Yesterday Israeli officials announced the arrests of two young men who will be charged with the brutal knife and gun murders of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar, a West Bank settlement. The killers, 18 and 19-year old men, are from a nearby village, Awarta.
The brutality of these murders shocked Israelis and Palestinians alike. I was taken aback at the many Palestinians who rushed toward Israeli news cameras to condemn the murders. Their own families are so embarrassed by the crimes that they’d rather deny their sons’ guilt than embrace them as heroes of the resistance. They deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.
If I had the opportunity to turn to the people of both Awarta and Itamar, here’s what I would say.
Residents of Awarta: We have heard your expressions of outrage on Israeli television and about how this murder crossed the line. You know very well that this is the result of educating your young people to extreme hatred rather than toward an attitude of peace and the absolute necessity of future conciliation.
I know that life under the occupation, even with limited autonomy, is less than ideal. But I also know that your lives are, arguably, better off than they would be under any Arab regime. Still, that doesn’t make it right and many of us respect your national aspirations. These will never be achieved if you refuse to stop demonizing the Jews and fail to productively educate your children about the need to compromise with Israel.Residents of Itamar: No reasonable person believes that settlements are THE obstacle peace. That’s because we know that they can be dismantled in a day.
That doesn’t mean that settlements like yours, deep inside the West Bank, are necessarily wise or rational. In fact, you are living there in order to further your completely ridiculous idea that by doing so you will advance the coming of the messiah. Your town is far away from any sane future border between Israel and a future Palestinian state, which you, of course, completely reject. Many of you are former Americans who claim that it is dangerous to live anywhere in Israel. Well you may be in the land of Israel, but you do not live in the State of Israel. Your security is difficult to impossible to maintain and you expose your children to extreme dangers due to your completely irrational religious beliefs.
Radical religious ideologues on both sides want nothing more than to transform this national conflict into a religious war. This is what Hamas and their ilk desire. And sadly for them and their children, it is what ultra-nationalist religiously-driven settlers are also trying to accomplish.