Today marks a year since the Iranian-backed, Syrian-aided terrorist group Hezbollah crossed into Israel and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Just days earlier, on June 25, another Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, had been kidnapped by Hamas, which also is backed by Syria and Iran. The anniversary will be marked here in New York City on Monday, with a rally organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The event will be at noon at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, which is at First Avenue and 47th Street.
The captives have already been the focus of intense activity to obtain their release. On April 12, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution on the topic that was sponsored by Senator Clinton. It condemns not only Hamas and Hezbollah but also "Iran and Syria for their ongoing support of Hezbollah and Hamas." It demands that the captives be immediately and unconditionally released and that "Hezbollah and Hamas accede to the most basic standards of humanitarian conduct and allow prompt access to the Israeli captives by competent medical personnel and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross." A companion resolution introduced by Rep. Gary Ackerman of Queens has 75 co-sponsors and is awaiting action in the House. The United Jewish Communities has been distributing replicas of the soldiers' dog tags to congressmen as a way of building support on the issue.
Outside the United Nations is an apt site for the rally here in New York. Iran and Syria are members in good standing of the United Nations, and the world body has taken no meaningful action against either nation. As secretary general, Kofi Annan had claimed he'd been asked to mediate the release of Messrs. Goldwasser and Regev, a mission that the Israeli government denied it had assigned him and on which, in any event, Mr. Annan was a failure. The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, yesterday wrote to Mr. Annan's successor, Ban Ki-Moon, calling on the United Nations to make the release of the Israeli soldiers a priority. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended last summer's war in Lebanon, called for the "unconditional release" of the soldiers, but like most Security Council resolutions, it isn't worth the paper on which it is written.
Meanwhile, the prisoners whose condition the American left seems most anguished and concerned about are the accused terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay, who have been regularly visited by the Red Cross and who are provided with lawyers and copies of the Koran. Somehow the concern about the conditions under which Goldwasser and Shalit and Regev are being held, if they are even alive, is less audible than the fuss about Guantanamo. One group, Human Rights Watch, went so far as to mark the anniversary of the capture of Goldwasser and Regev with a press release criticizing Israel for responding to the hostage taking with what Human Rights Watch charged were "arbitrary arrests."
Human Rights Watch admonished Israel by asserting that "illegality by one side does not justify illegality by the other," an all too typical example of moral equivalence. Israel's cabinet on Sunday approved the release of 250 Palestinian Arab prisoners. If three Israeli soldiers were returned home in response no doubt many Israelis would consider it a worthwhile trade. But both the Senate resolution and the Security Council resolution call for the release to be unconditional, a point worth remembering along with the captives and their families one year later, as thousands gather outside the United Nations on Monday. The whole city will be there in spirit.
Correction from July 13, 2007:
The House and Senate have both passed a resolution calling for the unconditional release of three Israeli soldiers who have been held captive. The status of the resolution was reported incorrectly in an editorial on page 8 of yesterday's Sun.