Rachelle Fraenkel, the mother of kidnapped teen Naftali Fraenkel, pleaded for international assistance to secure the release of her son and fellow captives Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.
“I come here today as a mother,” said Fraenkel, whose 16-year-old son is a dual Israeli-American citizen, before going on to describe the events on the day of the abduction. They were taken on June 12, and “since then we’ve heard nothing,” she said.
“My son texted me — said he’s on his way home — and then he’s gone,” she said. “Every mother’s nightmare is waiting and waiting endlessly for her child to come home. We wish to express our profound gratitude for the waves of prayers, support and positive energy, pouring in from around the world.” (Full text of Fraenkel’s speech.)
Fraenkel thanked the UN for condemning the kidnapping, as well as the Red Cross, but emphasized that “much more can be done and should be done by so many.” We “ask everyone to do whatever they can to bring back our boys,” she added.
“It’s wrong to use boys as instruments of any struggle,” she said. “Doesn’t every child have the right to come home safely from school?”
Fraenkel also briefly described the three missing students’ personalities and hobbies.
“My son Naftali is 16,” she said. “He loves to play guitar and basketball. He’s a good student and a good boy — a combination of serious and fun. Eyal loves to play sports and cook. Gilad is an amateur pastry chef, and loves movies.”
Before and after her address, Israel was subjected to scathing criticism by numerous international human rights representatives for its military actions in the West Bank and alleged human rights violations. Most of the delegates made no reference to the kidnapping.
Numerous delegates, including those of Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Turkey, Morocco, Maldives, Qatar, South Korea, Libya, Chile, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia decried the “Israeli violations of human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank.”
The Brazilian representative called for a two-state solution and a renewal of peace talks, but refrained from condemning Israel directly.
NGOs took the floor at the summit as well. One organization said it was “taking the opportunity to condemn Israel,” called the recent arrests “collective punishment,” denounced the ongoing hunger strikes among the Palestinian administrative detainees, and declared the Knesset’s force-feeding bill as a violation of international law.
An International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists representative returned the discussion to the topic of the abduction. “It is impossible to focus on such issues in light of recent events,” he said, criticizing the focus on Israeli actions, and said he was “disappointed by inaction and apathy of international community.”