Earlier this week the latest video of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was shown. The deal was made possible after Israel agreed to release 20 female Palestinians from Israeli jails. Many people have questioned who exactly the twenty prisoners were. It has been revealed that while many have been accused of attempted murder, none of them had blood on their hands and were all slated to be released within the next two years (see more).
Following the release, the debate about releasing terrorists in exchange for abducted soldiers has continued to rage in Israel. Hundreds of participants took part in a protest outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem against a prisoner-exchange deal. The protest was led by bereaved families of terror victims.
Yossi Medellevich, who lost his 13-year old son in a terror attack on a bus in Haifa in 2003 stated, “we raised public awareness towards the end of Olmert’s time in office in an effort to prevent the release of hundreds of prisoners… we’ve embarked on this campaign in order to prevent the next strategic attack. The previous one was during the Intifada between the years 2000-2005, in which we lost our children. The next one is expected after the release of hundreds of terrorists” (see more).
This is a moral debate that has been playing out in Israel for years. On the one hand, the country wants to do everything it can for Gilad Shalit, but on the other hand, they will be releasing over 1,000 terrorists that not only have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in the past, but could have the potential to perpetrate more acts of terror upon their release. It also shows Hamas the price Israel is willing to pay, and they will continue to kidnap more soldiers to achieve their aims. This is not a new idea. Hamas has always been aware of the importance the Israeli army places on each soldier’s life and the lengths they will go for their return (see more).
Indeed, it is a difficult and painful debate. It is hard for me to talk about either side, without appearing to be ignoring the pain on the other side. But when soldiers enter the army, I believe they are under the understanding that should anything happen to them the Israeli government will do everything in their power to bring them home. Indeed, if it were my loved ones, I would like to believe that this is the case. We now know for sure that Gilad is alive and at the moment he is suffering in a dark dungeon in Gaza. They must bring him home.
Following a lot of criticism, the PA has done a back flip, and will endorse a UN Security Council debate next week (see more). The UNSC was not scheduled to discuss this until March 2010 but have agreed, at the request of Libya, to move up its regular monthly meeting on the Middle East to 14 October from 20 October.
This story also appeared in today’s Age in an article by Jason Koutsoukis entitled ‘Abbas backs down on Gaza report’. It was said Abbas had initially not endorsed the report following pressure from the US, as any endorsement may jeopardise peace efforts. However, following some major backlash, they have reversed their decision. Abbas’ senior aide Yasser Abed Rabbo stated, “What happened is a mistake, but can be repaired… We have the courage to admit there was a mistake”. I am not sure if it was courage or something else that drove them to the decision, but it will all play out in the next week.
Many of you may have read in recent days about clashes in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount. This is obviously not the first time this has caused tension but now Hamas and other groups are calling for today, Friday, to be a day of rage and for supporters to demonstrate at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount (see more). The status quo over religious areas in Jerusalem has always been a contentious issue and while many are willing to lay blame, most do not understand the intricacies (myself included). For more information, please read ‘Who is really to blame for the tensions on the Temple Mount?’ and ‘Third Intifada inconceivable, despite Jerusalem tensions’ from Haaretz.
One issue that I have utter disgust for is the children’s programming both on PA and Hamas-run television stations. While most kids I know are learning to count to ten in Spanish from Dora the Explorer, Palestinian children are being introduced to cuddly and friendly characters that specifically call for the slaughter of Jews. The latest one is Nassur the bear who declares, “We want to massacre them [the Jews] so that they leave, right?” He then continues, “If they don’t want to [go quietly], with words or talks, we will have to slaughter them” (see more).
Seriously? In what sort of moderate and reasonable society is this sort of program acceptable? Why do Hamas feel that they need to instill such rabid hatred for Israel at such a young age? For an analysis of this repulsive phenomenon, please click here.
Finally in more exciting news, Israeli scientist Ada Yonath, along with two others, has been awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome. Ada commented on how there was a point during the research where people told her, “You won’t make it, what you want to do – others have tried and failed… People called me a dreamer” (see more). I guess the message there is to never stop dreaming!
Unfortunately while he was odds-on favourite to win, Israeli author Amos Oz missed out on the Nobel Prize for Literature this year (see more). Oz is one of my personal favourite authors so as you can imagine, drawing on a sports analogy, the news that he had missed out made me feel like a St Kilda supporter on Grand Final day!