Yasukuni and Ramallah: Commemoration also requires sensitivity

Can the celebrations at the release of Palestinian murderers from prison truly be considered a sign that Abbas wants to make peace with Israel?

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

The Yasukuni Shinto shrine in Japan is believed by the Japanese to house the souls of those Japanese who dedicated their lives to the mother country. Included among them are the souls of the Japanese soldiers who died in Japan’s wars of aggression against China and Korea and of those who fell in World War II.

Among the about two-and-a-half million souls contained in the Shrine’s Book of Souls are over 1,000 who were convicted of war crimes after World War II. One of them is Hideki Tojo, Japan’s prime minister during World War II, who was convicted of war crimes and executed after the war.

Japanese people visit this shrine to show their respect and appreciation for those commemorated there. For obvious reasons, visits of Japanese politicians to the shrine have become a controversial issue, especially in countries which suffered from Japanese aggression, first and foremost China. Shinzo Abe, the present Japanese prime minister, has judiciously avoided visiting the shrine since becoming prime minister, knowing full well that such a visit would offend those who suffered from Japanese aggression.

No such good judgment was demonstrated by Mahmoud Abbas, as he festively welcomed in Ramallah the Palestinians prisoners released by Israel in the latest Israeli “goodwill gesture.” He obviously had no concern or even sympathy for the feelings of the families of the victims murdered by the men who were released from prison.

One wonders if he knows, or even cares, that one of the prisoners released is Shabir Kassem Hazem, who murdered Holocaust survivor Isaac Ruthenberg with an axe at a construction site in Petah Tikvah. Or Mustafa and Ziyad Ganemat, who murdered Meir Ben Yair and Michal Cohen in the Massua Forest near Bet Shemesh. Or Issa Abed Rabo, who murdered students Revital Seri and Ron Levy near the Cremisan monastery, south of Jerusalem, and all the other innocent victims murdered by the prisoners released in this “goodwill” gesture by the Israeli government.

As far as Abbas is concerned, these murderers are Palestinian “freedom fighters,” and their release from prison is cause for celebration. He shows little consideration for the feelings of the people of Israel, seeing these murderers go free. Can this be considered a sign that he truly wants to make peace with Israel?

But why did the Israeli government decide to set these murderers free? Our defense minister, “Bogey” Yaalon, said it was “the least bad alternative” facing Israel. Who imposed these alternatives on Israel, alternatives that in his words were all “bad?” Mahmoud Abbas? Barack Obama? Is either of them in a position to impose alternative bad choices on Israel, and what are the implied consequences of the Israeli government rejecting these bad alternatives? An even worse alternative?

Taking decisions that are based on the assumption that Israel is obliged to accept bad alternatives that are presented to it, and that Israel is not free to take decisions, is liable to lead us down a slippery slope that bodes ill for Israel’s future.

Binyamin Netanyahu said that it was the “situation” that compelled the government to offer this “goodwill” gesture. That surely requires further elucidation. Just what kind of a “situation” have we been caught up in? Are we in a mess from which only the release of murderers can extricate us? Will a continuation of this “situation” require us to release more murderers held in Israeli jails? And can we expect our “peace partner”, Mahmoud Abbas, to continue to celebrate their release with grand festivities, ignoring the feelings of the families of the victims and the feeling of the people of Israel?

It seems that before we are presented with more “bad alternatives” to choose from, the government should spend some time analyzing the process that has led to this unfortunate decision, so that “situations” like this can be avoided in the future

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