Presidents Conference launches Shalit campaign

Presidents Conf. launches Shalit campaign

Source: JTA, 8-30-10

A leading American Jewish umbrella group has started a national campaign in support of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Monday launched the website to allow people around the world to send birthday and High Holidays greetings for Shalit.

The soldier, 24, captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006 and reportedly being held by Hamas in Gaza, on Saturday marked his fifth birthday in captivity.

Greetings can be submitted through the website or by mail to the Presidents Conference, which will deliver the greetings to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Red Cross has been denied the right to visit Shalit.

The site was designed to support and encourage efforts by the Red Cross to press Hamas to allow its representatives to visit Shalit, in compliance with international law. Shalit has been held in isolation since he was captured.

Printed greetings can be sent to Shalit in care of the Conference of Presidents, 633 Third Ave., 21st Floor, New York, NY 10017.  Cards also may be dropped off in specially designated mailboxes at participating JCCs throughout the United States, or at various Magen David Adom locations in Israel.

The campaign also includes advertisements to be shown four times per hour daily through Sept. 5 on the high-definition digital billboard on the W Hotel at 47th Street in Times Square.

“As we approach Rosh Hashanah, let us remember our responsibility to raise our voices and do everything possible to gain Gilad’s freedom, and to offer strength to his family until they are reunited with their son and brother,” Presidents Conference Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said in a statement.

Israelis mark fifth birthday in captivity of soldier Shalit

Source: AFP, 8-28-10

Thousands of Israelis demonstrated in Jerusalem on Saturday in support of Gilad Shalit, marking the soldier’s 24th birthday and his fifth as a captive of Palestinian Islamists in the Gaza Strip.

Shalit’s mother Aviva called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do everything he could to secure freedom for her son, who was seized by Gaza-based militants in a deadly cross-border raid in June 2006.

“You have the chance of freeing Gilad,” she told a gathering from a makeshift podium outside the premier’s residence.

On August 3, the soldier’s father Noam appealed in an open letter to Palestinians in Gaza to pressure their Hamas rulers to agree to release his son in a prisoner exchange.

Hamas and other militant groups have demanded a swap involving hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including several top militants.

Israel made its most recent offer late last year through a German mediator, but Hamas has yet to formally respond to the deal. Each side has blamed the other for the failure to reach an agreement.

On Saturday, Aviva Shalit said she would continue a sit-in in a tent outside the Netanyahu residence, begun two months ago, and would not return home until her son was free.

Both France and Britain marked the birthday of Shalit — who also has French citizenship — by calling for his release.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a message read out by a French diplomat, said Paris was working hard for his freedom.

“Gilad is not a prisoner of war, for PoWs have rights such as visits from humanitarian organisations or exchanges of mail with their loved ones. Gilad does not have these rights because he is a hostage,” Sarkozy’s message said.

He denounced “this revolting way of treating a human being which provokes our collective indignation, in Israel, France and across the globe.”

Britain also used the occasion of Shalit’s birthday to condemn his “unjustifiable” detention.

“The thoughts of many in Britain are with Gilad Shalit and his family as he spends his 24th birthday in captivity,” a Foreign Office spokesman said in London.

“His detention is unjustifiable and unacceptable. The British government demands his immediate and unconditional release.”

Another Birthday For Gilad Shalit

Source: The Jewish Week, 8-31-10

As direct negotiations resume this week between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, there is a degree of optimism in Washington, though it is hard to say whether that is the result of signs of progress or naivete.

After 17 years of raised expectations followed by failure, from Oslo to Annapolis, some hopeful observers note the relative lack of violence in the region, the improved Palestinian Authority security forces and the pragmatic accomplishments of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in creating an infrastructure for a Palestinian state. Another positive sign has been the ability of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move forward on the negotiations front while keeping his right-wing coalition in line, at least until now.

It is especially important now that the international community focus on and address an appalling situation that Israel and world Jewry is all too aware of, namely the continuing captivity of Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped Israeli soldier who just marked his 24th birthday this week, his fifth in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

It is gratifying that the British government this week demanded Shalit’s unconditional release, noting that his continued detention is “unjustifiable and unacceptable.” Where is the United Nations and the rest of the world in making similar demands to free a soldier whose captors have refused him any contact with the outside world or visits from the International Red Cross?

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has launched a website to dramatize Gilad Shalit’s plight — — which features a video and song about his situation, background information, links to congressional resolutions and a message from Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel.

This one soldier’s captivity is a painful reminder that the road to Mideast peace is tortuous even if progress can be made with the Palestinian Authority. The reality is that Hamas, which controls Gaza and its 1.5 million inhabitants, remains committed to the destruction of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

We must do our part to show support for Shalit while demanding the world pressure Hamas for his unconditional release.

Israel’s cooperation on U.N. inquiry signals tactical shift

Source: JTA, 8-3-10

The decision by Israel to participate in the U.N. probe of the Turkish flotilla incident marks a stark departure from Jerusalem’s practice of opposing the world body’s investigations of Israeli actions.

A year-and-a-half ago, faced with a similar decision when the U.N. Human Rights Council decided to appoint a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel and Hamas’ actions during the Gaza war, Israel boycotted the inquiry led by retired South African judge Richard Goldstone. Israel would pay a heavy diplomatic price: The Goldstone report was harshly critical of Israel and generated months of negative publicity for the Jewish state.

A year later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking the opposite course with the U.N. review panel looking into the May 31 flotilla confrontation. Nine Turks, including a dual Turkish-American citizen, were killed in the melee that ensued when Israeli commandos tried to board the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla of ships sailing for Gaza in a bid to break Israel’s blockade of the strip. The incident drew worldwide condemnation of Israel.

“Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true,” Netanyahu said in a statement Monday. “It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world, and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

The U.N. inquiry out of New York will be led by a former prime minister of New Zealand, Geoffrey Palmer, and will include the outgoing president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, as well as a Turkish and an Israeli representative who have yet to be named. The panel is expected to begin its work Aug. 10 and submit a progress report in mid-September…. READ MORE

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