An understandably bitter declaration, considering everything Mia Schem endured at the hands of Hamas — and its collaborators in Gaza. In Schem’s recounting of her weeks in captivity after her kidnapping on October 7, the terrorism goes well beyond the formal ranks of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Schem, whose cause became an international story thanks to the activism of her mother in France, wants everyone to know the nature of the enemy that Israel faces in Gaza:
In an interview that will be broadcast in full on Friday, she explains why she decided to break her silence: “It was important for me to reflect on the true situation of the people living in Gaza, who they really are, and what I went through there.
“It’s important to understand that I went through a Holocaust and that everyone there is a terrorist,” Schem said. “These are families under Hamas. In retrospect, I suddenly realized that I was with a family, suddenly, I started asking myself questions, why am I in a family’s house? Why are there children here? Why is there a woman here?”
In a sense, Schem may be speaking out to reclaim her own voice. Hamas used her in one of their earlier hostage propaganda videos, in which she pleaded for her return and for medical attention for her wounded arm. Immediately after being freed, the media focused attention on the medical treatment provided by a Hamas veterinarian. Schem has not had much of an opportunity to speak for herself, except through some indirect references to her ordeal on her Instagram account:
Two weeks ago, she revealed on Instagram a new tattoo she had done that reads in English, “We will return to dance again,” next to the date October 7, 2023. “I will never forget this date,” Mia wrote in the post. “The pain and the fear, the hard sights, the friends who won’t come back, and the ones we have to bring back. But we will still win, we will still dance!”
There will be more from Schem’s interview on Israel’s Channel 13 later, although it may not appear in US media until tomorrow, depending on the timing. But it’s very clear that Schem sees no distinction between Hamas and Gazans based on her own experience, which she describes as “a Holocaust,” presumably hinting at abuse at the hands of her captors and keepers.
This might come into the calculations of the Israeli government in a renewed Qatari effort to reach another temporary “pause” in the war. The Jerusalem Post takes note of an Israeli media report that the war cabinet has received another proposal different from that rejected by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad earlier in the week, and will meet to consider their own response:
Israel’s war cabinet, set to convene later on Thursday evening, will discuss a Qatari proposal for the release of hostages and a ceasefire in Gaza, N12 reported.
The reported Qatari initiative is different than former proposals shut down by either Israel or Hamas, the report noted.
Mossad chief David Barnea was set to take part in the cabinet meeting to disclose the details of the Qatari proposal to the ministers.
According to a Google translation of the N12 report, this new proposal is apparently a counter-offer from Hamas and PIJ. They want “a more massive and generous” exchange ratio than the 1:3 rate of the earlier exchanges, which Israel should resist as it will only further incentivize hostaging in the future. Will they refuse it? Perhaps, but Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under a lot of pressure at home and abroad to deal with Hamas and PIJ to get more hostages out of harm’s way.
The Biden administration may be ramping up pressure after an earlier report today that a second American hostage was confirmed dead. It turned out that she had died in the initial attack, however:
A 70-year-old woman with U.S. citizenship who was thought to have been taken to Gaza as a hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7 was actually killed during the initial attack, according to a statement released Thursday by the kibbutz she was taken from.
Judith Weinstein Haggai, who was an Israeli, American and Canadian national, came under fire in the attack on Kibbutz Nir Oz along with her husband, Gadi Haggai, 72, a dual U.S.-Israeli national. Both were believed to have been taken hostage, but last week Israeli officials said they had confirmed Gadi Haggai’s death.
According to a spokesperson for Kibbutz Nir Oz, where the couple lived, Judy Weinstein Haggai was also “fatally wounded” by Hamas gunmen in the Oct. 7 attack.
Both bodies are still believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza, the spokesperson said.
Nevertheless, Biden’s deal didn’t bring home any Americans who may still be alive other than a single toddler — and that was in a bonus period. Biden had taken credit for that deal at least partly on the basis that it demonstrated his focus on bringing Americans home, and the absence of any firm commitment for Americans has been a contradiction ever since. Thus far, Biden’s failure has been largely ignored by US media for its own political purposes, but with every confirmed American death, a political catastrophe for Biden awaits. He needs a hostage deal done quickly to make this threat go away, and no doubt Antony Blinken’s visit this week intended to emphasize that with Netanyahu.
Unless Hamas and PIJ agree to sail out of Gaza forever, though, this deal likely will falter. And even if they agreed to do so, Mia Schem’s point remains. Not only does Hamas reflect the will of the Gazan people, the two are practically indistinguishable. This is the war they wanted, and the only way to end it is to actually end it — either by capitulation or total conquest. That’s the choice Gaza faces.