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The release of killers is not a cause for celebration

An objection to a +972 post.

I looked at the photo essay published in +972 Magazine yesterday, about the West Bank celebrations for the 26 released Palestinian prisoners, and I thought: are we celebrating these killers’ release, too? Are we cheering them as heroes too?

+972 practices what’s called engaged journalism – the writers, editors and photographers here all take a stand on the subjects we deal with, and while there are differences of opinion among us, we’re all agreed that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African refugees is wrong, and this opinion is right up front in all the stuff we publish. And when Activestills’ photographers take photos of Palestinian, Bedouin or African refugee protests, it’s clear from the photos that Activestills, and +972 as the publisher, supports them. And that’s fine with me because I support those protests, too.

But in the same way, the message from the photo essay of the heroes’ welcome for the freed Palestinian prisoners is that Activestills and +972 welcomes them as heroes, too. I doubt that anybody at +972 actually takes that view; I know I don’t. It’s one thing to support the release of these people from prison, and even to accept, in principle, as I do that Palestinians have the same right to strike back at their foreign masters as does any other subject people, including the Jews of pre-state Israel. It’s quite another thing, though, to cheer the killers as heroes.

And while I’m sure that the other people at +972 weren’t inwardly congratulating these prisoners on winning their freedom, either, that’s the message which gets conveyed by the photo essay.

It seems that whoever wrote the text and captions for it was uncomfortable with the subject: there is no mention of the crimes the prisoners committed, no clue that they killed people – Israeli soldiers, civilians and Palestinians suspected of collaboration. The writer or writers, I’m convinced, did not want to say that the freed prisoners were killers or who they killed because that would have struck an extremely dissonant chord in such a celebratory photo essay.

So the inconvenient detail about the nature of the prisoners’ crimes was left out. And its absence couldn’t be more conspicuous. The impression left by that absence is that +972 is telling its audience that the release of these men is indeed a cause for celebration – but it’s deliberately leaving out any fact that could get in the way of that message.

Again, I’m sure there are others at +972 who don’t see these killers’ release as a cause for celebration, but as members of a collective that practices engaged journalism, that message has gone out in our name.

This photo essay never should have run on the site. Or if it did, the author/photographers should have made it clear what acts the prisoners committed, they should have stated their opinions of those acts and the reception given to those who committed them, and they should have signed their names to those opinions. Either +972 should not celebrate the freedom of these very nasty pieces of work, or, if any of us do celebrate it, they should say so explicitly.

PHOTOS: Palestinians are released from Israeli prisons after 20 years

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    1. Richard Witty

      Thanks for noting this.

      Reply to Comment
    2. R kima

      If it wasn’t for your text here, I would have stopped following +972 on facebook. Thank you for taking a sane stand.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Terri Knoll

      It’s called reporting without bias. You should try that sometime.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Stop being so un-PC, Larry!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ploni

      You “doubt anybody at +972 actually takes that view”?!? I don’t! In fact I’m certain that more than one *DO* take that view. And the sad fact is that these serial killers butchered dozens of PALESTINIANS as well as Jews and none of you faux leftists took interest in publicizing the fact that they killed their own people.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Lee

      Maybe because most Palestinian prisoners are imprisoned unjustly for minor crimes like resisting the occupation…I’m sure that these men released are part of a group that were checked out as part of the negotiations. Israelis get off with a slap on the hand for violent crimes including murder as long as the victim isn’t a European Jew.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Marianne Torres

      Tell Larry Derfner that when a nation inflicts the horror that Israel inflicts on Palestine and Palestinians, they have no right to complain when violence results.

      Tell Larry Derfner to spend more of his time educating the Israeli population that continues to support its governments’ slaughters in Gaza, continued theft of land from non-Jewish Israeli citizens for the simple reason that they are not Jewish, rounding them up in concentration camps, and making life nearly unlivable for people in the West Bank.

      If only he could live like a Palestinian for 5 years, perhaps he wouldn’t be quite so quick to condemn people who respond in ways he might not prefer.

      Tell him that it’s a tenet of international law that people have a right and Responsibility to oppose occupation by a foreign power by any means necessary.

