By Ilene Cohen
It makes me feel dirty in a sense to feel the need to answer Netanyahu at a time of a brutal, inexcusable murder of a settler family by Palestinian terrorists, but I’ll wade into the filth, because the Israeli hypocrisy attendant on this crime makes me want to scream.
My comments are not meant as an apology or justification for the horrible crime. And further—and this is truly only a tertiary consideration—surely Palestinians who believe that such murder somehow advances the rightful Palestinian quest for justice are delusional. Palestinians are not Israelis, who get a pass for slaughtering Arabs. There is no pass for Palestinians—and in my view there should be no pass for such behavior. But that standard should hold for Israelis, as well; it does not.
We live in a world in which (almost) forty-four years of Israeli colonial occupation, in violation of international law, and massive Israeli aggression and violence against Palestinians have essentially been acceptable, or so it would seem, because they are greeted by the international community of nations with no consequences. Where was the outcry at the 2008–9 onslaught against Gaza? There are hints, but only hints, that change may be in the air, as there is, finally, a growing sense of disgust with Israeli violence, lawlessness, and lies. (The Israelis have brought this opprobrium on themselves but whiningly refer to it as “delegitimization,” as if it’s someone else’s fault.)
For Netanyahu to blame the Palestinian leadership for “incitement” is absurd. Incitement is the Israeli speciality; it is not the Abbas/Fayyad MO. And for Netanyahu to look to Abbas and Fayyad for an unequivocal condemnation—which, in fact, they have issued—well, what hubris is that coming from a man who has never offered an “unequivocal condemnation” for the abuse, humiliation, and, yes, the routine murder of Palestinians by settlers and by the Israeli government itself by means of the IDF?
Can we forget the recent slaughter of a Palestinian man asleep in bed by the members of the IDF bursting into his house in the middle of the night? The initial official Israeli response was to claim (as they always do) that the man was “threatening” the soldiers (while asleep). When that story was shredded (even by poor Isabel Kershner, who had no choice but to admit as much in the New York Times), the best that came from the Israelis was an admission that a “mistake” had been made. Business as usual. Let us not forget, either, that the Israelis continue to justify the slaughter in Gaza, along with their willful destruction of the Gazan infrastructure, schools, and the industrial zones.
In Gaza today, we see innocents killed by the IDF for daring to enter their own land (the Israelis, who insist that they do not “occupy” Gaza, have declared much of Gaza off limits to Gazans and control all ingress and egress). And in the West Bank, the individual killings, incursions, arrests, and detainment (including of children) are a weekly occurrence—done by the IDF in the name of the Israeli government. As for the settler violence, it continues unabated in the form of what they now call the “price tag” (though they’ve never needed an excuse), whereby any trouble imposed on settlers by the government results in settlers attacking Palestinians as “payback” while the IDF stands by and watches.
So, yes, I condemn unequivocally this brutal murder of a settler family, even as I always condemn all of the settler families for their illegal occupation of Palestine. And I call upon PM Netanyahu to condemn unequivocally the murder and lawlessness of his own people and his own government against the Palestinian subject people.
I see, too, that President Obama has weighed in to offer his own “unequivocal condemnation” of yesterday’s murders. I don’t recall him opening his mouth when Israelis murder Palestinians. Or am I missing something?
Netanyahu’s latest performance is just another attempt to discredit Palestinian resistance to occupation. While I believe fervently that violence is not the answer, “resistance” cannot be disallowed. And those who, like the Israelis, would disallow it do so in the name of their own evil status quo. There is a right to resist evil.
We saw in this country, too, that when African Americans, supported by other decent human beings of good will, resisted Jim Crow, they, too, were attacked (violently) by the segregationists, who challenged their right to resist. Funny thing about people who do ugly things or prefer to avert their eyes from the ugly things—they deny the victims the right to challenge them. (On this theme, see MLK, Letter from a Birmingham Jail; and for magnificent meditations on it, see the great novels of Marilynne Robinson, Gilead and Home; and give a thought to John Brown in Russell Banks, Cloudsplitter, and David Reynolds, John Brown Abolitionist.)