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The activist Left must condemn the murder of the Itamar family

(updated below)

Late on Friday night, a Palestinian militant scaled the fence of the settlement of Itamar, south-east of Nablus. He made his way to one of the homes and climbed in through an open window. The first room he encountered was a nursery. He paced in and plunged a knife into a sleeping three-year-old toddler. Still unnoticed, he made his way to an adjacent bedroom, where he found and slayed an 11-year-old boy; then, finally arrived at the master bedroom, where he stabbed and killed the parents along with a four-month-old baby girl. The father’s body was found in bed, his arms still hugging his daughter; both of their throats have been slashed. The mother’s body was found on the floor, in a pool of blood; it would seem she was the only one who managed to resist the attacker, however briefly.

The murderer, who overlooked another bedroom where two more children slept, walked out of the house and left the settlement the way he came in. About an hour later, the sixth and oldest sibling of the now nearly-extinct family arrived home from a late activity at her youth movement. The twelve-year-old girl did not manage to open the door and called a neighbor for help; their joint yells finally woke up her four-year-old brother – one the two the murderer didn’t notice in the dark – and he opened the door, revealing the full scale of the horror inside. When the medics and police arrived, the toddler was still breathing, slipping away from them just as they commenced resuscitation efforts. It took the three-year-old more than an hour to slowly bleed to death.

The sheer viciousness of this cold-blooded butchery should have provoked furious condemnation from those unequivocally opposed to the targeting of civilians – Israel’s civil society,the Left and the activist (“radical”) Left. However, at the time of writing, only two organizations spoke out: B’tselem, which has done the most extensive work of documenting the opposite sort of violence – by settlers against Palestinians – led the way late Saturday morning, announcing on Facebook and on its website that it is “appalled by the attack in Itamar and strongly condemns it. Intentional killing of civilians is a war crime and is unjustifiable. The Israeli and Palestinian authorities must work to locate and bring to justice those responsible for the attack.” About an hour later, Physicians for Human Rights joined in, announcing that the organization “strongly condemns the appalling attack in Itamar and calls the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to act in order to bring those responsible individuals to trial. Once again we learn that fences and security systems are not a guarantee for security. Only brave steps towards peace agreement and putting end to the conflict will bring end to these murderous acts.”

Apart from these two voices, and a quite a few individual activists expressing shock and dismay at the killings, much of Israel’s famously vibrant, undoubtedly committed activist Left remained silent. To my knowledge, no protest or vigil had been called for tonight by the radical Left, as it is almost always done when innocent Palestinian civilians are victims. Some individuals pointed out that the murders were horrible, but: The parents should have been more careful in where they chose to live / Israel and the Occupation is really to blame / what about Israel killing Palestinian children / the settlers are not really civilians, as they serve as instruments of land-grab and military control. At the worst end of the spectrum was one activist, who shared on Facebook the following gem, referring to radical settlers’ infamous practice of exacting a “price tag” from Palestinian civilians for any clash with Palestinian militants or Israeli law: “The occupation also has a price tag – the settlers got what they wanted.”

The activist Left’s confused and muted response reveals a shameful double standard – one that is not necessarily thought-out and intentioned, but one that needs to be urgently confronted and weeded out. It demonstrates that despite political awareness and commitment to human rights and international law, our community has yielded to one of the most common afflictions of a conflict area, and dehumanized an entire community, consciously or subconsciously rendering it second-class, semi-legitimate target for brutal violence. I remember the same pattern of thought going back throughout the past decade of the second Intifada, certainly through less graphic and intimate attacks on civilians – right up to the road shooting some six months ago, when four settlers driving on a deserted road late at night were sprayed with gunfire, and then dragged out of the car and calmly executed; two of them were spouses who left nine orphans behind, but the radical Left’s silence was even more deafening than today.

I want address this silence here and confront some of the arguments that were raised today in its defense on my Facebook feed and in conversations with fellow activists.

To those among us citing the illegality and illegitimacy of the settler enterprise: The community of Itamar is in and of itself a violation of international law. It was established to deepen Israeli hold on an the occupied territory; and over the years, the settlers of Itamar became almost equally well known for their violent attacks on Palestinian farmers as for the attacks that they themselves sustained – the community of 1,000 lost 15 of its members to attacks like last night’s over the past ten years. Needless to say, the occupation of the West Bank, the establishment of the settlement, and the individual settlers attack against their Palestinian neighbors are all illegal under international law; the latter are not only particularly brutish and wrong, but are also illegal under Israeli law.

