Are the settlers civilians?

Israel/Palestine
on 167 Comments

Although I have replied individually to a few comments to my recent post regarding the recent killing of four Israeli settlers, there was one issue repeatedly raised in several comments. To what extent should Jewish settlers in the West Bank be considered
civilians?

Armed – Some have questioned whether the victims were armed, and suggested that if they were, they deserved their fate. This makes little sense to me. If they were armed, it seems it was purely for defensive purposes, as they were not engaged in any aggressive operation themselves. Considering what happened to them, their fears
were not imaginary. True, if they and their fellow settlers were not living this illegal, immoral lifestyle that was choking the lives of their fellow human beings, they would have no need for armed defense, but here, their possession of weapons to use defensively in the case of hostility does not make them kill-worthy. There’s no reason to believe that the Palestinian gunmen even knew whether they were armed.

In fact, I find a parallel in the Israeli claim that it has to strike at Iran or Hezbollah, etc. because those entities are arming themselves to defend against an Israeli strike.  I view this entire rationale as backwards.

Age – The occupation has continued for several decades now, and although settlement building is continuing and settler population increasing, there are now many who have been born and raised into adulthood without ever knowing another home. They have been taught since birth that they are entitled to live on this land, and that those of a different ancestry are interlopers who would be welcome in 22 other countries where similar people live, but instead insist on being a thorn in the side of the Jewish people, who desire only a tiny sliver of land. Needless to say, I abhor this ideology, but can we blame six-year-olds for believing what they’ve been told? What about when they turn 10, or 15 or 21? At some point, we can expect them to think for themselves and act appropriately (though it’s hard to see how outside influences will ever persuade them), but at what age do they change from being innocent children force-fed a supremacist ideology to something more killable? Is there a gray area, say 16 to 21, when they are on probation? Do we make allowances for those who are retarded or autistic? Several years ago, during the second intifada, it was revealed by Amira Hass that Israeli soldiers had standing orders not to shoot children, who were defined as those appearing to be 11 and under. Twelve-year old adults were fair game. Should Palestinians play the same game? Would raising the age boundary solve the problem?

They Were Settlers – The most important factor is clearly that these victims were settlers who chose to live beyond the “green line.” The entire world agrees that this area does not belong to Israel, and international law forbids Israel from allowing its citizens to settler there, a law that has been broken about a half-million times. But
settlers, while all illegal, are not monolithic. Some are ideological and insufferably racist and clearly get satisfaction out of depriving Palestinians of the ability to live in freedom and security. Others are induced by economic incentives to live in the OPT. There surely are many more complicated situations as well..

This was most probably all the gunmen knew about their victims – that they were settlers. Maybe they were indeed armed and fanatic members of the most racist strain of the settler movement. But they were anonymous settlers when killed. In my view, they were civilians, not engaged in any immediately threatening behavior, and therefore not subject to a death sentence.

Contrast this situation with the incident in Beita I wrote about a few months ago, where an armed Israeli settler guarding teenagers out for a deliberately provocative hike shot to death a Palestinian they encountered. The victim’s sister hit the murderer in the head with a rock, leading to a melee in which several others, including an Israeli girl, were killed by the gunman. If the sister had had a gun, my guess is she would have used it rather than the rock, and I would have found no fault with her for doing so. Interestingly, some Palestinian villagers protected and sheltered the Israeli youth from the completely understandable rage of other Palestinians. Wasn’t this heroic rather than foolish, even though these teens represented the worst strain and the bleak future of the militant Israeli settler movement?

I’m not a big fan of “slippery slope” arguments – they’re used far too often – but I think there is a good one to be made here. If we support or even excuse murder of settlers, what about Israeli Jewish citizens within the green line? There surely is something additionally nefarious about all settlers, but Jews who live within Israel proper enjoy special rights, privileges and status to them over their non-Jewish fellow citizens. Don’t they accept those goodies, mostly without any reservation at all? Aren’t some non-settler Jews more virulently racist than some settlers? Aren’t they all at least somewhat guilty for enjoying the benefits of a ethno-religious preference in violation of 21st century standards of egalitarianism?

Then there are the Americans, who watched with minimal protest while their government slaughtered hundreds of thousands or more the past decade, and continues to reserve the right to arrest (or even murder) anyone anywhere for any reason, and hold them for any length of time without any recourse. How long would it be before we’re all implicated as “alleged civilians” rather than actual civilians, before we are all ensnared in this sense of collective guilt for which the ultimate penalty may be paid, even where the crimes of the State are very real?

This entire discussion reminds me of a 1945 propaganda newsreel I once saw about the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. There was footage, presumably genuine but who knows, of Japanese schoolgirls undergoing military training with bayonets, as the narrator solemnly intoned that such fierce resistance from the entire citizenry was what allied troops could have expected had they invaded rather than nuked Japan. The message was clear: even the children of Japan were not truly civilians to be mourned, but genuine military targets whose incineration was entirely justified.

My rejection of this notion of distinctions among civilians can get no better support than its obvious similarity to Alan Dershowitz’s ”continuum of civilianality”, one of his most morally reprehensible concepts, a remarkable distinction considering the voluminous competition. Dershowitz seeks to rationalize Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian civilians by minimizing the number of people who qualify for civilianhood based on criteria that are not that different from those listed above. Palestinians under the age of four are certainly deemed genuine civilians, although their deaths are excusable because the Hamas baddies hoist them up with their left hand while firing rockets and rifles with their right. (About the only value in Dershowitz’s continuum is that it gave rise to this brilliantly witty evisceration of the doctrine.) Dershowitz goes to great lengths to make distinctions between different kinds of Palestinian civilians, but of course he would never apply his analysis to Israelis, all of whom are deemed pure-as-driven-snow civilians unless engaged in active combat. Shouldn’t we avoid engaging in a reciprocal double standard?

I am certainly not saying that force may not be used to compel settlers to comply with international law, or even a common international consensus on resolving the dispute. I have no doubt that a great deal of force eventually will be required, especially on the most intransigent settlers who would neither move nor accept any Palestinian jurisdiction (see Phil’s post about I.F. Stone). What I object to is indiscriminate lethal force decided upon in secret by people self-appointed to assume the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. I see no obligation to support such a travesty, or even to refrain from condemnation.

167 Responses

  1. Taxi
    September 7, 2010, 10:21 pm

    Categorically, and according to international law, all settlers are committing a crime when colonizing by force of arms, land that does not belong to them.

    People who commit crimes are known as criminals. No exceptions here to this definition. All settlers therefore are criminals capitalizing on their government’s criminal and predatory policies. No exceptions here either. And if some settlers are there through innocent ignorance, then any court of law worth it’s salt will remind them that ‘Ignorance of the law is no defense’.

    There are several dubious points you make, David, which I don’t have time to address tonight. Maybe tomorrow? Maybe not…

    Cuz I also gotta say here, David, that I’m beginning to think you like the sound of your own voice when you seem to be getting so fixated on the settler killings while the real gritty world of occupation is still breaking Gaza’s bones and Palestinians are still traumatized and dying.

    How many more essays are you gonna publish on this topic? You gotta be careful or you’re gonna start sounding like a warped EP that’s been standing out in the sun for too long.

    • Walid
      September 8, 2010, 12:19 am

      Taxi, 7 months back, Kramer at the annual Herzliya ” how to efficiently kill Palestinians ” convention argued that too many children leads to too many “superfluous young men” who then become violent radicals and to remedy this, he proposed that the number of Palestinian children born in the Gaza Strip should be deliberately curbed by starving Gaza’s population. Of course, we were all shocked by these declarations but saying here that an open season should be declared on all Israeli settlers because they are squatting is not very different from what Kramer suggested doing to Gaza’s population. The root of the problem is not with the settlers but with Israel itself that has planted them there and maintains them there and for us to continue concentrating on the settlers, we are helping Israel get away with its super crime. While you are focused on the presence of the half-million settlers that aren’t going anywhere, Netanyahu is doing a vaseline job to get Israel declared a Jewish state by Abbas and this would dispossess an additional Palestinians that currently have an Israeli citizenship. We are all losing sight of the big picture of what is going on and sending a message to Palestinians that it’s OK to kill settlers will only accelerate what Netanyahu is really after.

      • Walid
        September 8, 2010, 12:22 am

        * an additional million Palestinians that currently have an Israeli citizenship.

      • Taxi
        September 8, 2010, 9:26 am

        Walid,

        International law gives any occupied people the right to resist – it’s THEIR right, not mine and not yours either: the non-occupied. Meaning: the world’s nations, including israel as it is a signatory to the UN charter, have already sanctioned the occupied Palestinians to use violence at their own discretion against home-invaders and land-thieves, hence the settlements and the mal-intending settlers who live there.

        And how do you know the settlements aren’t “going anywhere”? You gotta crystal ball into the future or something? You think bricks and mortal are like diamonds that ‘last forever’? You don’t think war is still coming despite the stupid sham peace talks taking place? You don’t think the region is still frantically preparing for the big bust up while here in the west we’re being ‘distracted’ with the one-eyed circus freaks at the peace table?

        Cuz I can tell you this, Walid, soon as the shit hits the fan, and it will, those illegal settlements, ALL of them inside the ’67 borders, are gonna be first and prime targets for Hamas, Fatah, Hizbollah, Syria and possibly even other militant factions from Jordan, from the Egyptian brotherhood and conceivably even Iran. And guess what, the settlements are gonna be ‘legitimate’ targets, by international law, whether people in the west like it or not.

        For sure don’t be confused about this one essential fact: the continuing land theft is NOT because of Palestinian violence – but Palestinian violence IS because of the expanding occupation. That’s how it’s been working since ’67, Walid. And at this stage of the game, the eleventh hour, I personally would not presume to tell the Palestinians ‘how’ they should go about their liberation business.

        But you go ahead, Walid, see if your ‘moral’ guns can get them liberated.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 7:29 am

      Taxi, I disagree with you on a lot of things, but I have to say I expected criticism about harping on this issue too long, and to a certain extent, I deserve it. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I did not intend to do so, that I submitted this essay a day or two ago as a response to comments raised in a prior post, way before the extended discussion yesterday on Max Ajl’s post. But you’re right. By now, it is a little unseemly to devote so much time to this topic, and I thought so even before I saw your comment.

      • Taxi
        September 8, 2010, 9:39 am

        Yeah a small prodding thought told me last night that it’s probably an editorial set-up. I shoulda probably included mentioning this in my post to you last night, David.

        It’s not that I don’t think this topic is of value, it’s just that I think that other issues are pressing, grinding down and suffocating the Palestinians, nay in fact killing them. I find it an indulgence and a wasteful distraction to talk about morality when people are dying or are about to die.

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 11:20 am

        He’s not right. He’s taking a cheap shot. It’s appropriate to write about it because people keep arguing about it and it’s an important issue to discuss, even if it appears we’re not going to reach a consensus.

        I agree with most of your post, David, except that as Chaos points out below, I think you were a little too soft on settlers who go around carrying weapons. It’s not at all obvious that they necessarily do this for self-defense and in the most extreme cases, it seems more like provocation to me. That still wouldn’t justify shooting them unless they were actually engaged in violence at the time. (Though if they were known to have done so previously, I wouldn’t be too hard on a Palestinian who took revenge, supposing I were on a jury.) \

        Morality aside, the notion that we shouldn’t also criticize atrocities committed by the oppressed simply doesn’t work–that is, if you adopt the view that we should only criticize our own crimes, inevitably you’ll find yourself dismissed as an ideologue who only cares about murder depending on who the perpetrator is. (And unfortunately, in some cases this might even be true). I take Orwell’s essay “Notes on Nationalism” as a sort of challenge not to become the sort of leftist (or rightist or Zionist or anythingist) that he describes.

      • Taxi
        September 8, 2010, 12:40 pm

        “He’s not right. He’s taking a cheap shot”.

        Hey waita minute there, Donald: the guy David actually agrees with me on this one point and you wanna call it a “cheap shot”?

        Well thanks for your valuable contribution Mr. Classy. Your continuing personal digs at me are getting really pathetic. Your pompous self-appointment as the site’s moral dictator/director/arbiter is nothing short of triple-pathetic.

      • Avi
        September 8, 2010, 7:02 pm

        I think you were a little too soft on settlers who go around carrying weapons. It’s not at all obvious that they necessarily do this for self-defense and in the most extreme cases, it seems more like provocation to me.

        Actually, the settlers carry their weapons around and often use them to do far more than just “provoke”.

        When Palestinians harvest their olive trees, settlers usually go around spilling the Palestinian’s produce, damaging it and burning trees. The guns come in handy throughout such incidence. They allow the colonists to carry out their crimes unchallenged.

        Now that you bring this up, it seems to me that many who pontificate on this website with their moral platitudes and purity of arms don’t know — or perhaps — forget that the colonists in Hebron often break into someone’s home, threaten the Palestinians inside, shoot a few, beat up others and then manage to take over that house thanks to their guns and rifles.

        So, the bottom line is that the colonists carry their weapons around with them, and often walk in groups, and travel in packs because they behave like the KKK, as they set out to patrol the streets and harass or shoot Palestinians.

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 7:59 pm

        “Well thanks for your valuable contribution Mr. Classy. Your continuing personal digs at me are getting really pathetic. Your pompous self-appointment as the site’s moral dictator/director/arbiter is nothing short of triple-pathetic.”

        You’re welcome.

