Death of Israeli-American Hostage Held by Hamas Announced Even as Criticism of Israel Increases

An American-proposed resolution at the United Nations Security Council omits a previous call for an ‘immediate and unconditional’ release of all 134 hostages. Instead, the resolution couples it with calls for a cease-fire.

AP/Bebeto Matthews
The United Nations special representative of the secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, addresses a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the war in Gaza, March 11, 2024, at UN headquarters. AP/Bebeto Matthews

While much of the world increasingly turns critical of the Jewish state, the Israel Defense Force announced Tuesday that one of six remaining Israeli-American hostages in Gaza, 19-year-old Itay Chen, was killed on October 7. His body is held by the terrorist group that attacked that day, Hamas. 

President Biden and the first lady are “devastated” by the news, he wrote on his X account, adding, “as we join Itay’s parents, brothers, and family in grieving this tragic loss, I reaffirm my pledge to all the families of those still held hostage: We are with you. We will never stop working to bring your loved ones home.”

Yet, an American-proposed resolution at the United Nations Security Council omits a previous call for an “immediate and unconditional” release of all 134 hostages. Instead, the resolution couples it with calls for a cease-fire. 

In a dramatic moment Monday, an Israeli Bedouin man, Ali Ziadna, approached the Palestinian UN ambassador, Riad Mansour, to raise the plight of his brother, Yousef, and nephew, Hamza, who have been held by Hamas since their kidnapping on October 7.   

“I told him, I’m a Muslim, you’re a Muslim,” Mr. Ziadna said of Mr. Mansour. “Hamas are Muslims, my brother, like them, is fasting during Ramadan and praying like them. They had many opportunities to return them. Why didn’t they?”

According to Mr. Ziadna, Mr. Mansour answered: You shouldn’t care only about your brother. You must care about your “brothers” in Gaza. The Palestinian ambassador told Mr. Ziadna that he has become a tool of Israeli propaganda. 

If Israel came to the Security Council hoping to advance its “propaganda,” as Mr. Mansour put it, the result was disappointing. Many of the 40 family members of October 7 victims who accompanied Foreign Minister Israel Katz to New York were dismayed as Israel, rather than Hamas, was mostly criticized.

America, Britain, and France called the council session to highlight a report issued last week by the UN secretary-general’s representative on sexual violence, Pramila Patten. Following a visit to Israel and Ramallah, Ms. Patten wrote there were “reasonable grounds” to conclude that Hamas raped, abused, and mutilated Israeli and other women and girls on October 7. 

“Such violence may be ongoing against those still in captivity,” Ms. Patten told the Security Council on Monday. Yet, she also noted some “reports” from Palestinian officials about abuse of women in Israeli prison. That throwaway line in Ms. Patten’s speech was enough for most council members to claim that both sides are equally guilty.

“I don’t believe it,” an 18-year-old Israeli woman, Or Atias, whose cousin, Amit Buskila, was kidnapped on October 7 while attending the Nova festival, and is still held in Gaza, told the Sun. “I know our country. This did not happen.”

In a meeting with Ms. Patten, Mr. Katz says he asked her to “clarify that these allegations are only made by Palestinians who told you about them,” as opposed to her own investigation of abuse of Israeli women. Yet, even some of Israel’s allies attempted to equate the two sides.   

“I am deeply concerned” over the October 7 horrors, Britain’s minister of state for the UN and the Mideast, Tariq Ahmad, told the council. Yet, he added, “I am also deeply shocked” about reports of “sexual violence perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinian detainees.”

Alone among council members, the American UN ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, was adamant that the alleged Israeli abuses are “not the same” as Hamas’s widespread use of rape and torture of women.

Israel, a democracy, must investigate the allegations, but “we urge and expect members of this Council to avoid drawing a false equivalency between these actions and hostage taking by a foreign terrorist organization,” Ms. Thomas-Greefield said.

Council members who paid lip service to Ms. Patten’s report nevertheless moved quickly to criticize the IDF’s war conduct in Gaza. They called for an immediate cease-fire, and urged Israel to accept the “two-state solution.”   

In a letter to Secretary-General Guterres, Mr. Katz accused him of “distressing bias” against Israel in his reaction to October 7. After the Monday session at the council, Mr. Katz said that at least the subject was, for the first time, raised at the UN. Many of the families that accompanied him, however, were disappointed. 

 “I was very surprised,” one man, Nissim Louk, told the Sun. “But what can we do? There are 2 billion Muslims and only 15 million Jews.” Mr. Louk’s German-Israeli daughter, Shani, who went to dance at the Nova party, became a symbol of October 7, when a video emerged of cheerful Hamas men surrounding her on a flat back truck on the way to Gaza before murdering her.

“If you look at my daughter and see how much light she brought to this world, and then you see these five gunmen sitting on a Toyota, you see what is light and what is darkness,” Mr. Louk said.

The New York Sun

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