Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

How international NGOs failed Gilad Shalit

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In the wake of Gilad Shalit's release overnight from captivity in Gaza, major international NGOs have come in for criticism for not publicising his illegal incarceration by Hamas, an organisation on whose behalf these same NGOs have tirelessly campaigned to pressure Israel to lift its legal blockade of Gaza.

Israeli-based NGO-Monitor has released a detailed analysis of the pitiful efforts by organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, B'Tselem, Red Cross, and the UN Human Rights Council and comes to the conclusion that "Gilad Shalit was simply not a priority for these NGOs".

On the rare occasion Shalit's captivity was highlighted it was merely a prelude or pretext for a major campaign to traduce Israel with a litany of skewed allegations, whilst omitting any reference to Shalit's rights.

Instead, they used this issue to condemn Israeli responses to terror from Gaza. Their statements immorally equated Shalit, who was illegally held incommunicado and without access to the International Red Cross, and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisoners according to international legal standards.

In turn, international institutions, such as the Red Cross and the UN Human Rights Council did not devote enough resources to the blatant violations of Shalit's rights. In fact, while Shalit was held in Gaza without access to the Red Cross, the Red Cross sheltered Hamas officials in its East Jerusalem offices for more than a year, in violation of the organization's alleged mandate of political neutrality. Similarly, the Goldstone Report, which was primarily based on NGO documents and lobbying, downplayed Shalit's captivity.

In addition, NGOs have not condemned the immoral extortion exacted by Hamas on Israel, resulting in freedom for hundreds of terrorists, including murderers serving life sentences, who were tried and convicted according to due process of law. Aside from adding to incentives for future attacks against civilians, the use of Gilad Shalit as a hostage to force the release of individuals who have not completed their sentences seriously undermines international legal principles and promotes impunity for heinous crimes.

Meanwhile, Israeli blogger Omri Ceren lashes Amnesty International for its record up to and including yesterday, noting that it's own press release on the prisoner exchange is Exhibit A for all that is wrong with NGOs claiming to promote human rights.

But Amnesty's statement on the Shalit trade, titled "Israel-Hamas prisoner swap casts harsh light on detention practices of all sides," is a barrel-scraping embarrassment even by the organization's notoriously low standards. The vast majority of the press release is handed over to criticizing Israeli detention policies, while a grand total of two paragraphs are spent condemning Shalit's ordeal.

Shalit's name does not even appear below the fifth paragraph of the 20-paragraph statement, while alleged Israeli human rights violations- relevant to the swap or not - are repeatedly noted. Israel is explicitly and twice accused of Geneva violations. By the end of the statement, Amnesty is even demanding freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which would be a boon to (among others) the Hamas terrorists they're wringing their hands over.

Moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas has become a tired mainstay on the human rights left, and criticizing it sometimes becomes a paint-by-numbers exercise for those who differentiate between civilized countries and genocidal lunatics. But just for the record, Israel is a fully-functioning democracy with the legal right to arrest and imprison criminals. Palestinian terrorists, regardless of the fanatic splinter group from which they hail, are not uniformed soldiers, do not represent a state, and - Amnesty's weird implication aside - are not entitled to Geneva protections.

- Allon Lee

 

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