      And remind Larry Derfner that IDF soldiers are celebrated every day in Israel after they kill innocent Palestinian children. The pilots of the bombers who drop white phosphorus on schools in Gaza are celebrated as heroes in Israel. It would behoove him to lecture the Israelis who think their army has heroes in it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        Did you read the article? I suspect that you either did nor or did not comprehend the message sufficiently. Please do so and edit your comment.

        Reply to Comment
        • marianne torres

          Of course I read it. Did you?

          Did you notice he said “It’s one thing to support the release of these people from prison, and even to accept, in principle, as I do that Palestinians have the same right to strike back at their foreign masters as does any other subject people, including the Jews of pre-state Israel. It’s quite another thing, though, to cheer the killers as heroes.”

          Vis a vis his statement, are you aware that David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dyan, Itzhak Rabin, Itzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon are all murders of civilians yet are celebrated in Israel as heroes?

          Are you aware that they committed hundreds of murders WITHOUT their nation being occupied by a foreign power? First because they HAD no nation, and second, after they had a nation but no one was occupying or oppressing them?

          I’m always amazed at how supporters of racism/apartheid are so willing to turn a blind eye to the crimes of their own nation.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            “I’m always amazed at how supporters of racism/apartheid are so willing to turn a blind eye to the crimes of their own nation.”

            I’m always amazed how people that support the Palestinian cause stop being judgemental towards Palestinians. How every low life murder must be seen as an important part of the glorious struggle. How every mention of a Palestinian crime must mention in the same sentence Israeli crimes (even if are completely different and took place almost 70 years ago).

            No one in Israel is honoured because of a murder of civilians. People are honoured because of their role in the creation of the state and its protection, the killings are seen as a necessary evil and they are constantly criticised.

            We are quite aware of our past, we are mature enough to understand we are not perfect and share a part of the blame for the situation. Everyone would be better when our neighbours (and their blind supporters from around the world) will start acting the same.

            Reply to Comment
          • Marcos

            Marianne, your response is hysterical and nonsensical. If you remove the inflated rhetoric and falsehoods you might actually have an intelligent comment, but I am not sure what it is. Try again?

            Reply to Comment
    8. richard witty

      Murder is not dissent, not even resistance to occupation.

      If civility were what was necessary, would you willingly not support violent resistance.

      Or do you mean “by any means necessary” only harming, human decency be damned.

      Reply to Comment
      • marianne torres

        try reading the UN language about people’s right to fight oppression by another country, Witty.

        And read my words before you attempt to make them mean something other than what I wrote.

        As Luitsz wrote above “…their crime was resistance, and if you don’t like that, stop the occupation.”

        Reply to Comment
        • marianne torres

          I have to also ask you Witty, in response to your statement “Murder is not dissent, not even resistance to occupation”, brings this question:

          Would you have called for the imprisonment of Itzak Shamir and Shimon Peres for the bombing of the King David Hotel, in which 91 people were killed, or or Shamir for the murder of Counte Bernadotte, or Sharon for his part in the killing of 1000 women and children and elders in Sabra and Shatilla?

          Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            If civility and persuasive reasoning were what “was necessary” (as in “by any means necessary”), to achieve Palestinian liberation, would you pursue it, or reject it?

            Reply to Comment
          • Jan

            Richard, I notice that you gave no answer to Marianne’s question as to whether or not you would have supported the imprisonment of Zionist and Israeli leaders who were responsible for thousands of deaths of Palestinians. Because they are and were Jewish does that let them off the hook for their crimes?

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            I don’t know the specific charges against the individuals that were freed. I think that was part of Larry’s point.

            If they conducted or were associated with terror activities against civilians, then I think they should be imprisoned, and held.

            The King David bombing is a bad example, aside from the innaccuracy of naming Peres and Shamir as associated. (It was Begin and the Irgun. So much for accuracy.)

            The reason that it is a bad example, is that the King David Hotel target was a military intelligence coordination office, a military target.

            There are too many other events that Irgun and Lehi committed, and a couple done by Palmach and related, that were definitively terror operations. Better that you pick them next time. Do your own research.

            Those perpetrators that could be caught were tried captured, and imprisoned by the British, and held for extended period without trial.

