On June 11, 1982, Sergeant Zachary Baumel, First Sergeant Tzvi Feldman, and Corporal Yehuda Katz were reported missing in action in Syria, captured during the battle of Sultan Yaqub in the 1982 war in Lebanon. This year we sadly mark the twentieth anniversary of their capture. Their families have struggled long and hard to obtain any knowledge about what has happened to these men. To this very day, we have had no information about their whereabouts or the conditions in which they are being held. Syria, which is responsible for the MIAs according to the Geneva Convention, and Yassir Arafat, who promised Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin more information after presenting him with one-half of Baumel’s I.D. tag, have consistently refused to divulge what they know. The pain and anxiety that the families of these MIAs have been undergoing for the past twenty years is immeasurable.
Governments, international human rights groups, and the United Nations have been continually approached for assistance in obtaining information and the release of these MIAs, to no avail. While many of these organizations have repeatedly condemned Israel in one-sided statements and resolutions, the issue of Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz has been ignored. No international outcry has been heard.
In 1999, bills were passed in the House and Senate, mandating the United States State Department to raise the plight of these men in all relevant Middle East discussions. S. 676 and H.R. 1175, acts to help secure the release of the MIAs, were introduced by Senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and John McCain (R-AZ) and by Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and passed by overwhelming majorities. These laws demand that the State Department raise this issue in all relevant Middle East discussions and report their findings to Congress. The United States government must take into consideration the willingness of these Arab countries to assist in locating and securing the MIAs when considering economic and other types of aid. Yet no word has been heard of any discussion nor report to Congress by the State Department.
The Institute for Public Affairs of the Orthodox Union is urging everyone to mark this twentieth year since the MIAs were reported missing by joining us on a full-scale advocacy campaign to help bring about the end to the inhumanity of their captivity. Legislators should be contacted to implement S. 676 and H.R. 1175 of 1999 and urged to demand information from the State Department about their efforts on behalf of the MIAs. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell and other officials should all be enlisted in making this a top priority agenda issue. That these men have been held for twenty years is an outrage. For the families of the missing Israeli soldiers, every pain-filled day is a lifetime. For the sake of decency and respect for human life, for the sake of humanity and compassion, after twenty years of anguish, let these young men come home at last.