How should the left respond to the Itamar murders?

Israel/Palestine
on 55 Comments

Dimi Reider’s piece faulting the left for not condeming the murder of 5 settlers continues to generate responses. An earlier version of the following post originally appeared on Max Ajl’s blog Jewbonics:

Something I frequently reflect on from my time living in Gaza are a couple conversations I had with left-wing friends. When discussing armed resistance, they’d say that they abhorred any attacks on civilians, even though Israel freely massacres Palestinian civilians. What they were saying was that they had no desire to sink to the abyss in which their oppressors resided. There is something about those remarks that moves me and humbles me: their piquancy, perhaps, their nobility, a feeling that manifested in a different way when I read about children in Nil’in studying the shoah. 

Those recollections came to my mind as I read Dimi Reider’s short polemic, “The entire activist Left must condemn the murder of the settler family.” He recounts a recent incident in which a “Palestinian” “militant” killed most of a family of settlers: an 11-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, a three-month-old girl, and their parents. The first two paragraphs of his account are a nearly pornographically visceral account of those deaths, oddly descriptive, graphically precise. What those paragraphs order us to do is feel the raw immediacy of pain and horror. What they aim to elicit is mechanic response: condemn the animals that killed those five people. No one should support the murder of children. But by what right does Reider tell us we must condemn? To what end?  

Let’s look at his arguments. 

First, he assumes that the killers were Palestinian. Not so fast. For one, Palestinian factions have rejected responsibility. Rumors are circulating about a Thai suspect – rumors that led the Israeli government to reportedly round up hundreds of Asian guest-workers, another ugly bit of racism swirling around this mess. But frankly, we have no idea who carried out the killing, and to simply assume that the killers were Palestinian is unacceptable. So while noting the presumptuous racism of Reider’s account, let’s consider the hypothesis. What follows? 

Well, Reider informs us that “our community has yielded to one of the most common afflictions of a conflict area, and dehumanized an entire community, consciously or subconsciously rendering it second-class, semi-legitimate target for brutal violence,” and goes on to refer to the killing of four settlers near occupied Hebron several months ago and the radical left’s “silence” as “even more deafening than today.” He notes that “two of them were spouses who left nine orphans behind.” Don’t soldiers, “legitimate” targets, leave orphans behind when they die? Is a crime worsened because its victim has children? Is murdering the sterile more appropriate? This is a reductio ad absurdum, but I carry it out for a reason: Reider orders that we react and not reflect.  

Can we do better than that? Perhaps. Let’s put things in their historical and political context, and ask some questions. Are there any differences between the 300 children massacred during Cast Lead and the three children killed in Itamar? Well, Reider casually refers to the illegality of the settlements, and then dismisses those who cite that illegality to defend the killings, which he considers illegal. Are things so simple? No.

First, Itamar is an illegal settlement. Most of the people living there are from the Gush Emunim bloc. Five years ago the settlers of Itamar had already stolen 6,000 dunum of Palestinian land. Two and a half years ago, settlers from Itamar apparently shot Yahya Atta Riahin, an 18-year-old Palestinian, at least 20 times from close range. No one knows exactly who did it, because no one investigated the case. The elected head of the Itamar town council once said at a funeral: “These Palestinians do not deserve any human rights. We cannot talk of human rights for people who are not human.”

Second, customary international law allowed for “belligerent reprisals”: when your enemy is targeting your population, you are permitted to target theirs. This is coldly utilitarian, and many states reject that doctrine explicitly, as do the Geneva Conventions. However, in this case, the issue of protected persons is a gray area, immensely blurred because the adult victims were illegal and armed settlers, effectively engaged in armed conflict. For Reider to frame the legal issue so simply is convenient – law isn’t something you can wave around willy-nilly because you think it strengthens your case. If he wants to raise international law he cannot do so selectively. Furthermore, some reports are circulating that we are talking about just two people, and many, including Reider, are using the rhetoric of “war crimes,” thus politicizing the killings. The corollary is that the settlements are by their very existence engaged in hostilities – which they are. The illegal occupation englobes these killings, and to forget that is to mangle history.

Third, the Israeli military leadership obeys even less stringent standards vis-à-vis its own armed operations. On July 22 2002, it assassinated Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in Gaza along with eight children and five other adults, breaking a ceasefire and leading to the resumption of murderous violence. The IDF whitewash – I mean, report – stated, “Despite the outcome which resulted in this instance, the means of targeted killing was and continues to be a lawful tool in the war against deadly terrorism, provided that the operation is carried out in accordance with the principles and rules set out by Israeli and international law.” That is, in juxtaposition to the Bil’in statement on the killing of civilians, the Israeli army actually says slaughtering civilians is perfectly fine.

Fourth, settlers carry out pogroms. Regularly. They are doing so I as I write these words, throwing stones at Palestinians in Awarta, a nearby village, where reportedly hundreds of Palestinians have been detained and the villagers are under curfew. There have been reports of beatings. Furthermore, between 1998 and 2002, there were three other murders quite close to Itamar: in October 1998, Ahmad Suleiman Hatataba, 68, from Bet Furiqin was killed; in October 2000, Farid Nasasra, 29, also from Bet Furiq was killed; in October 2002, Hani Bani Manya, 22, from ‘Aqqraba was killed. B’Tselem notes, “In the first case, the person responsible was convicted of murder, but in the other two, the perpetrators have not been apprehended or prosecuted.” They harass Palestinian peasant olive harvesters, shooting them freely. In the West Bank and Gaza, non-violent activists are murdered regularly – 21 since 2005, 10 of them minors. How many pogroms must pogromists carry out before we hesitate before condemning their murders?

