Larry Derfner
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
April 20, 2011 - 12:00am

When settlers are suspected of murdering Palestinians, do the IDF, Shin Bet and police trash their settlements and beat up their neighbors until someone confesses, which is what just happened in the village next to Itamar?

Of course not. In fact, settlers in Itamar itself were suspected of three separate murders of Palestinians since 2000, yet were treated quite gently, according to media reports. One of them, Yehoshua Elitzur, was allowed to remain under house arrest even after his 2004 conviction on a reduced charge of manslaughter, which made it easy for him to disappear before sentencing; he’s still at large. After a 2000 murder, two Itamar residents were held for a few days, then released. After a 2002 murder that cast suspicion on Itamar settlers, no one was even arrested.

The killers of the Fogel family were monsters who don’t deserve to live. There was never any reasonable doubt that the murderers were Palestinians. The trail reportedly led to the neighboring village of Awarta. It may very well be that the two 18-year-olds who confessed are, in fact, the guilty ones.

But the way Israeli security forces got those confessions had nothing to do with justice.

“Several of the Palestinians [in Awarta] said they were beaten by the soldiers and their interrogators,” wrote journalist Noam Sheizaf on the +972 website. “Fifteen families have reported damage to their houses. In several cases, Palestinians claimed that large sums of money – between 500 and 5,000 shekels – disappeared from their houses after the soldiers left. In other cases, doors were broken and furniture damaged during the searches.”

Noting that settlers continually came through Awarta stoning homes and breaking car windows, Sheizaf added that Itamar settlers “have also taken over private agricultural land owned by the village’s farmers and established on it a new outpost, consisting of four mobile homes and guarded by the army.”

“They murder, we build” – that’s what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said after the massacre, announcing the expansion of various settlements. Itamar will “triple in size,” said the local council head.

Funny, but in 1994, after Baruch Goldstein shot dead 29 men and boys praying in a Hebron mosque and wounded about 100 others, there were no gestures to the local Palestinians. When Hebronites rioted, the IDF turned its guns on them, put the city under curfew and forbade Palestinians to drive on the major thoroughfare that runs past the Jewish settlement. That was the beginning of the coerced exodus of Palestinians from downtown Hebron; now it’s a ghost town except, of course, for Israeli settlers and soldiers.

And Itamar, like Yitzhar, Har Bracha, Tapuah and other settlements near Nablus, along with dozens of other small settlements and hilltop outposts in the heart of the West Bank, are part of what I call “Baruch Goldstein country.”

It’s not that everyone who lives in those enclaves thinks Goldstein’s last act was a mitzva, but those who don’t are probably better off keeping their opinions to themselves.

Itamar is a spearhead of the occupation – a foray deep into the Palestinians’ midst, a wedge in their contiguity and an obstacle to their expansion, a fact on the ground meant to make Palestinian statehood impossible. It’s for radical nationalists, preferably religious ones, only.

These settlers and the soldiers who defend them are the rulers of the land, while the Palestinians in villages like Awarta live under their guns. We know everything about the Israelis who get killed by Palestinians; we know nothing about the much larger number of Palestinians who get killed by Israelis.

None of this, nothing in the world, justifies the stabbing to death of a family in their beds at night. But since that horrible night, the settlement of Itamar has become identified with the Fogel family, with the murdered children – with their victimhood, their innocence – and that’s a distortion of reality.

The settlement of Itamar is not a victim and not innocent. It is a hotbed of Arab-hatred, Jewish supremacism and violence. It’s an example of what’s wrong with the occupation – as is the just-concluded IDF, Shin Bet and police blowout in Awarta.

No, Israeli dictatorship over the Palestinians doesn’t justify the murder of Israeli children. But the murder of Israeli children doesn’t justify Israeli dictatorship over the Palestinians.

Ending our dictatorship would go an awfully long way toward safeguarding the lives of children and adults on both sides. And among the many severe obstacles to ending that dictatorship is the settlement of Itamar.


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