Some violence gets to be righteous

The recent killing of settlers near Hebron provides a useful case study for how the media, society and political officials regard the value of Palestinian and Israeli lives.

From the New York Times coverage, written by Mark Landler in D.C. and Israeli Isabel Kershner in Jerusalem:

Mr. Netanyahu ordered Israel’s security forces “to pursue the attackers without any diplomatic restraint and to lay hands on the attackers and those who sent them”

The awful truth is that the killing of 400 children in 3 weeks hasn’t produced the morality debates in Israeli society which our community has painstakingly engaged in over the deaths of 4 Israelis.  To the Israeli government and the Israeli society: the moral clarity of whose violence is righteous is a no-brainer.

Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, said in a statement, “Israel will not allow any terrorist element to raise its head, and will exact a price from the murderers and those who sent them.”

After an Israeli attack, if the following was the response from Khaled Meshaal, would it be considered valid by anyone?

“Palestine will not allow any terrorist element to raise its head, and will exact a price from the murderers and those who sent them”

Hamas is an elected government too.  So, following the Israeli logic: after an Israeli attack on Palestinians, Hamas could ignore “diplomatic restraint” in trying to kill Ehud Barak and the murderer soldiers he sent to torture and kill Palestinians.

Of course this rhetoric would be regarded as illegitimate coming from Palestinians, but somehow it’s perfectly acceptable coming from Bibi and Barak?

I wonder if the Western media would euphemistically call it a “targeted killing” if it was Ehud Barak in the cross-hairs.  Why do we automatically accept the legitimacy of Israeli violence without hesitation? 

Our community is not innocent in this either.  Our serious emotional struggle over the 4 Israeli deaths indeed reflects our own bias in this matter.

The Hamas military wing’s statement:

The military wing of Hamas said that the attack was “a natural response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation and its settlers.”

On January 5th 2009 an Israeli Apache helicopter launched unknown projectiles at and around the al-Samouni home in the Zeytoun neighborhood of Gaza.  23 members of the family were killed including: Azza (2 years old), Rezqa (14 years old), Fares (12 years old) and al-Moa’tasim Bilah Muhammad (6 months old). 

When the Goldstone Report summarized this attack which targeted dozens of civilians the word “murder” was never used.  But…

With neither an investigation nor a hint of hesitation; UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry condemned Hamas’ actions as a “murderous act”.

Without a hint of irony, the chairman of the South Mount Hebron settlers’ council is quoted in the article as saying:

“For the past 100 years there has been a link between the Jewish people’s desire to live and the Arab people’s desire to kill us.”

For the past 100 years the Zionist movement and its settlers have ethnically cleansed Palestine, one step at a time. 

The killing of the 4 settlers was the worst death toll for Israel in 2 years.  In the attack described above 6 times more people were killed in just one of many standard Israeli attacks.

So, it’s good that the New York Times makes it clear to everyone who the murderers are.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 21 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. eljay says:

    >> After an Israeli attack, if the following was the response from Khaled Meshaal, would it be considered valid by anyone?
    >> “Palestine will not allow any terrorist element to raise its head, and will exact a price from the murderers and those who sent them”

    If “by anyone” you mean “by Western hypocrites”, no, it wouldn’t be considered valid. That’s what makes the West (which includes Israel and its “Western values” of “freedom, justice and democracy…at the point of a gun”) such hypocrites.

  2. potsherd says:

    This is the Israeli cult of impunity exposed. They simply do not expect or accept that they will ever have to pay in kind for the killings they commit.

    • Antidote says:

      “They simply do not expect or accept that they will ever have to pay in kind for the killings they commit”

      I don’t diagree, but would add, citing Chomsky: “It’s ugly, but it’s standard.”

      Do Americans accept it?

  3. Shmuel says:

    Our community is not innocent in this either. Our serious emotional struggle over the 4 Israeli deaths indeed reflects our own bias in this matter.

    I think that’s unfair. The vast majority of posts and comments on this blog, for example, are about Israeli – not Palestinian – violence. Besides, for most posters/commenters here, the moral repugnance of Israeli violence against Palestinians is, in fact, a “no-brainer”. The issue of Palestinian violence is far less straightforward and so, generated a bit of heat. What’s the big deal?

    • I thought about this actually. I know we all basically accept the same premise about Israeli violence, so it’s a fair point. The only thing I’m saying is we only have so many hours in the day to condemn and mourn; and my few hours are going to be spent feeling bad for the Palestinian victims living under a military dictatorship. For me it’s just a question of priorities.