        I think David’s latest post needed some criticism, but the issue is a very important one that shouldn’t be trivialized by saying David likes to listen to his own voice. It’s important even if he feels self-conscious about the amount he’s written on it. His feelings of self-consciousness do him credit, but the issue is important whether or not he feels he has said too much. We don’t have a consensus on this here and it’s something that should be thrashed out, even if we don’t reach a consensus.

        The issue is to what extent are people supposed to keep quiet when a resistance movement murder civilians and it’s a perennial one that has popped up time and again for as long as Western imperialists have tried to seize land from its owners. I don’t think it’s helpful to keep quiet. There’s no reason not to stick to general moral principles, for all sorts of reasons. I’ll list a few–

        1. If it’s wrong to kill people in cold blood, then it’s never wrong to say so.
        2. If we don’t criticize the act of murder , it detracts from the message, which is that we oppose murder in general and it is the Israeli side which is committing most of the crimes. Why weaken the moral position by appearing to be the sort of person who only cares about murder when it is committed by one side?
        Ideologues of that sort are a dime a dozen and what they do best is offer nice fat targets for the opposing side to discredit their arguments.
        3. Rationalizing acts of cold-blooded murder never ends well. It’s all well and good to talk about liberation “by any means necessary”, a phrase beloved on the internet, but look at the history of 20th century liberation movements and the sorts of governments they produce and it’s not a pretty picture. You get people who think it’s okay to murder someone in cold blood for “the cause” and you end up with a government that thinks it’s okay to murder people (sometimes one’s own people) for “the cause”. Why not? If you can justify shooting a pregnant woman in cold blood, you can damn well justify anything. This psychology applies to imperialists, anti-imperialists, believers in almost any cause. Humans are really great at explaining why the murders of their tribe aren’t really murders.

        For that matter, Zionism is a liberation movement where people killed innocent people for the glorious cause and it has poisoned their society for 60 years.

        4. It is possible to criticize acts of resistance in a nuanced way–it’s difficult and people make mistakes in one direction or the other (I think David did in his post here, but he recognizes it), but it can be done. In this case we should be able to describe the settlers as criminals (the adult ones, that is), and the Hebron settlers as the worst of the worst and still argue that shooting them down in cold blood is wrong. (Shooting them in self-defense as they engage in violence is a different story).

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 8:44 pm

        “For that matter, Zionism is a liberation movement where people killed innocent people for the glorious cause and it has poisoned their society for 60 years.”

        Having seen how this thread is going, I better expand on this or someone will probably think I am defending Zionism here. (Weirder things have happened at this website.) I don’t think that the dream of a Jewish state in the Middle East could have been realized without murder and ethnic cleansing. The dream was tainted from the start. (Leaving aside people like Judah Magnes, who as best I can tell didn’t want a Jewish state, but a place where Jews and Arabs could live together in peace and equality.)

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 8:50 pm

        “ravel in packs because they behave like the KKK, as they set out to patrol the streets and harass or shoot Palestinians.”

        The KKK analogy is a good one and I’ve been wondering what I would have thought if some black Mississippian in 1965 had shot some Klansmen and their wives. I’d have condemned it, but with nuance, so to speak. That is, there’s a context here that it would be immoral to ignore.

        Though no black man in Mississippi would have done such a thing, knowing his death and maybe those of family members would be an almost sure thing (or if not his death, then someone else’s).

      • Taxi
        September 8, 2010, 9:12 pm

        Donald,

        Spare me oh please another one of your unoriginal and sanctimonious lectures.

        You think I got any interest or sympathy for colonialists and their families?!

        I’m aligned with Seham on this one: I don’t care about the frigging settlers!

        Clearly, absolutely and forever: amen!

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 9:40 pm

        “Spare me oh please another one of your unoriginal and sanctimonious lectures.”

        It’s definitely unoriginal. Orwell said it much better in “Notes on Nationalism” and various other essays. It needs a bit of updating, but once you’ve read that one it should immunize a person from falling for the kind of anti-human nonsense that condemns one set of murders and ignores or justifies another.

        “You think I got any interest or sympathy for colonialists and their families?!”

        And their families. Gotcha.

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 9:51 pm

        Notes on Nationalism

        The fact that I’m recommending it probably poisons its value for Taxi, but it’s one of the greatest essays ever written on politics, human rights and hypocrisy.

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 10:07 pm

        Donald, thanks for the support, and even though I expressed some agreement with Taxi on my over-writing, your contribution here is much appreciated. In fact, I generally love reading your very thoughtful comments. Taxi did provide the laugh of the day, however, calling you “sanctimonious.”

        I think one of the problems here is that I (and somehow you as well) am seen as sympathetic to the settlers. Not at all. I can condemn the murders without being sympathetic to the victims. I’m not sympathetic to rapists but I would hate to see them murdered in prison. Yet that strain seems to run through this whole debate.

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 10:20 pm

        Thanks David. With all the history of the 20th century to look at, I would think people would realize what comes from terrorist methods even when they work–you generally get a government whose officials think ruthlessness was justified because it was successful, and will not hesitate to use those methods again, against others or against their own dissidents.

      • Taxi
        September 9, 2010, 6:44 am

        “Gotcha”.

        Really?

        I don’t think so, mate!

        You’re smartassing long-windedly, again.

      • Taxi
        September 9, 2010, 6:55 am

        “Taxi did provide the laugh of the day, however, calling you “sanctimonious”.

        You’re quite right there, David, my mistake – the word ‘sanctimonious’ actually fits you better than it fits that Donald guy. He’s in fact, a pseud.

      • Donald
        September 9, 2010, 9:37 am

        “Gotcha” just is a sarcastic term for “I understand”. Though it was a pretty revealing statement on your part.

      • Taxi
        September 9, 2010, 10:20 am

        Like I already said, Donald, you’re still puerile, still smarassing and you ain’t even good at it, not a clue about irony either.

  2. Ael
    September 7, 2010, 10:36 pm

    If you wander around with a weapon in occupied territory, then you would lawfully be considered a combatant.

    • Chaos4700
      September 7, 2010, 11:26 pm

      Actually, since they would be non-uniformed, the settlers would (by prevailing interpretations of international law) be considered unlawful enemy combatants — terrorists, basically.

      • Ael
        September 8, 2010, 11:40 am

        I won’t argue this point.
        My point was, however, to stress that an armed settler is not considered a “protected person” (i.e. civilian).

      • American
        September 8, 2010, 11:59 am

        ” the settlers would (by prevailing interpretations of international law) be considered unlawful enemy combatants — terrorists, basically.”

        Exactly right.
        That is how Israel regards all Palestines……..and they don’t distingush between those armed and not armed.
        If a settler throws a rock, whether he’s 12 or 32, shoot him, that’s what Israel does.

    • Shingo
      September 8, 2010, 3:58 am

      If activists armed with sticks can be considered combatants or terrorists, then surely so can illegal settlers armed with Uzis.

    • wondering jew
      September 8, 2010, 4:42 am

      If this is indeed a law, what is the name of the law book and under what section is this law?

      • potsherd
        September 8, 2010, 8:46 am

        The Geneva conventions, which have the force of law that all treaties do.

        The Palestinians, as the occupied people, have rights to armed resistance that the illegal occupying population does not.

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 8:55 am

        Furthermore, the same Geneva Conventions make it a crime for Israel to transfer its civilian population to occupied territory, and to force the population of said occupied territory out of their homes. And, the same treaty obligations make the siege illegal, since as the occupying power, Israel is responsible for tending to the essential needs of the occupied population for as long as the occupy any portion of Palestinian territory.

      • wondering jew
        September 8, 2010, 10:00 am

        potsherd- Geneva convention, thank you, a good starting spot. But it’s lengthy. If you would be so kind as to direct me to the article that states the “right to armed resistance”. If there is any article that states that civilians who don’t belong there have forfeited their civilian status, that would be appreciated as well. If there is any article that states that civilians who are carrying weapons have forfeited their civilian status, that would be appreciated as well.

      • hophmi
        September 8, 2010, 10:54 am

        There is no question that the “settlers” are civilians under international law, and no question that their shooting was an act of indiscriminate targeting, and thus terrorism. There is no reasonable debate to be had on this topic except a partisan political one.

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 12:32 pm

        So wait a minute. When Palestinians are guilty of indiscriminate targeting, that’s “terrorism.” But when the IDF is guilty of indiscriminate targeting — in Gaza, in Lebanon, just to name a few, and on an order of magnitude greater by about three degrees, compared to Hamas — that’s “self defense?”

        And so now the excuse for not knowing the Geneva Conventions is it’s too long to read?!

      • potsherd
        September 8, 2010, 8:35 pm

        Funny, I see a lot of questions about this. Maybe hophmi just doesn’t know how to hear them.

      • Shingo
        September 8, 2010, 8:53 pm

        Homphi seems to be adopting the typical hit and run strategy of posting, then running away.

        He’s clearly not interested in a debate.

  3. Seham
    September 7, 2010, 10:46 pm

    “Are the settlers civilians?”

    No, they are not. They are armed hoodlums that act out violently everywhere that they are with the full support of the Israeli military. How many Israeli settlements have detention centers in them by the way? These settlements are military outposts, the settlers living inside of them are armed and they TERRORIZE the civilian Palestinian population who are at the mercy of them and the IOF that aids and abets the settlers in all of their crimes. To pretend like they are anything else is absurd! If someone came to your town, kicked people off their land, patrolled the streets with machine guns and had the full support of the government and local police force, I doubt you would call them “civilians.”

    • Richard Witty
      September 8, 2010, 3:44 pm

      You might not currently think of them as civilians, but they are civilians.

      Thats if you are interested in international law.

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 7:48 pm

        We already know you aren’t, Witty. You’re a vocal supporter of the presence of IDF soldiers and the apartheid wall in the West Bank, the crippling siege on Gaza and the categorical denial of Palestinian right of return.

      • Shingo
        September 8, 2010, 9:05 pm

        “Thats if you are interested in international law.”

        Isn’t international law supposed to be in quotes Witty? You know, vague with a statute of limitations and all that?

    • tommy
      September 8, 2010, 9:18 pm

      State backed vigilantes who use US arms to terrorize Palestinians off their land so they can live on it and annex it to Israel might be one way to describe the people unfortunately killed recently. Usually such armed vigilantes are terrorists or insurgents, but when they claim backing by a state that exports its state police apparatus to the acquired territory and nationalizes it, they are somehow given civilian protections. Certainly the victims should not have been killed, but certainly they should not have been allowed to settle outside of Israeli borders because of the force used by the state of Israel to claim their settlement.That is where the real crime occurs. These people would be alive if they were not encouraged by the Israeli nationalists to become aggressive vigilantes and have their settlements subsidized by US aid.

  4. Bumblebye
    September 7, 2010, 10:51 pm

    If you’re using age, and the children of these judeosupremacist paramilitary thieving settlers are receiving instruction from parents, schools, religious leaders, their media and everything and everyone around them as to their “entitlement”, then by the same token many of those who grew up from an early age in 1933 Hiltler Germany and were force-fed Nazism are less blameworthy for their actions and loyalty to it? Perhaps they become less innocent at the age when they enjoy participating in the brutalisation of their Palestinian neighbors, as instructed, shown and encouraged by the mothers in Hebron?

    It has not been revealed, and may never be, whether there were weapons in the car, but you cannot state either that they were there for “defensive purposes”. They might simply carry them about with them at all times, often using them offensively as a tool of intimidation while vandalising property and crops, or beating a Palestinian or two as and when they feel like it. Maybe they had earlier that day!

    “They Were Settlers” – no, they were criminal trespassers.

    Why do you assume the gunmen knew so little? Could their organisation not be sophisticated enough to collect evidence about people and vehicles, and maybe have known that this particular vehicle belonged to/was used by people who regularly carried out unprovoked racist attacks on Palestinians and their property? Chosing a criminal lifestyle, no matter how one dresses it up, carries risks. In this case, they faced no risks of being brought to justice because a criminal government rules the land. I consider their deaths to be “blowback”, or “collateral damage”. I don’t approve and I can’t condemn the gunmen’s actions.

    “indiscriminate”. You state that as if it is a fact. You don’t know.

    No, they were not “civilians”.

  5. ehrens
    September 7, 2010, 10:56 pm

    The Baruch Goldsteins of Hebron are irregulars of an occupying force, a highly armed militia. They don’t even live in their own country. They work relatively unmolested by the IDF, and are violent enough to require UN and NGO observers in the area. They happen to drag their children into harm’s way, but how can they be reasonably considered mere civilians?

  6. Keith
    September 7, 2010, 10:59 pm

    DAVID SAMEL- You are a lawyer. You are aware of the importance of words, their meaning and implication. You ask the question: “Are the settlers civilians?” We all know the answer to that, don’t we? Of course “settlers” are civilians. If they weren’t, they would be called something else, wouldn’t they? Yet, you continue to refer to these armed occupiers (armed colonists?) as settlers. Perhaps they were carrying their weapons at the time, perhaps not. Had they personally engaged in harassment and/or terrorism? Maybe yes, maybe no. None can doubt, however, that they were an integral part of the occupation and ongoing ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. One can argue as to the morality and appropriateness of their killing while nonetheless accurately describing who they are and what they are doing in the OCCUPIED TERRITORIES, however, you continue to choose to misrepresent them as benign “settlers.” Why is that?

