February 28, 2002            CONGRESSIONAL RECORD --- Extension of Remarks               E241


500 DAYS IN CAPTIVITY - AND STILL COUNTING

HON. TOM LANTOS
of California

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, February 28, 2002


    Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to mark the 500th day of captivity of Elchanan Tannenbaum--one of nine Israelis now held captive by terrorist groups and regimes that sponsor terrorism. A husband and the father of two, Elchanan is the only Israeli civilian to be counted among Israel's missing. He is being held in Lebanon and is presumed to be alive.
    As we all know, Mr. Speaker, terror has many faces and takes many forms. Sometimes terror targets large numbers of people in spectacular acts of destruction as we saw on September 11th. At other times it seeks to achieve its goals by targeting a single individual. Mr. Tannenbaum was such a target, as was the American journalist Daniel Pearl, whose brutal murder has sickened and saddened us all. Mr. Tannenbaum's Hisballah captors have proudly announced their crime, with their usual flair for the contemptuous. Although Mr. Tannenbaum has a medical condition that requires daily attention, Hisballah has denied the Red Cross permission to visit him.
    The Tannenbaum kidnaping is further proof--as if it were needed--that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization with global reach. If we ignore this case of abduction, we are granting the terrorists a cheap and formidable weapon. As long as groups like Hizbullah believe that they can commit such actions with impunity, they will be encouraged to continue to target the citizens of the world's democracies. To ignore the plight of Elchanan Tannenbaum and Israel's other missing men, would not only constitute an abandonment of our closest ally in the Middle East, but would weaken our own efforts to secure a safe future for Americans and others who have been seized by terrorists.
     Mr. Speaker, I must point out that not only is it in America's interest to help in this matter, but in fact it is our obligation to do so. In 1991 Israel played a critical role in securing the release of Terry Anderson and other American hostages being held in Lebanon by releasing hundreds of terrorists from Israeli jails. At that time Israel was promised that international efforts would continue on behalf of Israeli captives left behind in Lebanon. It is now more than ten years since that promise was made, and the number of captive Israelis has only grown. It is time for us to repay out debt.
     What can we do, Mr. Speaker? I believe the U.S. is well-positioned to make demands of the Syrian government, which is effectively the ruling power in Lebanon and is ultimately responsible for the fate of all Israelis captured or held there. Syria is a sovereign state and currently serves as a member of the UN Security Council. Syria, like Lebanon, can and must be made accountable for the behavior of the terrorist groups it harbors and supports. Greater U.S. resolve in dealing with the Syrians can be critical in bringing Elchanan Tannenbaum home alive.
     Mr. Speaker, for too many years, Americans presumed that the terrorist actions from which our Israeli allies suffered would not be exported to our shores. September 11th has permanently shattered that notion. We should now pay closer attention to the Israeli experience with terrorism. The murder of Daniel Pearl is a warning that the ugly specter of kidnaping that has plagued Israel for so many years is now targeting Americans as well. Let us fight back. Calling attention to Elchanan Tannenbaum's plight, and working to secure his release, would be an important first step toward stopping this scourge.



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