On Thursday night three Israeli teenage boys were kidnapped in Judea (part of the West Bank) and have not been seen since. Although Israel has been riveted on the story, it hasn’t gotten much play in the international media, overshadowed by the events in Iraq and by the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil.
Also tending to diminish interest is the fact that the three kidnap victims are identified as “settlers,” a heavily stigmatized group that much of the West does not regard as having human rights in any case. Actually, only one of the three lived in a community over the 1949 armistice lines. All three, however, were religious Jews and were attending a yeshiva in Judea, which, unfortunately, is not the way to gain world sympathy.
Israelis are also well aware that a headline such as “Settlers Kidnap 3 Palestinians” would kick up much more of a storm.
Israel is also having trouble getting world governments interested in the fact that the kidnapping, as confirmed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was carried out by Hamas. It was just two weeks ago that the new Fatah-Hamas unity government was sworn in. Jerusalem was dismayed when the Obama administration announced it was ready to “work with” the new government. The European Union and the United Nations, of course, fell all over themselves in welcoming it.
Jerusalem warned at the time that the new “unity,” however tenuous, would likely give terror a boost. With Hamas already ruling Gaza, “unity” would give it greater inroads in the West Bank. The new arrangement would also make Hamas anxious to show the Palestinian masses that it had not gone soft and not given up “resistance” to Israel.
Last Wednesday 88 senators informed President Obama that they shared Israel’s view, expressing “grave concern” over Hamas’s inclusion in the government, noting that it “has openly called for Israel’s destruction,” and warning that “these troubling developments…have undermined congressional support for U.S. assistance to the Palestinians.”
The upshot was that the U.S. could find itself funding an explicitly terrorist government.
It did not take long for the worries to materialize. The kidnapping on Thursday was followed on Saturday by seemingly celebratory rocket fire at Israel from Gaza, which was renewed on Sunday. Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza, in any case, were explicitly celebrating the kidnapping.
As of Sunday evening, the Israeli public, three days after the kidnapping, still had no word as to whether the young men were alive or dead or where they had been taken. Earlier on Sunday Israeli security forces had arrested 80 Hamas leaders and operatives including at least one major figure, Hassan Yousef. There were also persistent reports of Israeli forces imposing a dragnet on Hebron, a known Hamas stronghold on the West Bank.
As for the allegedly “moderate” faction, Fatah, most reports said or implied it was not cooperating with Israel in the search. Its leader Mahmoud Abbas, though his wife was being treated in an Israeli hospital, had made no condemnation of the kidnapping. Fatah, however, had lauded the kidnapping with a Nazi-style caricature on its Facebook page, depicting the three young men as rats caught on a fishing rod.
Israel, in any case, is deeply averse to another prisoner deal if it turns out the three are still alive, and will be cracking down on Hamas. Convincing the world that terrorists who attack Israelis are just as heinous as other terrorists, and gaining international support—instead of condemnation—for its antiterror measures, will be an uphill climb as always.
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