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March 18, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3679

Palestinian Reactions to the Itamar Murder, Part II: Praise By Hamas; Condemnation In PA – Amid Accusations That Israel Is Exploiting the Murders For Political Aims

March 18, 2011
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 3679

Following the March 12, 2011 murder of the Fogel family in the Israeli settlement of Itamar, reactions by the PLO, and by a number of columnists in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, included harsh condemnation of the barbaric attack, an emphasis on the Palestinians' disgust at the murder of children – which, they said, contradicted their moral values – and also an attempt to hold Israel ultimately responsible. Israel itself habitually murders children, they said, and added that it was Israel's policies that led to the attack, and that Israel was now exploiting the murders as political capital. It was also suggested that the attack could have been perpetrated by an Israeli settler.

In contrast, an article that appeared on a website close to Hamas praised the murders.

Following is part two of an overview of Palestinian reactions to the murders:[1]

Condemnation and Renunciation of the Murder and of the Armed Struggle

On March 15, 2011, the PLO Executive Committee announced: "We call on Israeli public opinion to be fully confident that the Palestinian people and its leadership, who are subject to barbaric occupation and to ongoing daily oppression, do not remain silent when crimes are committed against a family or individual – especially the recent crime against the Israeli family, even if they were settlers."[2]

Mufaq Matar, columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "We know that the soldiers of the occupation kill, and that the settlers commit crimes, violate humane and international laws, and perpetrate crimes against humanity – but we will not let anyone push us down that slope. It is vitally important for us to prevent the collapse of [our] system of moral values... Getting caught up in an unconsidered [cycle] of bloody vengeance would be rebellion against the values of the Palestinian people, and doing so must be opposed and disgorged by us. The people have a record rife with clashes and battles against the invaders and occupiers, who are armed from head to toe. A man is a man, even he always has the advantage in all things connected to equipment and arms. We have never allowed the sanctity of children's [lives] to be violated..."

Matar claimed that it was inconceivable that the murderer of the Fogel children could have been a Palestinian: "There is no room for argument. Stabbing an infant to death is a crime against humanity. Whoever did this was insane, or charged with racist assumptions. This is not nationalist; there is no connection between the murder of the infant in the settlement of Itamar and the values of our people's struggle. The ways and means of the resistance of the Palestinian people reflect its cultural identity. We pose thousands of questions regarding the identity of the murderer of the infant in the Itamar settlement, his aspects, and the ramifications that he wanted, and what he intended to accomplish. Why don't the Israeli police look for similar previous cases? They might find that the criminal is perhaps hiding in a nearby settlement... None among us would allow or legitimize the murder of other children, whether they are Jewish settlers or non-settlers. [Our] principles and human morality dictate to us what to do and how to act. Anyone who emulates the evildoers is [himself] an evildoer, an ignoramus, and appalling. The murderer of the infant is not one of us and never will be..."

Matar added: "We must not return to the armed struggle. We are convinced that it is inappropriate for our circumstances and in the present reality. Nonviolent popular resistance is the most suitable and effective, but we intend to be vigilant and wary, not only of the danger of falling into the trap of our resistance being turned into terror and crime, in light of the increased official and popular international support for legitimate nonviolent resistance – but also of our own fear for ourselves and of ourselves. Justice is with us as long as moral values inform every movement we make in our lives. Just as our aspiration for liberty, freedom, and independence is a right, we also strive to purify our path and our methods of the natural inclination toward revenge or from giving in to the Satan of murder due solely to a desire to murder."[3]

'Adel Al-Rahman, another columnist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, claimed that Israel has indiscriminately murdered Palestinians – infants, women, men, youth, and the elderly – with no moral boundaries or legal restrictions, whereas the Palestinians have persevered in protecting human life, particularly that of children, even if they are the children of Israeli settlers. He wrote: "A child is a child, and no one must harm him, regardless of his identity, who his parents are, and whether he lives in a new or an old settlement. On the contrary – all seek to protect innocent children among the defenseless civilian population, even if they are enemies. Protecting children is not a matter of kindness but is a national, humane, legal, and moral obligation.

