As relatives of hostages held in Gaza urge Israeli lawmakers to use diplomacy, not war, to free their loved ones, we speak to an Israeli peace activist whose 84-year-old mother was released by Hamas in late November as part of an Israel-Hamas hostage swap during the weeklong pause in fighting. “We are demanding to release all the hostages,” says Neta Heiman Mina, a member of Women Wage Peace. She says Israeli leaders must “put a deal on the table” even if it comes with a “painful price” that includes freeing more Palestinian prisoners, including some accused of violence. “We must bring them home now. There is no time.”
AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations General Assembly is voting today on a resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate release of all hostages. The vote comes four days after the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire to halt Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has killed over 18,000 Palestinians.
Israel says Hamas and other groups in Gaza are still holding 138 hostages. During the seven-day truce in late November, Hamas released 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian women and children who were held in Israeli prisons.
On Monday, relatives of some of the remaining Israeli hostages met with Israeli lawmakers at the Knesset. The Times of Israel reports the families, quote, “called for the government to prioritize seeking an agreement for their release through diplomatic channels, rather than pressing on with the military offensive in Gaza against Hamas,” unquote. Family members are planning to hold a protest outside the Knesset today under the slogan “The hostages have no time.”
We’re joined right now by Neta Heiman Mina. Her 84-year-old mother, Ditza Heiman, was held hostage in Gaza and freed on November 28th. She had been kidnapped on October 7th from her home on the kibbutz Nir Oz near the border with Gaza by Hamas. Neta Heiman is joining us from Haifa. She’s a member of the Israeli chapter of Women Wage Peace.
Neta, welcome to Democracy Now! I’m so sorry under these circumstances. Can you talk about what you’re demanding?
NETA HEIMAN MINA: We are demanding to release all the hostages. We are demanding from the Israeli government to put a deal on the table, not — do not wait to Sinwar to offer a deal. We need the Israeli government to put a deal that will be — it will be a painful price. We will need to release lots of Palestinian prisoners. We will need to do a lot of days of stop the fire, fire stop. But the people that were taken on the 7th of October, the price is for them, and they deserve this price, because the country left them behind. It’s been 67 days, I think, since the 7th of October, and they’re still there. Yesterday, Amiram Cooper from kibbutz Nir Oz, it was his 85th birthday, a 85-years-old man that they’re keeping hostage in Gaza without medication, without enough food. Who can survive this?
AMY GOODMAN: There’s been some discussion of Israel flooding the tunnels with saltwater. Can you respond to this, and what was said to Israeli lawmakers?
NETA HEIMAN MINA: Yes, yes. Part of our people are in these tunnels. If you flood it with water, what will happen to the hostages? We know part of them is in the tunnels — are in the tunnels.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the day that your mother was released? This was during the truce, during the temporary ceasefire, when more than a hundred — Hamas released more than a hundred hostages. Where were you? How was your mother, Ditza Heiman?
NETA HEIMAN MINA: It was very exciting. We wait for this for 53 days. She was a hostage 53 days. And we wait for her to be in the list. Every day there was a list, who will be released the day after. And we wait. And she came back. We were very happy. She came back, and she’s OK. But there is a lot of people are still there. And this is what’s important, to bring them back home immediately, because they have no time. The bombing on Gaza can hurt them. My mother wasn’t in a tunnel. Every bomb that they fell on Gaza can hurt her, hurt the hostages. We must bring them home now. There is no time.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk more about how she was treated by Hamas, who she was held with, and also who your mom, 84 years old, Ditza is? And talk about her role in the kibbutz Nir Oz.
NETA HEIMAN MINA: I can’t — the story for 53 days, it’s her story, and I can’t tell her condition, because it’s going to be a danger for the people who left behind. She was 84 years old, that lived all her adult life in the kibbutz near the border with Gaza. She built the kibbutz. She was from the founders of the kibbutz. She was a very — she was a social worker for a long time. She worked until age of 80.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Neta, if you can talk about your organization, Women Wage Peace, an organization that the slain activist Vivian Silver was also a part of, who was killed on one of the kibbutzes? They thought she was being held hostage, but, ultimately, I guess, they found DNA of her on the kibbutz.
NETA HEIMAN MINA: Women Wage Peace is a movement, Israeli movement, of people from all of the rainbow, political rainbow. We are not a — sorry. And all we ask, since Tzuk Eitan, since 2014, to make an agreement with the Palestinians. We don’t tell what kind of agreement, but we believe that there is a possibility to talk with the Palestinians and to make an agreement that they will bring us a peaceful life. We have a sisterhood, a movement, a Palestinian sisterhood movement, that they call us — themselves Women of the Sun. There are people, women, from the West Bank and from Gaza, as well. And we all believe that we can live here in peace.
AMY GOODMAN: In your opinion piece for Haaretz back in October, you wrote, “I’m furious at the Israeli government, and the accursed members of the government who, because of them, the army was patrolling the West Bank village of Hawara over the Sukkot holiday, instead of guarding and protecting my mother. I’m furious at this government that has for almost a year been doing everything they can to escalate the situation in the Gaza border area. This colossal failure, this chaos, is on their shoulders, is their fault — as is the fact that even now, four days later, a government representative has still not visited most of the families of the hostages.” That was in October. If you can talk about what is happening now with the Israeli government, how they’re communicating with you? You gave a speech yesterday. Explain where you gave it and what your message was, Neta.
NETA HEIMAN MINA: The Israeli government contacted all the families, and all the hostage families had contact with the government and with the army, but it took too long. Part of the families, it took almost two weeks until someone called them. Yesterday we were — Women Wage Peace were lighting Hanukkah candles in the Hostages Square, the name of the Tel Aviv Museum. And we call for a release all the hostages, and they start a peace process after.
AMY GOODMAN: What would that peace process look like?
NETA HEIMAN MINA: I don’t know. I know that Hamas must go. They can’t control Gaza. But Israel can’t control Gaza, as well. It will be — I think it will be — it will need international involvement to establish something else in Gaza, that maybe the Palestinian — I don’t know how to tell it in —
AMY GOODMAN: Authority? The Palestinian Authority?
NETA HEIMAN MINA: Authority will take — yes, the Palestinian Authority will take Gaza, to establish something else to replace the Hamas control in Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Your final thoughts —
NETA HEIMAN MINA: And then maybe — what?
AMY GOODMAN: Your final thoughts on President Biden, on the United States vetoing the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire?
NETA HEIMAN MINA: I think it must be a ceasefire for — that we can release all the hostages. And then, Israel has a right to protect herself. And what happened on the 7th of October came out from Gaza. But I don’t think we can destroy Gaza or erase Gaza. There are also innocent people in Gaza, not all of them from the Hamas.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Neta Heiman Mina, I want to thank you for being with us. Her 84-year-old mother, Ditza Heiman, was kidnapped by Hamas from her home on the kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza border, was released November 28th. Neta is a member of the Israeli chapter of Women Wage Peace.
Coming up, outrage is growing in Dubai after a call to phase out fossil fuels is dropped from the draft of the proposed climate deal at the U.N. climate summit. We’ll be in Dubai. Stay with us.