But none of this justifies retaliatory violation of the very same laws, just like being robbed does not justify walking into the robber’s house and butchering him and his entire family. More generally, international law clearly allows armed resistance by occupied population to the armed forces of the occupier, but just as clearly bans targeting the occupier’s civilian population. The power of the law, certainly of international law, is in its totality and universality. We cannot call for selective application of the law against one party, and completely ignore the same law being broken by another; our legal argument loses any and all merit if we do that.

To those among us trying to blame the victim, claiming the murdered parents of the murdered children should have known better where to build their home: On the larger scale, the settlers are not only beneficiaries, but instruments and, crucially, human shields of a cynical state policy running through all the governments, left, right and “center.” Dumping the entire responsibility for the military, diplomatic and especially economic policy designed to drive as many Israelis as possible to the Occupied Territories on the shoulders of two young parents and their six children is absurd and, considering the horrific penance for this alleged responsibility, pretty much morally untenable.

Blaming the victims becomes even more untenable in this particular case. The parents did not take their children on a stroll through a minefield or a battle zone; They were sleeping at their home. We must also keep focus on the question of intent: If parents let their children play by the roadside and the children get run over, sure, they share some responsibility with the driver. But if they let their children play by the roadside and a driver deliberately swerves from the road, running over the children once or twice for good measure, and then speeding and running over the parents, there is just no reasonable way to keep the onus of the blame upon the parents. Simply none.

To those of us saying that no Israeli has the right to criticize any political violence by Palestinians, no matter how abhorrent:  This is a subject for an entire separate post, but let me just say this – the inability to formulate your own opinion or criticize the party you generally support wins you no respect on either side of the conflict; the manifest double-standard used to apply supposedly universal principals completely undermines your argument; you afford Palestinian resistance fighters no dignity when you paint them as imbeciles completely deprived and excused of the human duty of distinguishing good and evil; and finally, you do your Palestinian comrades no service when you imply by your silence that the brutal murder of a family of five is just as legitimate as engaging in combat with occupation troops or holding mass protests of civil disobedience in Bilin, Nialin and Nebi Salach.

To those among us saying settlers serve an aggressive policy and that such violence, while regrettable, is aimed at the legitimate goal of driving “invaders” out (yes, I heard today the term “invaders” used to describe the murdered children): Watch your step. You’re wading deep into legitimizing one of the acts of war most despised and hated by all decent human beings, especially by progressives. It’s one thing if you support partitioning Israel-Palestine once again, and believe that populations should be moved to make this partition possible and to redress the illegal acts of occupation and land grab incremental to the establishment of the settlement enterprise in the first place. But killing innocent members of a civilian community in order to get the rest of the community to leave has one name and one name only – ethnic cleansing. In fact, this is exactly the method used, to everlasting shame, by Israel to ethnically cleanse many of the Palestinian communities in the Nakba of 1948. You don’t’ want to be justifying the Nakba, or the crime of ethnic cleansing, do you?

Finally, a word about the perpetrator. It’s tempting and comforting to denounce him as lunatic, or to say, as I was told this morning, that the insult to the Palestinian cause is not the act itself but our association between the two. But while it seems plausible to believe that a person or persons involved in such an act would need to be at least a little unhinged, this isn’t the point. It’s safe to assume that neither this person, nor dozens of others who committed unjustifiable atrocities in the name of Palestinian freedom, nor many dozens of others who committed unjustifiable atrocities for what they believed was Israel’s defense, would have considered bathing their hands elbow-deep in innocent blood if it wasn’t for the situation of conflict.

The murderer of the settlers in Itamar is part of a bigger picture of violent strife, in which people do appallingly brutish things to each other; and he also bears personal responsibility for the act he had chosen to commit. If there is ever a peace agreement, in whatever format, between Israelis and Palestinians, the rehabilitation of perpetrators on all sides can and must be a part of it, and difficult though it may be to accept, the person who carried out last night’s atrocity should be included, along with military and paramilitary perpetrators on all sides. But he must not be exempt from paying some sort of price for his individual responsibility – whether through looking into the eyes of the families of his victims at a truth and reconciliation committee years from now, or by serving a lengthy prison term, or both.

Until then, we on the Left – especially the activist Left – must find a way of loudly and unreservedly condemning atrocities committed in the names of causes we believe in. We owe it to ourselves, to our struggle and to our comrades – as progressives and as human beings.

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Update: I’m pleased to report that two more left-wing organizations have condemned the killings:  Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah, one of the most important activist Left movement operating today; and New Family, Israel’s pre-eminent organization for equality in marriage and family rights.  The full quote from Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah:

The Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah Movement condemns with utter disgust the murder of the five family members in Itamar. Such acts contradict the ideology that guides us and undermine the chances of a shared and better future.