      • annie says:

        one thing we’re all familiar with is the meme that israel’s violence is always in ‘response’ or ‘reaction’ to palestinian provocations whereas palestinian violence is allegedly random , out of the blue , because they hate our freedom or want to tank the peace process.

        note the reports after the attack the PA had rounded up 250 hamas affiliates, a week later the numbers are 750: Hamas warns PA against West Bank arrests. a response right? note no israeli or western press reported the week before the attack what ma’an reported Hamas: PA forces detain 60 party members.

        aug 24

        GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The parliament speaker and Hamas leader Ahmad Bahar on Tuesday condemned the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority’s recent escalation against Hamas officials.

        PA security services recently detained 60 party affiliates in the West Bank, Hamas said Tuesday. PA forces also raided the homes of several lawmakers and detained dozens of their relatives, the party said.

        Ismail Al-Ashqar, a member of the Legislative Council, said that the PA’s arrest campaign “comes in the context of a religious war being waged against Islam in the West Bank.”

        but they DO report the hamas threat that came as a response to the latest detainments only they don’t mention them in the same article as the ones that mention the large round ups after the attacks (jpost and several msm wrote about 300 hamas arrests the day after the attack). check out the framing in the haaretz threat article:

        The announcement came after Palestinian Authority security officials arrested six of the suspected perpetrators of two shooting attacks against Israelis last week.

        6? nothing about the 750 people arrested thus far. plus this allegation:

        The Islamist Palestinian Hamas, which claimed responsibility for both attacks, vowed to carry out more attacks unless talks ceased.

        i’ve been following this closely, thus far their have been no quotes published demanding the talks cease (probably because hamas knows they won’t produce anything). it’s the telephone game of repeating something so many times it morphs into ‘hamas said’.

        According to Hamas, the PA has detained up to 750 affiliates in connection to the killings………”The continued abduction of Hamas leaders in the West Bank has crossed the red line and is a direct collaboration with the enemy,” warning the PA against handing over supporters to Israeli authorities. The arrests, he said, “prove once again the dangerous role of the Fatah authority as a security agent to protect the enemy.”

        wonder why haaretz didn’t publish this quote?

      • Shmuel says:


        I don’t see it in terms of mourning or feeling bad. My remarks (and David’s, I presume) were not at all about “feeling sorry” for the settlers, but an attempt at moral consistency (not equivalence) that actually strengthens our positions and arguments in favour of justice and human rights in I/P, rather than detracting from them.

        The declared goal of the BDS campaign is to get Israel to respect human rights and abide by international law. Of course the responsibilities of the occupied and brutalised are not the same as those of the occupier and brutaliser (a fact recognised in international law), but how convincing will a campaign based on universal principles be, if we (especially non-Palestinians) claim some sort of immunity from criticism – if only because we have no “time” – for one side?

        Aside: A good deal of the time spent on this topic has in fact been devoted to whether it should be discussed or not. Perhaps that is time that could have been better spent.

        • Well, I agree that it’s fine. But, it’s not outside criticism we’re talking about; we’re talking about spending our time criticizing ourselves and the occupied people we’re supposed to be defending. I still think it’s just a matter of priorities: there’s a hundred unjustified things happening in the middle east right now, if 80 of them are done by Israelis and 20 done by Palestinians; I’m going to spend my time on the 80%. We can condemn it, fine, but if we do, will that really convince anyone who thinks we suck to support us; or alternately convince any Hamas member that this is unjustified?

        • And, historically you will spend 100% of your time objecting to Israeli actions.

          Rather than witness for truth, justice and peace when it occurs.

          If you demonstrate that you are committed to human rights and not just Palestinian human rights, then others might be confident in a government that you become part of, or a movement even.

          Better that you add creativity and mediation to your pallette so you can actually accomplish a design that avoids unnecessary harms.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          And, historically you will spend 100% of your time objecting to Israeli actions.

          Rather than witness for truth, justice and peace when it occurs.

          As a confirmed and persistent Nakba-denier, Witty, your words are good for nothing more than a cheap laugh.

        • Chaos,
          I hold the view that Benny Morris articulated in “Righteous Victims”.

          That is that both narratives are true.

          How is that possible, that the Palestinians were displaced by force, and were not at the same time?

          Is H2O water or ice or even steam?

        • MHughes976 says:

          We like to think, I suppose, that we can identify those things that are unjustified and those acts that are disgraceful by means of a morality that is as universal as human beings can commonly manage. Those who think we suck would say, quick as thought, that we are hideous anti-Semites concealing our moral ugliness behind a universalist mask. I think we have to spend a little time showing that it’s not a mask but our true face. The trap is that we spend all our time doing this and trying to convince hardline Zionists that we’re really quite nice people, which I agree that they (not necessarily the best judges) will never ever believe.