            That and other terrorist/freedom fighters’ imprisonment led to the heroic Acre Prison Break also organized by Begin.

            Sharon was not the murderer in Sabra and Shatilla. He definitely allowed the murderers to enter the camp, and turned away while some of the murders were conducted. But, the IDF also stopped the murders from continuing, thankfully.

            Equivalent to direct involvement in terror? I’m not sure.

            Those that kill civilians for the purpose of terror are not resistance fighters. They are mass murderers.

            Who among the released were mass murderers, I don’t know.

            I’m not willing to generalize about it.

            I think the more pressing point is why Netanyahu chose to release mass murderers rather stop settlement construction as his sign of negotiating in good faith.

            I get that the ending of settlement construction was the big enchilada, the concession he would save for sealing the deal.

            You can rant about events that occurred 65 and 30 years ago, as justification for calling mass murderers “freedom fighters”.

            If you sincerely think of Begin as a mass murderer, a terrorist, deserving to be incarcerated for actions during a struggle for liberation, I’m not sure why you would seek to justify it again.

            Shouldn’t that kind of rationalization be over?

            Reply to Comment
        • Aaron Gross

          Actually, armed Palestinian resistance to Israel is not protected under international law, not in the form it’s taken. UN General Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding; they’re basically just recommendations.

          The Geneva Convention protects the rights of partisan fighters, like those in World War II, but Palestinian resistance has never been carried out according to the laws defining partisan resistance.

          I’ve said lots of times that some anti-Zionist terrorism has been morally justified, but it’s not legal.

          Reply to Comment
    9. For me the photos simply showed the Palestinian mood. For once it’s not Jews telling Palestinians what to celebrate or how to celebrate, what to resist and how to resist, what to think and what not to think.
      It was refreshing to see it presented like that on 972, and it’s pratronizing to claim that the readers of this website would be fooled into believing that these people are innocent. But their crime was resistance, and if you don’t like that, stop the occupation.
      People have a right to resist, and far worse crimes have been comitted by Israelis who don’t get punished. Pre-Israeli Zionist terrorists have become the top politicians, there was no opposition to that, was there?

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        “Pre-Israeli Zionist terrorists have become the top politicians, there was no opposition to that, was there?”

        I find your logic flawed. Another explanation is that there is something different between those Israeli leaders that took part in partisan attacks and the low-life murderess in question.

        Perhaps there is something that allowed these man to become rational politicians, to work democratically on building and running a state, to sign piece treaties with vast territorial concessions when needed. A transition Arab leaders and public opinion simply cannot (or do not wish to) do.

        That’s the difference – the intent, desire and motivation of one group stemmed from the wish to create a state. That’s what allowed them to work on the same goal as politicians later on. The other group is motivated by a burning hatred towards Israel and Jews (a hatred shared by what seems to be the entire middle east), with the freedom and well-being of their people not being a top priority. That’s why one group are freedom fighters and the others are scum of the earth.

        Reply to Comment
    10. un2here

      You too, Larry, left out any details of the alleged crimes and the proof (or lack thereof?) presented in court. All you had was accusations and finger pointing …

      Reply to Comment
    11. Tony Riley

      It’s clear from these comments that you’ve uncovered something!

      Reply to Comment
    12. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Activestills provide an individualized byline, so I don’t think one can credit any extra intent behind similar absence here. I have always assumed that direct personal credit could limit future mobility and access, maybe even personal freedom.

      I think you are right that not detailing why the released were in prison was a reporting failure, creating a false impression of what the event means overall. I do not, however, think that publishing the celebratory photos in itself has 972 (or actually even Activestills) endorse the event. Nor could I tell from the piece how important this event was locally, although Abbas is photographed there, which in itself says something. I think it important to know that some are happy that these men have been released, irregardless or maybe even because of their past acts; I think it as well possible that freedom after prolonged incarceration, irrespective of deed, might have symbolic focus here. Both are part of the environment in which violence and restraint have to be negotiated. So to blackout the event when some Activestills are willing to record it seems a mistake too. Indeed, I would want to know if some in a community were publicly celebrating a recent killing. Events which ramify in the community should be known outside of it.

