Murder in Itamar

The slaying of a West Bank family by Palestinian terrorists is a product of the West's general delegitimization of Israel.

While the eyes of the world have been riveted to the disaster in Japan and the civil war in Libya, they have missed something brutal—and important and symptomatic—in the Holy Land.

One or two Palestinian terrorists, perhaps supported by a wider network, perhaps acting alone, infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Itamar and murdered five members of a family—a father, a mother, two children (aged 11 and 3) and a one-month-old baby. With a knife. The children were asleep in bed. The word “brutal” doesn’t really cover it.

And it throws light on the nightmare of most Israeli Jews: That this is what the Palestinians want and intend for all of Israel’s Jews.

The fundamentalist Hamas, who in 2006 won the Palestinian general elections, praised the attack, though admitted, perhaps with a measure of embarrassment, that its members were not involved. The Aksa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the Fatah—the party, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, that runs the Palestine Authority—claimed responsibility. (One is forced to recall that it was members of the Fatah, who in the early 1970s under the titular camouflage of “Black September” gunned down, at the entrance to a Cairo hotel, Jordan’s prime minister, Wasfi Tal—and then drank his blood off the steps.) Abbas himself, as is his wont after every terrorist attack on Jews, simply condemned “all violence against civilians,” whatever its source. He added that such violence was contrary to Palestinian interests. He declined, despite Israeli insistence (and American pressure), publicly to condemn this specific piece of savagery or its perpetrators, or to assert that such terrorism is morally wrong. Neither did the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, whose condemnation of the attack was effectively restricted to the assertion that “(Israeli) violence could not justify (Palestinian) violence.”

In the West many will say (or at least think): The victims were settlers, that is, land-grabbers—the implication being that they deserved what they got (though some might feel that a one-month-old baby is a bit of a stretch). And without doubt the Western deligitimization of the settlement enterprise as a whole, spearheaded by President Obama, in some form has paved the way, politically and morally, for such attacks.

No doubt, the attack will stir vengeful passions among the settlers, who can be expected to react against their Arab neighbors, the cycle inimical to the renewal of a peace process.

But the problem goes deeper. Attacks like the one in Itamar are encouraged by the more general delegitimization of Israel, which has been ongoing in the West for the past few decades (in the Arab world there has never been any real legitimation of Zionism or Israel, the two Israeli-Arab peace treaties—with Egypt and Jordan—notwithstanding; hence there was and is no ongoing process of delegitimization).

Israeli spokesmen, with a measure of justice, blamed the attack in Itamar on “incitement” by the PLO-Palestinian Authority-Hamas. Israel and Israelis are regularly portrayed in the Palestinian media as Nazis; as, indeed, they are, just as routinely, in the media of the surrounding Arab world.

This vilification covers Zionism and Israel, not merely the settlement enterprise. So, when Israelis point to Itamar and say: The Palestinians—indeed, the Arab world in general, perhaps the Islamic world as a whole (media execration of Israel in Iran and Pakistan is no less virulent)—seek this fate for all of us, alas, they are standing on terra firma. And Abbas’s and Fayyad’s mealymouthed dissociations from such outrages do nothing to bolster Israeli confidence in real Palestinian readiness to make peace or really accept Israel’s existence.

Image by Chris Yunker