Reider is so busy accusing the radical left of moral corruption that he either omitted these facts or simply dismissed their relevance.  

Reider goes on to write that “On the larger scale, the settlers are not only beneficiaries, but instruments and, crucially, human shields of a cynical state policy running through all the governments, left, right and “center.”… there is just no reasonable way to keep the onus of the blame upon the parents.” Blame for barbarity is forever displaced onto structures, state institutions. It’s always someone else’s fault. 

Does Reider mean to say that the settlers are not illegally occupying land and thus carrying out a war crime, violating the Geneva Conventions? I hate to be the one to break it to him, but Zionism is consensual and hegemonic. At some point in history, blame for complicity in occupation and dispossession must be shared. Incidentally, in general I do not blame the settlers first, despite the brazenness of their racism, the shamelessness of their criminality. I blame the Ashkenazi soft left which wrings its hands in anguish and then treats David Grossman like a patron saint because he occasionally notices after the Israeli army has killed a few thousand Arabs that perhaps some of the dead were innocents. I doubly blame the Ashkenazi soft left which forgets how much blood its privilege is built on – including the privilege to feel superior to a killer of children (Zionists never, of course, kill children). And I triply blame the war-merchants in Israel and America making money off these deaths and the destruction of Palestinian society. But at some point, a society must take responsibility for the crimes of its state. In the case of Israel, with a huge percentage of the population in the army or the reserves, the distinction between society and state is simply evasive. No one is saying the killer of the children is not at fault for killing the children. But to say the parents and the society have no blame is unacceptable. Israeli society accepts the settlers, and the settlers choose to put their children in harm’s way. 

Reider’s next paragraph is more trouble: he writes, “To those of us saying that no Israeli has the right to criticize any political violence by Palestinians, no matter how abhorrent,” He demurs: “the inability to formulate your own opinion or criticize the party you generally support wins you no respect on either side of the conflict.” If he thinks criticism from the Israeli “radical” left will win it social support for de-Zionizing cis-Jordan, he is not thinking straight. It is one thing to hope that cracks in Zionism will eventually emerge amidst external pressure. But does he really think that the racists and war-criminals of Israeli society must be coddled and argued with until they are won over to anti-Zionism? A sick society does not heal so quickly. 

Reider writes, ripping into the radical left, “you imply by your silence that the brutal murder of a family of five is just as legitimate as engaging in combat with occupation troops or holding mass protests of civil disobedience in Bilin, Nialin and Nebi Salach.” It is stunning how silence speaks in such a way that lets Reider elevate himself over his comrades. Or demonize them as people who countenance the killing of children. 

Finally, Reider administers the last blow: “But killing innocent members of a civilian community in order to get the rest of the community to leave has one name and one name only in international law – ethnic cleansing. In fact, this is exactly the method used, to everlasting shame, by Israel to ethnically cleanse many of the Palestinian communities in the Nakba of 1948.” 

Killing a family of settlers is the same as al-Nakba, the great trauma of Palestinian history. I am not sure how to register the racist insult of this comparison, the casual contempt for Palestinians latent in equating their mass ethnic cleansing with the killing of a family of illegal settlers. Whatever one thinks about where on the moral spectrum to place the killing of the innocent baby, the toddler, the 11-year-old – and to be honest, I have yet to see anyone defend killing children; rather, the issue is where responsibility lies – anyone in their right mind can agree that this is not at the moral level of the Nakba, and to raise that analogy is disgusting. 

Reider continues: “We must find a way of loudly and unreservedly condemning atrocities committed in the names of causes we believe in.” 

Why? The default assumption must be our communal humanity. If you know nothing about someone, you have to assume that they are a good human being. Reider’s call for the “activist left” to condemn is the cant of the inquisitor. 

It’s good company. 

Hillary Clinton, an inhuman criminal, calls the actions an “inhuman crime,” presumably what she was advising Bill when he was presiding over the sanctions regime that killed 500,000 Iraqi children. Shimon Peres, who has done as much as anyone to make Jews ashamed of being Jewish, says that there is “no faith that permits such atrocities” – if only. The White House refers to this “heinous crime,” silent as a week ago its armed forces incinerated nine Afghani children. When such scoundrels speak, all you can hear is silence. 

But both words and silences speak, and as Reider knows, sometimes silences speak louder than words. Sometimes silence means confusion, sometimes shame, sometimes thought, reflection. Is it not the job of the left to reflect and remember? 

Due to the willful historical amnesia that we politely call liberalism, we forget that we paid for the weapons that tortured the society that produced the men that killed the children. We forget that we voted for the politicians that gave the diplomatic support to the country that occupied the land of the men that killed the children. We forget that we cleansed the villages that pushed the people into cities where they stewed in anger and from whence two of them came to kill the children. And we forget that we dispossessed the land and built a society on the suffering of the people two among whom – purportedly – committed the killings that we now condemn.

