…Why doesn’t the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit bother you [the “Freedom Forum” held in Oslo in May, 2009] in the same way as the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners?

You fought for and won the opportunity for the International Committee of the Red Cross, journalists, and lawyers to visit Guantanamo. You know the conditions of the prisoners, their lives, their food. You have met with those prisoners who have suffered torture. The result of your efforts has been a ban on torture and a law to close this prison. President Obama signed it in the first days of his coming to the White House. And although he, just like Bush before him, does not know what to do with the Guantanamo prisoners, we can hope that the new Administration will think up something.

But during the two years [note: 5 years on 6/25/11] Shalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release [note: see the Wickipedia/Gilad Shalit article below for some unsuccessful efforts that were made subsequent to this speech]. Why? He is a wounded soldier, and should fall under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions say clearly that hostage-taking is prohibited, that representatives of the Red Cross should be allowed to see prisoners of war, especially wounded prisoners, and there is much else written in the Geneva Conventions about their rights. The fact that representatives of the Quartet [the U.S., the U.N., the E.U., and Russia] conduct negotiations with the people who are holding Shalit in an unknown location, in unknown conditions, vividly demonstrates their scorn of international rights and documents their total legal nihilism. Do human rights activists also fail to recall the Geneva Conventions?

And yet I still think (and some will find this naïve) that the first tiny, but real step toward peace must become the release of Shalit. Release, and not his exchange for 1000 or 1,500 prisoners who are in Israeli prisons serving court sentences for real crimes.

Returning to my question of why human rights activists are silent, I can find no answer except that Shalit is an Israeli soldier, Shalit is a Jew. So again, it is conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Again, it is fascism.

Thirty-four years have passed since I came to this city to represent my husband, Andrei Sakharov, at the 1975 Nobel Prize ceremony. I loved Norway. The reception I received filled me with joy. Today, I feel Alarm and Hope  (the title Sakharov used for his 1977 essay written at the request of the Nobel Committee).

Alarm that anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment is growing  throughout Europe and even further afield. Hope that countries, their leaders, and people everywhere will recall and adopt Sakharov’s ethical credo: “In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice.”

Dr. Elena Bonner passed on June 18, 2011


from: Jewish Ideas Daily 6/21 (jewishideasdaily.com)

for more on Gilad Shalit, see:


for more on Elena (Yelena) Bonner, see: