On June 12—now a full two weeks back—three Israeli teenage boys were kidnapped in Judea (part of the West Bank) on their way home from a religious school there. They were Naftali Frenkel, 16 (a dual Israeli-U.S. citizen), Gilad Shaar (16), and Eyal Ifrach (19). Since then Israeli security forces have conducted a massive manhunt in Judea that has included searching caves, wells, and reservoirs. They have turned up nothing.
We do know what organization was behind the abduction—Hamas, as publicly confirmed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Israel’s internal security agency has just recently announced the identity of the main kidnappers, two hard-core Hamas members from the West Bank town of Hebron. But there has been no word from Hamas about a possible prisoner swap involving the three boys, even though, two and a half years ago, Israel swapped 1027 Palestinian security prisoners for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who had also been kidnapped by Hamas and was held in Gaza for five years. That silence increases the concern that the boys have been killed—or smuggled to a different country, which the Israeli authorities consider unlikely but do not rule out.
Meanwhile Israel has been cracking down on Hamas, arresting hundreds of its members, seizing weapons and ammunition, and raiding its media outlets and funding operations. Israel has also been trying to get the international community interested in this unfolding story, but with less success.
In some ways the circumstances haven’t been propitious. There is the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil. There are also the large-scale atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, compared to which an abduction of three young men might fall under the radar. Especially when, in the U.S., the events in Iraq have sparked a bitter debate over which president was responsible, or more responsible than the other, for the mess there.
Israel has been trying to emphasize the point that, less than two weeks before the abduction, at the start of June, the U.S., the European Union, and the UN all welcomed the announcement of a new Palestinian unity government—formed between Fatah, for better or worse an accepted international player for twenty years, and Hamas, which both the U.S. and the EU officially outlaw as a terrorist organization.
Israel at the time objected vehemently to the legitimization of Hamas and said “unity” would give Hamas, already ruling Gaza, inroads into the West Bank and increase the likelihood of terror activity there. That warning seemed bitterly confirmed when the three young men disappeared on June 12. As for the EU, it took its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, five days to get around to saying something bad about the kidnapping. As for the U.S., while Secretary of State John Kerry strongly denounced the crime, the Obama administration, like the EU, has shown no inclination to rescind recognition of the new Palestinian government, Hamas and all.
And as for the UN, on Tuesday the mothers of the three boys—who, of course, deserve all possible sympathy—made an apparently naïve and pathetic move of seeking sympathy and concern at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a body known for its particularly virulent anti-Israeli bias. A video put together by Anne Bayefsky’s Human Rights Voices shows that the UN has actually reacted to the kidnapping with denial, mockery, and the usual vilification of Israel.
That attempt to get the world concerned about the kidnapping and its implications has appeared to me quixotic from the start. It is true that, in major regards, Israel is now more economically and diplomatically integrated with much of the world than in the past. That has not translated into recognition that Israel’s terrorist enemies are as vicious and reprehensible as other terrorists, or tolerance for Israel’s fight against them.
Along with the crisis over the abduction, these last two weeks have seen an intensification of rocket fire from Gaza against Israeli civilian communities, possibly necessitating another Israeli military operation in Gaza. If so, Israel needs to remain realistically aware of the fact that the world is profoundly addicted to the idea of Palestinian victimhood, even when it entails inversion of the truth.