Look at how much we forget in order to condemn. Something else that we forget is that, being the historical beneficiaries of an unending chain of catastrophe, we now get to play angel: staff the ranks of B’Tselem and condemn “these horrific killings,” write for “progressive” magazines, ream out “our” comrades for not “condemning these killings,” and so on. It’s fun to forget these things. Maybe some of the more quiet sectors of the radical left are not so quick to forget and are choking on what would be hypocritical and vacuous condemnations. Sometimes choking is more graceful than speaking. What do the condemnations of the left add to a moral atmosphere already saturated with condemnations? What would such condemnations add to MK Orli Levy–Abekasis (Yisrael Beiteinu), comment that “These …who came to slaughter children in their sleep, have sealed their own fate. They are not worthy of a trial or of any other human process”? When a country’s politicians adopt the mentality of the lynch mob, is it really an act of solidarity for the left to add its voices to their frenzy? Meanwhile, while we condemn, Netanyahu prepares to commit more war crimes: expanded settlement construction, 500 units. More war crimes. Let’s condemn some more.

I remember Yitzhak Laor’s poem: “The moderates  who said let’s wait & see the party hack who fell over himself in praising the army… “They” shall not be cleansed.” Drenched in Arab blood, we piously insist on judging our victims. 

Some will say that all moral judgment entails hypocrisy. The solution is to start judging the conduct we can change: our own governments’. That means cutting off arms supplies. That means sanctions until the Israeli people stop destroying the Palestinian future. We know from history that if you occupy, torture, and humiliate a people, kill their children, destroy their homes, ravage their mosques, burn their olive trees, and degrade their hopes to dust, some of them will snap. You want my condemnation? You will not have it. No one should respond to such demagogic moral blackmail. We killed those children. There are those who will warp my words. Good luck. I do not want children to die, no child deserves to die or deserves such parents or deserves to be born into such a society or such a state. However, I don’t think judgment of the Palestinians is the best way to prevent such murders. I have a better idea: war crimes trials for those most responsible. They will be easy to find – they are all over the television, and we vote for them regularly. If we are interested in stopping the killing of Jewish children and Palestinian children alike, then let’s point our fingers at those responsible for creating the conditions that make those murders almost inevitable: the endless chain of military commanders-turned-bourgeois ahusalim sitting in the suburbs of Tel-Aviv clucking at the latest barbarity spawned by the barbarities they’d rather forget. We know names, we know who to blame: Netanyahu, Livni, Peres, Bush, Obama, Clinton. How convenient, for us to blame the victims. How pathetic and cowardly. How shameful.

About Max Ajl

Max is a writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter: @maxajl.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

55 Responses

  1. Potsherd2
    March 16, 2011, 11:51 am

    I say: I will give my condemnation freely, but I will not have it compelled.

    • RoHa
      March 16, 2011, 8:28 pm

      What should the left do? The same things that everyone else should do.

      1. Condemn the murders.
      2. Urge the authorites to find the murderer.
      3. Condemn any attempt to blame any individual or group until guilt has been proven.

    • Sumud
      March 17, 2011, 10:52 am

      I will make a generic (but sincere) condemnation of the murder of children and civilians, and have done so on previous articles, but I will not specifically condemn these murders.

      In part that is a refusal to engage in the “will you denounce” game that the right seems to love, and part of that is thinking – not yet fully resolved – about how exactly these illegal settlers should be classified. They may, or may not be combatants, but they are not civilians; they’re actively engaged in the dispossession of Palestinians and profit from doing so. They’re all in violation of international law (the Geneva Conventions), and some act with near impunity, violently terrorising and even murdering Palestinians, and only rarely facing serious consequences.

      In the absence of justice vigilantism occurs – Americans well understand this, the vigilante is a good and noble archetype of the Hollywood western – and where this proves difficult people ‘snapping’ is likely to occur. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more. My previous sentences are predicated on the murderer being Palestinian which, as Max points out, is not yet proven or disproven. But when four settlers were murderer by Hamas a few months ago I had a similar thoughts, not fully resolved, then as now. At that time I was especially disgusted with Obama and Hilary for publicly condemning Palestinian violence and remaining silent on Israeli violence, which kills far more Palestinian civilians and children by 400% and 1000% respectively.

      I agree responsibility lies with the parents, it is disgusting to think of putting children in such circumstances, and it is equally disgusting of the Israeli government to encourage, facilitate, and subsidise the settler enterprise.

      Designating the settlers ‘human shields’ rather than civilians gave me food for thought, except a human shield is a victim of others, and in this case the settlers are more than willing partners with the Israeli government. For the settler minors, it still makes sense, w/ the perpetrators being their parents.

      – – – – –

      I had a think and wondered what people would say if America had installed 6 million American men, women and children settlers in occupied Iraq – increasing it’s population by 20%, as Israel has done in the West Bank. The American settlers steal Iraq’s natural resources, 40% of the land and terrorise Iraqis daily, hourly, and face no penalties. If an American settler family were killed in occupied Iraq the world, and likely many Americans would say without hesitation: “Well what do you expect? You shouldn’t be there in the first place should you?” This Itamar incident is no different.

  2. Mooser
    March 16, 2011, 12:21 pm

    The fact that the murders are being used as a springboard from which to build more settlement housing tells me everything I need to know.

  3. chet
    March 16, 2011, 12:41 pm

    The murder of these settlers is gruesome and abhorrent.

    BUT, for me, a non-Jew, my sympathy is mixed with outrage at the thought of Israeli civilians standing on a hill and cheering the white phosphorus bombing of women and children during Cast Lead.

    • fuster
      March 16, 2011, 3:10 pm

      dear chet, where exactly did you get the idea that Israelis were cheering for bombing women and children and not cheering for the IDF to bomb Hamas?

