Israel: Itamar massacre protests miss the point
Protesters disrupted traffic in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere across Israel on March 13, in response to the attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar two days earlier, in which a family of five, including an infant and a young child, were stabbed to death. Protesters, accusing the government of a too lenient security policy on the West Bank (!!!), began amassing immediately after thousands turned out for the funeral at Jerusalem's Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem. (There were also scattered so-called "price tag" attacks on Palestinians by settlers on the West Bank, with five cars set on fire in Nablus, JP reports.) Speaking at the funeral, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon, was clearly trying to head off protests by playing to the crowd, but that doesn't let him off the hook for his abomination of sanctimonious illogic:
This murder reminds everyone that the struggle and conflict is not about Israel's borders or about independence of a repressed nation but a struggle for our existence. Therefore, we cannot continue speaking about security while the essence is neglected—the essence which is Israel's right to its land. Whoever gives up this right won't have security either. In this difficult hour we must rise from the rubble and do the most natural thing—continue building and developing Israel." [Ha'aretz, March 13]
Come again? Itamar is not within "Israel's borders." How is Israel's "existence" threatened by an attack outside its borders? What does the attack have to do with "Israel's right to its land" when it did not happen on Israel's land? And as for the determination to "continue building and developing Israel..." Since Moshe Yaalon is apparently incapable of recognizing borders, perhaps he was referring to this. From Ha'aretz, March 13:
On Saturday, the ministerial committee on settlement affairs decided in a nighttime meeting to approve the construction of 500 new West Bank houses, a move that came in response to a deadly attack on a family of five in the settlement of Itamar on Friday. In the first U.S. reaction to the Israeli decision, the State Department said in a statement Sunday that Washington was deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions with respect to settlements in the West Bank."
"Continued Israeli settlements are illegitimate and run counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations," the statement said, adding that "through good faith direct negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties."
Did they really say "in response to" the Itamar attack? "In response to" the attack they are going to engage in precisely the behavior that virtually guarantees more such atrocities? Does someone care to explain this one to us? We really don't get it.
And spare us the lectures about how the Itamar massacre wasn't justified, or about how we are blaming the victim. We haven't remotely implied that it was, or that a three-month old baby is to "blame" for anything. Such arguments are just a distraction. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said on the attack:
Over the past ten years, Palestinian terror attacks perpetrated in Israel and in the Occupied Territories have killed hundreds and injured thousands of Israeli civilians, among them men, women, and children. Attacks aimed at civilians are immoral, inhuman, and illegal. Intentional killing of civilians is a grave breach of international humanitarian law and is considered a war crime that can never be justified, whatever the circumstances.
But just a few days earlier, on March 3, B'Tselem noted the apartheid-like restrictions on freedom of movement that remain in place in the West Bank city of Hebron...
Shuhada Street in the center of Hebron. The street, one of Hebron's main thoroughfares, links the north and south of the city and passes by the major markets, the Old City , the Tomb of the Patriarchs and al-Haram al-Ibrahimi, and Israeli settlement compounds. Since October 2000, Israel has forbidden Palestinians to walk or drive on the street, although no valid military order for the closure has been presented. Along with other restrictions on Palestinian movement in the area, this has led to an economic collapse of the city center. Many residents have left, and the area has become a ghost town. Over the years, the army repeatedly claimed it was about to permit Palestinians to use the street again, but this has yet to occur.
Israeli settlers, however, are allowed to move freely on the street.
And these restrictions were imposed in response to what? More from the B'Tselem statement:
Israel began to restrict Palestinian movement along the street in 1994. After the massacre carried out by Baruch Goldstein in the Tomb of the Patriarchs that year, Israel chose to impose restrictions on the Palestinians, rather than on the Israeli settlers in the city, contending that these restrictions were necessary in order to protect the settlers' safety.
Talk about blaming the victim! For those of you who don't recall, on Feb. 25, 1994, a Jewish settler, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on Muslim worshipers at Hebron's Ibrahimiya Mosque—known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where compromise measures had been worked out to allow access to those of both faiths. Twenty-nine were killed before Goldstein was overpowered and beaten to death. Israeli troops shot dead some 30 Palestinians in the riots that followed. Goldstein has ever since been glorified as a "martyr" by the Israeli far right.
So we'd like to know how much overlap there is between those who reverently place stones on the grave of mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein and those who blocked traffic to protest the Itamar massacre. That Israel's political class panders to this element instead of having the courage to speak the painful truth betrays how deeply in denial it is. And that it is not serious about getting better.
The French have a saying, Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner—"To understand all is to forgive all." Like many French sayings, it is total bullshit. We can recognize the systematic oppression that leads to things like the Itamar massacre and suicide bombings without endorsing them. The failure to grasp this distinction is making the hole deeper every day...