"Whoever murdered the children in Itamar, whether Zionist or Palestinian, made a mistake. The language of murdering children is an unmistakably Zionist language, and it has no connection to the Palestinians and their national culture. Nevertheless, whoever murdered the children in Itamar is a murderer, and his act of murder serves no one, regardless of who he is. Likewise, there is an enormous difference between the flocks of settlers, whose minds have gone wrong because of their malicious crimes against the innocent Palestinians on the pretext of revenge for the Itamar operation, and children, even if their parents are Zionists."[4]

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida editor Hafez Al-Barghouti wrote: "We had the courage to condemn the murder of the children, but we certainly do not expect the occupation to condemn the murders that it has committed, or the destruction and the ethnic cleansing it has carried out and is currently carrying out. One hundred meters west of the Neveh Tsuf settlement, which was established on the lands of Dir Nazam and Nabi Saleh and which is where the children of Itamar are being consoled, a boy from Dir Nazam's Tamimi family was killed in gunfire by the occupation, in the beginning of the Intifada... Will the Palestinians again circulate photos of their children whose bodies have been torn to shreds by planes and shells, in response to the haste with which Israel circulated photos of the Jewish children, even though it is not yet known who the perpetrator is and what his motives were?"[5]

PLO Executive Committee: Israel Is Attacking the PA

At their March 15, 2011 session, the PLO Executive Committee condemned "the attack launched by [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his government against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, by blaming them for the crime of wiping out the Israeli family several days ago, despite the [Palestinians'] harsh denunciation of the crime, and even though all the Palestinian factions and forces denied any responsibility for the [murders] – [even] before the investigation pointed at the element or people who perpetrated it, or at their identity."[6]

Saleh Masharqa, columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "Following the attack on Itamar, [the Israelis] want to portray us as child murderers, and the picture [they paint] is one of a masked Palestinian stabbing and slicing up the members of the settler family in their sleep. The imaginary Palestinian who does this deed, who is a blood-spilling murderer without a conscience, does not [even] flinch from stabbing the three-month-old girl Hadas. In [the Israelis'] minds, we are no longer a poverty-stricken people, victim of the occupation and the settlements; we are masked men who murder children in their sleep, are we not?

"This is how, since the morning of Saturday [March 12, 2011] the Netanyahu government ignited [the fire against us] – and so far there is still no information. We do not know who committed [the crime], and all possibilities remain open. Maybe he was a Palestinian, maybe an Israeli – but the attack by the Netanyahu gang against 'Palestinian terror' rages on unceasingly – in the absence of any information regarding the perpetrator of the [murders]...

"Hadas is dead, may she rest in peace. She is the victim of the fanaticism of Israel's leaders. She is dead, and [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman remains, shouting to the world from dawn till dusk. Hadas is dead, and Netanyahu remains, a hardhearted prime minister at a historical time when his people needs a human conscience and not his nationalist fanaticism or the fluent English."[7]

Israel Is Using the Murders for Its Own Ends

An announcement issued by the PLO Executive Committee read: "Netanyahu has exploited this crime in malicious and disgraceful ways in order to allow more construction projects in the settlements and to encourage the settlers, who are protected by the occupation army, to bully and attack the Palestinian cities and villages, and also to carry out the basest forms of terrorism against our people. This Israeli escalation, which is well planned and organized, is a racist crime committed by the occupation state, and it is trying to continue it in order to weaken the international campaign of support for and recognition of our rights and the borders of our independent Palestinian state... Public opinion in Israel must speak out against this Israeli government campaign, behind which hides a desire to exploit the crime [in Itamar] in order to sabotage any political efforts for at peace, and to provide cover for additional construction in the settlements and for violating the Palestinian people's national and human rights."[8]

Fatah accused Netanyahu of exploiting the murders for political aims: "Netanyahu is exploiting the murder of the family in the Itamar settlement and trying to blackmail the Palestinian leadership into returning to negotiations. Netanyahu, whose government ordered the release of the gory pictures of the [murdered] children, is trying to take advantage of the incident in order to blackmail Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas and to pressure him into returning to negotiations – although [Netanyahu] knows full well that the perpetrator [of the murders] is not Palestinian, and is no longer unknown to the [Israeli] security apparatuses, which have pointed to a motives of vengeance by a foreign worker in the [Itamar] settlement."[9]

Mufaq Matar wrote: "Netanyahu knows that the world will not allow the settlements to become a fact on the ground; that is why we have seen him and his government as someone who is losing their temper and stepping up their campaign of incitement against President Abu Mazen [i.e. 'Abbas] personally, and against the Palestinian Authority and its institutions. All this is not in response to the murder of the Jewish settler family in Itamar, but because Abu Mazen was successful in motivating countries and governments worldwide to pull the rug from under the settlements – [settlements] to which Netanyahu did not manage to grant legitimacy, depiste his efforts...

"The Israeli media intentionally aired bloody images of the children, who were victims of the [Israeli] campaign – [a campaign] that we see will not flag until they achieve their aims, including at the very least convincing the world of the need to continue the settlements and to concentrate them in strategic areas, on the pretext of defending the Israelis.