      Are there pictures of Israelis passing cognac and candy when hearing that kids were being slaughtered?

      • Donald
        March 16, 2011, 3:41 pm

        I applaud your defense of hypocrisy, fuster. Of course when Israelis cheered the bombing of Gaza they had absolutely no idea that hundreds of civilians would be killed, as they were killed in Lebanon in 2006. They knew nothing about what some of their leaders had said about punishing the Gazans. They all assumed that every strike was conducted with pinpoint precision and aimed precisely at fiendish Hamas terrorists. Because Israelis, in your view, are complete morons.

      • fuster
        March 16, 2011, 3:56 pm

        Donald, read chet’s remark again.

        then get back to me.

      • Donald
        March 16, 2011, 4:01 pm

        Done. Chet makes the entirely reasonable assumption that if you cheered for the bombing of urban areas you were cheering for the deaths of women and children. You counter with the notion that the Israeli cheerleaders were morons who didn’t understand what was happening.

        It’s a tough call, but human psychology being what it is, I suspect you’re both right. People in conflicts engage in doublethink all the time. They embrace stupidity. They also think things like “It didn’t happen, we didn’t do it, and they all had it coming and it was their fault if it did happen.”

      • fuster
        March 16, 2011, 7:26 pm

        no, Donald he makes the rather specific point that they were cheering for the use of incendiaries in a manner prohibited by international law.

        had he stuck to saying that the Israelis were unwittingly cheering for some sick sh@@ I would have agreed with him.

        but he’s about two lengths too far.

      • Donald
        March 17, 2011, 1:13 am

        “no, Donald he makes the rather specific point that they were cheering for the use of incendiaries in a manner prohibited by international law.

        had he stuck to saying that the Israelis were unwittingly cheering for some sick sh@@ I would have agreed with him.”

        It’s overly specific in an unimportant way, fuster. The people on the hilltops don’t necessarily know the exact nature of the munitions being used, but as you can see in the video that tree provided, at least some were clearly cheering for the bombing of Palestinians in general.

        Anyway, if you agree that they were cheering for some sick s***, that’s fine. Your initial post made it sound like you were saying they were cheering for carefully targeted attacks on Hamas military assets or some such nonsense. The sort of person naive enough to think that Israel was only going to hit military assets in a responsible way, taking great care not to hit civilians, is probably not the sort of person to sit up on a hill and enjoy the fireworks while people are dying several miles away. Not that I wouldn’t also criticize the naivete of the person who believes that about Israel, but it’s not quite the same personality type.

      • tree
        March 17, 2011, 2:14 am

        Anyway, if you agree that they were cheering for some sick s***, that’s fine.

        No, he agreed that they were “unwittingly” cheering for ome sick s***. He still can’t admit that they were knowingly cheering for unlimited carnage. What that one woman was cheering for was some sick s*** way beyond what the IDF did. Calling for genocide apparently only makes her “a little bit fascist” in her eyes.

      • Cliff
        March 16, 2011, 3:55 pm

        there are pictures of Israeli children signing missiles meant for children in lebanon

        ofc Israelis were cheering the deaths of children. they were interviewed as saying that gaza should be ‘wiped off the map’ (some dark-haired Zio from S’Derot)

        etc. etc.

        as if it would even be difficult to prove, Frog, who are you kidding?

      • LeaNder
        March 16, 2011, 7:58 pm

        gaza should be ‘wiped off the map (some dark-haired Zio from S’Derot)

        I could imagine, that was the same lady we had to listen to on German TV in the diverse Gaza specials. I was absolutely stunned what the Israeli war PR specialists had in mind when they selected that women for international TV crews. I see you remember her, I surely do.

        As I vividly remember the Israeli war sightseeing tourism and the jeering crowd. I guess we all were served pretty much the same diet all over the world: The Israeli foreign war communications service proudly presents! But sorry you can’t enter Gaza.

      • Chu
        March 16, 2011, 3:56 pm

        he’s referring to the moment when the BBC cameras came to the fringe of the Gaza border to interview the Israelis as they cheered on the Gaza aerial bombing seen in the distance.
        They had binoculars and telescopes and were drinking on the hill.
        They could give a f*ck if they were children or women. They were celebrating, you disingenuous dupe.

      • Cliff
        March 16, 2011, 4:05 pm

        The frog, like every single other Zionist poster we’ve had on the blog sees what it wants to see.

      • annie
        March 16, 2011, 4:11 pm

        no he doesn’t. he knows what the hells going on, he just provides troll fodder to disrupt threads.

        looks at those big smiles and take a bow fussy.

      • Chu
        March 16, 2011, 4:32 pm

        I know. You can only baby-sit these twerps for so long. After that, they grow up and become Richard Wittys of the world. I guess they are earning their wings. I used to think Homphi had some real potential to change my mind, but he is quite rotten also, and skews the truth as well.

      • tree
        March 16, 2011, 4:40 pm

        I’m sure this woman who said she was “a little bit fascist” was simply referring to fascists’ well known humanitarian concern for women and children.

      • Donald
        March 16, 2011, 5:49 pm

        Her “I’m a little bit fascist” remark was actually not the worst. Just before she said something about taking it off the ground, which I think meant leveling Gaza. I felt vindicated to hear her say it was their fault that “they” chose Hamas–see, that’s the sort of rationalization I expect whenever Westerners decide to civilize brown people with high explosives.