        • Shmuel says:


          This discussion has probably run its course, but I’ll venture another comment.

          I/P discourse is so often perceived as merely a matter of taking sides. One must be either pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic. We’re all expected to defend (or at least not criticise) “our side”. The end result tends to be either preaching to the choir or shouting at the deaf – both of which are, of course, exercises in futility. If, on the other hand (and this is my personal experience), one does take sides, but is not averse to criticising one’s “own side” when such criticism is warranted, there is a chance that someone who is not already convinced might actually listen and start to think.

          I wasn’t born an anti-Zionist, but I was won over to the Palestinian cause by arguments based on universal values and moral consistency (something liberal Zionism, for example, sorely lacks). Such an approach necessarily tries to find an accurate sense of proportion, for which there is no precise formula.

          Nothing will ever change if our campaigns rely solely on those who identify in some way with the Palestinians. A campaign based on universal principles of justice, on the other hand – without immunity or gag orders for anyone – might actually change a sufficient number of otherwise distant hearts and minds.

        • sherbrsi says:

          I hold the view that Benny Morris articulated in “Righteous Victims”.

          So you show your colors, Witty.

          Right-wing Zionists can be depended on to deny the Nakba, and the “liberal” Zionists, to justify it.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          That is that both narratives are true.

          Right, Witty. So you’re delusional and you believe that the Holocaust gave Jews a God-given right to eradicate Palestine. We get that.

  4. David Samel says:

    In my never-ending quest to supply endless articles for this community to read, I was contemplating another one along the same lines as Joseph Glatzer’s. I was not going to compare the four settler deaths with the horrible death toll from the Gaza massacre, which is almost too easy, but with the death toll of Palestinians since the end of that mis-named “war.” According to B’tselem, Israel had killed about 100 Palestinians by July 31, 2010, barely noticed by the media in this country at least. The most recent incident I heard about was on September 5, a few days after the WB killings, when Israeli missiles struck a Gaza tunnel, which had been built out of necessity by virtue of the Israeli siege of the past several years. Two were killed and three injured. The New York Times report on this incident is as follows: .

    There are other intolerable ironies as well. Israel has occasionally defended its blockade with the perverse logic that the Gazans get what they need from the thriving tunnel business. Great, but Israel occasionally decides to kill those who use the tunnels, making “smuggling” a capital offense. And why would attacking those tunnels be warranted? Because along with civilian goods, Gazans may be importing (smuggling) weapons amounting to one-millionth of Israel’s arsenal that it openly imports and manufactures “legally.”

    Most people who read mondoweiss are all too aware of the sick double-standards at play here, but it helps to be reminded every now and then how truly awful it is. And so, for the most part, I appreciated Joseph’s analysis.

    That being said, Shmuel’s complaint is certainly on the mark as well. I don’t think it was necessary to implicate our community (and especially me, I guess) in this over-emphasis on Israeli deaths. If I had been writing in a different forum, say a letter to theTimes or a column on Huffington Post, I surely would never have engaged in the type of soul-searching I did here. I would have written something much more along the lines of Joseph’s article.

    • Thanks. So, I think it’s good that this community does care about the moral issues involved. And I’ve appreciated many of the things you’ve written on this. So, it’s fine to debate whether settlers are civilians or not, I can see both sides of this argument. But, at a certain point it becomes a self indulgent philosophical exercise when there’s real people suffering that need our voices to speak up on their behalf.

    • annie says:

      david, if you’re planning on writing another diary about ‘a few days after the WB killings’ don’t forget about the 60 detainments.

  5. chet says:

    Hey Everybody!! It’s RACISM – the Israelis consider the Palestinians to be dogs, as sub-humans. In their minds there is no equivalency between an Israeli life and a Palestinian life.

  6. Mooser says:

    If a state has a powerful expansionist tool like the settlers, and taken all around, they work so cheap, it’s only sensible to tell them how much you love them and how far you will go to protect them, right up until the moment the state abandons them to their fate.
    If Israel valued the lives of the settlers, the settlers would not be allowed to settle in occupied territory. And if that couldn’t be prevented (why?) the least Israel could do is try and make sure the settlers give the Palestinians the least possible grounds for desiring revenge, with a view to a future in which those territories may be shared. But that’s not what Israel does, is it?
    Israel doesn’t care a whit about the lives of the settlers. They are a cheap tool, their self-delusion (whether religious or economic, who knows) easily augmented by Israeli, and they will be discarded when they are no longer usable.
    In truth, the apartheid in Israel begins, as it must in this kind of project, a long ways into Israel before it ever even gets to the Palestinians. Which, of course, doesn’t lessen Israel’s responsibility, in fact, it makes it worse.