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Although rumors are circulating that Ban Ki-moon has requested an opinion on his authority from his legal staff, it will not make much difference at the end of the day. Ban Ki-moon would be under enormous political pressure to transmit the Palestinian documents immediately to the ICC for the ICC’s own review. Moreover, the Palestinians would undoubtedly end-run the UN Secretary General if they felt they were being stonewalled and take their case — in their new Observer State capacity — directly to the ICC where they would expect a positive reception.
The Shalits’ letter to UN member states is an appeal to the world’s conscience – if there is such a thing. “We count on the heads of the United Nations member nations, as well as their respective ambassadors to raise their voices on behalf of Gilad – held illegally in dreadful captivity,” they wrote in their letter. They argue that the Palestinians lack the moral right to obtain any upgrade in their international status – in the United Nations, ICC or any other international forum – while they continue to detain Gilad in blatant violation of international law.
When asked if he would like to see a provision about his son included in any draft resolution on Palestine statehood, Noam Shalit replied that his “interlocutors” had promised to convey the issue to their capitals.
If the Shalit family’s reception by members of the UN press corps is any indication, they will have a tough time succeeding with their message. Although the family members made it clear that they were not speaking for the Israeli government, but only as private citizens on behalf of their loved one, several correspondents insisted on equating the plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails with Gilad’s captivity. These reporters questioned Gilad’s father why he would not show the same compassion for the families of these prisoners as he expects others to show for Gilad’s plight.
Noam Shalit handled the reporters’ moral equivalency argument in a calm and dignified manner. First, he did express compassion and said that he had tried in vain to make contact with affected Palestinian families. Second, he pointed out that at least 1000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody could have been released in exchange for the release of Gilad, but the Palestinians refused Israel’s offer. They preferred to hold Gilad as a bargaining chip to extract even more concessions. Third, while Hamas has refused access to Gilad by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and has allowed minimal contact with his family over the last five years, Israel provides the Red Cross with regular access to its prisoners. Moreover, family members of Palestinian prisoners are given access on at least a monthly basis.
The Palestinians’ imprisonment of Gilad Shalit for more than five years under inhumane conditions, in clear violation of international law, is yet another action that disqualifies them from joining the community of nations. Abbas, who promised Gilad Shalit’s release more than four years ago, is as guilty as his governing partner, Hamas, for Gilad’s continued incommunicado imprisonment.
Free Gilad Now!
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