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[Martin Schram] Free Hamas’ Israeli and Gaza civilian hostages

By Korea Herald

Published : March 28, 2024 - 05:36

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We are in a world of trouble.

Wherever we look these days, all kinds of hell is happening. Or just happened. Or may soon happen.

For Gaza’s 2 million-plus Palestinians, things are about as bad as things can get. Yet, a mind-boggling new poll just revealed most Gaza Palestinians are still clueless about who to blame for their misery that has shattered their lives.

Also: World leaders appear clueless about what, if anything, they can or should do about it.

A half century ago, Israel’s erudite diplomat, Abba Eban, famously quipped that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” But ever since Hamas so horrifically and brutally attacked Israeli families on Oct. 7, and fled with 253 hostages, it has been our world leaders who “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

There is a world of blame that must be shared. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres chose to be bizarrely even-handed and understanding even while condemning Hamas’ horrific Oct. 7 attack. Infuriatingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t bring himself to show even a shred of sympathy for Gaza’s Palestinian civilians who have been trapped in war’s cruelty just as Israel’s families were in October.

For five months now, world leaders have missed this opportunity to accurately redefine the current hostage crisis by just calling it what it really is: a crisis of two peoples who are being held hostage by Hamas.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. I wrote about it last December, urging our leaders to recast how they describe Gaza’s reality. I urged our leaders to publicly discuss this hostage crisis as an effort to secure freedom for “not just one, but two different sets of hostages Hamas has simultaneously imprisoned in Gaza.”

Namely:

-- Israelis Held Hostage by Hamas: In October, Hamas killed 1,200 in Israel and kidnapped 253 hostages, including elderly and disabled. Today, according to Israel, Hamas still holds 130 hostages, including 33 bodies of hostages who are believed dead.

-- Palestinians Used as Hamas’ Human Shield Hostages: Long ago, Hamas began digging the tunnels under apartments, schools and hospitals – trapping hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians into unwittingly becoming human shield hostages.

And after their successful terrorist attacks in October, Hamas terrorists fled home to Gaza and hid beneath the civilians they were supposedly protecting. Hamas made sure Israel would have to kill thousands of innocent families under whom the terrorists cowered.

In fact, Hamas' cruel attack goaded the Israelis just so Netanyahu would massively retaliate. And Netanyahu fell into Hamas’ trap. Hamas leaders knew masses of Gaza’s civilians would be the first to die. Hamas didn’t care. Hamas’ weapons suppliers and trainers in Iran didn’t care either. They just wanted to goad Israel into killing innocent civilians while the world watched, month after month.

Iran hoped the world would see Israel killing innocent Arabs -- so world condemnation would halt Saudi Arabian and Gulf state plans to normalize relations with Israel. We’ll see.

But Hamas and Iran got one gift they couldn’t have predicted. Those videos of dead, wounded, starving and orphaned Gazans sparked waves of antisemitism throughout the US and Europe. That return of the hater may be forever.

Despite my December proposal and plea, the UN’s Guterres and other world leaders never got around to fully and truthfully pinning the blame for this crisis where it belonged -- on Hamas. And their failure to lead has been devastating.

Sadly and sickeningly, 71 percent of Gaza’s Palestinians believe Hamas was correct in attacking Israel on Oct. 7, according to a poll conducted this month by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. That’s way up from the group’s December poll in which 57 percent approved of the Hamas attack.

Perhaps you remember there were a couple of weeks in which the world saw streaming reports of Hamas atrocities committed against families in Israel that are as innocent as the terrorists’ own families back in Gaza. We saw and even some Gazans saw reports, photos and videos of Hamas terrorists killing parents in front of children, children in front of parents, babies in their cribs, violently raping women, mutilating bodies.

Remember, way back in October, the world saw a couple of weeks' news about Hamas’ atrocities. And then five months of videos of Gaza’s human shield civilians tragically suffering the heart wrenching horrors of war.

Now this: 97 percent of Gaza and West Bank Palestinians who didn’t see those October news videos about Hamas’ atrocities believe the atrocities never even happened, that same poll showed. And a still huge 81 percent of those who saw the October news videos believe what they saw never happened.

Sometimes seeing is disbelieving.

Martin Schram

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. -- Ed.

(Tribune Content Agency)