Well done.

Update II Another key organisation of the struggle against the occupation has condemned the killings:  The Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall, the flagship group of the non-violent struggle against the separation barrier  cutting Palestinians away from their land and livelihood. Here is the response in full:

Palestinian Popular Committees Against the Wall and Israeli Settlements express their deep sadness and sorrow concerning the killing incident in the Itamar colonial settlement. The Popular Committees view the killing incidence as a part of the escalation generated and mobilized by the policies and actions of the Israeli occupation. These policies created the circumstances for committing these heinous actions. Therefore, we believe that the Israeli government bears full responsibility for the occupation and its consequences. The Popular Committees are committed to nonviolence and civil disobedience in our struggle to end the Israeli occupation. Though the crime was committed on colonized land, we see the killing of children as a despicable crime regardless of their nationality, gender, color, race or religion.

Yet more proof that you can condemn an atrocity designed to hijack your cause without compromising the cause itself one inch.

Condemnations also came in from Zionist Left organisations, like J-Street and Peace Now; Human Rights Watch released a particularly refined and nuanced statement. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted to the murder in the most cynical way imaginable – by blaming the Palestinian Authority as a whole, and by authorising hundreds of more housing units to be built in the occupied West Bank. The settlement movements more radical elements have launched a series of revenge attack, targeting the nearest available Palestinian civil population.

Obviously, both responses are morally and politically beneath contempt, and should be condemned unreservedly. Moreover, they play into the same dynamic the attackers wanted to create. The purpose of such actions, whether in Israel-Palestine, in Northern Ireland or in Algiers, is to get the state or stronger party to violently crack down on dissent, thereby radicalising the attackers’ home constituency; this radicalisation is then used to recruit activists for further attacks, which will draw more retaliation, more radicalisation and more recruits; and so on, until the pendulum of violent conflict is swinging again with ever-escalating force.

I’d also like to use this update to address two criticisms of the article I’ve heard from a number of valued fellow activists: That I’m being too apologetic and that I haven’t offered a constructive solution to the issue I’ve raised.

Regarding the first: I am absolutely not apologising for anything or for anyone. I do not feel the tiniest shred of personal guilt or responsibility for the murders, and I don’t think either the Israeli or activist left Palestinian activists should  feel anything like that either. I’m also not doing that to have a stronger moral basis in arguments with political opponents. Atrocities can and should be condemned for their own sake, even as we acknowledge and highlight their context. My article merely attempts to highlight a flaw in how we on the activist left have been addressing a certain  atrocity recurring in this conflict, and to suggest how we might fine-tune our moral and political consistency to address it.

As for practical suggestions: A few fellow activists and I propose holding a vigil in Tel Aviv next week, condemning both the Occupation and the murder of civilians, especially children, in the name of the struggle against the Occupation. Details will be published on Facebook and on this page later tonight.

Update III: Rabbis for Human Rights, whose activists are routinely attacked by violent settler thugs in the West Bank, also have no qualms in condemning the murder in Itamar:

Rabbis For Human Rights strongly condemns the terrible murders in Itamar. They were of course a violation of the most basic human right, the right to life. We send our condolences to the family.

I’m hopeful that by tonight, the gist of my post in relation to this particular case will have become irrelevant.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. A vigil should have been taken place.
      But I want to remind you that not even one settler from Itamar or any other settlement ever lost a heartbeat over a palestinian child or infant.
      The fundamentalist religious settlers of Itamar lacks the basic humanistic morals that might let them do so.
      Those morals are what separates the radical left from the settlers and from most of the Israeli society.
      A vigil should have been taking place but one that would stir the bitterness the settlers mixed in their own cup.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Lawrence R. Shore

      And perhaps a condemnation of the The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which gleefully took credit for the butchering, would be in order, too.

      Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      More than two organizations condemned it this morning. Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement did too:

      תנועת שייח ג׳ראח סולידריות מגנה בשאת נפש את רצח חמישה בני המשפחה באיתמר. מעשים אלה מנוגדים לאידיאולוגיה שמנחה אותנו והם מחבלים בסיכוי לעתיד משותף וטוב יותר.

      Also the fact that those who do not use computers or watch TV on Shabat (believe it or not, some leftists don’t) would account for relative quiet on the issue.

