…Indeed, all the Palestinian people I have spoken with here in the West Bank who heard of the murders [in Itamar] shake their heads and say how terrible they were (and none saw the pictures). And in the next breath they add, “and I’m sure it wasn’t a Palestinian who did this.” The murders were condemned by Palestinian militant groups, the political leadership and civil society.
And yet the Israeli government has had a field day, accusing the Palestinian collective of incitement to murder and using the incident as a pretext to expand settlements – and to hold hostage the entire village of Awarta (over 5,000 people), adjacent to Itamar, which has been under total lockdown for days. A close Palestinian colleague remarks: “After 45 years of occupying us, and 60-plus years of fighting us, the Israelis still don’t know us – it’s amazing.”
In denying involvement, the military wing of the Fatah party, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said they “oppose the targeting of civilians and killing of children no matter what the pretext may be.” A leaflet from the Imad Mughniyeh Group, loosely affiliated with Hezbollah and Fatah, added that in the past, it had “abandoned many attacks” due to the presence of children. More than one Palestinian reminds me of the No. 300 bus hijacking in 1984, which was “botched” because the Palestinian hijackers let a pregnant Israeli woman off the bus.
The information she then gave to the Israeli security services enabled them to locate the bus and ultimately kill all the militants.
“We don’t deliberately target women and children,” several Palestinians who served time in Israeli prisons for activities against the occupation tell me unhesitatingly. Is this Palestinian cultural patriarchy at work or is it respect for international law that guides these accused militants? “But you put bombs inside civilian buses years ago. What’s the difference?” I ask.
I am struck by the answer: “This was a stabbing of children inside their homes – that’s not resistance. No bomber boarded a bus to kill children.”
International humanitarian law does not recognize the distinctions that these militants make: Indiscriminate attacks that are likely to kill civilians are plainly illegal. But, by the logic I was hearing, the distinction boils down to a matter of intent. Like the different degrees of murder recognized by the American criminal system.
“You know,” continues one of the former prisoners, “it took years for the resistance to agree to include Israeli settlers as targets. Only when [Rabbi Moshe] Levinger and his bandits grew in numbers and began driving through our streets and shooting at us, did we reach agreement on this.”( Haaretz, April 1, 2011)
The investigation, by the way, is under a gag order. We wouldn’t want published facts to interfere with the statewide racist incitement that can be milked from this story in Israel, would we?