      • tree
        March 17, 2011, 2:16 am

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that her “fascist” remark was the worst thing she said.

      • Sumud
        March 17, 2011, 11:37 am

        where exactly did you get the idea that Israelis were cheering for bombing women and children and not cheering for the IDF to bomb Hamas?

        Right, maybe they were there because they remembered Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatening in Feb 2008 that Israeli would visit “a shoah” on Gaza – after all, they missed it the first time.

        I see someone has already posted the video of the Israeli on the hill overlooking Gaza (“a little bit fascist”) who also urged that Israel just wipe all of Gaza out.

        Max Blumenthal also documented a January 11 pro-Israel rally in New York celebrating the death and destruction Israel had been raining down on Gaza for over two weeks; if you were watching coverage you knew that Palestinians civilians casualties were huge by that stage. The “wipe them all out” comments occurs even in NY. Zionists were dancing in the street, literally. Max’s quick wit w/ the interview that starts at 2:02 is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen (Mooser ~ watch it!):

        Pro-Israel Rally For Attacking Gaza, NYC, 1-11-09

  4. annie
    March 16, 2011, 12:49 pm

    i’ve been a fan of reider’s articles for a long time and have had his blog bookmarked for a long time and linked to him several times in comments here in the past.

    personally i thought this latest article represented a serious lapse of judgment on his part for a number of reasons many expressed by Ajl and some i expressed in the comment section of reider’s article posted here.

    first and foremost is my own visceral reaction to the pervasive racism throughout the press in the presumption this was perpetrated by a palestinian without so much as a shred of evidence. it just blew my mind and still blows my mind. at a minimum the decorum of political correctness please!

    second, the requirement of a world wide condemnation is generally sought when governments commit heinous acts. less so for civilian murders. i recall no similar requirements of the quartet when we have school massacres here. do they all step forward and condemn it?

    we’re human. most people have an internal response of revulsion when we hear about children being murdered, that is natural. i do and i did when i heard about this. but why am i asked to condemn this? to prove i find it repulsive?

    “We must find a way of loudly and unreservedly condemning atrocities committed in the names of causes we believe in.” ………“But killing innocent members of a civilian community in order to get the rest of the community to leave has one name and one name only in international law – ethnic cleansing.”

    i seriously find this mindboggling. he not only knows who committed these murders he knows why. like i said, serious lack of judgment.

    when investigating a murder look for the motive. consider all likely suspects and who has the most to gain.

    remember the more assumption about who perpetrated the crime the more evidence is required to prove they didn’t do it, exactly the opposite of innocence until proven guilty. this brings to mind the wails of screaming and calls for boycotting sweden in response to that organ transplanting article until low and behold months down the road and interview surfaces from the doctor admitting he had in fact procured palestinian organs from corpses. so don’t fall into making any assumptions and that is what reider did. i think it goes without saying all of us are repulsed by the senseless murder of innocent children. but to condemn something without knowing who we are condemning? or why? to condemn something based on racist assumptions?

    no, i just will not get swept up into a racist witch hunt being used for political gain. investigate and let the chips fall where they may.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    March 16, 2011, 12:54 pm

    RE: “How should the left respond to the Itamar murders?”
    ALSO SEE – Sources: Thai workers questioned in Itamar, Ma’an News Agency, 03/14/11

    (excerpt) NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Monday afternoon summoned all Thai workers employed in the Itamar settlement, the site of the murder of five members of the Fogel family, and held them for questioning, Ma’an has learned.
    Sources close to some of the laborers said that all of the workers had been gathered and taken for questioning in relation to the stabbing deaths of a settler family on Friday night.
    Though Palestinians have been forbidden from working in the settlements of the northern West Bank, foreign workers, mostly from Thailand and the Philippines, have been contracted for labor in the area.
    It was unclear if Israeli investigators were widening their investigation to include the possibility that a foreign worker was involved in the attack, which has been blamed in the Israeli media on Palestinians.
    Israeli officials have refused to comment on the issue. Israel’s national police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an that a gag order has [conveniently - J.L.D.] been imposed on information connected to the investigation…

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to maannews.net

    P.S. ALSO SEE: Press report: Itamar culprit an Asian worker, Palestinian Information Center (Hamas), 03/14/11
    LINK – goo.gl/6Btb3

  6. DICKERSON3870
    March 16, 2011, 1:06 pm

    P.P.S. Press report: Itamar culprit an Asian worker, Palestinian Information Center (Hamas) – link to palestine-info.co.uk

  7. Richard Witty
    March 16, 2011, 1:34 pm

    “Second, customary international law allowed for “belligerent reprisals”: when your enemy is targeting your population, you are permitted to target theirs.”

    Cite it. Not an interpretation, a clear citation.

    It is the nut of your argument, that nearly any means are justified in the process of “resistance”. But, it just ain’t true, legally or morally.

    • Donald
      March 16, 2011, 2:33 pm

      “Cite it. Not an interpretation, a clear citation.

      It is the nut of your argument, that nearly any means are justified in the process of “resistance”. But, it just ain’t true, legally or morally.”

      What is going on with the italics in this thread?

      Anyway, that aside, this is one of those rare occasions where I completely agree with RW. I’d like a cite myself. But anyway, this is the very last thing any Palestinian supporter should want to rely on, given that some Israel defenders make such arguments to justify Israeli attacks on Palestinians.

