Before this month, I’d never RSVPed ‘yes’ to a rally for Gilad Shalit. It was not that I didn’t find his kidnapping and conditions outrageous or didn’t hope for him to come home safely. It was just that I’d been living in Israel and didn’t understand what could possibly be achieved by lobbying the Israeli government on this issue. After all, the Israeli government had an inherent interest in getting Shalit back and, simultaneously, an extremely low level of influence over the Hamas captors holding him. The important rallies were the ones abroad: They highlighted, in a world screaming about the importance of human rights, that no such rights were being made available to the kidnapped Israeli soldier. They reminded leaders of Western countries that, with their economic power and international influence, they did have some ability to influence Hamas’ behavior.
The rally at the National Mall tonight aims to “focus on the humanitarian issues, such as Hamas’ refusal to allow the Red Cross to visit Gilad.” Its location on the government’s doorstep serves as a call to action to actors who have far more power than Israel to lean on Hamas.
This rally, which almost 1,500 people have already pledged to attend, would not be possible without the active involvement of the U.S. Jewish community. Jewish groups have been e-mailing and posting information about this event in their newsletters. Jewish campus organizations at universities across the mid-Atlantic have arranged to bus participants to DC to take part in this event. And, tonight, Jewish presence has the potential to send an important message to someone with actual leverage. In this capacity, diaspora Jews have added value over Jews in Israel. What Israelis cannot achieve by pressing government officials in Jerusalem, Americans can accomplish by pressing officials in DC. It is important that they capitalize on this comparative advantage. On this Veterans Day, I encourage all Jews to come join us on the Mall!
Editor’s note: Noa Levanon is a GTJ staff member and a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS). The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Noa Levanon.