Saturday, June 14, 2014

Response To Hebron Kidnappings Shows A Cynicism Addiction

On Thursday evening, three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank. They are: Naftali Frenkel (16), Gilad Shaar (16), and Eyal Yifrach (19). The identity of the abductors has not been released and the whereabouts and status of the three young men are unknown. They were last seen by a Beer Sheva man who gave them a ride in the area of Hebron.

A family unsure about the whereabouts of its children is all too common in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether political or not, the human dimension of fear and anguish from not knowing where a child is transcends national identities. For that reason, most Israelis and Palestinians can take a step back, even for a moment, and see this tragedy apart from its political implications.

Unfortunately, the response from many Israeli and Palestinian activists has been heavily politicized. Sparing no moment to exploit the opportunity for political gain, these activists are treating the event as a political football rather than a case of three missing teens whose lives are almost certainly in danger.

Pro-Palestinian activists contrasting the kidnapping with the arbitrary detention of Palestinian youths risk politicizing an issue whose moral power comes from being depoliticized. Arbitrary detention of Palestinian youth is a story about kids in jail. Making it a contest of "who bleeds more" is not only cynical and petty, but will hurt the legitimate cause of highlighting IDF mistreatment of Palestinian youth.

Pro-Israel activists shaming the international community for not condemning the kidnappings are picking a fight they are unlikely to win, and one that will not bring back three missing teenagers. It is cynical and regrettable to see the kidnapping of three boys turn into a political football against the UN, ICRC, and other NGOs. While many of these organizations hold double standards against Israel, this dubious campaign is taking the story away from the core human tragedy which would generate international support in the first place.

Cynicism is an understandable reaction for those who have experienced trauma in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When residents in the region choose to use it as a coping mechanism, that choice should be respected. However, this kidnapping highlights how the medicine of cynicism is turning into an addiction. Protesting IDF detentions or UN double standards will not bring back three teenage boys. Politics aside, cynicism is impeding the return of children to their parents and perpetuating further politicization, dehumanization, and suffering.

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