Last October, I reported that Hamas had captured an Israeli-Ethiopian who’d crossed the border into Gaza. Shabak ordered the story placed under gag and warned the family not to notify any media about it.
Hamas rubbed its hands with glee at the capture of an Israeli citizen, believing it would give it leverage in negotiating the release of further Palestinian prisoners. Last October, I featured a photo of a Hamas billboard boasting of a mystery prisoner it held who would lead to freedom for more Palestinian detainees.
Israel knew this and deliberately refused to acknowledge the capture or negotiate for his release.
Hamas tired of this game and today released a statement via Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV (Arabic) publicly confirming that it’s holding the Israeli citizen. Al-Mayadeen is a source known to be sympathetic to both Hezbollah and Hamas. According to the report, he was swimming in the sea near Ashkelon, his home, and was swept out to sea. When he came ashore in Gaza, Palestinians captured him and handed him to Hamas, where he has remained.
Hamas, attempting to shame the Israelis, says that the government has refused to negotiate for his release because he’s African. It also says the statement that the prisoner is mentally ill is another stratagem to reduce the price of exchange.
Actually, racism is probably one of the major components in Israel’s lack of response to this situation. Another, is that clearly since the Shalit prisoner exchange, Israel has put in place a Draconian new approach: it will not negotiate in such circumstances. It would rather kill IDF soldiers, as it did during Protective Edge, than allow them fall into enemy hands. And if a citizen is kidnapped, especially a civilian for whom the State feels no special responsibility, it will refuse to deal.
I tried contacting various Israeli government ministries about the story. I could not read anyone in the Prime Minister’s Office after being on hold several minutes. After several attempts at the foreign ministry, I reached Paul Hirschson, the deputy press officer and he said he was “aware of the story” and “had nothing more to add about it.” I’ll let you be the judge whether this is a country that cares about its citizens when they’re neither Ashkenazi, Mizrahi or IDF.
Above I featured an Israeli 2010 TV comedy skit which portrayed a Hamas cell which captures an IDF soldier. The commander praises his fighters and their heroism in bringing such a gift which will free so many Palestinian prisoners…until they remove the soldier’s hood and discover that he’s an Ethiopian-Israeli. That’s when they realize that no Israeli government will pay anything for an Ethiopian. The commander berates the cell members for kidnapping the wrong type of Israeli and tells them to do better next time.
They decide to free the prisoner, but he won’t leave. They fear they’ve insulted him and consider telling him they’ve already received prisoner’s in exchange for him. But they reject the idea, realizing that even he won’t believe Israel would’ve done this on his behalf. Finally, the soldier asks for a ride to the border and they ask why he needs one since “his kind” knows how to run so well.