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 16, 2011, 3:11 pm

        “What is going on with the italics in this thread?”

        The post by DICKERSON3870 on March 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm contained an improperly closed italics tag. The “/” was after the “i” rather than being before it.

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 16, 2011, 3:22 pm

        Thanks, Mod.

      • Potsherd2
        March 16, 2011, 6:47 pm

        Sites with proper software have buttons that insert the html tags correctly and thus these problems are avoided.

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 16, 2011, 3:21 pm

        “I’d like a cite myself. But anyway, this is the very last thing any Palestinian supporter should want to rely on, given that some Israel defenders make such arguments to justify Israeli attacks on Palestinians.”

        I don’t have a cite beyond the Grayling book I posted previously, but this was a customary party of international law previous to the human rights and laws of war conventions. It worked on the same principle as M.A.D., as in “you don’t sack Metz and we won’t sack Aachen.”

        But it certainly should not be invoked in this context for many, many reasons, the moral reason foremost among them.

    • Woody Tanaka
      March 16, 2011, 2:53 pm


      “Second, customary international law allowed for “belligerent reprisals”: when your enemy is targeting your population, you are permitted to target theirs.”

      Cite it. Not an interpretation, a clear citation.

      It is the nut of your argument, that nearly any means are justified in the process of “resistance”. But, it just ain’t true, legally or morally.

      As a historical matter, the writer is correct, “belligerent reprisal” was part of customary international law. And the morally unacceptable nature of it was one of the catalysts to the development of the international conventions on the law of war and also human right laws. (I believe there is a section of this in A.C. Grayling’s “Among the Dead Cities.” A good book, by the way.)

    • Cliff
      March 16, 2011, 3:56 pm

      Richard, you have no right to ask for citations. You lazily spam your messages on the blog without reading the content – even admitting so. You don’t read entire reports.

      Shouldn’t you be posting on some settler blog? Or Haaretz? Mutual blah blah.

    • Don
      March 16, 2011, 4:34 pm

      It seems to me it is only one of several extremely persuasive arguments that Max has made. Few of us on this list take the time to think issues through as carefully as Max Ajl. You might want to take a clue from Max in that regard, Richard.

      As for citations…why not look it up yourself? It took me 20 seconds on Google to find a citation (below). But here is the last sentence first…and a key concept repeated for emphasis…

      …yet an even more repugnant act…

      “Violating the law of war, even in a manner it allows, is a repugnant act, …yet an even more repugnant act is to allow an adversary to violate that same law with impunity.”

      The Continuing Role for Belligerent Reprisals
      link to jcsl.oxfordjournals.org

      1. Philip Sutter*

      – Author Affiliations

      1.
      *J.D., Brooklyn Law School (Class of 2007). The author would like to thank his friends and family for all their support and understanding over the years. Special thanks are in order for Judge Evan J. Wallach, Aleah Borghard and Jessica Haber.

      Abstract

      ‘The rumours of my demise are greatly exaggerated.’ – Mark Twain

      The enforcement of the law of war has always been a difficult proposition. It has become even more difficult in recent conflicts given the propensity of combatants to employ unlawful violence to further their cause. Such horrific conduct begs the question, how does the law of war restrain violators? There are many potential methods, among them war crimes tribunals and international mediation, but the subject of this article is the final enforcement mechanism: belligerent reprisals. It is a doctrine that responds to unlawful conduct by inflicting the same violation upon the violators in order to force them to cease. The doctrine of reprisals has fallen into disuse as numerous commentators suggest that it is no longer effective and soon to slip into complete illegality. However, reprisals utilizing a prohibited weapon remain lawful. And, for a number of states, reprisals against captured enemy combatants remain lawful. Violating the law of war, even in a manner it allows, is a repugnant act, yet an even more repugnant act is to allow an adversary to violate that same law with impunity.

    • Mooser
      March 16, 2011, 4:36 pm

      Jeez, I link this article over and over again, but I never cease to be astonished at how strictly our Zio-trolls adhere to its prescriptions.
      Fuster uses them in strict order, too, every time!

      link to jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2011, 5:59 pm

        Its a significant question, still unanswered by Max.

        I asked for citations of law, not interpretations. Please.

        In any case, the laws of war cited apply to wars between states, NOT between militias and states, not between guerillas and states.

        And, as Donald pointed out, it is sadly justification for Israeli excessive actions.

      • tree
        March 16, 2011, 6:19 pm

        I asked for citations of law, not interpretations.

        You obviously don’t understand the term “customary international law”. It refers to “customary”, i.e. non-codified, law. Since it is not codified, there can be no direct citation.

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        Customary international law “… consists of rules of law derived from the consistent conduct of States acting out of the belief that the law required them to act that way.”[1] It follows that customary international law can be discerned by a “widespread repetition by States of similar international acts over time (State practice).

      • Donald
        March 16, 2011, 6:29 pm

        Richard, I think it was a legitimate question you asked, though perhaps you and I should have done some googling on our own. Anyway, Woody and Don and tree have sufficiently answered it, I think, though if anyone else wants to educate us further that’s fine with me. I gather there used to be an understood custom that if side A committed an atrocity, side B could reply with an atrocity. Fortunately, at least in law, that’s not allowed. Unfortunately in real life it seems to happen a lot.

      • Richard Witty
        March 17, 2011, 6:22 am

        Donald,
        The question was of the rights under international law of resistance movements, NOT of states as articulated in all of the sources provided, including the quote of “customary law”, which if you read the wikipedia post refers to interactions between states (not mention of guerilla resistance), and prior to codification as early as 1908.

