Monday, November 1, 2010

(NEWS) Canadian Grandmothers Petition For Gilad Shalit

"If Sally Zerker, 81, and a group of grandmothers she assembled have their way, Canada will soon play more of an active role in the attempt to free captured Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldier Gilad Schalit from Hamas.

A York University economics professor emeritus, Zerker formed the group Grandmothers for Gilad in September. The group consists of some 50 grandmothers who are determined to push Canada into a leadership position on the Schalit file.

To that end, Zerker drafted a petition that calls on the Canadian government, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as other humanitarian relief agencies, to 'uphold the applicable standards of international humanitarian law, including proof of life, visitation rights and communication between him and his family as a bare minimum.'

The petition also states that Canadian aid be transferred to Gaza on the condition that the Palestinian Authority 'commit itself to Schalit’s repatriation, and that Canada use its good offices to put an end to these violations of international humanitarian law to secure his release and return him to his family as a matter of fundamental decency and justice.'

Zerker’s petition was tabled in the House of Commons on Oct. 27 by Liberal MP and human rights advocate Irwin Cotler.

Schalit was taken captive by Hamas on June 25, 2006, after operatives of the terrorist group attacked his IDF unit in a cross-border raid at Kerem Shalom.

All Israeli and international efforts to determine his location and negotiate his release have failed to date, although he’s presumed to be held in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

A videotaped message from Schalit dated Sept. 14, 2009, was obtained by Israel in exchange for the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. In it, he states he’s being treated well by his captors and longs to be free. It’s so far the only proof of Schalit’s condition.

Speaking to The CJN last week, Zerker said there are 56 signatories on her petition, all of whom are grandmothers who sympathize with the Schalit family.

Twenty-five signatures are required on a petition for it to be tabled in Parliament.

'In August, I sent out a group e-mail to my grandmother-friends and wrote the petition and started a blog,' Zerker said.

She then sent her petition to Cotler’s office for review, and his office responded saying it was a 'strong' document and that the MP for Mount Royal would gladly table it in front of Parliament.
Zerker said the world community has been largely silent on Schalit’s four-plus years in captivity and that if no one speaks up more vociferously, the only outcomes that await Schalit are indefinite captivity or his release at the extreme cost of Israel.

Hamas has asked for Israel to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom have been convicted on terrorism charges, and the release of all female and underage prisoners in exchange for Schalit. Israel has balked at the conditions.

'I don’t know if [my petition] will make any difference. But my feeling is one has to try and bring this into the international arena, much like you see with other cases of abduction. Those become a focus for international protest, and this has not happened in the case of Gilad Schalit,' Zerker said.

'I can only start this in Canada, but I think it should spread to France, where the Schalit family is from… but we see no action outside of Israel. And I don’t think it should be left to only Israel.'

Zerker said she’s urging the members of her grandmothers’ group and anyone else to write their MPs and ask them to act on the petition.

In Parliament last week, Cotler read the petition and said he was 'pleased' to table the document, which he described as 'grounded in a profound commitment to international law and human rights.'

Zerker said she’s now planning to make her cause more public.

For more information, visit" (source)

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