"Netanyahu has not forgotten that his government's military and security authorities are responsible for the security of the settlements, and that the Palestinian Authority has no control over them whatsoever. Nevertheless, he overreached and blamed the PA and its president, and its information media [for the murders], claiming that they were inciting. Did Netanyahu successfully deceive Israeli public opinion and direct the attention from his government's failure in all areas, particularly in security, and in its war on organized crime in Israel, which is now ranked second worldwide in this regard?

"It would appear that Netanyahu is avoiding facing the Israeli public with a desperate attempt to convince [it] of a version [of the murders] in which the Palestinians are to blame. [But] the Itamar settlement is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military and the settlers – so it is Israel and its military that bear the responsibility."[10]

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida editor Hafez Al-Barghouti wrote: "Israel's decision to build hundreds of homes in the settlements following the barbaric operation in Itamar – by a perpetrator whose identity is still unknown – indicates its hidden desire to pray for blood to be used as provocation, so as to bring the situation back to the edge of the abyss and to its starting point. Following the [Itamar] operation, we must ask why the right-wing Israeli government does not reassess its settlement policy, which sends innocent people into the fires of the struggle and [then] laments its bitter fate when they are harmed."[11]

The Israeli Government Would Rather Dig Graves Than Build Homes

Hafez Al-Barghouti wrote: "Condemning the murder of settler children, even if their presence on our land is illegal, means condemning the settlement [enterprise] itself, which uses blood to fuel for the bulldozers of the settlements. With its current policy, the right-wing [Israeli] government is itself an accessory to the crime of murder. Moreover, it covers for every act of insanity against the settlers – as if it itself placed the knife in the murderer's hand.

"The settlement [enterprise] is the cradle of all the barbaric deeds and inhuman operations, because it is, at its root, an inhuman operation that is against international law and against the way of life, and that disrupts any progress toward a peace arrangement...

"The insanity of the settlement [enterprise] is no less grave than the insanity of the murderer who slaughtered the children in Itamar, and it is the same insanity that wrought destruction on hundreds of our children, infants, and unborn due to the occupation's insistence on continuing in its delusions rather than taking the path of peace. Maybe a government with such superficial thinking, which exploits the blood of children in order to spill the blood of the land and its inhabitants, is [actually] striving to move things to the point of no return in the path of violence."[12]

Saleh Masharqa wrote: "Netanyahu... hates to think of the future of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. He hates to think of the construction of a home for Hadas and her Jewish family in an agricultural kibbutz within Israel... This thinking is not of constructing homes, but of digging the graves of the children of settlers in the West Bank and the graves of Palestinian children everywhere."[13]

Column On Hamas-Affiliated Website: Itamar Murders "A Heroic Act"

Sawsan Al-Barghouti, a columnist for a website affiliated with Hamas, called the Itamar murders a "heroic act": "The heroic act in Nablus struck stunning blows, the first of which was against the supporters of coexistence [between the Palestinians] and the Jews on the holy and proud land of Palestine. Stability, security, freedom and independence cannot prevail as long as there are recruits [in Palestine], each and every one armed from head to toe and supported by their thieving and plundering government.

"The second blow was to 'Abbas and the Palestinian Authority: The resistance in the West Bank exists and is strong, despite the persecution, arrest, and assassination of the mujahideen [there]...

"This heroic deed, and ones like it, have successfully sabotaged the Arab initiative [i.e. the Saudi Arab peace initiative], which is not worth a single glance. Our heroes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank... will sabotage all plans against the legitimate 'violence,' and they will come out against the enemy, from under the ground, from across the borders, and from places so distant as to be unimaginable by the Mossad, the occupation forces, and their entire army of defeat and disappointment.[14]

Endnotes:

[1] See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3664, "Senior PA Officials Condemn Itamar Murder while Blaming Israel for Palestinian Hostility," March 14, 2011, Senior PA Officials Condemn Itamar Murder while Blaming Israel for Palestinian Hostility

[2] WAFA (PA), March 15, 2011.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 14, 2011.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 14, 2011.

[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 15, 2011.

[6] WAFA (PA), March 15, 2011.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 14, 2011.

[8] WAFA (PA), March 15, 2011.

[9] WAFA (PA), March 15, 2011.

[10] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 14, 2011.

[11] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 15, 2011.

[12] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 15, 2011.

[13] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 14, 2011.

[14] www.palestine-info.info, March 14, 2011.

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