The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) claims to be impartial in its attitude towards Israel but it has not been slow to condemn Israel for alleged human rights abuses while singularly failing to mention continued breaches of the human rights of the Palestinians in Gaza by their own government, Hamas (see also here , here and here).
The ICRC has been tasked, so far without any success, with trying to communicate with Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli kidnapped over four years ago in a cross-border raid by Hamas, held incommunicado and in solitary confinement in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, and without access to medical aid. He was only 19 years of age when he was captured and was last heard from a year ago. Most recently Hamas published an animated video on YouTube, after threats to kill Gilad Shalit unless the Israeli government meets its demands, at the end of which the viewer is led to believe that Gilad has been executed. This is yet more evidence, if any were needed after the murders of four Israeli civilians in the West Bank, of Hamas’ utter depravity and total disregard for human decency.
The first sentence of the ICRC’s mission statement states unequivocally:
“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance.”
How strange, then, to find that the ICRC is openly giving aid and shelter to three wanted Hamas fugitives, hardly victims, in the Sheikh Jarrakh building in East Jerusalem! Apparently, they had requested “protection” and got it, although the ICRC spokeswoman, Dorothea Krimitsas, said that she had told them that the ICRC could not prevent Israeli authorities taking action against them.
This seems to be a surreal reworking of the medieval law of sanctuary whereby a wrongdoer who fled to a church was granted protection from forcible removal as well as immunity from capital or corporal punishment.
Sheikh Jarrakh however is not a church, and although Hamas is welded to its medieval supremacist ideology, Israel’s justice system is, thankfully, firmly rooted in the 21st century.
Having said that, Israel’s intention remains similar to those who waited outside churches for murderers to try to leave. Feted they may be by the likes of Uri Avnery and others of the extreme left in Israel for whom they hold court, but the Israeli police remain outside to arrest “the Hamas Three” should they try to leave.
The three have been inside Sheikh Jarrakh since 30th June so unless the other occupiers have pegs on their noses, the saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that “fish and house guests begin to smell after three days,” obviously does not apply literally to them. I do wonder, though, for how long they can tough this out, and for how long the ICRC will be prepared to compromise their alleged neutrality by continuing to aid and abet members of a terrorist organisation.