        To declare authoritatively that ‘any means necessary are consented to be legal by international law in resistance to occupation’ is a false assertion. The opposite is now customary law, that the means employed to resist or oppose suppression MUST conform to other norms of law. Specifically, it is customarily regarded that attacks on civilians is a gross violation of international law (as was articulated by Goldstone).

        I find it an irony, that Goldstone is substantively bashed by Zionists seeking to avoid accountability and by resistance fighters and advocates seeking to avoid accountability.

        Its the difference between advocacy for partisanship and advocacy for law. Partisans say ‘law be damned’, we have to achieve liberation by any means necessary, and then do immoral and illegal acts (and hopefully change permanently, thereby becoming a new status quo). Advocates for law say ‘liberation can only be ethically and legally achieved non-violently (really non-violently)’ and then appear to hinder solidarity.

      • Sumud
        March 17, 2011, 12:05 pm

        The opposite is now customary law, that the means employed to resist or oppose suppression MUST conform to other norms of law.

        You possibly haven’t grasped the difference between customary and conventional law. This is the correct formulation:

        The opposite is now conventional international law, that the means employed to resist or oppose suppression MUST conform to other norms of law.

        When it becomes codified, customary int’l law becomes conventional international law. If you recall I cited the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions the other day.

    • eljay
      March 16, 2011, 5:56 pm

      >> MA: Second, customary international law allowed for “belligerent reprisals”: when your enemy is targeting your population, you are permitted to target theirs.
      RW: Cite it. Not an interpretation, a clear citation. It is the nut of your argument, that nearly any means are justified in the process of “resistance”. But, it just ain’t true, legally or morally.

      Damn, I love watching the Zio-supremacist hypocrite get all worked-up over the legality or morality of things. Why, just a month ago, in this thread (which I kept bookmarked for an occasion such as this one), he defended Israel’s right to bombard Palestinians in retaliation for Palestinian reprisal attacks that were in response to Israeli offensive attacks.

      So, according to RW, Israel is entitled to “belligerent reprisals” even if – in his very own words – “they ‘started it’.” But he failed to provide a single clear citation to support his assertion that a country can legally (or morally) use military offensive actions to instigate a reprisal and then use that reprisal to justify additional destruction and carnage.

      What a “humanist”. What a joke(r).

      • James North
        March 16, 2011, 6:27 pm

        Richard: You have already made more posts on ‘belligerent reprisals’ than you ever did on the Freedom Flotilla. How do you account for the discrepancy?

      • Richard Witty
        March 17, 2011, 6:26 am

        Eljay,
        Actually, ‘they started it’ was not the basis of my assertion that Israel was required to protect Israeli civilians from rocket fire.

        I did not advocate for the scale of military action by Israel that they employed, but I do believe that it was the IDF responsibility (including under international law) to act to protect Israeli civilians.

        And, limited to identifiable militarily significant targets only.

        For you to state that I advocate for offensive military approaches is a lie. It might seem that way figuratively to you, but it ain’t so.

      • eljay
        March 17, 2011, 8:30 am

        >> Actually, ‘they started it’ was not the basis of my assertion that Israel was required to protect Israeli civilians from rocket fire.

        Israel “started it”, Palestinians responded and Israel used that response to justify “belligerent reprisals”. As an apologist for Israel, you’re fine with that.

        >> I did not advocate for the scale of military action by Israel …

        The issue isn’t one of scale. It’s one of supporting “belligerent reprisals” even in cases when Israel is the instigator.

        >> For you to state that I advocate for offensive military approaches is a lie.

        I didn’t say you advocate for offensive military approaches, you lying Zio-supremacist apologist. I said you excuse “belligerent reprisals” even if Israel is the instigator who “started it”. Yet here you are in this thread, hypocrite that you are, demanding that others provide citations to show the legality and morality of “belligerent reprisals”when you, who support Israel’s “belligerent reprisals”, haven’t bothered to provide a single one.

    • fuster
      March 16, 2011, 7:22 pm

      here Witty, is something about reprisals

      link to pegc.us

      wondrous thing that Ajl has written here. a few startling things fersure. a few very odd interpretations indeed.

    • Sumud
      March 17, 2011, 12:16 pm

      “Second, customary international law allowed for “belligerent reprisals”: when your enemy is targeting your population, you are permitted to target theirs.”

      Cite it. Not an interpretation, a clear citation.

      Having a Breitbart* moment Richard? What with this and advocating for the same ethnic cleansing proposals as Avigdor Lieberman did at the UN, you’re really a pioneering ‘liberal’ zionist, pioneering at breakneck speed into the far-right.

      *When you quote someone, always best to include their argument in total:

      Second, customary international law allowed for “belligerent reprisals”: when your enemy is targeting your population, you are permitted to target theirs. This is coldly utilitarian, and many states reject that doctrine explicitly, as do the Geneva Conventions. However, in this case, the issue of protected persons is a gray area, immensely blurred because the adult victims were illegal and armed settlers, effectively engaged in armed conflict.

      That’s more than a little different to your characterisation:

      It is the nut of your argument, that nearly any means are justified in the process of “resistance”.

