If you read my recent post on the Israeli shelling of the beach in Gaza
(perhaps especially if you read Judith
's comment on it and my response) you may have imagined that my silence so far on the Palestinian kidnapping of the Israeli soldier. and now of a boy from one of the settlements, indicated tacit approval. You may have thought that I was busily composing posts on how the wicked Israelis have invaded Gaza and committed "crimes against humanity" (according to Mahmoud Abbas
Wrong on all counts.
Firstly the kidnappings
. However much some spokesmen for Palestinian factions may try to gloss them as legitimate resistance to military occupation, these were acts of terrorism. The Geneva Declaration on Terrorism states: “As repeatedly recognised by the United Nations General Assembly, peoples who are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination have the right to use force to accomplish their objectives within the framework of international humanitarian law. Such lawful uses of force must not be confused with acts of international terrorism.” Note that "...within the framework of international humanitarian law....". The usual interpretation of this is that to be counted as legitimate resistance to occupation, action must be directed only at members of the occupying force, not civilians of whatever nationality , and must be confined to the occupied regions (you can't take the war to the invader's homeland).
So: kidnapping number 1. Corporal Gilad Shilat, 19 years old, serving member of the IDF. A legitimate target if he was in the Occupied Territories, or indeed in Gaza given its rather strange neither-occupied-nor-wholly-free status. But Corporal Shilat was sitting in a tank inside Israel when his two fellow crew members were killed and he was wounded and kidnapped. Sorry guys: terrorism.
Second kidnapping: Eliyahu Asheri, aged 18, a settler from the Itamar settlement. For all that the settlements are illegal, Eliyahu is a civilian and not therefore a legitimate target. It may be galling to be reminded of it when Israeli settlers have such a propensity of shooting up Palestinians (apparently the Itamar settlers have an especially bad reputation for unprovoked violence against their Palestinian neighbours), but two wrongs still don't make a right, and civilians, even illegal settlers, are not valid targets. So no protection from international law there either.
Read a great piece in Ha'aretz on the kidnappings
. It shows more balance than you might expect unless you read Ha'aretz a lot. (Judith Weiss, like so many American apologists for Israeli policy, is far more extreme than most of the Israeli public and press.)
No, these are terrorist acts, and it was inevitable that Israel would react to them in some way. Whether invading Gaza is the best way to secure the return of the hostages has to be doubted. It poses less risk to Israeli troops than house-to-house searches, certainly, but realistically the only way the Israelis were ever going to be returned was via some combination of political pressure Israeli intelligence. Neither Fatah nor Hamas claims to know where the Israelis are, but they might have been shamed into finding out. Either whoever has them wants to use them as bargaining pieces, in which case stalling for time might have allowed an intelligence-led rescue attempt, or they couldn't care less, in which case the hostages probably died as the first tank entered Gaza.
I must say, however, that while "crimes against humanity" may be strong language, the missile attacks on Gaza's only power station, which cut off (electrically-pumped) water supplies to most of Gaza definitely constitute yet another example of the collective punishment which is becoming so popular with the Israeli authorities. I can understand the demolition of bridges to prevent the hostages being moved (though that presupposes that they are where the IDF think they are), but knocking out the power is just petty vindictiveness of which Israel should be ashamed. I'm glad to say that much of Gaza's water was soon back online using electricity stolen from Israeli power supplies. Good.
I hope the hostages are found and returned to their homes safely. I hope there is minimal loss of life among either the Palestinians or the IDF while the invasion lasts. And I hope that the continuing moves towards a two-state solution
which the Palestinians are making meet with a positive response from the Israeli government; though I doubt that's top of their agenda right now.
For all its limitations and ambiguities, the adoption of the "Prisoners' Document"
represents a significant shift in the attitude of the Palestinian Authority in the direction of Palestinian public opinion, which is to say a negotiated settlement. It manages to avoid any mention of Israel, which is impressive if you think about it, and sad if you think a little longer, but it does commit the Palestinians to a state within 1967 borders (which implies that neither Israel nor Palestine would encroach beyond those) and to a restriction of violent resistance to the occupied territories. That would mean not only no more bombings or kidnappings in Israel, but once the territories were no longer occupied, no more violence, period. OK, duh, but it's more than Hamas have been prepared to sign up to previously. It does not, as Hamas keep pointing out, explicitly recognise Israel, but it refers to "international legitimacy resolutions" (i.e. UN resolutions) - which do. It might be nice to have Hamas acknowledge Israel's right to exist, but if they can be persuaded to agree not to attack it any more then the important concession has been won in my opinion. hamas needn't send ambassadors to Tel Aviv, but stopping sending suicide bombers and rockets would be really good.
Modified rapture then, and if the hostage crisis continues to escalate the whole thing may fall apart. As that's undoubtedly what the kidnappers intended, it would be wonderful to have real progress towards peace in which their noses could be fervently rubbed before the Israelis blow their heads off. Or after. Whatever.
The IDF confirmed early Thursday a report the Popular Resistance Committees issued from Gaza that it had executed Eliyahu Asheri, 18, of Itamar, who was kidnapped earlier this week in the West Bank. Asheri's family had been notified. His funeral took place at 2:30 p.m. in Jerusalem.
I was going to add a photograph but Blogger doesn't seem to be accepting picture uploads at present. I'll try again in a while.
On the bright side, despite all the privations being visited on Gaza residents by the IDF (who are now blockading food supplies) it appears
that Egypt may be close to getting the remaining hostage released. By negotiating, of course.
Just found a rather good description of Eliyahu's funeral
which is worth reading. And yes, I found it via a link from one of Judith's blogs
. Though I suspect her comment was a drive-by and she'll never be back, I haven't forgotten her. For sure, if she publishes any rubbish I really can't abide I'll be down on her like the proverbial 1000 kg of bricks, but hey, if she publishes good stuff she gets my vote.