Monday 14 March 2011

Murder Most Horrid in Itamar

Israelis came out of the weekend with a feeling of shock, horror and revulsion. Although stories of the disastrous Japanese earthquake and tsunami fill the international news bulletins and those in Israel, there is a story closer to home which is taking us back to a place where none of us wish to be. This is the story of the brutal and senseless murder of 5 members of the Fogel family in the settlement of Itamar near to Hebron.

The details of the story are slowly being drip fed to the public as the details emerge. There were no witnesses to the heinous crime as all the witnesses were killed in the devastating attack. The story as we know it so far is constructed with pieces put together by those who discovered the scene, crime scene investigators and security personnel who continue to seek out the perpetrators of the attack. It seems as though the parents and 5 of their 6 children retired to bed after their usual Sabbath meal on Friday evening. Their oldest child, 12 year-old Tamar, went out after dinner to her youth movement activity. This could well have saved her life. She was the one who raised the alarm when she found that she was unable enter the house upon returning home later in the evening. The scene that greeted her and the neighbour accompanying her, was too horrific for words. Her mother, father, two brothers aged 11 and 4, and 3-month old baby sister all lay dead in their beds. Two other siblings seem to have been saved by virtue of the fact that the murderer or murderers did not realise that there were other children in the house in a separate room. The victims had all been brutally and forcefully stabbed to death as they lay sleeping in their beds.

It is not yet clear whether the crime was perpetrated by a person on his own, or whether there were accomplices. It is also not clear why and how the extensive security arrangements which surround Itamar and other similar settlements failed the Fogel family on this occasion. These questions will be answered in due course. For now, all we can think about is the fact that three young children have today buried their parents and three siblings. This is surely not the natural circle of life, and yet it is all too frequent in the reality of Middle Eastern politics.

Other questions abound as we absorb the full scale of this horror. What sort of person can enter the private home of people that he does not know, and take the lives of a family as they sleep in their beds? The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade have been quick to claim responsibility for this attack. The announcement was tinged with a sense pride, if it is at all possible to be proud about such a cowardly act. Can the killer justify this murder by the negative experiences that he has had or the lack of justice in his life? Is this truly a like-for-like revenge act? The Palestinian Authority and Hamas both appear to believe so if we judge by their luke-warm responses to the attack. Instead of coming out and condemning the massacre without reservation, they have both chosen to put out tepid statements about how they condemn violence of any type. This is not good enough, and surely sends a message to the Palestinian people that their leadership lends tacit support (if not open support) to such terrorism.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a real war. It is a war that has been ongoing for more than 60 years, and shows no signs of abating anytime soon. It is a war that has claimed many casualties over the years. In war, there are casualties. Some of these are so-called "collateral damage", innocent civilians who accidentally happen to get in the way of genuine military conflict. The act of killing parents and children as they lie sleeping in their beds, however, does not qualify as "collateral damage". This is more like genocide. Even in a war situation, this type of behaviour can never be justified under any circumstances. Anybody who lends even the slightest justification to such a horrendous crime bears some responsibility for it, and its gruesome consequences.

The Fogel family was a religious and patriotic family. They loved the land of Israel, and believed that all parts of the Greater Land of Israel belong to the Jewish people. They were formerly residents of the Gaza Strip before they were forcefully removed by the government during the disengagement from the strip in 2005. They moved their family to re-establish themselves in the settlement of Itamar near to the West Bank city of Hebron. Their politics brought them into conflict with many Palestinians who lay claim to the West Bank and, indeed, much of the Land of Israel. They had witnessed the government take their home in Gaza and hand it over on a golden platter to the Palestinians. Since then, the Palestinians have done nothing useful with the land, nor the homes and businesses that were given to them. This was the background against the Fogel family moved to live in Itamar, and to die there.

The personal tragedy suffered by this family is currently overwhelming in its intensity. The political ramifications are, however, substantial and significant. How can the Israeli government be expected to agree to establish a Palestinian state on its borders when this type of behaviour is prevalent, and is likely to continue? The act of handing the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians has proved that no amount of territorial concessions will be enough unless it is all the land that we have. The worst part about this and other acts of terror, is the fact that the Palestinian Authority lends them some level of support. This is not creating a situation conducive to peace. With acts like this, it is clear that a peace agreement can never work in such an environment.

My thoughts go out to the family and to the mourners. May they be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion during this hour of extreme grief, and may they know no further sorrow. May the memories of the deceased be for a blessing.


Yossi Grossman said...

any family that agrees to live over the recognised green line, in the occupied west bank endangers their very own existance,today 300 000 settlers, sets the agenda for the majority causing the peace process to not advance, viva to the left wing viva amandla.

Anthony Reich said...

The reality that any family that agrees to live anywhere in Israel is in the exact same position. The Palestinians want you to believe that the settlers are setting the agenda and causing the peace process not to advance. This is a pretext. The truth is that while Jews live in the State of Israel (within the Green Line or not), the problem will persist.

Until such time as the Palestinians stop firing their missiles towards Israelis living within the Green Line, and stop carrying out terror attacks on Israelis living in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, their claim that they have a problem with those living over the Green Line can never be taken seriously.