- Suhail Khalilieh
Published Saturday 19/03/2011 (updated) 20/03/2011 10:19 By Suhail Khalilieh
The Palestinians have been struggling for their rights and independence for
more than 60 years with honor and pride. While Palestinians recall their own
list of infants and children murdered by the Israeli army -- it was no
picnic for the Palestinians -- what happened in Itamar is plain murder, and
Palestinians do not condone the killing of children.
The hideous crime in the illegal Israeli settlement Itamar in the northern
West Bank revealed how quickly the Israeli community and state reacts to
Furthermore, Israeli authorities publicized the attack worldwide and used it
as a pretext to justify approval to build more than 500 housing units in
several Israeli settlements in the West Bank (in Gush Etzion, Kiryat Sefer,
Maâ€™ale Adumim and Ariel).
The Israeli government and settlement councils quickly started a campaign to
capitalize on this crime with a new wave of settlement construction and
incitement against Palestinians. The brother of the murdered settler said at
the cemetery, "A person is born for himself, to his parents and siblings,
and dies for himself. He is not a symbol or a national event, and death must
not be allowed to become an instrument of something."
He professed that the funeral should have been a private affair and not
exploited by right-wing politicos, ministers, Knesset members and West Bank
rabbis who turned the scene into a political episode.
The funeral was quickly turned into a pre-election campaign as the Israeli
Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin declared that Israel "shall continue to build
anywhere and at any time." Gershon Mesika, Samaria Regional Council chairman
said, "All the talk of peace delusions must stop." And Israeli Minister of
Interior Eli Yishai demanded the construction of 5,000 homes in settlements.
While the blame was targeted toward the Palestinian Authority for not
dealing with incitement, the funeral was an opportunity for many to spread
their incitement promoting Jewish control over the entire area between the
Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River using words like "transfer" to
suggest moving Palestinians to the other side of the Jordan River.
Ultimately, the funeral was a chance for many to disclose their real
thoughts, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who declared
during his condolences that "We shall build our land." After all, his
ultimate plan remains that of his mentor and predecessor, former Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: "to annex as much of the Palestinian land as
possible" before a real and final negotiation actually begins.
Among all of this, it seems that the voice of reason is missing, that it is
inevitable that Palestinians committed the act and that the entire
population is at fault. But what about the Israeli crimes against
Palestinians? How come some people value the life of one person over the
other -- in this case the life of one Jew over the life of one Palestinian
Muslim or Christian?
Stop Israeli incitement against Palestinians
The incitement campaign against Palestinians operates on all levels.
Palestinians expect it from Israeli government officials, from rabbis and
from settlers. But the impact of this campaign is used to fuel hatred within
Israeli society itself, not that they need any encouragement.
That the Israeli government indifferently perpetuates racism and violence
against Palestinians is a simply repellent, offensive and scandalous aspect
of their policy toward Palestinians.
Condemnations of the attack came swiftly from many nations and different
In contrast, the condemnations of the Israeli massacre of 2002 in Jenin
refugee camp or the Israeli Cast Lead operation of 2008-2009 in the Gaza
strip (to name a couple) came late, and with provisions that correlated
Palestinians and the Israeli army. These are not isolated examples but
typical reactions to injustice against Palestinians.
With this in mind, director of the Israeli Government Press Office Oren
Helman filed a formal complaint against CNN for putting "terror attack" in
quotation marks when it reported the killings. The complaint rebuffed CNN
for seemingly having doubts that the killing -- the Itamar massacre -- was
anything but a terror attack. Even though no decisive evidence was brought
forward to concur such a claim, CNN agreed to remove the quotation marks
(talk about media reporting facts).
The killings are undoubtedly dreadful but they are, after all, murder.
Terror attack is a straight forward accusation to Palestinians. Obviously,
and as reported by Israeli sources, Palestinians had nothing to do with it:
it was a murder. An unfortunate one, because it involved children,
nevertheless it was a case of murder.
Still that did not stop dozens of attacks on Palestinians, their land and
properties all over the West Bank under the protection of the Israeli army,
who for its part carried out dozens of random arrests in the occupied West
In any case, instead of exploiting this crime to further stereotype the
Palestinians, and patronize hate, Israel should have exhibited leadership to
curve the hate and embrace peace. Sadly, not even such a horrific crime is
capable of hindering the wave of incitement.
Netanyahu was quick to refuse Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas'
denunciation of the crime, even though the perpetrator is not yet
identified, although Israel has less than little to say when such a crime
happens to a Palestinian.
When Israelis commit crimes, Israel says they were psychologically
disturbed, as has happened with many settlers who killed Palestinian
children. Or they say it was a mistake, like when the Israeli navy
annihilated an entire family who were picnicking on Gaza beach on 9 June
2006. Israel gunboats opened fire on the beach, literally destroying a
Palestinian family with what Israel lamely called "an errant shell" that
killed seven and wounded over 40 people.
The victims were Ali Ghalia and his 26-year-old wife Rye Ghalia, and their
children Sabrina, 8, Haitham, 1, Zebren 8, Anadia 2, Ilham 7, and Halia, 15.
Later at a conference, the Israeli "Defense" Minister at the time Amir
Peretz retracted any insinuation that this could have been an Israeli
attack. "The intention to describe this as an Israeli event is simply not
correct," he said.
In parallel, the perpetrator of Itamar has not been identified. Moreover,
there are strong suspicions that the perpetrator of the murders may be one
of the laborers brought from abroad to work in settlements. According to
unofficial testimonies the suspected perpetrator had a financial dispute
with the deceased over 10,000 NIS ($2,817).
However, it seems it was much easier to blame the Palestinians and turn it
into a political event, an opportunity to unleash settlers' rage on
Palestinians, and a chance for Netanyahu to pass pending decisions to build
hundreds more illegal housing units in settlements all over the West Bank.
Netanyahu and Israelis are sure the air in the West Bank is filled with
hatred from Palestinians toward the Israelis. This is true to an extent, and
justifiable because it was built over years of injustice against the
Palestinians. But what about the hate coming from the Israeli side and their
categorical denial of the injustice forced upon Palestinians throughout the
decades since the establishment of the state of Israel?
The bottom line is that the perpetrator of Itamar is unidentified and only
assumptions command status on the ground today. Fact finding -- the truth --
is no longer the subject of interest to anyone anymore.
The Israelis are demanding justice for what happened in Itamar but what
about justice for the Ali Ghalia family and thousands others? The saying
goes that "justice is blind" with no consideration for ethnicity, religion,
politics, social status etc. But what is happening on the ground is
otherwise and this is why a remedy of this selective justice to include
everybody in its spectrum may be the first step to peace.
Hence, an Israeli apology for the accusation, and the stereotyping, of
Palestinians is in order. We demand it. We are entitled to it.
Suhail Khalilieh heads the Settlements Monitoring Department at the Applied
Research Institute in Jerusalem