      Reply to Comment
    4. A

      Thank you for this piece. After the shock of hearing the news as I exited shabbat (Yes, SH, I’m also one of those on the left who doesn’t use a computer on shabbat), I also was searching for my regular blogs to comment on the attack. I must say, though, that while I am encouraged by the condemnations issued by B’Tselem and others, I have a nagging question in my head – why does it take such an extreme and egregious attack against settlers to elicit a condemnation? Just as there is regular violence against Palestinians, isn’t there violence against settlers on a regular basis as well? I believe it is indeed disproportionate, that more of it is carried out against Palestinians, yet, as you write, Dimi, “The activist Left’s confused and muted response reveals a shameful double standard,” one that I often wonder if it doesn’t exist all the time, and not only in the face of such a brutal attack.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ketty

      The entire world (Left, right, up and down)should condemn Israel for the atrocities applied on Palestinians, i don’t want to know what your people suffered in the past, we are talking about the present and a peaceful future if possible, this is so tiny when you look of what is happening in this world, please send thsi people for another planet or give a new one for us, because it’s a joke what is happening over there, we are tired to see Israel “raping” the palestinain people!

      Reply to Comment
    6. Jack

      Bravo Dimi.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Lin

      Shaul, amazing that you know the about the heart beats of other people. Hypocrisy is the word- revise it.

      Reply to Comment
    8. toyotabedzrock

      It sounds like this just happened, so I guess the “Left” must use it’s mind reading ability to know news as it happens?

      I would like point out that while you make a big deal over this that there are videos of kids being mowed down by cars being driven by an Israeli driver.

      Perhaps the parents should not take young children to live in occupied territory.

      That being said it is very wrong what happened, both sides are to blame but in this case the killer is the most responsible for this.

      “Those who make peaceful protest impossible, make violent protest inevitable”
      – John F. Kennedy

      http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/twilight-zone-the-children-of-5767-1.230132

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/jul/28/israel
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/oct/12/israel?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jul/29/israel?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

      Reply to Comment
    9. Gabby Weinrot

      Condemnation implies guilt. It is clear that it is not only the guilt of the direct perpetrator(s) you are asking to establish. Otherwise I will stand corrected and silent. But asking from entire movement for condemnation certainly has to have a broader implications.

      So who is on trial here? Palestinian authority? Palestinian people? Palestinian cause? Its can’t be Israeli left (or right), because one does not condemn himself. It seems to me that exactly this cleansing that you are seeking by such a call. If entire left will condemn this then it means that it removes any guilt from itself. So I hope that such condemnation will never occur and I am glad it is not. Embarrassment and confusion is adequate and reasonable. I think that it what you are feeling too.

      You will get enough condemnations from any official Israeli voice. But it is for the left to pause, to react differently, to stop the hegemonic pouring, to be embarrassed, to be confused. Because it is silly to condemn oneself but anyone who paid a shekel through taxes to Israeli government, who served one day in the Israeli army, who voted for Zionist party, is responsible for Palestinian resistance and participating in oppression.

      Not even one drop of those children blood has stained the Palestinian cause.

      Reply to Comment
    10. walt kovacs

      to all you leftist pigs.

      will there ever come a time when you can support your position without lying?

      comparing the massacre of a family to a staged pallywood event?

      saying that peaceful protest is not allowed? you pigs created the term “unarmed protest”, because you pigs are incapable of true peaceful protest.

      right now, in gaza…candies are being handed out to children, so that they may rejoice over the murders of this family.

      you blame both sides for what happened last night?

      “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” – Joseph Welch

      Reply to Comment
    11. kubbeh

      good article. Though the fact that it needed to be written at all speaks volumes about much of the 972 crowd and the post/anti-zionist left.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Ofek Birnholtz

      You forgot to mention “Peace Now”, who was one the first to condemn the attacks, almost simultaneously with B’tselem.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Joe America

      The first paragraph of this comment was edited in accordance to +972′s comment policy, which prohibits calls for ethnic cleansing.

      ..I advise you to work for equal rights and justice for all. Including the right to vote in Israeli elections for all Palestinians; meaning, all those in all parts of Palestine and the refugees.

      In the meantime, you might think about actually enforcing the law against the “price tag” attacks of the colonial squatters, instead of giving them slaps on the wrist. Until Israel changes it’s fascist outlook, you can expect more resistance from the natives. They want their land back; as you steal more, they resist more. You reap what you sow, and you’ve killed so many of them.

