Monday, September 11, 2006

People Behind Bars

(A video of Ron Arad aired during a special documentary on the Lebanese Broadcasting Channel)

Free them, now
By Gideon Levy

If I were, heaven forbid, the father of a soldier who had been abducted to Lebanon or Gaza, I would bitterly raise my voice as loud as possible and tell the government: Free prisoners, now. The parents of the abducted soldiers have so far refrained from making such a public demand. Instead, they have focused their protests against lifting the siege of Lebanon. Only this weekend did they finally issue a call for negotiations with Hezbollah. In their pain, they cannot be judged, but they can be told the following: Neither war nor sieges will free your children. The only way to free them is to free many Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.

Does Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, think the bombing of bridges and the power station in Gaza advanced the release of his son in any way, or does he know it caused only more suffering and hatred? Does Shlomo Goldwasser, father of Udi, believe the destruction and siege of Lebanon will bring about the release of his son? The tens of thousands of demonstrators who gathered in Rabin Square a few days ago should also be asked: What exactly do you want? To sound off emotionally but uselessly, or to bring about the release of the boys? They, too, should have made the resolute demand for the release of prisoners. Israel must decide which way it is going. Either it announces it will not conduct negotiations for the release of prisoners, as the prime minister did with much bravado when the war broke out, and then every soldier and Hebrew mother will know that if, heaven forbid, a soldier falls into captivity, the state will abandon him to their sighs; or they'll know the state will do everything to get an abducted soldier back. "Everything" means paying a price. There is no other way.

The Ron Arad affair should have taught us another important lesson: Move quickly. Those who don't want another faded film in another 20 years should act immediately. What can be achieved now might not be possible in another few months. The Lebanese movie about the abductees broadcast last week held a mirror up to Israeli society. Suddenly it was possible to see that there are anxious and loving parents on both sides of the border. Not only in Israel do the families weep, but also in Lebanon and the occupied territories, and with the same terrible pain. There are abductees from both sides. We and they both use the same methods to try to free the boys. Hezbollah and Hamas abducted Israeli soldiers, Israel abducted Lebanese civilians. Hassan Nasrallah said in the movie that kidnapping the soldiers at Har Dov was the only way left to him to bring about the return of the abducted Lebanese. What other route did he have? Israel abducted, Hezbollah abducted, both hid information about the fate of the abductees. The vicious cycle must be broken.

Israel also cannot announce it won't negotiate and at the same time abduct 15 Lebanese civilians or half a Palestinian government and a quarter of its parliament. If it won't negotiate, why does it conduct abductions? And if Israel will negotiate, why not frankly say so and conduct negotiations quickly and with flexibility? If the Lebanese civilians were not abducted to serve as bargaining cards, which anyway did not work, maybe soldiers Omar Suwad, Adi Avitan and Benny Avraham wouldn't have been abducted. And if Samir Kuntar had been released from prison in an earlier deal, after 27 years in an Israeli prison, maybe Hezbollah would not have kidnapped Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. These questions must be answered honestly and courageously, instead of with bravado and bragging.

The issue of the security prisoners is not supposed to come up only in the context of freeing the abducted soldiers. Israel has long had an interest in freeing them. More than 9,000 Palestinians are in Israeli jails nowadays; it is a nightmarish number. Anyone who knows the Shin Bet security service and the military justice system can safely assume a significant proportion of them are imprisoned for no reason. Israeli society doesn't even ask why so many are jailed. Some 750 of them have been held in prison without trial for months and years as administrative detainees, a scandal unto itself. The number of minors is also nightmarish: some 300 boys and youths, about half of whom have never been put on trial. A democratic society cannot exist if it denies freedom to so many prisoners, whose main fault was that they fought the occupation with the means used to fight occupations everywhere, including by us in the past. In the eyes of many in the world, at least some of them are rightly considered political prisoners. What are the imprisoned Palestinian parliamentarians if not political prisoners? But this is not only a matter of values. It is also a matter of interests. A prisoner release could provide a breath of fresh air.

There is hardly a family in the territories that has not had one of its sons in prison, and it is difficult to describe how such a battered society would respond to such an Israeli gesture. It would not be considered weakness, but the generosity of the occupiers. Does anyone understand what kind of dizzying political change could develop from the release of Marwan Barghouti, for example? There is no step that could change the atmosphere as quickly as the release of prisoners. Therefore, it is time to demand the government free many prisoners, as part of the negotiations and even as a unilateral gesture. Our sons will return home, their sons will return home, and if we show some generosity, maybe we can turn over a new leaf and raise some hope in this land.


