I'm thinking: Gestures of ill will


By Micah D. Halpern

Issue of August 14, 2009 / 24 Av 5769

Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, recently sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his letter, Sarkozy made an appeal to Netanyahu to release Salah Hassan Hamori.

Salah Hassan Hamori, a French citizen, was arrested and imprisoned for attempting to assassinate the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The attempted assassination attempt took place in 2005. Sarkozy wrote that releasing the would-be-assassin would be an important “gesture of good will.”

The letter was made public in the massively popular French newspaper Le Figaro. The paper also revealed that there was a tremendous amount of pressure being placed upon the French president to make this appeal to Israel’s prime minister.

The pressure on the president comes from pro-Palestinian sources in France. The pro-Palestinian factions are saying that because Sarkozy so ardently advocated for

the release of Gilad Shalit who was captured by Hamas in June 2006 and who holds French citizenship, Sarkozy must also lobby on behalf of this Palestinian prisoner held in an Israeli prison who also holds French citizenship.

The argument is made on the basis of even-handedness and Sarkozy accepted the argument on face value. But the difference between Shalit and Hamori, a difference the pro-Palestinian factions glibly pass over, is that Hamori was arrested, tried, convicted and then imprisoned. Hamori is in a prison that provides him with three square meals a day, medical care, and allows him family visitation rights.

Gilad Shalit’s whereabouts are kept secret. His condition is unknown although it is public knowledge and has been made known to his captors that he suffers from a medical condition. Experience tells us that Shalit has probably been tortured and is most probably a shell of his former self. Shalit’s captors have no accountability even to the heads of Hamas — they are independent rogue forces.

Diplomats have problems when dealing with the Middle East. The problems stem from a basic lack of understanding of the region. They simply do not understand the basic rules that govern the Middle East and they do not understand what makes the people of the Middle East tick or what ticks them off.

Politicians are at an even bigger disadvantage than diplomats. Career diplomats spend at least some time studying the specific customs and traditions of the country in which they serve. Politicians and heads of state deal in generalities.

Sarkozy fell into a classic trap. Rather than research the situation, he was swept away by the argument of relative morality. Had he paid attention to what was really being asked of him, the president of France could have taken his own moral high ground and used the situation as a tool to further the battle against terrorism. Instead, albeit unwittingly, Sarkozy has allowed himself to further the terrorists’ cause.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Read his latest book THUGS. He maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.