      I have thought 972 makes a mistake in not reporting violence against Jews consequent of the conflict. This Activestills piece is sort of a mirror image of that. Both can suggest a kind of moral immunity which fuels the standard fault lines of conflict. Engaged reporting should not be at the expense of facts.

      Reply to Comment
    13. You don’t need to support the actions of the released prisoners in order to understand the political context, and the fact that this is a political celebration. As I said elsewhere, the real problem with the prisoners’ release is that not enough people are let go. ending the occupation also means releasing all Palestinian prisoners.


      Reply to Comment
    14. Danny

      “The release of killers is not a cause for celebration”

      When Israeli POW’s are released, do you not feel good that they are back at home with their families (even though some of them could be considered for all intents and purposes as killers)?

      Why shouldn’t Palestinians feel good that these men (who they consider to be freedom fighters) are back at home with their families for the first time in years?

      Enough with the double standards please.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        Danny, Israeli soldiers and POW are sometimes treated as heroes because of their role in defending this country. The killings they did (if any) are perceived as a necessary evil, needed to be carried out in tough circumstances.

        This is not the case with these man. Their fame comes from the murder of Jews. From some perverted notion that butchering a random Jewish man with an axe is a form or resistance or a part of a struggle.

        A sane moral person should look at these acts and see them as they are – shameful acts of violence stemmed from hatred and indoctrination. And their celebration a shameful mark on the Palestinian struggle. Instead, you find it necessary to mention irrelevant acts of violence almost 70 years old and hypothetical Israeli POW in a pathetic attempt to ignore anything bad being said about the Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
        • etinzon

          “indoctrination” is believing that a soldier only kills when he is obliged to by tough circumstances.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            In the general case I would have agreed with you. However, I do not “believe” anything, I merely state an assessment, based on my experience. I have served 6.5 years in the IDF and had enough briefings before going on guard duty (inside of outside of the green line). I have friends and coworkers that served in practically every part of the IDF.

            While I cannot account for every soldier of the IDF, I can say that people don’t get respect for mindlessly killing others.

            I will also mention Syria, because this is what mindless killing looks like. We are very far away from that hell and I think that my statement is correct in general.

            Reply to Comment
        • Craig Vale

          With well over a century of bloodshed concomitant with this ” conflict” random violence and murder have become a literal way of life for folks on both sides. Life means little and the perpetrators of such crime see themselves as answering a higher calling. As Palestinians celebrate the release of these ” monsters” likewise I am reminded of the scenes of average everyday Israeli’s standing on the hills watching bombing raids carried out by the IDF and cheering as each lethal bomb dropped on the Gaza during Cast Lead was akin to scoring a goal in a soccer match. Sadly the “pitch” is a densely populated city and almost every bomb brought with it death. Equally, I have seen celebratory groups in the Palestinian areas cheering the news that a bus full of innocent folks in some Israeli city were incinerated when a suicide bomber has decided it’s time to meet those 17 virgins promised to them.
          I think the hatred is something taught and learned while the children are still in the cradle and the self righteous justification is fed them with the same casualness as is the bottle of formula. The question remains as to how one can ever break the cycle of senseless violence that envelops generation upon generation who view themselves as victims all the while acting as the perpetrators in the continuance of misguided goals. I don’t know what the answer is but if nothing else people should step back and view the historical futility of these heinous acts of violence, look at the morbid scoresheet, add up all the deaths and injuries and find that the stats reveal nothing more than a tie score. Aggression =0, Revenge = 0

          Reply to Comment
        • Danny

          Israeli soldiers have proven themselves to be every bit as brutal as Palestinian fighters. The former IDF chief who said that he feels nothing more than a slight bump in his wing the instant he lets go a bomb that kills dozens (including bystanders) is a case in point. If we Israelis can feel good about Gilad Shalit’s homecoming, why deny the Palestinians the same satisfaction?

          Reply to Comment
          • Sheldon

            Danny, you are right that Palestinians have the right to celebrate, and depicting that is a story worth covering.

            But I do feel Larry has a good point, that 972 should have identified what these released prisoners did to “earn” their prison stripes. Fleshing out their record is part of good journalism.

            Reply to Comment
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