  8. joer
    March 16, 2011, 2:01 pm

    There is something Stalinist, Macarthyite, or even Spanish Inqusition-like about being pressured to denounce or condemn, especially in a case like this where we don’t even know who killed this family or why. Yes it was a horrible act-and if horrible isn’t a strong enough word, feel free to go to a thesaurus and put a stronger word in-but the act didn’t begin with the stabbing-it began when the parents decided to live as outlaws on poached land, and continued when the Israeli government allowed them to do so-in fact encouraged and helped them do so.

    • fuster
      March 16, 2011, 2:40 pm

      it began when humans decided that there was a permissible concept of private property, joer.
      maybe before that.

      but you have a great point! any baby bears mortal guilt for the deeds of the parents. yup, that’s how it begins.

      • joer
        March 16, 2011, 3:21 pm

        but you have a great point! any baby bears mortal guilt for the deeds of the parents. yup, that’s how it begins.

        You got it backwards-the parents are responsible for raising their children-and if they are irresponsible, as in this case, then tragedy can occur.

        I have to admit I was amused at how you twisted my meaning. Just to be clear, the children are not responsible. The parents and the government of Israel share responsibility with the one who held the knife.

  9. Chu
    March 16, 2011, 2:39 pm

    Great rebuttal Max. Thank you.

  10. David Samel
    March 16, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Dimi Reider has made many excellent contributions, and his ill-advised criticism of the “activist left” for its silence is unfortunate but not inexcusably offensive. It was premature on two counts. First, he was forced to retract his accusation with respect to several activist groups whose public condemnations were made after Reider’s artificially short deadline. Second, his conclusion that the perpetrator(s) was Palestinian, something I also speculated was very likely, may also have been premature. It is looking very likely that whoever was responsible acted alone and not on behalf of any organized group that planned the attack.

    Max Ajl reasonably takes offense at Reider’s comparison of this event with the Nakba, but I suspect (and hope) that Reider’s point was more clumsy and careless than any affirmative assertion of equivalence. I think Yossi Gurvitz’s language in critically responding to Reider was more troubling and revealing of a deep-seated tribalist bias.

    Ajl resents Reider telling him what his reaction must be. That’s understandable. I think there is a range of reasonable responses. Some pro-Palestinian activists may be moved to simply condemn this act without reference to Israeli atrocities, some may insist that condemnation be placed in context of Israeli responsibility for this crime and many many others, and some may decide that the issues are too complex and a condemnation too ineffectual to make any public statement at all. About the only response from the “left” that I would truly deplore is that the kids deserved what they got, which of course I’ve heard from no one. The far more common mainstream reaction, that this butchery is qualitatively worse than Israel’s long record of violence against civilians, is the most odious of all. Israel has slaughtered so many innocents, for bad reason and for no reason, that anyone who excuses or overlooks those crimes has no business hand-wringing over this one.

    However, Ajl at least strongly implies that those on the pro-Palestinian side refrain from criticizing these murders, if it turns out that a Palestinian perpetrator was involved. I disagree with that as well. It seems a mirror image of Reider’s insistence that he knows best what others should do. If Reider sees the need to unequivocally condemn, and Ajl the need to remain silent, both should understand that other people of common sense and decency might make different decisions for themselves.

    Ajl’s best point is that even if it was an unhinged Palestinian who wielded the knife, there are many more powerful and more sinister who are also responsible for this crime and many worse ones. His list of culprits at the end of his piece is a good start.

  11. Avi
    March 16, 2011, 7:04 pm

    Max Ajl,

    I think you and I will continue to disagree on such matters as the Israel Lobby, but in this case, in this article, it’s as though you read my mind. So, thanks for taking the time and effort to write this rather comprehensive report.

    If he thinks criticism from the Israeli “radical” left will win it social support for de-Zionizing cis-Jordan, he is not thinking straight.

    Indeed. In addition, the common misconception among the so-called “left” is that in placating the radical right, much in the same way Obama had set out to become a “centrist” leader — reaching across the isle (Oh how the US media loves such slogans) — will somehow win them broader support or legitimacy.

    Let’s compare that strategic collective miscalculation to an individual’s behavior. Individuals who assert themselves, who stand with strong conviction are the ones who usually achieve their goals. Those who waffle, those who hesitate, stumble or retreat, they are the ones who usually fail, time and again. If that strategy is important in inter-personal relations, then it is certainly important in social and inter-group relations.

    When a country’s politicians adopt the mentality of the lynch mob, is it really an act of solidarity for the left to add its voices to their frenzy?

    But, that’s what the “left” really is, after all. By Israeli standards, people like Max Ajl or Shmuel are radical leftists, fringe of the fringe. And that’s the problem.

    I remember Yitzhak Laor’s poem: “The moderates who said let’s wait & see the party hack who fell over himself in praising the army… “They” shall not be cleansed.” Drenched in Arab blood, we piously insist on judging our victims.

    Welcome to Israel. That’s what the “moderates” like to think of themselves. They are “moderates” by label only, hypocrites, targets of their own apathetic bliss.

    I’m glad you wrote this article, Max. Well done.

  12. pjdude
    March 17, 2011, 4:27 am

    the attacks should be condemned
    the ones that did it brought to justice.
    the causes of the actions found out.
    the causes for the attack to be eliminated as much as possible.

    • Mooser
      March 17, 2011, 8:33 pm

      “the causes for the attack to be eliminated as much as possible.”

      You think you can convince the settlers to pay contract workers, when the settlers consider anybody except themselves subhuman and not worthy of being honestly dealt with?

Leave a Reply