      Getting into this “on the one hand, on the other hand” kind of journalist crap is a way of avoiding the existential crimes of Zionism. You invaded, you stole the land. You are the guilty parties. Until you atone for these crimes, violent resistance will likely continue.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Joe America

      PS. When will you demand that the “entire right” condemn the Gaza Massacre, the Mavi Marmara massacre, or any of the hundreds of other Zionist massacres? Of course, you won’t. As I recall, Zionists were having gleeful picnics while the bombs fell on Gaza. You Israelis have become Nazis. Until you become South Africans, things will get worse. Where is the Israeli de Klerk?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Dor

      Umm.
      Why is anyone in Israel required to condemn something like this? As if someone could approve of such a murder, regardless of “sides”? As if this person belonged to one of the “leftist” organizations or was supported by them in any way?

      Was the murder in any way their responsibility? Was it encouraged by them? Was there a “pulsa denura” by a leftist Muslim on the family?
      Making this condemnation only serves to make it seem so to those who do think that “smolanim” operate in collusion with terrorist groups. It is useless and even harmful.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Borg

      Dimi
      I applau this article, but you might get kicked off the 972 magazine format for acknowledging that the residents of Itamar are human. No residents of Itamar have butchered a Palestinian family

      Reply to Comment
    17. notexactlyhuman

      Where is the evidence pointing to who the murderer is?

      Reply to Comment
    18. Dimi, a response is forthcoming. But I cannot help but write that this is one of the more execrable things you’ve ever written. “But killing innocent members of a civilian community in order to get the rest of the community to leave has one name and one name only in international law – ethnic cleansing. In fact, this is exactly the method used, to everlasting shame, by Israel to ethnically cleanse many of the Palestinian communities in the Nakba of 1948.”

      Killing a family of settlers is the same as Nakba. Imagine. I hope your English-reading fan-base enjoys this. You on the other hand have entered the abyss.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Citizen C

      Such killings are about as consequential and efficacious as American Indians scalping white settlers on the frontier.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Mordechai ben Yosef

      The condemnation of this horrific act is an easy but meaningless gesture. The real question is “why”? Certainly there is no way this horror can promote Palestinian aspirations, and Palestinians as well as Israelis know this. Franz Fanon and Richard Wright addressed this question over 50 years ago in Wretched of the Earth and Native Son. Black men in America grow up with a sense of powerlessness aggravated by the white society’s laws and actions preventing them from achieving little. “All those white men in a group with guns in their hands can’t be wrong. I am guilty.I don’t know of what, but i know i am no good.” The powerlessness and tension are relieved by acts of violence. Wrights character murder’s a white girl. He has taken his fate into his own hands, and his life is no longer controlled by others. He experiences a short period of relief, euphoria and power. Brutal violence and senseless killing is not justified by oppression. However, oppression will inevitably cause it.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Kibbutznik

      Bravo Dimi and thank you .

      Reply to Comment
    22. jason

      Maybe God told him/her to do it? Seems to be a rational defence in that area.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Louis Frankenthaler

      Civilians are sacred (and that includes – of course residents of settlements)… this is a basic principle of the “activist left” They must not be attacked, harmed and certainly not targeted for murder:

      It is clear that condemnation is in order, (mine is implicit, explicit and constant) and clearly how can any person who has even the remotest connection to the value of human life and the innocence of children not condemn such vicious acts in the most visceral of ways? Yet at the same time I do not see clearly the connection to Dimi’s pointing to the “activist left” for not condemning the act to the standards that Bibi or Avigdor demands. It is a Banal demand – listening to Bibi’s manipulations makes this clear. In effect he and Avigdor will eventually further blame the “activist left” for this. (Today the Government’s response is not reflection into its part in the violence, rather it is to announce more building of and in settlements – more institutional violence). Civilians are sacred… this is a basic principle of the activist left, which is totally lost in the cruel entanglement, interaction “conflict” of Palestinians and Israelis that is fueled and manipulated by the activist right. Israelis present in the OPT are there as vessels – cynically used, manipulated or (false) consciously found there. Most disturbing in this abominable equation is that the children are at least thrice victimized – intentionally placed in physical, metaphysical and ideological danger! So Please do not demand condemnations from the “activist left” in order to put a ‘v’ next to our names on the list of MEGANIM… The activist left, the left that cares about civilians, about children, about rights and humanity are in a constant state of condemnation of the most outrageous, disgusting and vile acts of misplaced humanity… We ask ourselves, I hope, how is that a human being can be possessed with the capability to do such direct hands on violence. At the same time (and this is not a but and nor is it a qualification) we ask how it is that a society can continue to allow such a sacrilege to continue.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Cheryl

      Joe America-
      “As I recall, Zionists were having gleeful picnics while the bombs fell on Gaza”
      Um, as you recall? Were you here? Did you see any picnics? First of all it happened in December, one of the few months where it is actually cold here, so no, no one was having a picnic, be it for Gaza or any other reason. And the people of Israel were busy worrying about their own people in Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, Sderot, and the many other cities that were being hit daily by Hamas’ rockets. We also mourn the loss of Palestinian civilians and call on their militaries time and time again to keep them out of harm’s way, while they in fact do the complete opposite.