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 7:32 am

      Yes, I continue to call them “settlers” in conformance with csommon parlance, but no, I don’t consider them the least bit “benign.” I do have misgivings about the title of the article, which should have been something like “Are the settlers fair targets for execution?” That’s really what the article is about.

      • Ael
        September 8, 2010, 11:47 am

        Given that a person is a combatant in a zone of armed conflict, it is considered lawful for the other side to kill them. Killing them would be considered an “ambush” if they were given no opportunity to shoot back.
        It would not be “execution”.

        Of course, if they were taken prisoner before being killed, then the situation changes and then killing them would be properly considered executions.

      • Avi
        September 8, 2010, 7:08 pm

        Yes, I continue to call them “settlers” in conformance with common parlance, but no, I don’t consider them the least bit “benign.” I do

        I never thought I’d hear this from you, but I can’t say I’m shocked.

        “Common parlance”? Are you **** kidding me? That common parlance came about as a result of Israeli hasbara. It’s a euphemism for colonist.

        If you refuse to call them that, then I must say, I have no respect for you anymore. None. And your arguments ring hollow at this point.

        “Are the settlers fair targets for execution?”

        It’s interesting that you don’t use “common parlance” for this attack, but somehow, when it comes to “settlers”, you’re sticking common parlance.

        You know, I have always had some apprehension about you and now you confirm many of my suspicions. Thanks for revealing your true face.

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 8:09 pm

        It’s odd that anyone would think “settler” had a benevolent sound to it, because Americans for a couple of generations now have realized that the “settlers” in our own history were thieves settling on someone else’s land. Sure, the word probably started out as a propaganda term in our history, but everyone knows the truth now. If the Israeli hasbarists think “settler” sounds benign, it’s because they are clueless racists like Benny Morris, who defended Israeli colonization and ethnic cleansing by pointing to American history as a moral precedent.

        I think I’ve also seen the term “settler society” and “settler colonialism”–here’s a wikipedia link that is relevant here.

        link

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 9:43 pm

        Forgot to include the point–I don’t think David was using the word “settler” in a benign approving way–in fact, he says they’re not benign right there in what you quote.

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 10:02 pm

        Jeez, Avi, take a chill pill. I don’t call them settlers to conceal the fact that their entire life is an illegal theft, or that they engage in monstrous activities. Most of the people on this site call them settlers, even if they hate them. I’m not opposed to Keith’s suggestion of “paramilitary occupiers,” and if it catches on, fine. Now, I don’t think it’s necessary to seek an alternative to settlers.

        On the other hand, you prefer colonists. Really! You want to compare the settlers to the Founding Fathers! That’s it. I’ve lost all respect for you. All! Avi: “The settlers are the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers.” OK, not an exact quote, but an accurate paraphrase. I’m totally disgusted!

        No, Avi, I’m not trying to make you laugh, or regain your respect, if I ever had any from you. I really don’t care. Why don’t you revert to saying in every comment: “I wonder how David Samel will defend this or that horror.” Remember those days? I thought we had buried the hatchet, but you apparently have been waiting for an opportunity to go on another vendetta. Whatever turns you on.

      • Avi
        September 8, 2010, 11:28 pm

        No, Avi, I’m not trying to make you laugh, or regain your respect, if I ever had any from you. I really don’t care. Why don’t you revert to saying in every comment: “I wonder how David Samel will defend this or that horror.” Remember those days? I thought we had buried the hatchet, but you apparently have been waiting for an opportunity to go on another vendetta. Whatever turns you on.

        OK, let’s get serious here.

        1. You wrote that in “common parlance” they are called “settlers”, so you opted for that term. OK. That’s an explanation, but it doesn’t mesh with your entire argument regarding this attack. That is to say that for someone like you to go and make such a compelling argument and then trip over such a simple and ridiculous use of terminology is a bit strange. It’s strange because you then go on and opine that you would have preferred the title to include the word “assassination”. So you have the creativity to come up with your own definitions and your own descriptions of certain acts, but somehow when it comes to “settlements”, you just follow the herd. Honest mistake? Perhaps. But, it doesn’t look good.

        2. Of course I had respect for you, what did you think? Did you think I was paying you lip service when I commended you on the good articles you wrote?

        3. What really broke the camel’s back today, was the fact that you used the term “retarded”, and when I brought it to your attentions you didn’t bother to acknowledge that. What was I supposed to think at that point, that you take such criticism seriously? No. You might as well have written: “Why is this guy bugging me about these “retards”? Who cares., that’s not the topic of discussion here After all, at the core of this entire debate about this attack on the colonists is the issue of denunciation. Silence is equivalent to approval. Isn’t that one of the issues we’ve discussed on this site over the last few days? Now do you see my perspective?

        Besides, who uses that term these days, anyway? I feel strongly about that issue because I’ve worked with such children in the past and understand quite well what they go through in their daily struggles. It’s no small feat, however marginal or trivial an issue one may think it is.

        In fact, now that I write this, I realize that perhaps your use of certain terminology can be attributed to oversight on your part (e.g. “Retarded”, “Settlements”).

        Now, as an aside, do you really think that most people don’t understand the meaning of the terms colonist/colony? Israeli hasbara has gone as far as to call the colonies in East Jerusalem “neighborhoods”. So, you’ve put yourself in a tight spot because you insist on using “Settlers”, instead of “colonists”. Not only do words carry abstract meaning, but they carry with them connotations, feelings, collective memories.

        I appreciate you taking the time to write these articles and I realize that it’s possible that you did not have the time you would like to have had to write them. So if that’s the reason for this oversight, I understand. I honestly do. Otherwise, we’ve got a problem.

        As for Donald’s characterization of “settlements” as a “bad” word in the American context, I have to disagree with you there, Donald. K12 school books, coupled with all the mock “settlements” and historical sites throughout the US which paint the “settlers” as innocent farmers is quite contradictory to what the colonists in the occupied territories are doing.

        A visit to Williamsburg, VA, or Plymouth, MA won’t cause the average American to pause and think about the genocide of the Natives. The settlers, the pioneers, they are all described quite favorably in this modern American narrative. Sure, there’s the token oppressed Indian here and there, but by and large, settlers in this country are viewed as escaping persecution in Europe. That’s not a good context for what is taking place in the West Bank.

      • David Samel
        September 9, 2010, 8:10 am

        Avi, your explosion in anger over my use of the term settlers was inappropriate, to say the least. Your explanation is, at best, incomprehensible, and at times is subtly dishonest. Most people use the term settlers, even those who hate them so much they want to see them dead. Just look at the comments here.

        As for the term “retarded,” I am well aware that it is highly offensive to use the term inappropriately, as in “Don’t be retarded,” or “Did you see that? That was retarded.” It’s also highly inappropriate to use the term “retards.” I was not aware that there was such a consensus on not using the term “retarded” to actually describe people who suffer from a particular problem. If there is, and the term is anachronistic and offensive, I am truly sorry. You ask, “who uses that term these days, anyway? ” Yesterday, the New York Times did.
        link to nytimes.com. Wikipedia has an article on mental retardation. So I don’t know if the issue is as clear cut as you make it.

        Perhaps for that reason, you accuse me of much worse than I said: You might as well have written: “Why is this guy bugging me about these “retards”? . What a dishonest paraphrase of what I did say. That’s truly outrageous.

        You pull a similar stunt with settlers, noting Israel’s reference to E. Jerusalem “neighborhoods.” I didn’t use that term, and in fact when I referred to the number of settlers, I said 500,000, including the residents of those so-called “neighborhoods.” I don’t use the term “moderate physical pressure” to describe torture or “disputed territories” either. “Settlers” is not half-way to “neighborhoods.”

        We disagree on whether “settlers” has a better ring to it in the US than “colonists.” “Colonists” is a term that evokes Ben Franklin. While this may be an honest difference of opinion, your conclusion that I use the same term that most other people use out of a hidden agenda to portray them as benign is simply absurd. Lest there be any doubt, I have no sympathy for these people, even if I don’t think they are fair targets for murder. I condemn the choices all of them have made, and the virulent racism of a good percentage of them is nauseating. Many have committed serious crimes warranting severe prison sentences, and have gone unpunished. Nothing about my use of the term settlers suggests that I feel otherwise.

        If you want to lose all respect for people who use the term “settlers,” you’ll have very few people to respect on this site. And if your respect for me is so tenuous that you’d lose it all over a word like settlers, or even “retarded” (not “retards”), I won’t lose any sleep at night over your respect.

      • Donald
        September 9, 2010, 9:43 am

        “As for Donald’s characterization of “settlements” as a “bad” word in the American context, I have to disagree with you there, ”

        You’ve got a point, actually. Americans still engage in a fair amount of doublethink about our own history. That is, we know the settlers were part of a process of land theft and ethnic cleansing, but we often set that aside in glorifying our history. But I think that happens less. There was a book a few years ago about the Mayflower and the Pilgrims (by Nathaniel Philbrick, I think) popular enough to be seen in airport bookstores which was very honest about the treatment of the Native Americans. And my parents have this old book “Saints and Strangers” published around the 1940’s, I think, and even then it was surprisingly honest about the dark side of that portion of history or so I remember thinking when I read it.

        Anyway, I think people here, including David, can be trusted to know about the nasty connotations of that word “settler” and what it has really meant for the original inhabitants of whatever land Europeans choose to take over.

      • eljay
        September 9, 2010, 9:50 am

        >> And if your respect for me is so tenuous that you’d lose it all over a word like settlers, or even “retarded” (not “retards”) …

        I continue to be mystified by the anger being directed at you. None of your writings that I have read – and, admittedly, I haven’t read them all – indicate that you support Israel’s occupation and brutality, or the right of Palestinians to legitimate self-defense.

        Your use of the term “retarded” was non-derogatory, and your use of the word “settler” – for the sake of discussion, interchangeable with “colonist”, in my opinion – should have been a non-issue given that: i) respect-worthy people on this site (including you, in my opinion) have use “settler” without repercussion in the past; and ii) you have taken great pains in this thread and in others to indicate that you don’t approve of the illegality and brutality in which the settlers (generally speaking) engage.

        Just my peace-loving 2¢. :-)

      • David Samel
        September 9, 2010, 10:11 am

        The fact is, eljay, Avi often has very insightful observations to make, making it difficult to simply ignore him over something like this. He has a much more intimate knowledge of Israeli society than I ever will have. But this anger did seem to come out of left field.

        I actually appreciated Keith’s discussion of terms, though I disagreed with the immediate necessity of avoiding the term “settler.” One could conceivably object to the term “citizens” applied to Israeli Jews on the ground that “ethno-religious preferred status residents” is more accurate; “citizens” implies equality with all other citizens, which is not the case. The other objectionable euphemisms for torture and the OPT that I mentioned should only be used derisively.

        And thanks for noticing that my harsh criticism of the killing of settlers did not defend their actions of life choices in the slightest.

      • eljay
        September 9, 2010, 10:22 am

        >> The fact is, eljay, Avi often has very insightful observations to make, making it difficult to simply ignore him over something like this. He has a much more intimate knowledge of Israeli society than I ever will have. But this anger did seem to come out of left field.

        Avi is one of the people I deem respect-worthy, but it doesn’t make his reaction to your use of the word any less puzzling. “Settler” can be used in many ways but, as you have applied it to Israeli settlers, I never got the sense that you were using it in an “approving” way.

        >> I actually appreciate d Keith’s discussion of terms …

        I agree with Keith, too, that a new and more appropriate term should be coined and forced into common usage. You agreed that you would adopt such a term if it existed. That makes sense. I would adopt that term, too. (Hell, if everyone were to stop using “settler” and to start using “colonist” exclusively, I would likely just start using that term.)

        >> And thanks for noticing that my harsh criticism of the killing of settlers did not defend their actions of life choices in the slightest.

        No sweat. That’s one of the things that makes the anger so puzzling.

      • Shmuel
        September 9, 2010, 12:10 pm

        “Common parlance”? Are you **** kidding me? That common parlance came about as a result of Israeli hasbara. It’s a euphemism for colonist.

        Avi,

        I really don’t understand where you’re coming from on this. The settlers themselves and Israeli hasbara in general have never liked the word “settler/settlement”, opting for such benign and even positive terms such as “residents of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria”. I don’t believe that the message conveyed by “colonists/colonies” is really that different, except in the sense that it is not the commonly-used term, and so might attract some attention.

        As you know, the currently derogative term “mitnahel/hitnahalut” (once considered positive – with biblical associations) is closer to “settler/settlement”, and the term preferred by the settlers and the propaganda machine “mityashev/yishuv” is closer to “colonist/colony” (moshavah – no negative connotation). Languages differ and times change, but “colony” is not a purely derogatory word in English either, even today.

        In a parallel post, Jeff Halper uses the s-word, as do Abunimah, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ilan Pappe and many others hardly suspect of Zionist sympathies. Calling terrorist land-thieves of the OPT (WB is also perfectly acceptable imho) “settlers” rather than “colonists” is really no indication of anything.

      • Avi
        September 9, 2010, 5:16 pm

        As you know, the currently derogative term “mitnahel/hitnahalut” (once considered positive – with biblical associations) is closer to “settler/settlement”, and the term preferred by the settlers and the propaganda machine “mityashev/yishuv” is closer to “colonist/colony” (moshavah – no negative connotation). Languages differ and times change, but “colony” is not a purely derogatory word in English either, even today.

