mia2b.jpg (4487 bytes)

Copyright 2001 Ha'aretz

October 8, 2001

To All People of Conscience

Amos Oz

The release of the abducted Israelis must be demanded from all sides

A little over a year ago, three Israeli soldiers - Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Suad - were abducted by members of the Hezbollah and dragged into Lebanese territory. Soldiers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), who are stationed in southern Lebanon in order to maintain quiet and security, were perhaps witnesses to the kidnapping, and in any case closely witnessed its results, but they did not see fit to intervene. Another Israeli citizen, Elhanan Tanenbaum, was abducted at almost the same time in unclear circumstances and he too is being held hostage by the Hezbollah, the leader of which has boasted that he would not allow their families to receive even one sign of life from their loved ones.

Since the day they were kidnapped, the abducted men have been held at an unknown location and in conditions the nature of which can only be guessed. The Hezbollah is not allowing representatives of the International Red Cross to visit them, is not prepared to allow the delivery of a single letter, not even a brief note, from the abducted men to their families or from family members to them. There is no way of knowing what their situation is and what they are going through.

The only sign of life since the abduction of the three soldiers has been the spilled blood of one of them, or the spilled blood of more than one of them, that was found on the side of the vehicle from which they were abducted. Was one of them wounded? Were all of them wounded? Light wounds or, heaven forbid, serious wounds? Has proper medical treatment been given to the wounded man or the wounded men?

To all this the Shi'ite organization relates as if they were bargaining chips, for each of which it is trying to exact from Israel a price in concessions and humiliation. The details of indirect contacts with the Hezbollah, if there are any such contacts, are being kept secret even from the families of the abducted men. But even without knowing what exactly they are demanding and what Israel is prepared to pay, it may be said with certainty that the torture both of the men and of their families is inhuman and goes way beyond the rules of warfare, even the crudest ones that enemies observe to the death; it goes beyond even the accepted rules of behavior in gang warfare or the criminal world; criminal kidnappers always see to it that the relatives of the victims are provided with clear and convincing proof that their dear ones are alive.

The Middle East is no rose garden. The sufferings of the Palestinian people under the yoke of the Israeli occupation, the suffering of Israeli and other victims of terror, and the horror and violence that is spreading through the entire world - all these could harden hearts and lead people to say: "In war as in war." But keeping any sign of life from the families, the prohibition of even any third party visit to the abducted men, the cruel use of the suffering of the families who are stumbling through the fog in a hell of not knowing - all these are not "as in war." The behavior of Hezbollah members deviates from the area of the reality of war into the area of sadism.

People like myself, who have been struggling for over 30 years for a just peace, for an end to the occupation and for the recognition of the national rights of the Palestinian people, are worthy of having their voices heard by public opinion everywhere even as they raise their voices to plead with them to put an end to this horror.

It is no longer enough for one European government or another to volunteer to mediate; it is not enough that here and there someone issues a flabby statement of condemnation. There is now a need for every person of conscience and heart to raise his voice and demand of the government of Lebanon and of the government of Syria, in the shadow of which the Hezbollah organization is flourishing, and of the government of Iran that nurtures and sustains this organization, as well as from the UN, which is trying to tread carefully between the raindrops so as to hurt neither those who are being cruel nor those who are the victims of the cruelty: Release the abducted Israelis immediately - or at least apply to them the most basic rules of war morality: a sign of life, a letter, a visit, a medical examination by an independent party.

Anyone who maintains silence about the brutal trampling of these basic rules is himself like a partner to the kidnappers' cruelty. Remain silent no longer!

Amos Oz is an author.
A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman have appended their signatures to this text.

Return to Archive