      The problem with the “radical left” – besides the fact that its members have actually embraced that title – is that you never find fault with the Palestinian cause. The point of the article was that if you are anti-Zionist because of your steadfast defense of human rights, then you should be appalled at ALL violations of human rights and have the ability to admit when your “side” did something wrong. This man may have acted alone, he may not have had instructions from anyone, but his act caused celebrations in the Palestinian world- actual, documented celebrations- and that, if nothing else, should be condemned.

      As for the author- I understand we come from different views, but I think we can agree that if the roles were reversed, you would ask for more of a punishment than “looking into the eyes of the families of his victims at a truth and reconciliation committee years from now.” It’s nice you mention maybe a jail sentence should be thrown in too, but this animal should rot in prison for the rest of his life. Ask yourself what kind of sentence would a massacre of five family members result in in America?

      Reply to Comment
      • Cheryl – Joe America is a hater and I wish his comment had not been published. However, he is correct about one thing: I did see some Israelis celebrating while watching the army and air force bomb Gaza during Cast Lead. And I was there.

        Reply to Comment
    25. Y.

      I’m curious why only this massacre elicits such reactions. It’s not like it’s the first or even like it’s been a long long time before the last such event. The Palestinian cause has always involved exterminationism, and attacks like this are not an isolated event (as Cheryl seems to imply – I’m sorry if I’m misreading you), but the main method, constant from the start of the conflict.
      .
      The far Left has excused and lied about all of this, often blaming the victims. It’s suggested policies hamper or prevent any effective response, and quite often reward the perpetrators. There’s there no reason Dimi should be surprised by this (or by Gurevitz’s blog, which I suspect was the impetus for this. G. has simply traded his ignorant fanatic upbringing with a different ignorant and fanatic ideal), so again, I’m rather surprised why he starts talking about this now.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Moshe

      Funny how the al-aqsa brigade is the military arm of fatah and fatah is actually the PLO and wait for it the PA is the PLO re-branded.

      Compared to me on the right Dimi is extreme left and while I don’t agree with everything that he wrote because its too progressive to liberal and somewhat apologetic like calling a terrorist and murderer a militant. His points are well thought out and poignant. I am glad that he is willing to step up and say “hey we need to condemn this in the strongest way just as we condemn violence on the part of Israel”. And I already hear the terrorist justification “they are not civilians all Israelis are combatants whether past present or future” ergo that makes them valid targets. By the way that is not something I made up.
      For all the boohaa made of “settler price tags” they are not cold blooded murderers, destructive? sure, anarchists? maybe, but no less then some on the extreme left who even have a group called anarchists against the wall.
      Dimi though I disagree with you I respect you for standing up and having the will to be critical and point out a double standard and I am sorry that others from the so called peace camp are so disgusting that they only know how to spew hate and anger at Israel no matter what we do.
      Regardless of Bibi and his politics and policy’s and the far lefts natural aversion to anything seemingly right. Most of the current policies are not new but rather a continuation of the policies started by previous governments including labor and kadima.

      Reply to Comment
    27. ej

      Why don’t the settlers opt for L.A.? Or Melbourne? Chicago? even Berlin?
      Ziotopias all. And absolute safety.
      But of course they would have to pay the going market price.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Thanks, Dimi, for your courageous thoughts and outrage. It is much needed. At the same time, I feel you didn’t really examine very much WHY many leftists downplay such terrible violence. I think almost no one – except Zen masters – doesn’t demonize someone. ESPECIALLY when passionate belief is involved (whether it’s Left activists or Right settlers), it is the rare human who doesn’t demonize the “other”, to help fuel their activism.

      Zen has a concept of “passionless passion” – sort of a paradox to aspire to – the hardest thing is to feel absolutely passionate about something (from justice, to the messianic stream of the Jewish religion, to a sexual crush), and not to feel “attached” to it, burning the dirty fuel that creates “karma” (effects like demonizing someone, or creating hatred from the “other side”).

