Most of you are already aware of the murder of 5 Israeli settlers in Itamar last Saturday. It was a truly terrible crime, and one that is now having widespread ramifications. There remains some doubt as to who is responsible for the killings, an Israeli or Palestinian, though Israel seems confident it was the latter. The IDF has begun rounding up of dozens of Palestinian men around the Nablus area and imposed a curfew on the nearby village of Awarta. Settler violence towards Palestinians has increased across the West Bank: hurling rocks and molotov cocktails at cars, burning Palestinian property, and knife attacks.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the Itamar killings (March 12, 2011):
"I have noticed that several countries that always hasten to the UN Security Council in order to condemn Israel, the state of the Jews, for planning a house in some locality, or for laying some tiles somewhere have been dilatory in sharply condeming the murder of Jewish infants. I expect them to issue such condemnations immediately, without balances, without understandings, without justifications. There is no justification and there can be neither excuse nor forgiveness for the murder of children."
The Itamar killings were horrific. But such remarks by Israeli officials, and the rapidfire condemnations of the killings by Clinton and Obama is mindboggling. Netanyahu's reference to settlements (and the simultaneous bulldozing of Palestinian homes) as "planning a house in some locality" is infuriating, as is the fact that his government has announced plans for "laying some tiles" in 500 new spots across Palestine.
I can easily agree with Netanyahu, that there is absolutely no excuse and no forgiveness for murdering children. So what of the Palestinian children who have been killed, been orphaned, been taken from their homes in the middle of the night? The Itamar killings are not an isolated incident of violence. They have a context. Not a context that could ever begin to excuse such an act, but a context that cannot be ignored. Violence against children in the West Bank is not unusual. Itamar was another episode of daily terror and violence. But more people seemed to tune in this time.