Via The New York Times:
Just off the bus in Gaza after six years in an Israeli prison, one of hundreds traded to Hamas for an Israeli soldier, Wafa al-Bass declared her next goal: abduct more Israeli soldiers. Others who returned said they could not feel satisfaction until the thousands of remaining Palestinian prisoners were freed.
And Israelis, at first thrilled at the sight of their liberated soldier, were angered by how he looked — frail, wan and underfed.
Hamas quickly called for its members to capture more Israeli soldiers in order to free the remaining 5,000 or so Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, a Hamas rival, also spoke of the vital need to free the remaining prisoners. He made that point in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he welcomed about 100 freed prisoners in a citywide celebration. And though he has long focused on popular, nonviolent struggle, he is facing pressure to take a harder line as Hamas’s accomplishments seem more tangible than his bid to win Palestinian statehood through the United Nations.
There will be more abductions. Count on it.
Hamas has been content to hold Gilad Shalit for five years; we do not know in what sort of conditions as yet, but we do know that his imprisonment was not in accord with the Geneva convention. Shalit may have been taken in a war but the way he was held reminds us of the kidnapping of Terry Waite, Brian Keenan and John McCarthy. Just as we remember the long agony of that crisis, we ought to understand something of what the Israelis have been going through on behalf of Gilad Shalit. This shows that Hamas is quite prepared to use cruel methods to advance its cause, whatever that cause may be. Cruelty is surely never to be condoned. This behaviour of Hamas ought to chill the blood of all humane people.
I am not an apologist for Israel, and I deplore much of what the Israelis have done to the Palestinians, but in kidnapping Gilad Shalit and holding him for five years, Hamas have done the Palestinian cause no favours. Indeed they have done something wrong in itself, something inhumane, something to be condemned by all. By contrast, the Israelis, in caring about Shalit, in refusing to sacrifice him, and in releasing 1,000 Palestinian prisoners early, has shown a merciful face to the world.
I shake my head a bit that it takes the Shalit release for a Palestinian sympathizer to awaken and see Hamas as cruel and Israel as humane but it is what it is.