      So yes, let’s challenge activists to develop passionless passion. Let’s grieve for the Itamar victims of terrible violence. Let’s resist the temptation, in the same breath, to go right to, “But yes they were putting their lives at risk because they were settlers, etc etc”. But then after the pause, let’s put it back into context, and not forget the bigger picture (of the history of Itamar, the 44 yr Occupation itself, etc.) that helped fuel the desire for violence from the perpetrator in the first place.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Kubbeh, Borg: Your comments re: +972 reflect an unfortunate mis-impression of who we are as human beings and as writers, probably based on a failure to actually read or genuinely consider our blog. I stand behind every single word Dimi’s written, would happily sign my name to them too. While I won’t speak for my colleagues, I have no doubt about any one of them, because we respect the sanctity of all human lives. Period. Hard to imagine what’s unclear about that.

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    30. directrob

      Of course the killing of children is unacceptable (and in fact all killing).

      Still something is wrong here. The residents of Itamar are obviously no saints. Harassing Palestinian villages and stealing olives seems to be the norm. They might not kill but they are clearly part of the ethnic cleansing machine.

      The conclusion must be that both the murder and the existence of the Itamar settlement are horrific crimes that deserve being condemned. Of course they do not negate each other.

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    31. Ben Israel

      DIRECTROB-
      I see you are a believer in collective guilt. You, of course, don’t know if ANY people from Itamar were ever involved in supposedly “harrassing Palestinian villages” and “stealing Arab olives”. You accept it as an urban legend that they must be guilty because “all the Leftist bloggers say so”, so they, in some way “have it coming”. Tell me, are the Arabs also collectively guilty for this crime as well, added to all the suicide bombers who killed or wounded THOUSANDS of Israelis on the “good side” of the Green Line?

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    32. sh

      If Joe America is who I think he is, he’s a hurt(er) more than a hater. Palestinians living abroad with families here might have reason to scream. They can no longer even come visit them. Screaming is not killing.

      My first reaction when I saw Dimi’s “must condemn” line was to feel offended. Why would people on the left not be as appalled as everyone else by the savage murders? Why does a leftist who preaches and believes heart and soul in non-violent resistance – is willing to put his or her life on the line to uphold that principle – have to make noisy statements condemning the slaughter of civilians while others are permitted the luxury of initial shocked silence?

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    33. Dor

      Hurray! Yossi agrees with me!

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    34. invisible_hand

      add another update, as Jewish Voice for Peace has also condemned the killings.
      http://www.facebook.com/notes/jewish-voice-for-peace/jewish-voice-for-peace-condemns-murder-of-family-in-itamar-settlement-in-west-ba/10150113170153492

      also: is it confirmed officially that it was a palestinian terrorist? was someone arrested? i don’t mean to be “that guy,” and i obviously think this is a horrible thing, and my heart goes out to the victims’ family.

      lastly, i cannot believe bibi has found the one way to start shifting my feelings from sympathy and rakmanut to anger.
      http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-approves-500-new-homes-in-west-bank-settlements-in-response-to-itamar-attack-1.348864

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    35. T

      Shaul, how dare you say such a line: “Not even one settler from Itamar or any other settlement ever lost a heartbeat over a Palestinian child or infant”.
      You couldn’t have proved yourself a greater idiot. Know many settlers, do you? Know how they feel when a child–ANY child–is lost in a senseless murder? MONSTERS murder children…animals don’t even act in that way.
      Don’t begin to evaluate how people you don’t know feel when a child is murdered. The murder of children is NEVER acceptable, and ALWAYS the most miserable of acts. Shame on you. Shame on you for grouping a whole group of people together, making such untrue, horrific statements about the settlers. SO incorrect and showing your complete idiocy. CHILDREN were murdered, in cold blood, in their sleep. They were guilty of NOTHING. They did not choose where to live, nor were they involved in any territorial or political issues surrounding their hometown. The fact that YOU can respond to such an atrocity with your untrue, stupid remarks demonstrates YOUR lack of “heartbeat”.
      May God avenge them.

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    36. BF

      Politics aside, if anyone wants to help the members of the Fogel family left behind please support One Family UK Israel Terror Attack – Your Help Urgently Needed http://eepurl.com/cYBXY

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    37. Mitchell Cohen

      Well, I am a “settler” and “right-wing”, but HARDLY a “lunatic”. It is a breath of fresh air to see this article and that not everyone left of center is a bigot like Shaul.

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    38. [...] strange call for denunciation: My colleage, Dimi Reider, wrote a sensitive post, calling upon leftist activists to denounce the massacre in Itamar. A list of lefting organizations [...]

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    39. Excellent, Dimi.

      BTW, is BDS a leftist organization? And if so, have its members condemned the murder?

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    40. Josh

      1: Should we be happy that someone is writing an article against the murder of children? I would think that that is a pretty obvious position. and if this is what his fellow activists are saying, or being silent, does this not make him reconsider being on that side in the first place?

