Some 50 people gathered outside the Embassy of Qatar on Sept. 28, a day before Yom Kippur began, demanding that the Qatari government use its influence over Hamas to return two of Israel’s slain soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whom the terrorist group killed and kidnapped in 2014.
Goldin was murdered and his body kidnapped during a U.S.- and U.N.-brokered ceasefire, in violation of international law and norms.
The two soldiers’ remains “are still being held by Hamas as bargaining chips, now for nearly 1,200 days, in flagrant disregard of international law, our common faith traditions, and all morality and human decency,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington, which spearheaded the event. “Hamas could not exist without Qatar,” he said, telling the crowd that Qatar holds leverage over the terrorist group.
“If Qatar wants to join the family of nations they can start by using their influence to immediately and unconditionally release the remains of these two soldiers,” said Halber. “We will not rest until our children are properly laid to rest,” he said.
Religious leaders representing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam joined him in that call.
Imam Talib Shareef of The Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad, spoke of shared humanity and the duty to treat the body as sacred. “It has rights, and it has a right to be taken care of,” he said.
“It is just inhumane for anybody to not allow closure to their families. To, at least, at the very least, have the benefit of appropriately burying their loved ones,” said the Rev. Keith Byrd of Zion Baptist Church in the District.
Rabbi Adam Raskin of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Maryland, who sounded the shofar, implored Qatar’s ambassador to “please tell the emir that human bodies are not commodities to be traded. If you want to improve the image of your country, you can start by evicting Hamas, not financing Hamas.”
The protest came amid reports that Qatar is spending $50,000 a month to improve its standing with the U.S. Jewish community despite its financing of terrorist groups, including providing Hamas with $1.4 billion. Qatar has reportedly told leaders of Jewish nonprofits that if they agree to meet, Hamas would return the slain soldiers to their grieving families.
Halber cited those reports, saying, “That’s morally despicable … Human remains are not bargaining chips. If Qatar wants to join the family of nations, they can start by using their influence to immediately and unconditionally release the remains of these two soldiers. We will not rest until our children are properly laid to rest.”