Opinion

Leaving Them to Die in Gaza

Anyone who was involved in barring Gazan cancer patients from entering Israel for treatment have acquired a special place in hell

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian cross from the Gaza Strip into Israel at the Erez Crossing, August 19, 2018.
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Seven women from the Gaza Strip were supposed to go immediately to a private hospital in East Jerusalem, all of them in mortal danger: brain tumors, radiation, treatments. It’s heartbreaking. Israel didn’t agree to allow them to pass through its territory. They are first-degree relatives of Hamas members. Excuse me – a mistake: We misidentified two of them and delayed them for no reason, but the other five are indeed close family members.

Leaving them to die in the Strip, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided, would exert pressure on Hamas to cut a deal that will bring back the remains of the bodies of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as the Israeli citizens being held by that organization.

A few days ago the High Court of Justice decided unanimously to toss the government’s baseless claims into the garbage. Justice Isaac Amit did a good job of summing up the issue:

“The government isn’t being asked to provide the petitioners with medical care; it is not being asked to pay for the medical care of the petitioners; it is not being asked to find a place for the petitioners to receive medical care; it is not being asked to act to save the lives of the petitioners; it is not being asked to allow a person who poses a security risk to enter the country.

“The government is being asked only not to prevent the petitioners from receiving medical care, in a Palestinian hospital, at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, in a place where Palestinian patients from all over Judea, Samaria and Gaza are treated … The meaning of the decision is to put a woman to death, in simple terms, because of the crimes of her brother or husband, in contradiction to the basic Jewish rule: ‘But every one shall die for his own iniquity.’”

Anyone who's been a partner to the cruelty involved in the original decision not to allow the women to come for medical treatment should think carefully about whether he has acquired a place in hell for himself. From the defense minister, who formulated the inhumane policy, we should have no expectations. From some of the others involved in the terrible decision – we should.

The man in charge of dealing with hostages and missing persons, Yaron Blum, submitted an opinion to the court to the effect that the decision would generate pressure on Hamas to strike a deal. Bloom is the first to know that that’s nonsense. He was part of the team involved in the Shalit deal, which worked to release abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity. Blum knows that Hamas didn’t lower the price for Shalit even after thousands had died.

Will the five unfortunate women make Hamas change its approach?

Next is Avichai Mendelblit, the attorney general, who approved the defense minister’s policy. Mendelblit will speak at all kinds of conventions in Eilat or wherever about human dignity, humanitarian sensitivity and Jewish values. The department that deals with cases presented in the High Court, which is subordinate to him, was not ashamed to represent this cruel opinion in the courtroom.

I wonder how they’re living with their conscience. Army officers carried out this terrible order. An entire benighted system translated into lofty words, ostensibly legal instructions and criteria an inhumane order that severs any connection between us and what we wish to be.

It’s a little painful to say this, but the Goldin and Shaul families – with all the pain that they have experienced and are still experiencing – should think whether their aggressive campaign to release their sons’ remains isn’t taking the government a step too far.

After the High Court decision, MK Bezalel Smotrich of Habayit Hayehudi dispatched a sickening tweet: “This ruling is activism on steroids. Without any legal source, lacking any understanding at all about policy and security. The High Court is intervening in a cabinet decision of a clearly political and security nature, and is once again undermining Israel’s security. We will have to overturn the ruling with legislation.”

Smotrich has the facts wrong. This does not constitute a violation of a cabinet decision (which is terrible in itself). Even the cabinet of Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked didn’t dare go as far as Smotrich.