Although I do not support violent means of resistance, I do not find that they de-legitimize the struggle of any oppressed group, nor do they sanctify the oppressor. With that that in mind, the abhorrent murder of the Fogel family, in the settlement of Itamar, is beyond reproach.Before I began my work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel I read a volume of essays that attempted to explain the philosophy behind terrorism. The authors of the works contained in this text came from the Western tradition, with some having military experience, and it showed. Fighters from Chechnya and Palestine were lumped together with al-Qaeda operatives, and the text solidified my feelings against “buzz words” spewed by the media and so called experts, such as terrorist and freedom fighter, and helped me clarify my thoughts as to their use in Western society. How, we in the West, pick and choose those we support based on the capital we can derive from our relationships with them, and the convenience that we shift our allegiances and turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of those groups and regimes.
I mention this, because contained in the volume was an illuminating passage explaining the thought process of selecting targets for acts of violence. Attacking military bases and institutions, and assassinating political figures from the group that you are in conflict with, is an obvious tactic. One that I do not agree with, but I understand and find nothing especially immoral, other than my feelings against the use of violence in general.
Beyond these targets come civilians. The text explained that attacks against civilian populations was justified based on factors such as the payment of taxes to the regime that one is in conflict with, participation in the regime’s electoral system (whether voting for or against the victor of the election), and for some, just remaining in the country, choosing to live your life within that system, is justification enough.
I remember my feelings at the time, sat on the non-stop train between Cambridge and London. I could not accept this thought process. I did not support the government of the United Kingdom for many reasons. Most obviously was the decision to participate in the war with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and to join the American decimation of Iraq. Now, it should be noted that, of course, I do not have any time for the Taliban’s repressive regime in their areas of control, nor did I have any desire to see Saddam Hussein remain in a position of power in Iraq. But it was plain to me, and millions of others nation and world wide that this was not the way those regimes should fall.
Furthermore, I’m not a fan of the U.K. in general. I appreciate that it is one of the better places to live in the world, with regards to safety and stability, but none the less, I do not feel that is reason enough to ignore the problems that we still have in the country.
But, I digress, as I often do. I was sat on the train wondering how anyone could see myself and the other passengers aboard this train as legitimate, justified targets in their war. I could not accept this rationale, and I still don’t.
This brings me, in a very round about way, to Palestine. Those few paragraphs have popped into my consciousness many, many times in the past 18 months, whilst considering the actions of armed Palestinian factions, and their use of violence during the Second Intifada.
The most prevalent was the use of suicide bombings, and this caught the attention of the Western media, who summarily ignored the larger context of this conflict, whose roots are over a century old.
When one considers the use of violence against those who are part of the civilian population, as opposed to those in the military, the case becomes complicated when the nation that you are in conflict with has a policy of national service that nearly every person takes part in. Nearly every civilian you meet in Israel has performed military service, or will once they are 18 years old, and are available to perform reserve duty every few years.
This makes the distinction between groups nigh on impossible. Yes there are refusers, but those who do so from the very beginning are few and far between. In the case of the Second Intifada, no distinction was made. Attacks were regularly made against the population as a whole, during the civilian aspects of their lives, which led to the loss of life of a great many people, and many incredibly sad stories, ones that have been shamelessly exploited by the State of Israel to justify the continued oppression of the Palestinian people.
This brings me to my feelings towards the heinous murder of the Fogel family in the settlement of Itamar, on Friday night. Yes, these people lived in a settlement on occupied land, an act that is illegal under international law. Yes, the State of Israel subsidizes these projects to encourage Jewish Israeli families to move there. Yes, those who do, often move out of terrible, racist ideological motivations. Yes, members of this family will have served in the Israeli military, and those children, whose lives were robbed from them at a disgustingly early age, in all likelihood, would have gone on to serve also. Yes, Palestinians are wounded and murdered by the settler population in the West Bank, and are subjected to regular harassment and terror tactics.
These are not reasons to justify the execution of family sleeping in their beds. These are not reason enough to butcher children in their beds. It is a trite saying, repeated ad nauseum, but an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
Actions such as those committed in Itamar only contribute to a circle of violence that has been spiraling out of control for decades. Already, settlers have attacked a Palestinian family traveling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Already, settlers near Ramallah have threatened the lives of Palestinians. Already, 300 settlers and soldiers have invaded the town of Beit Ommar.
This is just the first 24 hours following these murders. I can only speculate to the potential bloodshed that will follow.
Both Israeli and Palestinian groups committed to peaceful, non-violent resolution of this occupation have spoken out condemning the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of this shocking murder, and I join them in doing so, just as I do every time a settler murders a Palestinian, but our voices are tragically ignored. The only voices given time by the world at large, looking for its soundbite, its quick, simplified explanation that it can regurgitate in coffee shops and bars around the world, are those of the manipulative Israeli government and those of the marginal Palestinian population who gladly carry out acts of violence.
These are the voices that feed the false narrative that Palestinians are violent people, and that the State of Israel only acts to defend itself, and its people, amidst a sea of hostility.
This narrative is false. This narrative will lead to nothing good for anyone living in this conflict ridden area.
The time has come for a renewed effort by Palestinians, Israelis and internationals who are firmly committed to a peaceful, just end to the oppression of the Palestinians, and all the violence that flows from it, to make our voices ring out loud and clear above all others.
This kind of violence is reprehensible and will help no-one.