When Karnit Goldwasser spoke with Kofi Annan last month, the U.N. Secretary-General assured the grieving wife of Ehud Goldwasser that he would do anything in his power to bring home her husband and another Israeli soldier whose capture by Hezbollah on July 12 triggered the 34-day war between Israel and the terrorist army. That was the last Goldwasser heard from Annan.
This was just one of the heartbreaking stories that Goldwasser shared during a speech at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles this Tuesday evening. She is currently touring the United States in an effort to focus attention on the international community’s failure to secure the release of her husband, as well as his fellow soldiers, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit, the latter captured a few weeks earlier by Hamas.
Speaking moments before Goldwasser, the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles explained the importance of keeping the issue of the captive soldiers in the news. Foremost is the fact that the first article of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calls for the unconditional release of Goldwasser and Regev.
The problem for Israel is that the fate of Israeli hostages isn’t as important to the world as, say, captured journalists. Fox News journalist Steve Centanni and camera man Olaf Wiig were kidnapped on August 14 by a group calling itself "Holy Jihad Brigade.” The story received an appropriately large amount of coverage in the international media up until the day the hostages were released following their forced conversion to Islam. Terrorists are well aware of the fact that because Israel is constantly portrayed in a negative light by the same media, two captured soldiers fighting for what much of the world believes is the new Nazi state will likely soon be forgotten. The family members of the soldiers don’t want a repeat of the story of Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force office whose plane went down in Lebanon in 1986. Eldad Regev’s brother, Benny, has said, “We don’t want to arrive at a situation where 20 years from now we will get a short piece of film.” He was referring to the airing last week of video footage of Arad which was used as a promotion for a Hezbollah documentary.
The Consul General also reminded the Americans in the audience that because of mandatory military service in Israel, he had been a reservist just like Goldwasser and Regev. The lesson was clear: “What happened to them could have happened to any of us.” But one doesn’t have to be an Israeli to be concerned about the soldiers’ fates. To understand that Israel’s war is part of the broader war that the West is waging against Islamic fascists is to know that the IDF soldiers were protecting all of us by performing their duties.
Of course, Israel’s enemies use the term “Israel’s war” to ascribe blame to the democratic country for causing the war against Hezbollah. Conveniently forgotten in this storyline is the fact that not a single house would have been destroyed in Lebanon had Hezbollah not kidnapped the two soldiers in the first place.
Ehud Goldwasser, affectionately known as “Udi,” was captured on his last day of military service. Karnit had just prepared his favorite meal when a group of soldiers informed her that he was missing. Ehud’s suprise birthday party, which was to take place a few days later, had to be cancelled shortly thereafter. Goldwasser described for the Los Angeles audience how her husband, who loved to read, couldn’t live without books, newspapers or journals. It was obvious to all in attendance that she was having a difficult time living without her husband.
Goldwasser’s touching story (and those of the other family members of the missing soldiers) at first appeared to resonate with Kofi Annan during last week’s private meetings. Still, Mrs. Goldwasser didn’t get her hopes up: “But it is not enough to promise. We want to see action, not only to hear nice words.” Israel’s UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman seconded that notion, saying, “I hope that he will leave here with a real feeling of obligation, of a moral mission to do everything he can—and he is going to several capitals in which there is influence on this matter—to bring about Udi, Eldad and Gilad’s speedy return home.”
Annan, who has always insisted that both sides have to make “painful compromises,” seemed less understanding in his remarks after meeting with the families. Rather than publically demanding the unconditional release of the soldiers and because he seems to believe that Hezbollah’s demand for the release of Arab prisoners in Israeli jails is just as valid, the Secretary-General made the morally ambiguous declaration, “We need to resolve the issue of the abducted soldiers very quickly.” He immediately proceeded to engage in one of his favorite pastimes: Israel bashing. Annan showed his true feelings when he stated, “As of today most of the violations have come from the Israeli side and we need to really solidify this, turn it into a permanent cease-fire.”
Annan’s remarks should come as no surprise. Judea and Ruth Pearl wrote the following in the Wall Street Journal on August 28:
Sadly, this is not the first time that concerned parents have turned to Mr. Annan in much the same circumstances. Six years ago, another delegation of distressed families came to the U.N. with a similar tragedy, following the abduction of three Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah from under the noses of Unifil and, by some accounts, with their help. The investigation that was subsequently conducted found that the U.N. had made "serious errors in judgment" by hiding information that "would have been helpful in an assessment of the condition of the three abducted soldiers." At that time, the U.N.'s interest in appearing "neutral" overshadowed its commitment to the preservation of human lives. The world cannot afford a repeat of such inaction and poor judgment.
Karnit Goldwasser is quickly learning that she can’t turn to international institutions for help. Weeks ago the family sent official letters through the International Red Cross that could be signed by the soldiers to let their loved ones know they are still alive. A Hezbollah representative in Beirut refused to accept the letters. Meanwhile, the International Red Cross has not tried to obtain medical information on or visit the captured soldiers.
Goldwasser believes her husband is alive because she “feels it.” One thing all of us can do is make sure that his story is kept alive.
The “Keren Maor” Foundation was founded to assist and support the families of the kidnapped soliders in their struggle to free their sons. Contributions may be sent by check or bank transfer, to “The Keren Maor Foundation—Ve’shavu Banim Le’gvulam”.
Checks should be sent to:
Office of Atty. Yaakov Ne’eman, for “Keren Maor” (Moriah Katz)
Beit Asia, 4 Weitzmann Street
Tel Aviv, 64239
The Foundation’s account for contributions via bank transfer:
U Bank (No. 26)
Tel-Aviv Branch 101
Acct. No. 840661
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