        Shmuel,

        I’m not concerned with the Hebrew simply since it has no consequence in US political discourse. I think you’ll agree. What’s important here is the simple and basic distinction between “good” and “bad” as seen through the eyes of the US public. Words can have one meaning, but if the recipient or listener has his own prejudices and negative associations about that word, then the meaning is rendered irrelevant. This is were etymology and semiotics take on different significance. And that’s the thrust of my argument.

      • Shmuel
        September 10, 2010, 2:26 am

        Avi,

        The Hebrew was just an example of the fluidity of meaning. The thrust of my argument was in the rest of the comment.

        Does settler really have positive connotations in US discourse on I/P because of the signifier, or are any such positive connotations the result of ignorance of (or indifference to) the essence of the signified? Would Americans think any worse of the people of Ariel (or Yizhar or Ofra) if they were called colonists? That may be a matter of debate, but calling them settlers (a word strongly disliked by the Israeli establishment – I know because I’ve worked in English-language hasbara) is certainly no indication of sympathy or acceptance of Zionist discourse.

      • Avi
        September 10, 2010, 2:50 am

        David,

        I concede that I was quick to condemn and my reaction was rather impulsive. I agree.

        Regarding your response to my post above, I have one bone to pick with you. If you think that my explanation was incomprehensible or that it was subtly dishonest, it is merely due to the fact that you have pre-conceived notions about me.

        It has been my experience, that due to American exceptionalism, many Americans are often too judgmental of people they perceive as outsiders, or more specifically foreigners.
        As a result, they judge actions and behaviors through a prism of their own — often rigid — cultural norms. That is to say that any deviation from the cultural or social norms is judged negatively.

        For example, a person with a foreign accent, might be considered less trustworthy than an American born and raised person. I see that on a daily basis. Similarly, personal and social interactions require a certain code of conduct, should one deviate from this code, he or she will find themselves misunderstood, cast in a negative light and distrusted.

        And that’s what I feel when you claim that I am “subtly dishonest” in my response above. If you perceive my direct nature as some form of dishonesty, even when I try to be extremely direct and honest with you, then you have something to work on.

        As for the “retard” and “settler” issue, you’ve clarified your position and I understand your opinion. If you take anything from this exchange it’s that “colony” comes from “colonialism”. Colonialism is defined as the transfer of an occupying power’s citizenry to the occupied territory.

        Now, if I apologized for my attacking you, will you believe that it is genuine or are you going to dismiss it as dishonest?

      • Shmuel
        September 10, 2010, 8:34 am

        “colony” comes from “colonialism”

        In a rather self-referential, lefty, “pc” sort of way.

        For most USians (and I assume this discussion is about them), a colony is where the guys with the triangular hats who threw tea into Boston Harbo(u)r, rebelled against the British, rode at midnight and said cool things like “give me liberty or give me death” and “don’t tread on me”, lived. It also has something to do with a rather quaint style of architecture and design, bungalows and maybe penguins (for those who’ve seen The Movie).

        The word colony/colonist is far more Williamsburg (or Upper Canada, in parts north) than Belgian Congo. Of course, if we are talking about those who have read Edward Said, “settler” works just fine.

      • David Samel
        September 10, 2010, 9:44 am

        Avi, I said dishonest only because you suggested that my use of the word retarded implied I also would use the word retards. To me, retarded is tolerable, even if not universally accepted (and I should have avoided it, I think); “retards” is wholly unacceptable. You seemed to be accusing me of much greater insensitivity than I might have been guilty of. I have no trouble believing that your second thoughts are completely honest. Let’s forget it. I would ask you, though, to dispel your suspicions of me, whatever they may be. We may have occasional honest disagreements, and I am certainly not above being convinced that I am wrong, but I have no hidden agenda.

        I did find your anger incomprehensible, and your explanation for it a little too convoluted to follow. Perhaps I was just unwilling to give it any credence. Actually, your writing ordinarily is crystal clear and you have a much better command of English than many Americans. My second language is French, and I have the comprehension and ability of a 3 yr old. I don’t think the problem was due to any American exceptionalism, though.

        One place where your foreign-ness shows is in your preference for the word “colonist.” As Shmuel says, and I alluded to earlier with my references to the Founding Fathers and Ben Franklin, the word has a very positive connotation in the US. “The colonies” mean the 13 colonies, reflected in the 13 stripes on our flag, and the colonists were brave souls risking execution by hanging for the cause of freedom (including the freedom to brutalize the Native American population). For you and much of the rest of the world, “colonists” understandably evokes images of racist imperialism, but it’s just not a dirty word here.

  7. Avi
    September 7, 2010, 11:04 pm

    I’m learning more about myself than I am about others when I read these articles.

    Each time contributors post their articles, I find myself either agreeing with a portion of their argument, or finding a rebuttal in their article to another contributor’s argument.

    Each person makes a valid argument, some appeal to emotion, some appeal to logic and some appeal to morality and humanity.

    And each time, I find myself going through the motions of ‘calibrating’, if you will, my opinion on this topic as I search for a point of equilibrium.

    I think I have found that point. I strongly believe that it is morally righteous to aspire to be better than both Israel and the colonists and that which they both represent.

    From that perspective I think any person, certainly the Palestinians in this case, will emerge as the morally better persons.

    The following passage swayed me in that direction:

    an armed Israeli settler guarding teenagers out for a deliberately provocative hike shot to death a Palestinian they encountered. The victim’s sister hit the murderer in the head with a rock, leading to a melee in which several others, including an Israeli girl, were killed by the gunman. If the sister had had a gun, my guess is she would have used it rather than the rock, and I would have found no fault with her for doing so. Interestingly, some Palestinian villagers protected and sheltered the Israeli youth from the completely understandable rage of other Palestinians. Wasn’t this heroic rather than foolish [...]

    This isn’t the first time that Palestinians have shown such acts of moral courage and it isn’t the first time that I have learned from Palestinians what it means to be human and civilized. Unfortunately, this incident had slipped my mind, but when David brought it to the fore, I settled on an opinion. I do disagree, with David’s characterization of the act as, “heoric rather than foolish”. I think a more apt characterization would be that those Palestinians who protected the youth managed to rise above their justifiable anger and resentment for the colonists, rise up above their victimizers and do that which was morally sound, and right and humane.

    Hence, being honest with myself, I find myself condemning the attack, not only as a foolish strategic act, but more importantly as morally bankrupt.
    =================================

    On a completely unrelated matter, David, I take issue with your use of the term “retarded”. That term has so many negative connotations that it is extremely offensive to people with learning disabilities or those who have special needs.

  8. Chaos4700
    September 7, 2010, 11:34 pm

    This makes little sense to me. If they were armed, it seems it was purely for defensive purposes, as they were not engaged in any aggressive operation themselves.

    This flies completely in the face of prevailing testimonies of how settlers behave when they’re invading Palestinian land.

    Myself, I am inclined to agree with Taxi. Israeli settlers are criminals. While that by no means makes them subject to summary execution — make no mistake, what Hamas did was wrong — the Israeli government deliberately places those people there. They are, quite literally, human shields. Actual human shields, for Israeli soldiers in a vast ethnic cleansing enterprise cloaked in a self-perpetuating military occupation, as opposed to B.S. attempts to accuse Palestinians of being “human shields” just because they live underneath the bombs and mortars Israel drops on them on a weekly basis.

    I understand that you are trying to maintain a perspective here, but you’re letting Witty’s vapid propaganda get to you, Mr. Samel. Remember what he was saying during Operation Cast Lead, and then the lies he spouted in defiance of the Goldstone Report which he hasn’t even bothered to read? Remember how he toddled off on vacation while Israeli commandos were playing Black Beard on the Mavi Marmara? Remember how he’s been saying all along how violence against Palestinian civilians is justified?

    Your angst is misplaced.

    • David Samel
      September 9, 2010, 2:17 pm

      Chaos, sorry I did not reply earlier to this interesting comment. Regarding the settlers being armed, they are of course often armed for aggression, with intolerable results. In this instance, if they were armed, and I still don’t know if they were, they were riding in a car with weapons, presumably for defensive purposes. The fact that their entire lifestyle gives rise to the need to protect themselves like that is their fault, but the fact that they did carry arms, if that was a fact, but did not use them aggressively, does not add to their culpability. In other words, I don’t find it a factor in whether or not they should have been attacked.

      You say that “the Israeli government deliberately places those people there. They are, quite literally, human shields. Actual human shields, for Israeli soldiers in a vast ethnic cleansing enterprise cloaked in a self-perpetuating military occupation.” I don’t believe I’ve seen this analysis before, but I certainly had not thought of it myself. I think it is an excellent observation, and I absolutely join in your contempt for the Israeli “human shields” excuse as well.

      Finally, you are way off the mark in accusing me of letting Witty influence me. I usually skip over his comments, and respond to them on very infrequent occasions. You ask rhetorically if I remember when he said this or that, but the actual answer to those questions is no. If you want to disagree with me about something, that’s fine, but your suspicions are not accurate at all. My problem with Witty is that he often is difficult to understand, speaks in stream-of-consciousness style, and seems grossly out of touch. None of the other Zionists have this problem, and I don’t mind reading their comments. At least I know right away what they are saying. To tell you the truth, I find Max Ajl a little difficult to understand, but for completely different reasons. He is highly intelligent, and although I disagree with him on a lot of things, he is worth deciphering; Witty is not.

      And thanks for the respect in calling me Mr. Samel, but I do prefer David.

      • Bumblebye
        September 9, 2010, 3:19 pm

        You say the people in the car were armed “presumably for defensive purposes” while the gunmen, you’ve assumed elsewhere, carried out a random attack.

        Well I’ll make the presumption, again, that this was not a random attack, since it was carried out against the paramilitary “settlers” around Hebron, and may indeed have been more finely targetted than we can know. On that basis, their lifestyle and criminal behaviour very probably were a factor in the attack – and in the minds of the gunmen, in why their attack was warranted. Has there been any information released that supports the random / not random position?

      • Richard Witty
        September 9, 2010, 6:10 pm

        “Witty is not”.

        Then the majority of liberal Zionists, the majority of American Jews, are not.

  9. Seham
    September 7, 2010, 11:44 pm

    And lest anyone misunderstand, because I know it’s so easy to misunderstand us Arabs.

    I don’t condone any sort of vigilante violence against anyone, I don’t think people have the right to determine who lives and who dies, which is why I don’t believe in capital punishment. If a child molester, rapist, murderer gets executed I won’t go stand outside of San Quentin and protest and I won’t shed any tears for him. And if settlers get killed, I’m sorry, but I just don’t care! I don’t condone the act done against them, but considering that I think they’re criminals, I don’t care and I won’t condemn it. If you’re dumb enough to move into illegally occupied territory, especially a place where you know that 400 of you control the movement of over 150K Palestinians, and you get killed, it’s on you for being stupid enough to put yourself in that situation to being with. Ahh feels good to say that, though Phil will probably never ask me to contribute my feelings on anything again!

    • Shmuel
      September 8, 2010, 7:26 am

      Ahh feels good to say that, though Phil will probably never ask me to contribute my feelings on anything again!

      Seham,

      Why do you think that Phil would ever give up your valuable voice? The positions you have expressed in all of your posts and comments on this subject have been perfectly reasonable and not so distant from the views expressed by Samel and others, supposedly on the “other side” of the argument. Speaking for myself, I agree that the settlers are criminals, that they and their governments have placed them in harm’s way, that they should not be summarily executed and that Palestinians should not be expected to shed any tears or pressed to condemn the attack for which Hamas has taken credit. The entire game of insisting on one side constantly condemning any and every act of violence on its part, while the other side literally gets away with (mass) murder, is disgusting.

      Having said that, I see nothing wrong with David’s honest condemnation and attempt at moral consistency. I share it and believe that it is an important part of pro-Palestinian advocacy. If Palestinians so as well, great (and worthy of admiration), but I would certainly not “demand” it of them.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 7:45 am

      Seham, I don’t think you have anything to fear from Phil. In fact, I think I’m the one who overdid it, not you. Honestly, there is nothing in your comment that I find the least bit offensive. While defending the settlers ad nauseum from the death sentence that was meted out, I neglected to condemn them sufficiently for the evil they represent. Mea culpa.

      • Richard Witty
        September 8, 2010, 9:58 am

        Whereas I think ANY rationalization that settlers are fair game for vigilanteism is offensive.

        “If you are dumb enough to move into “illegally” occupied territory,..and you get killed, its on you for being stupid enough to put yourself in that situation to begin with”.

        That language is exactly the language that Jews in Rumania, Hungary were told by their fascist governments, even before the Nazis invaded.

        “You don’t belong here. You are not civilians. You are an invading army. You are fair game.”

        And, you don’t call that scary. Seham, really????

      • Richard Witty
        September 8, 2010, 10:09 am

        You are aware of the similarity of that statement to similar statements made by IDF about those that were “dumb enough” to attempt to work a field near the wall, or to fish near border of Gaza/Israel.

        What an inhumane statement that makes human beings just political pieces.

        What is your resistance for? What is your resistance to?

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 12:34 pm

        Witty, you were PERFECTLY fine when the IDF was killing Palestinian and Lebanese civilians by the hundreds.

        If you’re going to consider insisting that you find Palestinians scary, we’re all going to (very rightly) perceive it as pure racism.

