book of Psalms (see more). The tape was expected to be sent to Israel and Gilad’s family last night, and then a decision would be made as to whether the film would be made public as early today. According to sources, the tape shows Gilad in good health with no sign of wounds (see more).

John Lyons, the Middle East Correspondent for the Australian, has reported on this today in an article entitled ‘Shalit one step closer to home’.

Unsurprisingly, the story did not make The Age, where stories about Gilad’s plight over the last three years have been conspicuously absent. 

Here in Australia, we have followed Gilad’s plight along with Israel and have experienced the devastating lows every time we thought a deal might go through for his release, only for it to fall-through. We have and will continue to hope that Gilad will be returned to his family safely and quickly.

In other news, a few weeks ago the Goldstone Report was released, which was a fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict in January. The report itself has been widely criticised by the Israeli government, the US State Department and many commentators of the Middle East. For just a few of these critiques please read A farcical attempt to paint Israel black, Dramatic UN clash: Israeli rocket victim asks Goldstone: “Why were you silent?”, How Goldstone Erred by Benjamin Pogrund – a former South African anti-apartheid activist, and finally ‘The Goldstone report is a barrier to peace’ by Alan Dershowitz. Please also read this fantastic Op-Ed from today’s Australian entitled ‘UN’s bias binds Gaza’ by Jim Molan.

The report was forwarded to the United Nations Human Rights Council and was expected to be voted on today. The UNHRC has a record of consistently voting against Israel, and this vote was expected to be no different. Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a plea that a vote for the report would strike a fatal blow to the peace process (see more).

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority has agreed to delay this vote until March. Initially some reports seemed to suggest that this was due to PM Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman’s pressure on the PA to withdraw its support for the adoption of the resolution (see more). However, it seems more likely that the delay will give everyone involved a chance to regroup until March (see more).

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