      2: The second-to-last paragraph of this vile article is truly disturbing, and shows how people like him think: the author truly believes that people who slaughter children should be “punished” by “looking into the eyes of the families of his victims” (the idea that people who butcher children will most certainly realize that they’re wrong by “looking into the eyes of the families”, well,that level of naivete regarding evil is exclusive to the Left.) and should be “rehabilitated” by “serving a LENGTHY prison term.” (emphasis mine)

      A few hours after this family was butchered and the author is already speaking of letting the terrorist out of prison! (and a life sentence or the death penalty is apparently unimaginable to him)

      3. The fact that the author speaks of letting this terrorist out of prison (within hours of the murders!) makes crystal clear something which has been obvious for years: The Left does not hate evil.

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    41. Josh

      “international law …clearly bans targeting the occupier’s civilian population.” For most of us, it is obvious that killing children is wrong. A Leftist must cite international law to prove it! Until this moment, I dont think any of us undertood just how deep is this strange Leftist worship of “Law” (rather than right or wrong)until this moment. And if the UN tomorrow said it was ok to kill the children of the residents of Judea and Samaria, I presume Dhimmi would have a hard time explaining why that is wrong.

      “Law is a man-made series of rules. That is all it is. In and of itself, law is entirely amoral. There are moral laws and immoral laws. Both decent and vicious governments make laws. The Holocaust began legally. Nazis and communists had judges and lawyers who respected their societies’ laws. In our country,[USA] slavery was entirely legal, as was the racial segregation that followed it. The notion that obedience to a society’s laws is always moral is itself immoral.” – Dennis Prager

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    42. However much I (or we) loathe the violent, racist settler movement, I have to agree with Dimi Reider. The murder of innocents — especially children — is inexcusable. There is no justification for it of any kind that I can conceive.

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    43. Lucy Vandez

      Dimi, how can someone who professes to be a journalist throw in so many assumptions into one opening paragraph? “Palestinian militant” – there is so far no evidence that this was perpetrated by a Palestinian – none. While the recent escalation in tensions between Palestinians and settlers in Nablus does give reason to suspect Palestinians, suspicions aren’t fact. Further, have you been to Itamar settlement? Do you have any idea how heavily guarded this place is, and for sure more so since the recent escalation. It is very difficult to imagine a Palestinian getting in and out like that. And if the alarm on the fence was set off, as Israeli reports claim, the IDF would have been called and it would, indeed, have raised an alarm. but this is beside the point. The point is, Dimi, that to unquestionably appoint an ethnicity to an attacker without any evidence at all, is racist. It echoes the rabbis’ comments at the settlers’ funeral, that Jews don’t murder, only Arab animals do. Which frankly dehumanizes both sides, albeit in different ways.
      Less monstrous assumptions you make: that the attacker was alone, and that it was a man.
      Again, my point is not to suggest it was a woman, or that there was a group. Rather, I urge you to focus less on story-telling and more on the established facts.
      Perhaps those you accuse of silence are simply waiting for more information to form a balanced, informed position.
      Of course this tragic event provokes an emotional response, but as events across the West Bank over the last two days prove, the repercussions of these accusations have tragic consequences, although I doubt these affect you in Tel Aviv.
      I realize there is an instinct to politicize everything amongst activists from both sides, but that the possibility that this was a criminal attack rather than a terrorist one must surely be acknowledged, at least until there is a shred of evidence otherwise?
      Personally. I find the instant politicization of this family’s tragedy pretty gross. Particularly the use of this horrific crime to push through 500 new houses before the bodies were even cold.

      Lucy

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    44. Borg

      These policies created the circumstances for committing these heinous actions…. this isnt really a denunciation by Palestinian Popular Committees Against the Wall and Israeli Settlements, rather a justification of the murders. Hamas probably said the same thing. Sorry, not everyone on the left thinks the murders were bad

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    45. directrob

      Ben Israel. Itamar is not the most silent community on the web. No need to rely on NGO’s or leftist bloggers for an informed opinion.

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    46. IA

      Very well written article that touched on some major points. While I may disagree with a few of your general points, I think you hit the nail on the head, and explained very clearly how violence needs to be condemned and abandoned by all sides.

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    47. Misha, what are they talking about? That Israeli criminals traveled to Itamar, murder five and escaped – this all, to steal 2 rifles? They could easily buy it from some settlers (there were cases and BTW these petty arm dealers where not stripped of Israeli citizenship, the threat Eli Yishai keeps for Arabs only)

      Reply to Comment
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