      • Seham
        September 8, 2010, 12:52 pm

        Witty, I would appreciate for you to answer a question. If Palestinians killing colonists is terrorism because they included a pregnant woman and other people that you say were not armed. What then is the SPECIFIC TERMS YOU WOULD USE to describe what Israel did in Gaza and in Southern Lebanon. Specifically, I would like to know THE PRECISE AND SPECIFIC TERMS that you would use to describe these two events:

        Israel Kills 34 Kids in Qana
        link to counterpunch.org

        And

        Guardian investigation uncovers evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza
        link to guardian.co.uk

      • annie
        September 8, 2010, 4:05 pm

        That language is exactly the language that Jews in Rumania, Hungary were told by their fascist governments, even before the Nazis invaded.

        the language may be the same but the circumstances are completely different witty. jews were not illegally occupying rumania and hungary and evacuating the local population. your comment is disingenuous.

      • Chu
        September 8, 2010, 4:57 pm

        Scary? Lol! you need to get out a bit more.
        your comparison is bit of a stretch, richy.
        seriously. you need to think before you write.
        settlers are the aggressors, as are fascist government
        in your daft comparison.

        and find me a quote that parallels what she said.
        I bet you can’t…

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 8:12 pm

        Richard, are you seriously claiming that settlers on the West Bank are the same as innocent Jews in Eastern Europe? Can’t you oppose the killing of settlers without pretending that what they are doing is morally right?

      • Shingo
        September 8, 2010, 8:46 pm

        “Whereas I think ANY rationalization that settlers are fair game for vigilanteism is offensive.”

        Then why are you not offended that the rationalization that Palestinians are fair game for vigilanteism is offensive, especially seeing as they were pushed into Gaza and are imprisoned there?

        “That language is exactly the language that Jews in Rumania, Hungary were told by their fascist governments, even before the Nazis invaded.”

        Since when were Jews in Rumania, Hungary occupiers and building ilegal settlements on land they stole?

      • Shingo
        September 8, 2010, 8:50 pm

        “You are aware of the similarity of that statement to similar statements made by IDF about those that were “dumb enough” to attempt to work a field near the wall, or to fish near border of Gaza/Israel.”

        What similarity is that Witty? Those working field near the wall, or to fish near border of Gaza/Israel were on their side of the border were they not?

        Please explain the similarity?

        “What an inhumane statement that makes human beings just political pieces.”

        You mean like criticising the Palestinian in Gaza for not showing sufficient discipline, and refraining from responding, even after they were attacked Witty?

        You mean like arguing that Israeli violence in Gaza was justified because the IDF is the army of a state and Hamas is just a non state actor?

        “What is your resistance for? What is your resistance to?”

        Have you suddenly forgotten there is an occupation Witty?

      • Bumblebye
        September 8, 2010, 9:03 pm

        RW

        The Jews of Europe were nationals of their countries, citizens who bought and sold their properties in the normal way.

        Your pet Zio-invaders are more akin to “drive thru’ Vikings” taking over another’s land.

      • Richard Witty
        September 9, 2010, 5:14 am

        Seham,
        My sense of justice is primarily individual, NOT collective in orientation.

        An individual is determined to be a criminal based solely on their actions, and accountability is afforded to them based solely on their individual actions.

        NOT politically, not by member of a group, not by where they live, not that they are beneficiaries of wrongs committed by others.

        On your question “what specific terms would I use”.

        My first and continuing comment is that I do not know enough to declare “criminal”. I do know enough to declare at least “tragedy”. The articles that you presented described a tragedy, but used the language of criminal.

        Somebody did it, as somebody did the killings of the settler family. To be convicted as a criminal though REQUIRES causitive evidence, knowledge of context and actual action undertaken.

        Its possible that even in horrible tragedies, there may be no criminal, or the people punished are not them.

        It is obvious to me that the callousness towards the other, the willingness to see the other harmed grossly, is evident in all factions, in all Israeli parties, in all militant Palestinian parties.

        And, that is what I oppose, militancy, willingness to harm pretending to be “dissent”.

        I see that callousness originating not from the choice of which ideology or which community to defend and offend, but from the willingness at all to let ideology control the discussion.

        Political themes as “justice” rather than inter-personal and inter-community relations.

        When “the land is exclusively ours” stated by anyone dominates, rather than “we live together, lets do so kindly”, you get horrors, tragedies with dozens of perpetrators, some friends some enemies.

        The problem with militancy is that rather than stopping the trauma, the pain, militancy continues it.

        I don’t know what you do when no one listens to your tragedy.

        I do know that most are sympathetic to tragedy, and NOT sympathetic to where they are accused. Those that are accused feel threatened (in the case of Jews, survivors of considerable abuse, that is a reasonable reaction, an understandable over-reaction).

        To choose a political strategy that ignores observing that condition, is itself a failed approach, to not know your neighbor’s condition, to not know your enemy’s condition (if you would ever use that language).

        Last night at Rosh Hashona services, there were paragraphs that contain “protect us from our enemies, those that would do us harm”. I wish it was stated as “protect us from harm” simply, so that I was not asked in any way to think of another as an enemy.

        It conflicts with my basic understanding grossly. When I pray privately on this content at all, I pray “Bring me back to the determination to regard all with sympathy. And, yes, protect me and my family from harm.”

      • Richard Witty
        September 9, 2010, 5:31 am

        “If you’re going to consider insisting that you find Palestinians scary, we’re all going to (very rightly) perceive it as pure racism. ”

        I don’t find Palestinians or solidarity that speak to me respectfully to be scary in the slightest.

        You have illusions that your conclusions are “true” in the sense that they don’t bear criticism as to fact, significance, context, response.

        Insisting on politically correct interpretations literally excludes the vast majority that are simply motivated by sympathy and not ideology.

        Its a continuing tragedy for the Palestinians, that their own defenders harm their movement so profoundly.

      • Seham
        September 9, 2010, 10:28 am

        Wow Witty, you are much worse than I thought you were.

      • Chu
        September 9, 2010, 12:29 pm

        wow, are you really surprised at what he has to say? I think phil is to generous with him posting on this site. He’s a bigot and a thread hijacker 90 percent of the time, that dresses up in a hippy-persona to spout his canned zionist ideology.

      • Richard Witty
        September 9, 2010, 6:13 pm

        “much worse than you thought”.

        What specifically do you disagree with?

      • Seham
        September 8, 2010, 10:21 am

        David, you’re right of course. As a Palestinian though, it always seems as though people are much more willing and open to hearing the same exact sentiments expressed by Jews than by Arabs.

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 1:21 pm

        And you are right about that as well, Seham. I don’t concede that my ethnicity prevents me from expressing any point of view, but the fact that Arab voices on this conflict are deemed suspect, and Jewish voices more authoritative, must seem unbearable. In many ways, Arabs are the last remaining “legitimate” targets of racism.

    • thankgodimatheist
      September 8, 2010, 9:54 pm

      “I don’t condone the act done against them, but considering that I think they’re criminals, I don’t care and I won’t condemn it”

      Exactly my position..I don’t condone it but I wouldn’t waste a tear drop..I’m well too aware of the legendary sadism and cruelty those fat gangsters (I’ve noticed they’re often fat) are capable of..

  10. VR
    September 8, 2010, 12:00 am

    “Do we make allowances for those who are retarded or autistic?”

    You must be talking about the entire lot of paramilitary settlers in this sentence, correct? Mr. Samel you must have lost your mind in your drive to be the focal point of all that you deem “correct,” and have become an apologist for the occupation – whether by default or not matters little. I for one, appreciate how far you are going to reveal you hand and all those who agree with you (conscious or unconscious, it matters little – because a person who is shot by another cares little about whether the offender is awake or sleepwalking).

  11. Oscar Romero
    September 8, 2010, 12:03 am

    Settlers in the Hebron area are notoriously aggressive and combative. Armed with weapons and with a mission of taking and holding territory, in what sense would they not be considered as soldiers?

    • Chu
      September 8, 2010, 7:23 am

      Have we ever heard stories of dissent in these Settler camps? Jonestown had their share of people that feared the covenant they had entered, when they made their fateful trip to Guyana. I don’t think I’ve heard of any dissident (winter solider) settler group, that have realized they are wrong in their set of beliefs.

      • thankgodimatheist
        September 8, 2010, 11:26 pm

        “Have we ever heard stories of dissent in these Settler camps? ”

        Chu
        Not exactly dissent but some settlers/colonists trying to think outside the box (their claim) approached Palestinians in order to tell them (I’m paraphrasing) that since “they were destined to live together in Judea And Samaria (sic) in the future , they may well try to be good neighbours and understand each other..They did this in secret as they were afraid of the reaction of other virulent settlers. What deeply shocked me was what one woman said in this regard, something I wasn’t completely aware of..She said (I’m paraphrasing again) I know we’re doing this in contravention to our religious teachings which forbids us from showing mercy to them but I think in the end it’s more beneficial for both of us” !!
        What gutted me beyond the imaginable was that their famous sadism was nothing but some type of obedience to and compliance with some teachings they received!!

      • Chu
        September 9, 2010, 7:42 am

        Tgia, To think that the settlers will live with this sense of superiority above others for decades to come, is nauseating.
        And, realizing that this is part of their learned way of being, makes me feel little for any settler youth that may die in occupied territories by the hands of Palestinians.
        Israel has a long way to go to be part of a modern nation, if they allow cult members to wander around killing their neighbors and stealing their land. I think it’s why they are so concerned about their own legitimacy.

  12. lyn117
    September 8, 2010, 12:41 am

    Bear in mind that the reason originally given by Israel for building the settlements was “military necessity” – so yeah, the state of Israel uses the settlers, civilian or otherwise, as combatants.

    Moreover, they’re obviously guilty.

    As far as secretive organizations taking on the task of judge, jury and executioner, I totally agree. I also agree that the settler’s crime isn’t a capital offense.

    However, there isn’t any non-secretive organization who will arrest and try the settlers in a fair court, and apply appropriate punishment. Nor is there ever likely to be one. And while it’s true that they may have been misled by their government into thinking their actions are legal, the crime of helping conquest of territory by war and establishment of apartheid, and possibly assisting in ethnic cleansing is really a lot greater than what you make it out to be, and ignorance is no excuse.

    In the absence of fair courts and means of applying justice, I can’t 100% condemn attacks on settlers. Dershowitz uses his screwed up logic to rationalize aggression against innocent civilians, the attacks on the settlers were certainly condemnable, but nevertheless defensive in essence. Provide a just system first.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 1:59 pm

      You make some very good points, lyn, and I agree that I should have made more of the settlers’ “crime of helping conquest of territory by war and establishment of apartheid, and possibly assisting in ethnic cleansing.” In condemning the execution, I should have spent a little more time on their actual crimes as well.

    • marc b.
      September 8, 2010, 2:29 pm

      good call lyn. you more or less summarized a good portion of a book i read last year on the subject on the transformation of the OT. from a review of ‘hollow land’ by eyal weizman:

      In this journey from the deep subterranean spaces of the West Bank and Gaza to their militarized airspace, Eyal Weizman unravels Israel’s mechanisms of control and its transformation of the Occupied Territories into a theoretically constructed artifice, in which all natural and built features function as the weapons and ammunition with which the conflict is waged. Weizman traces the development of these ideas, from the influence of archaeology on urban planning, Ariel Sharon’s reconceptualization of military defense during the 1973 war, through the planning and architecture of the settlements, to contemporary Israeli discourse and practice of urban warfare and airborne targeted assassinations. In exploring Israel’s methods to transform the landscape and the built environment themselves into tools of domination and control, Hollow Land lays bare the political system at the heart of this complex and terrifying project of late-modern colonial occupation.

      not to get all french post-moderny, but the ‘settlers’, for lack of a better term, are one vector of force which has been consciously incorporated into the military structure of the OT, like so many jersey barriers, berms, or rolls of barbed wire, whether they consciously acknowledge it or not. that is the only point by which i can feel any sympathy for them, as secular politicians have exploited their religious fervor to achieve a cynical goal.

  13. khaled
    September 8, 2010, 12:44 am

    If armed resistance to any occupation (recent or not so recent) is legitimate, then it is fair to assume that the occupied territory is ‘battle field’. If we accept this argument it simplifies the analysis a bit. In a battle field, children should not be present. If you take you kid to a battle field, accept the risks. Collectively, the occupier nation is responsible for not permitting civilians in battle fields.
    If it relinquishes that responsibility, it is seems unreasonable to blame the resistance.

  14. alexno
    September 8, 2010, 4:02 am

    I can’t see the point of contorted special pleading for Israeli settlers. Nobody else gets the same delicacy of treatment.

    As for the arms being for self-defence, that’s a big joke. They have to defend themselves because they are committing a crime. Any reasonable person would want to stop them.

    Even the pregnant woman was knowingly taking part in the commission of a crime.

  15. mymarkx
    September 8, 2010, 4:05 am

    If “there are no civilians in a war zone,” and Israel considers the Palestinian territory it illegally occupies to be a war zone (an excuse it uses for killing peaceful protesters like Rachel Corrie), then nobody in such war zones, including settlers, is a civilian.

    • Ael
      September 8, 2010, 11:53 am

      War zones can and do have “protected persons” i.e. civilians.

      The Geneva Conventions have rules for how they should be treated.

  16. Shmuel
    September 8, 2010, 4:27 am

    Thanks David, for all the time and effort you are putting into this. I disagree that it is a distraction from the “real” issues, inasmuch as it pertains to the way in which we frame our advocacy.

