September 2007

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State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia)
News and Opinion

Soldiers Of Misfortune

-- Bruce S. Ticker

A resolution seeking the release of three Israeli soldiers seized by terrorists a year ago was unanimously approved by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in early July.

"My resolution asks the United Nations to take action to help get these Israeli soldiers released," State Rep. Babette Josephs, a Center City Philadelphia Democrat who introduced the resolution, said in a news release.

Arab militants have refused to release the three soldiers. Israel Defense Forces Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 20, was captured at an Israeli military base near the Gaza border on June 25, 2006, and is reportedly being held in southern Gaza. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were taken by Hezbollah at the Israel/Lebanon border more than two weeks later, on July 12.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

Josephs said in the news release that the captors have "refused to return the Israeli soldiers or acknowledge their capture in violation of long-accepted international agreements."

She added, "These men were taken more than a year ago and their families have not been able to contact them to find out if they’re okay or even if they’re still alive. Even the Red Cross has not been able to find anything out. Imagine how their families must feel. This kind of disrespect to Israel and its people is not acceptable."

New Jersey state lawmakers passed a similar resolution in June that was introduced by State Sen. Thomas Kean, son of the former New Jersey governor.

Earlier this year, Congress passed its own resolution by voice vote. Some Jewish organizations have made efforts to seek the release of the hostages. Among the major initiatives, a Web site accessed at Freethesoldiers.org was created some months ago. Most Jewish Federations feature a display on their Web sites calling on supporters of Israel to participate.

A rally near the United Nations on Monday, July 16, drew 4,000 supporters, the weekly Forward reported. Initially, The Jerusalem Post pegged the crowd estimate at 1,000.

In a small way, I contributed to this legislation. Inspired by an announcement from Kean that he would introduce a resolution in the New Jersey Senate, I contacted Joseph, who happens to represent my district, and asked her to sponsor a similar bill in Harrisburg.

I strongly believe that the Jewish community has a responsibility to pressure the United Nations, Lebanon, the Palestinians and all other related parties to get them freed. If we do not speak up for them, why should anyone else care?

I decided to write to my various representatives in Center City requesting similar action. A few weeks later, I learned from a story in The New Jersey Jewish News that Josephs called Kean’s office to research such legislation. She was the only elected official to respond to my request, but her office did not inform me if her office received similar requests.

Josephs’ staff periodically informed me of the legislation’s status and e-mailed me a copy of the news release when the resolution was passed. Of course, I was pleased to have had a role in this, however small.

It demonstrates that the average citizen can influence the government if one puts forth the effort and, in my case, it took hardly any time at all.

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