Blogger Sam said...

10 to 1 ratio of pain and suffering. All of you should know that they want their people home but in the mean time punish anyone that has involvment.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Bryansaid said...

9/11/2001 We shall never forget and always honor those who died that day..........

During the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the people of the United States took part in silent reflection and fresh mourning. The day was marked with quiet observances at the three attack sites. After attending tributes at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and crash site of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa.
Solemn tributes and memorials were held in cities and towns across the nation.

"If I could build a staircase to heaven, I would, just so I could quickly run up there to have you back in my arms," Carmen Suarez, widow of city police officer Ramon Suarez, said at the Ground Zero podium while reading names of the 2,749 people who died there five years ago
On the 16-acre New York City expanse where the World Trade Center towers once stood, four moments of silence were held at 8:46, 9:03, 9:59 and 10:29 a.m., the times when jetliners struck each of the twin towers, and when each tower fell.

Some spouses and partners of Trade Center victims who read off names included brief personal tributes to their own loved ones.

"Honey, I want you to have a happy grandparents' day in heaven," said Elaine Moccia, addressing her late husband, Frank Moccia Sr, as she released a balloon gently into the sky where the towers once rose 110 stories above the New York skyline
Families of the victims began arriving before 7 a.m., many clutching pictures of their loved ones, descended the ramp into what's known as "the pit" to roam the area and lay flowers. Some wore pins bearing pictures of the victims. The mournful sound of bagpipes, so familiar from the seemingly endless funerals that followed Sept. 11, echoed across ground zero after a choir performed the national anthem.

"We've come back to remember the valor of those we've lost, those who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them," former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said in a ceremony at Ground Zero
Family members at Ground Zero held up signs reading "You will always be with us" and "Never forget," and quiet sobs could be heard as the moments of silence were observed. Some victims' relatives crossed themselves and wiped away tears.

"Five years have come, and five years have gone, and still we stand together as one," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "We come back to this place to remember the heartbreaking anniversary — and each person who died here — those known and unknown to us, whose absence is always with us."

A youth choir sang "America the Beautiful" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and religious leaders of several faiths offered words of comfort.

"I think it's important that people remember as years go on," said Diana Kellie, of Acaconda, Mont., whose niece and niece's fiance were killed on one of the planes. "The dead are really not dead until they're forgotten
Firefighter Tommy King and others stood beside a fire truck with a windshield emblazoned with the names of two comrades who died on Sept. 11.

"It's just weird being back here," King said outside the World Financial Center, where he hasn't been for five years. "This building here was a morgue."
Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynn, attended a service of prayer and remembrance in Washington Monday morning. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined them. Cheney then joined Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a ceremony at the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld choked up during his brief remarks at that event.

"I remember working our way through that long tragic day," he said, pausing in between sentences, noting that family and friends of those lost wore double American flag lapel patches. "Know that you are always in our thoughts and prayers," he added.

Cheney said, "September 11 ceased to be an ordinary day in America."

"We honor the men, women and children whose lives were taken suddenly and so coldly here at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and on a field in Pennsylvania," the vice president continued. "We remember all that we saw and heard and felt on that Tuesday morning and how the world changed on the eleventh of September, 2001. Nine-eleven is a day of national unity that stays with all of us … we were meant to take it personally and we still do take it personally."

Camp Blanding, Fla., remembered Florida soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11. Firefighters and law enforcement officers were to be honored at Idaho's Statehouse. And in Muncie, Ind., a service was set at a funeral home that features a Sept. 11 garden with twin glass towers that light up at night.

In Chicago, people filled churches to pray and remember the victims. In Virginia Beach, Va., firefighters and residents formed a human flag. Firefighters in Akron, Ohio, displayed 3,000 American flags on a 10-acre spiritual center.

3:41 AM  
Blogger HCB said...

An interesting article is on MSNBC. All about an Iranian woman entrepreneur - obviously not an "Islamic Fascist" - she describes herself as a "moderate muslim."

The first two paragraphs of the article:

The first woman to buy a ride to the international space station says she wants her flight to serve as an inspiration for expanding the final frontier — an expansion that extends even to orbital toilets.

Anousheh Ansari, who was born in Iran but made her mark as an telecommunications entrepreneur in the United States, is due to lift off in the company of two professional astronauts next Monday aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, for a 10-day trip to orbit and back. Although Ansari's contract bars her from disclosing how much she's paying, the published price tag for a space station flight is $20 million.

6:44 PM  

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