    To cite another analogy, still the subject of considerable debate in Italy, the Foibe massacres of 1943-’49 involved the murder and expulsion of thousands of Italian civilians by Yugoslav partisans in the Istrian Peninsula. The arguments used by those who excuse or minimise the massacres are very similar to those raised here: The Italian population of Istria (including a large number of non-native settlers) was part of the mechanism of Fascist repression and forced Italianisation of the region. The Italian regime in Istria was extremely brutal (including the internment of Croats and Slovenes in horrific concentration camps), and it was largely maintained and supported by the local Italian, civilian population. Furthermore, Italian civilians often turned partisans in and thus posed a direct threat to Yugoslav resistance. The crimes committed by Italians and Germans were of a far greater magnitude – committed with no qualms whatsoever – and the partisans were engaged in a legitimate struggle for national liberation. All Italians not actively engaged in resistance (or victims of persecution) benefited from and bore responsibility for the actions of the Italian state, and so have no right to criticise those who fought against Italian repression. And so forth.

    There is no such thing as a clean war – even when the cause is just. Once licence is given for violence, it is inevitable that it will be abused and, all too often, liberators become as or more repressive than the tyrants they set out to defeat. One can recognise this fact without condoning it or dismissing criticism as hypocrisy or “giving comfort” to the enemy.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 7:59 am

      Shmuel, your story about post-war Italy/Yugoslavia is quite interesting, and a welcome distraction from the harsh criticism I’ve received, much of which I think was deserved. Of course, World War II stands out as an orgy of hatred and genocide, but there is much to learn about human nature from the numerous post-war retaliations, executions of collaborators, forcible population transfers, etc. I had never heard this particular story before.

      Norman Finkelstein has observed that upon the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah sought little or no revenge from the many who had collaborated with the Israelis, in contrast to the scene in post-war Europe.

      • MRW
        September 8, 2010, 9:12 am

        “I had never heard this particular story before.” [Yugoslav resistance.] I did. I grew up with children of these resistance fighters, whose parents only talked about it at the dinner table when grandma was sitting there (meaning they would not talk about it publicly…ever). I heard their stories when I stayed for dinner. Also what was done to the Greeks. Unbelievable brutality.

  17. Richard Witty
    September 8, 2010, 4:55 am

    “What I object to is indiscriminate lethal force decided upon in secret by people self-appointed to assume the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. I see no obligation to support such a travesty, or even to refrain from condemnation.”

    !!!!

    “All settlers therefore are criminals capitalizing on their government’s criminal and predatory policies. No exceptions here either. And if some settlers are there through innocent ignorance, then any court of law worth it’s salt will remind them that ‘Ignorance of the law is no defense’.”

    And you will impose or even accept the death penalty on an unwitting thief, and outside of the deliberation of a court of law, including the right of appeal.

    • Richard Witty
      September 8, 2010, 4:58 am

      The only valid basis of determination of criminality is accountability for one’s actions.

      The remediation for theft of land is either compensation or removal, and that after argument and verbal defense in a court of law to determine extent of title and appropriate remedy.

      The declaration “this is a state of war” is a bad precedent. It then INVITES the opponent to function under the same rules.

      It is not grey, it is distinct.

      • eljay
        September 8, 2010, 7:00 am

        >> The declaration “this is a state of war” is a bad precedent. It then INVITES the opponent to function under the same rules.

        Perhaps Israel shouldn’t be setting the precedent for violence, theft and oppression. It invites the Palestinians to function under the same rules.

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 9:01 am

        The declaration “this is a state of war” is a bad precedent.

        YOU were the one who insisted that the Israeli assaults on Lebanon and Gaza were justified because “Israel is under threat of war.” And now when it’s time for Palestinians to respond, suddenly Israel is not at war?

        Seriously. I think even John McCain has more moral consistency than you do, Witty.

      • Ael
        September 8, 2010, 11:59 am

        Like it or not, the occupied territories are governed by the laws of armed conflict (i.e. Geneva Conventions to which Israel is a signatory).

        Israel presently and in the past has failed to abide by these laws.
        Warning that Israel might actually start playing by those laws would not be much of a threat to the occupied Palestinians.

      • eljay
        September 8, 2010, 12:54 pm

        >> The only valid basis of determination of criminality is accountability for one’s actions.

        The only valid basis of determination of criminality is whether or not one (person or nation) has broken one or more laws. If the answer is ‘yes’, then one (person or nation) is held to account – that is to say, he (it) must face the consequences/punishment for his (its) criminal behaviour.

        Unfortunately, too many people and nations are able to exempt themselves from the processes which determine their criminality (even though the guilt is often blindingly obvious to the average person) and subsequently enforce their accountability.

    • Shingo
      September 8, 2010, 7:34 am

      “And you will impose or even accept the death penalty on an unwitting thief, and outside of the deliberation of a court of law, including the right of appeal.”

      There’s nothing unwitting about their theft Witty.

      “The only valid basis of determination of criminality is accountability for one’s actions.”

      But you reject accountability and the pursuit of justice, insisting that reconciliation will work all on its own.

      “The remediation for theft of land is either compensation or removal, and that after argument and verbal defense in a court of law to determine extent of title and appropriate remedy.”

      That’s a waster of time when one side controls the court fo law, and ignores international law.

    • Chaos4700
      September 8, 2010, 8:58 am

      “An unwitting thief?” Gee, Witty, are the Israeli settlers all lost? Do they need a map?

  18. MHughes976
    September 8, 2010, 6:56 am

    I don’t mind worrying away at this problem some more. I’ve not been applauding the killing of those particular settlers but I have been resisting the idea that it’s a clear and decisive fact that all – all – settlers are civilians. I agree with Taxi that we’re talking about people who are, in general, criminals.
    I’d put it to David that his analysis is defective in that it separates the fact that settlers are commonly armed from the fact that they’re in a place where they have no right to be. It’s the combination of these two facts that should be considered. Having a gun in my own house is one thing, being an armed intruder in someone else’s house is another (and a criminal) thing, and what goes for ‘house’ surely goes for ‘country’. An armed intruder with government protection is not, I agree, a member of the armed forces, but he is not more innocent and more protected than a soldier but less innocent and less protected: this follows from his being a criminal. So, since a civilian would indeed be more innocent and more protected, he is not a civilian. I’m not saying that anyone at all, even outright criminals, ought to be killed, but I don’t think that a blanket claim to civilian status, akin to what an America claims in America or a Belgian in Belgium, can validly be made for the whole group.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 7:37 am

      I agree with what you say, and am a little sheepish about how this essay looks right now. It was intended to answer some comments on a previous essay, now mostly forgotten, but as I replied to Keith, the question should be are the settlers fair game for killing, not whether they are innocent civilians. I completely agree that they are culpable, in varying degrees, of a terrible crime that is robbing another people of any chance of a decent life. My real point is that they do not deserve a death sentence.

      • Philip Munger
        September 8, 2010, 9:34 am

        the question should be are the settlers fair game for killing, not whether they are innocent civilians.

        I don’t think they are “fair game,” but has anyone attempted to define the situation in and around Hebron a “war zone”? If so, Col. “Yossi” seems to think the Hebron settlers may be legitimate targets. He testified Monday at the Rachel Corrie civil suit in Haifa:

        One of the witnesses, known to the court as Yossi, was a Colonel in the Engineering Corps. He was responsible for writing operating manuals for military bulldozers and other equipment. He also conducted a simulation of what the bulldozer driver would have been able to see. In his testimony:

        He repeatedly insisted that there are no civilians in a war zone. His assertion disregards the reality in the Palestinian Occupied Territories as well as international humanitarian law, which was created to protect civilians in armed conflict situations.

        Col. “Yossi” isn’t quite describing Corrie as fair game, but if one searches the comments belowTuesday’s Haaretz article on the impending release of Tom Hurndall’s killer, one reads the views of many who feel Hurndall certainly was “fair game” for being so bold as to protect the lives of Palestinian school kids in a “war zone.”

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 1:54 pm

        Philip, the animosity of many Israelis toward Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall is stomach-turning. Col. Yossi is not alone in manipulating terms like “war zone” and “armed conflict situation” to justify cold-blooded murder of civilians, in these cases heroes as well. As you imply, if such rationalizations were used against the Israelis, there would be little limit to the number of people who could be considered fair game.

        btw, and I don’t mean this as criticism of you, but I wonder how Palestinians feel about all the attention lavished upon these two foreigners (much needed attention, of course) while they as a community have suffered many thousands of times the casualties, with hardly a peep. I would think Rachel and Tom would be among the first to insist that these anonymous victims, and the crimes against them, be remembered as well.

      • Philip Munger
        September 8, 2010, 2:54 pm

        David,

        The question you raise is valid and important. Back in mid-2003, when I decided to create art about Corrie, I sought permission from hr family first, after selecting or soliciting lyrics. Then I ran the project by some Palestinian and Arab friends here and in the Seattle area. Almost universally, nobody objected to using Rachel Corrie’s death to bring attention to the rights of Palestinians. Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman, the creators of My Name is Rachel Corrie – along with Rachel Corrie herself – have described their experiences in the same realm. Over the past six years, I’ve made many Palestinian and Jewish friends around the world by concentrating on Rachel and Tom for one work of art.

        It is sad that Corrie and Hurndall and Tristan and Emily H and so on become solid icons, and so many Palestinians are simply lumped together as statistical iron.

      • rmokhtar
        September 8, 2010, 5:15 pm

        David,

        if Palestinian lives were equal to the lives of foreigners in the eyes of the international community, don’t you think that this conflict would have been resolved by now?

      • potsherd
        September 8, 2010, 5:25 pm

        There can be no sense in which Gaza is a “war zone” and the WB is not.

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 10:13 pm

        Excellent point, rmokhtar. And I think it is this inequality in value of human life that is the root of the entire conflict. It’s racism, and somehow Israeli PR has made it fashionable to continue to be racist against Arabs.

      • jimby
        September 8, 2010, 11:55 am

        Death sentences: Death is our lot, we do not know when or where. To take the life of another human being is a terrible thing. A few weeks ago there was the incident at the Lebanese border and Wondering Jew posited that the Israeli officer who was killed did not deserve to die and I wanted to say at that point that all will die. The terribleness is taken by the killer. After the Viet-Nam war we saw so many ex soldiers addicted to various substances because they couldn’t bear the reality of their actions. What the Israelis and their supporters need to realize is that their souls and sanity are at stake when they kill the Palestinians. America is sinking low as well with it’s wars.

      • Citizen
        September 8, 2010, 12:38 pm

        Yeah, and America’s private enterprize army is coming back with insanity from the experience. At least that part is all over the mainstream news.

      • alexno
        September 8, 2010, 12:07 pm

        I completely agree that they are culpable, in varying degrees, of a terrible crime that is robbing another people of any chance of a decent life. My real point is that they do not deserve a death sentence.

        This is genuinely bizarre, Mr. Samel. Both Israel and the US conduct “targetted killings”, that is, executions carried out without bothering about trivia such as a trial, the only evidence of guilt being in the minds of the persecutors. One can’t complain about Palestinians doing the same.

        As I said above, what makes it that Jewish Settlers have a right to better treatment than others?

      • eljay
        September 8, 2010, 12:26 pm

        >> Both Israel and the US conduct “targetted killings”, that is, executions carried out without bothering about trivia such as a trial, the only evidence of guilt being in the minds of the persecutors. One can’t complain about Palestinians doing the same.

        The crimes of others cannot and should not be used to justify one’s own crimes. Israel and the U.S. must be held accountable and punished for their crimes. Their misconduct is not an invitation for others to also dispense with justice and legalities and engage in the same kind of criminal behaviour.

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 12:40 pm

        This is genuinely bizarre, Mr. Samel. Both Israel and the US conduct “targetted killings”, that is, executions carried out without bothering about trivia such as a trial, the only evidence of guilt being in the minds of the persecutors. One can’t complain about Palestinians doing the same.

        I disagree with that sentiment only so far as it’s perfectly complain about both. Which we should do.

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 1:28 pm

        I could not disagree more, alexno. The US and Israeli policy of conducting targeted killings is deplorable, and you obviously agree with me. I do not see how you can defend anyone else’s use of such tactics by comparing it to something deplorable. Advocacy of targeted killings by Palestinians also acts to undermine condemnation of the US and Israel.

        In fact, this was not really a targeted killing. It was a random act against 4 of a population of 500,000. I actually would be a lot more understanding, at least to the point of not condemning but not supporting, of an actual assassination against a particular target.

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 1:59 pm

        So, you are a lot more understanding of the dozen Israeli agents who faked passports to get into Dubai, electrocuted a Palestinian and then smothered him to death with a pillow?

        See, this is the problem I have with all of this navel-gazing. Murder is wrong. So is land theft. So are pogroms. So is dropping bombs on schools. So is setting off a bomb in a pizza parlor.

        Seriously. What is there to talk about, here? In such a painful, protracted, torturous (no pun intended) way? It’s like Witty shot some kind of hypno-ray into Mondoweiss, and we have almost as many articles now agonizing over the murder of four Israelis as we do for the murder of 1,300 Palestinians.

      • Donald
        September 8, 2010, 8:22 pm

        The agonizing over this act is because

        A) Most of us, with the exception of RW and a few others, agree that the Gaza massacre was one long horrific and totally unjustifiable war crime. So there’s nothing to argue about there, except of course we jump on RW when he denies it. (Which is good practice, I think, since RW’s views are the same as most liberal Zionists).

        B) This is a very old debate, really. To what extent should people who oppose Western imperialism criticize brutal acts by resistance fighters. The four killed here are representative of the bigger issue.

        C) A lot of people were frustrated that this act of Hamas blurred the increasingly clear picture that was hard to deny even in the Western press–that Israel is the main villain here and furthermore, Hamas should not be excluded from any serious attempt at making peace. So I think the initial posts here included a lot of venting about that.

      • Chaos4700
        September 8, 2010, 9:35 pm

        Okay, fair enough, Donald. You are correct.

        I’m compelled to highlight:

        So there’s nothing to argue about there, except of course we jump on RW when he denies it. (Which is good practice, I think, since RW’s views are the same as most liberal Zionists).

        Now I think people are starting to understand why I don’t let up on Witty.

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 10:16 pm

        No, Chaos, I actually was thinking of Palestinians assassinating an Israeli Minister, as they did in E. Jerusalem a few years ago. I wasn’t defending the Dubai hit in the slightest.

  19. Chu
    September 8, 2010, 7:14 am

    David, I’ve read your previous comments on this and do you think your kinship to the settlers partly forms you point of view, although you recognize that some of the settlers are the worst racist and agitating elements of Israel society?

    “If we support or even excuse murder of settlers, what about Israeli Jewish citizens within the green line? There surely is something additionally nefarious about all settlers, but Jews who live within Israel proper enjoy special rights, privileges and status to them over their non-Jewish fellow citizens. “

    -Are you bringing up the issue of Israeli legitimization in general here? As the settlers are continuing to do the work that the nation of Israel has done since it inception; strip the Palestinians of everything they once had, and build the state of Israel. You could make the case that all Israelis are settlers at some point in history.

    But, I can see why the settlers are a sensitive topic, as one can believe they are just doing what their government encourages them to do. But they are much worse than that, as we’ve seen what they are capable of over the decades.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 1:36 pm

      Chu, I do have relatives within the green line but not settlers. And yes, I’m bringing up the issue of Israeli legitimization here. As we are all reminded by today’s post about memories of the Nakba, there was an original sin in Israel’s creation that is being maintained to this day, and will continue even in the unlikely event of a two-state solution. Settlers are clearly worse than other Israelis, and some settlers clearly worse than others, but all Israeli Jews enjoy an ethno-religious preference over people whose roots go back much farther. I don’t think it is a huge leap from considering all settlers to be appropriate targets for death to expanding that to all Israelis. And, as I said, what about Americans? It’s got to stop somewhere (targeting civilians), and I think it should never get started. It’s not that I excuse or sympathize with settlers in the slightest, only that I defend them from a death sentence.

      • Chu
        September 8, 2010, 2:08 pm

        Thanks David, read one of your comments this morning to someone else and realized this article posted a later than you expected.
        But I see your point and many have made similar points. Now that were all in agreement (lol!), we can all move on to bigger issues. :o

      • azythos
        September 8, 2010, 3:14 pm

        David – “It’s not that I excuse or sympathize with settlers in the slightest, only that I defend them from a death sentence.”

        Which is very hard to do with a status of ongoing war. In any ongoing war the responsibility of a potential death sentence on all its military, paramilitary and other occupation personnel rests squarely on the shoulders of the aggressor. Not only that, civilian damage during massive retaliations for similar acts by the aggressing power have also been considered kosher by the Allies in WWII, and that is still in the book.

        By not allowing the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, the Zionists complicate the problem even more: there cannot be anyone to grant them a peace treaty. Skipping the details, one can say that there is a highly plausible case to make that this is an active, never-called-off war started in November 1947, that the armistice lines with neighboring states are irrelevant, and that the self-proclaimed Settler State is putting all its citizens under the same potential death sentence, not just those outside the Green Line. It’s hard to see why the formal criteria should be any different from those we had during and after WWII.

      • potsherd
        September 8, 2010, 5:23 pm

        David – that is exactly why people make peace: so no one will be an appropriate target for death.

        The fact is that Israel considers its own citizens to possess impunity and is outraged when punity happens. But this is Israeli exceptionalism, not rational thought.

      • David Samel
        September 8, 2010, 10:17 pm

        Agree completely, potsherd.

      • Taxi
        September 9, 2010, 7:12 am

        “I do have relatives within the green line but not settlers”.

        What the heck does that mean?! Are they Palestinian or are they settlers? Cuz there ain’t a third type ‘living’ “within the green line”.

        Whatever your answer may be, clearly this is your blind spot. You’re catering for your relative’s safety “within the green line”, and not for true justice.

  20. Citizen
    September 8, 2010, 7:26 am

    Under Geneva principles, although the settlers are on the land illegally, this does not allow them to be attacked at will because they don’t lose the status of being civilians unless they change their status to being combatants. Going beyond this line in the sand means there are no lines in the sand, no laws of war. Do the settlers lose their civilian status if they are armed at the time and place in question? If, as Ael says, they are “wandering around with a weapon in occupied territory?” Assuming the settlers are wrong and its not their land to roam in at will because they are part of an illegal occupation also under international law by world consensus, do they still get to claim civilian status under international law? Yes. At least so long as what they are doing at the time and place in question is not initially engaging in combat; is at most, initiating self defense any civilian is allowed, anywhere. The confusion comes from situations where some settlers are proacting as combatants do amidst others who are acting and/or reacting as civilians do. Openly carrying lethal weapons may be a sign of reasonable fear or of impending criminal aggression on the part of the armed civilian(s). In the old Hollywood cowboy and Indian movies, the Conestoga settlers were not the US cavalry nor were they natives on the warpath, nor were they the native squaw and her kids back in their teepee. It appears in this instance some “bad Indians” murdered some “innocent settlers.” The audience watching in the 1950s while eating popcorn and drinking Coke could tell the difference between the good and bad characters, scene by scene, no matter which side they were on. Today, such movies are sappy cult movies because the audience is much more aware of the larger context never dwelled on by old Hollywood.

    • RoHa
      September 8, 2010, 8:49 pm

      As I understand it, under British Military Law*, one can be regarded as a combatant if one is “armed in the presence of the enemy”.

      Now the settlers clearly regard the Palestinians as the enemy, and they are celarly in the presence of said enemy, so the question which arises is that of being armed.

      (* And I am happy to be corrected on this point, since I have no expertise in the subject, or even a copy of “Military Law for Dummies”.)

  21. eljay
    September 8, 2010, 8:22 am

    >> My real point is that they do not deserve a death sentence.

    I think you made a valid point and made it eloquently. I believe you’ve been taken to task a little too much for it. I admire that you have taken the time to reflect upon your position in light of the comments that have been made about it. I respect your humility.

    And, while I’m not telling you what to do, I think you’ve done enough apologizing. ;-)

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 1:37 pm

      eljay, I’m terribly sorry if you think I apologized too much.

      • eljay
        September 8, 2010, 1:40 pm

        “Ehhhhhxcellent…” (said in a “Monty Burns” voice).

        :-)

  22. tommy
    September 8, 2010, 10:01 am

    ‘Settlers’ should be regarded as armed combatants. They are illegally acquiring Palestinian territory and building on it with the use of arms. Arms supplied as aid by the American people. These invaders should be designated combatants and they should be tried and imprisoned using the same laws that were used to sentence John Walker Lindh to federal prison for twenty years or using the same laws that have kept combatants imprisoned since the invasion of Afghanistan.

  23. Richard Witty
    September 8, 2010, 10:26 am

    link to haaretz.com

    Hamas warns PA: Stop arresting our people or we’ll strike

    Hamas on Wednesday warned that it would harm the Palestinian Authority if security forces continued to arrest its operatives in the West Bank.

    • Chaos4700
      September 8, 2010, 12:36 pm

      Great, so now the CAMERA spam starts. Why do you do this every time you lose an argument and get outed for being a hypocrite? You really think this is altogether that distracting?

    • annie
      September 8, 2010, 2:09 pm

      witty, you link is not telling the whole story. the pa has been rounding up members of hamas since the attack. it was widely reported after the first day they rounded up 250. today according to ma’an hamas says it has increased to 750 people. the week prior to the attack hamas affiliates announced (loudly w/strong condemnation) at their parliament they denounced the rounding up of 60 affiliates (seham posted it prior to the attack, it was not covered by press outside of palestine). remember this was before the attack, so this (rounding up) cannot be entirely attributed to the attack. this attack has facilitated an agenda that began prior to the attack and likely (in my estimation) could have contributed to the attack.

      given the response to hamas members being rounded up in 06 (attacks) i think it is quite predictable their will be retribution which begs the question ‘why round up all these people if one logically can predict a violent response?’

      and let me ask you, if it was inside israel and the government started massive arrests of the citizens do you think it would provoke a response? what about in the US? if the government rounded up tea party activists (pre emptive or hundreds after an attack by a few on civilians). what do you think the response would be?

      • Richard Witty
        September 9, 2010, 5:40 am

        Hard to argue with that assertion Annie, without clarifying details.

        Hamas is attempting to derail peace discussions because they are not at the table, by violence directed at civilians, that they can rationalize to the gullible are “combatants”.

        They are now threatening to kill Fatah members, widely.

        I would call that criminal as well. Don’t you?

        You do remember the dozens of times that many here declared that “Hamas does not have aggressive intentions. They have given up terror as means.”

  24. Richard Witty
    September 8, 2010, 10:30 am

    Of the primary parties that are leaders in Palestine, which of them regards settlers as combatants, fair game for murder, and which regard them as civilians that are beneficiaries of illegal state sponsored settlement?

    Hamas Enemy combatants obviously
    Fatah Civilian beneficiaries of illegal state sponsored settlement
    Barghoutis ?
    PFLP ?
    Islamic Jihad Enemy combatants likely

    What say you all?

    • Chaos4700
      September 8, 2010, 12:38 pm

      Nobody expects the Israeli Inquistion!!!

      Whatever, man. You called the murdered activists on the flotilla “militants” and you called us all “fascists” for trying to feed hungry Palestinians.

      You have absolutely no moral high ground, Cardinal Richilieu.

    • annie
      September 8, 2010, 1:46 pm

      fair game for murder witty? who sets the standards for what’s fair game for murder. recall the father of two beautiful girls from bethlehem who running from his car and was shot, then on the ground two bullets to his head? and what crime did he commit? this is not a lawless land it is ruled by the occupation, they make and set the rules. this is their own standards applied against their own civilians. do i like or approve of these ‘rules’. hell no, but why are we having this conversation now? because their civilians were mowed down like palestinians are mowed down in their fields.

      ‘Hamas Enemy combatants ‘? what does this mean in this nvironment when hamas is a political party elected by the majority of the population. this term could be applied by the idf to mean any civilian affiliated w/the party. the 750 detainies since this incident one week ago..are they ‘Hamas Enemy combatants’ too? what evidence is required to label them ‘Hamas Enemy combatants’ for the purpose of detaining them? are these the ‘undesirables’ israel wants to transport to gaza? more families broken up.

      i ask you witty, what is the difference between ‘Hamas Enemy combatants’ and ‘settler Enemy combatants”? when they are civilians burning your lands w/idf backup are they the enemy.

      whatever your standards, apply them equally. when the settlers roam w/rifles and target you civilians are they still considered ‘settler civilians’.

      and let me ask you this, if ‘hamas’ enemy combatants’ are peacefully transporting their family one day does that disqualify them from being detained or assassinated from their crimes of the past? and if it does not then what about settlers? if they burn your fields and shoot at your children one day are they off limits the next when they are driving in their car? just apply your standards equally across the board because if you answer ‘what crimes did those settlers do’ (the ones attacked), can we apply the same standards to the civilians of the palestinians, that their ‘hamas enemy combatants’ deserve scrutiny before their punishment?

      its a double edge sword where one side holds the laws but not so wrt the retributions.

      • Shingo
        September 8, 2010, 10:13 pm

        They’re not ’settler civilians’, they are squatters who are trespassing. They should at the very least, be arrested.

      • Richard Witty
        September 9, 2010, 5:42 am

        Annie,
        Don’t use “fairness” to rationalize murder. Better to reduce it than to justify it.

        Are you really advocating for retribution?

  25. matter
    September 8, 2010, 10:59 am

    In the old West, horse thieves were executed when caught. Should murderous land pirates be treated any better? They knew they were stealing land; they were proud land thieves, unashamed; they would have stolen more if given a chance. “Civilians?” I don’t think so.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 1:43 pm

      matter, in the old days, chicken thieves (men who stole chickens to feed their starving families) were executed too. People were owned by other people because of the color of their skin. I could go on and on and on. There have been some improvements in the human condition.

      Also, your question is loaded. When you refer to “murderous land pirates,” you’re talking about people who have committed murder. Of course they should be harshly punished (I’m against the death penalty, notwithstanding the old West you refer to), and of course settlers have gotten away with innumerable outrageous crimes, including murder. But I cannot condone killing any one, or any four, of 500,000 illegal settlers for the worst crimes some have committed.

  26. LanceThruster
    September 8, 2010, 12:20 pm

    What comes to mind for me in the “Are the settlers civilians?” question is to compare the rationale used when Palestinian deaths in Gaza are of civilians/non-combatants.

    It is a world of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. Words and rules can mean anything they want them to mean; no more, no less.

    The argument is made that since the people of Gaza voted for Hamas, that they are fair game and deserve what they get as Hamas is a terrorist group, and by extension, their support of a terrorist group and terrorist tactics make them terrorists to. Additionally, they are shielding the legitimate targets of the IDF which makes their deaths their own fault. Children are viewed as taking part in the violence with rock throwing, making them terrorists who will grow up to use more lethal means in their attacks.

    Palestinian civilians who would sneak through barriers, sneak around checkpoints, be out past curfew, be on roads closed to them, talk back to an IDF soldier, try to defend themselves somehow against an onslaught of Israeli abuses from civilian, to bureaucrat, to politician, to religious leader, to soldier, even if by only mouthing off, Palestinians who would try to engage in their livelihood of fishing, or farming, or harvesting their olive groves, or going to their construction jobs, Palestinians engaged in peaceful protest, or seeking redress of grievances through the legal system, or smuggling goods, or digging tunnels, or painting revolutionary graffiti…at any moment, in the blink of an eye…any of these individuals could be considered subject to the death penalty (particularly when deemed accidental or unintended) by an Israeli of just about any status from lowly private to regular citizen.

    Should that execution somehow be seen as unwarranted, it is likely that the repercussions will be negligible. It will be excused as the type of things that happen in a (perpetual) war zone, or when tensions are so great…and the tensions will always be great because Israelis always have a valid reason to be fearful. In the legal world, being in reasonable fear for your life allows for defense using lethal force. Israel has taken this one step further. Fear from existential threats, seen as reasonable, allows for lethal force, collective punishment, and perpetration of war crimes. These actions can be taken even when just to send a message that Israel is tough, regardless if the actions are directed at the actual perceived threat.

    Any attempts to use these rationales in an across the board manner are rejected. After multiple terror attacks by Jews seeking the formation of a Jewish state (often attempting to have Arabs blamed for the bombings and murderous attacks), Israelis took possession by force and by theft, but possession is 9/10ths the law, and besides, the UN said it was OK. Living in Israel, on stolen land, and supporting the theft by vote, by taxes, by taking an active part in the conquest by occupying the stolen land, by military training and serving in the IDF actively or in the reserves, by acquiescing to the brutality, the abuses, the segregation, the apartheid system, reaping all the rewards of the prior thefts and currents injustices, still allows for clean hands and clean consciences, as you are not actually pulling the trigger yourself, even if you cheer on (and even watch the carnage from ringside seats) those who are actually are pulling the triggers, dropping the bombs, firing the artillery and mortars, launching the missiles, firing the torpedoes, the incendiaries, the white phosphorus, the DIME weapons, the tear gas canisters, the rubber bullets, the breaking down doors, the arrests, the beatings, the imprisonment, the harassment, the search and destroy missions, the house takeovers as command posts, forward operating bases, the trashing of homes, the fouling of cisterns, the thefts of property, the debasement, the throwing of garbage, the intimidation an attacks on Palestinian school children, the racist writings and pronouncements of politicians, and religious leaders, the routing of sewage and toxic sludge…those whose very presence and claims about the inalienable right of the Jewish state to do whatever is necessary to remain an exclusively Jewish state, are also at the same time granted full protections as civilians, not involved in actual combat but whose actions are essential in achieving the goals the military force seeks to finalize and permanently maintain.

    I think the big question will be how to classify those Israelis seeking peaceful coexistence and justice and equality in the midst of this chaos of the full spectrum (mild to severe) of violence and oppression.

    Rejecting the Israeli claims, or worse, mounting any sort of defense – makes you a terrorist. Wanting to come back to reclaim your property – makes you irrational. Having anger towards those who took your property or kill your family, friends, and neighbors – makes you a bigot. Wanting to use force to eject the thieves from your property – makes you an angry irrational bigot. And actually using force, or attempting to do so – makes you a bigoted, irrational, hateful bloodthirsty terrorist whose violent death should be given no more concern than one would have for shooting a rabid dog in the street. Insisting that you will never give up on achieving justice and returning to your land – makes you a kook against peaceful resolution of the conflict due to your irrational hatred of Jews and the desire to destroy Israel.
    And not listening to Israel’s defenders telling you to “lie back and think of England” – makes you and enemy of the planet, subjecting you to the very earnest discussion of what is to be done with you (while purposely excluding you from the discussion).

    Did I leave anything out? Did I misrepresent anything? I don’t know. I guess I got distracted thinking about how much handwringing must be done over four people who lost their lives in a region that is known for senseless violence and death on an insanely regular basis. Deaths are frequently categorized as justified or not. Those that are not can be further excused as collateral damage, mistakes, the cost or survival, etc. Those that on rare occasions rise to the level of murder, slaughter, mass killings, attempts at genocide…even have their apologists. Rare exceptions, lone wolves, not representative of policy, fog of war, misidentification, temporarily blinded by rage, religious fanatic, victim bent on revenge, to send a message, understandable in light of the conflict, hero lashing out at the enemies of Israel…all have been used to downplay some outrage or atrocity or another.

    But instead, if it is determined that settlers are civilians, then their killers did an unconscionable thing. Furthermore, their act diminishes the legitimacy of Palestinians in general and weakens their position as partners for peace, particularly at a time of the latest attempts to negotiate a peace.

    As the meme goes, “The Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance.” Even when it can be said, ”mistakes were made,” you can be sure it will be the Palestinians whose “mistakes” will be judged as indicative of their unsuitability as peace partners. Israeli mistakes are only those forced upon them by Palestinian aggression.

    “Heads we win, tails you lose.”

  27. piotr
    September 8, 2010, 12:21 pm

    It is somewhat irrelevant, because our government, and IDF makes no such distinctions. For example, to most cited example for the terrorist character of Hezbollah is the very lethal attack on Marine barracks in Beirut, where the attack was clearly directed on military personel in a war zone. The second example is “kidnapping” of IDF soldiers, who, well, were soldiers. Similarly, an Afghan teenager was captured, kept in Guantanamo and tried for tossing a grenade on US soldiers.

    From that perspective, it is actually less objectionable to kill settlers than soldiers. I suspect that the reason is that IDF brass has a visceral impulse to avenge “their own”, and settlers are not exactly “their own”, in the same time the military is protecting the settlers and is quite annoyed by their various antics (like tossing stones at soldiers and police).

    So in that book, all “Pals” are terrorists, and they can be killed anytime, anywhere, but as a matter of practice, they are detained and/or killed only sometimes (for example, when they are deemed “masterminds”, or when there is some occasion to launch “disproportional response” or “somewhat proportional response”). And killing a settler is one of the lesser reasons to do so.

  28. Citizen
    September 8, 2010, 1:19 pm

    Apropos the old West, remember the Oregon Trail? The slogan “Go North, young man!” It’s popular again: link to foreignpolicy.com

    Lots of enhanced financial assistance and other benefits for Aliyah to Israel’s North in 2010. They don’t say what would happen to you if suddenly the green light was repainted on that flier map shown to seduce you to the land of milk n honey.

  29. annie
    September 8, 2010, 1:27 pm

    david, please view this photo and caption

    • annie
      September 8, 2010, 1:30 pm

      Civil rights campaigners say this image shows Palestinian Ahmad Qarae’en, nearest the camera, moments before he was shot by an off-duty soldier

      take a look at that ‘off-duty soldier’. i can’t help but ask ‘who says so?’ who says he is an ‘ off-duty soldier’. no name..that could be said about any settler shooting a palestinian. look at him w/his prayer apparel.

  30. lareineblanche
    September 8, 2010, 1:40 pm

    Great, David, we’ve benefited from the time you took to write this. As usual, you bring some clarity to the discussion of what many seem to think (including me) a very important issue.

    the question should be are the settlers fair game for killing, not whether they are innocent civilians.

    I’m sure that there are many settlers who are unaware that what they are doing is illegal, and worse, insulting and harmful to Palestinians, and responding only to the financial enticements of subsidized housing. This is borne out by interviews I’ve seen, and I think they (settlers interviewed) are being honest. The government is ultimately to be held accountable, not just the settlers, and you bring up the good point that there is a crucial distinction to be made between those who are responsible for ongoing theft and deprivation of rights, and those who are actively engaging in combat.

    I’d add that there is also an argument to be made that those in uniformed combat do not deserve to die either, as they (in the US this is true) often turn to the military for lack of viable career opportunities, and as the US war machine and “defense” industry expands and becomes ever more “drooling” and “hungry” (link to powerofnarrative.blogspot.com), they go into the breach clueless of what awaits them, and totally misinformed about what they are doing, and what they represent – are they to be considered deserving of death more than the suited technocrats that send them off to be sacrificed, merely because they are ignorant?

    I, for one, though, maintain that as long as the situation remains what it is, and the Palestinians have no hope of powerful interests being sympathetic to them, we should not be so coy as to be surprised, or offended when these things happen – and as long as we are to hold them to a higher moral standard than those who are pillaging their territory and their lives (some even without being aware of it), it is a little indecent to feel that we need to immediately jump up and “condemn” it when they fail to live up to this standard. I really think it is of little value.

    • lareineblanche
      September 8, 2010, 3:07 pm

      I’d like to add, that, as perverse as it sounds, the colonizing settlers have also in their way been victims of the expansionist policies of the Israeli govt. as they have been spearheading the whole thing with the implicit approval of the successive administrations over the years, who have always used them (“sacrificed them” if you will) for land grabbing. So, in this sense, they are soldiers.
      If they wanted the settlers to pull out of the WB, it seems to me they could simply announce that they will draw out the IDF and all their support, and let them fend for themselves.

    • David Samel
      September 8, 2010, 10:27 pm

      lrb, you give me pause with this suggestion that it is indecent to immediately condemn this act. It’s about the best formulated criticism of my point I’ve seen. But I think we should hold Palestinians to a higher moral standard than the one practiced by Israel. Everyone in the world should be held to a higher standard, because Israel’s is utterly reprehensible. As far as it being of “little value,” I understand your point, but I disagree for reasons I’ve said all along.

  31. VR
    September 8, 2010, 10:14 pm

    I consider this discussion to be an exercise is some sort of perverse philosophy of monism, an emphasis on the similarity of humanity without the introduction of facts into the scene. Since there is supposed to be so much similarity in the debacle of this conflict, that appeal to humanity can take on the appearance of a single body – and what is taking place is to scrutinize a tiny pimple when the whole body is full of open sores. That individuals who agree in this form of empty argument are attracted by their own fallacy of purity of principle, mesmerized by their own self-importance, and unaware of what influences them to such spurious arguments. It is like watching blind men taking turns at flying a plane until it eventually crashes.

    • VR
      September 8, 2010, 10:23 pm

      Oh, and have good and sweet year – I am sure you can think up during this time the many ways in which the Palestinians should repent for the occupation. How the Palestinians should cast these “evil acts” from their presence, and if you have not felt the sarcasm of my post there is not much else about this subject that I can say.

    • Taxi
      September 9, 2010, 7:27 am

      But it only takes one blind pilot to crash the plane, VR.

      You’ve had a very philosophical reaction to this debate, I’ve noticed. Your words are as if coming austere and weathered from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

      You’re like the perfect witness, with hands raised to the sky. In despair or in rejoicing? I can’t tell. But I like it.

  32. thankgodimatheist
    September 8, 2010, 10:43 pm

    Just a reminder of what settlers, especially the ideological variety, are like. Here’s the famous “Sharmoota Sharmuta video” (the title has been changed BTW)..
    Now watch this sadist creature, and if after that you’re telling me that you wouldn’t wish to reach to this woman’s neck (“that would be morally wrong”), don’t you at least wish she’s struck by lighting right in the middle of her eyes?

    Honestly…

  33. MHughes976
    September 9, 2010, 3:50 pm

    This woman is certainly a political sadist. But in a way you have to feel sorry for her, don’t you think?

  34. Richard Parker
    September 9, 2010, 6:31 pm

    Of all Israeli settlers, those from Kiryat Arba seem to be the most aggressive. This report details attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians:
    link to alethonews.wordpress.com

    Example: On 03.06.2010 Mu’taz Mousa Omran Banat (16 yrs old) and Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Bis (16 yrs old) were shot by a Zionist settler at the entrance of Al-Arroub refugee camp, Hebron. The Zionist colonist stopped his car, stepped out of it and began shooting randomly at a group of children on their way to school. On 24.06.2010 Mohammad, who was shot in the chest, was told to come to Etzion detention center to make a report on the incident. He went with his father, and after several hours of interrogation, the child was fined by the Israeli occupation police despite the fact that the Zionist colonist who shot Mohammad had turned himself in to the Israeli police and admitted the shooting.

    On 29.04.2010 Zionist colonists attacked the Palestinian village Huwwara, destroyed property, vandalized homes in the village and set fire to its farmlands. On 16.06.2010, dozens of Zionist colonists from Kiryat Arba’ raided several Palestinian homes in the Palestinian village Jabal Jalis at midnight, vandalized and destroyed the village’s farmland. On 30.07.2010, dozens of Zionist colonists attacked Burin and set fire to its farmland. A few days earlier, armed colonists had raided the village, opened fire on the villagers, uprooted olive trees and set the farmland on fire. On 6.08.2010, Zionist colonists set fire to hundreds of dunums of farmland in Beit Furik.

    These guys should be treated as ‘sacred civilians’ ?

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