The horrendous murder of a family from the West Bank settlement of Itamar is a terrible event of itself. But the event also represents a descent into madness and inhumanity in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, at least for me, underscores inevitable and deep pessimism about the peace process.
The conflict is shot through with immorality by this point. Consider how the Israelis and Palestinians have reacted. There are reports of West Bank settlers responding as viciously and threateningly as they do when the government dismantles their outposts, as a “price tag” from the Palestinians in the area. The Israeli government itself has decided to construct 400 units in West Bank settlements to demonstrate its support for the settlers and show it will not be coerced into withdrawal. Ariel mayor Ron Nachman blamed left-wing journalists in Israel for contributing to delegitimization of the settlements and therefore setting the stage for such attacks.
Many Palestinians, for their part, continue to follow a longstanding tradition of condemning terrorist attacks on Israelis but in the same breath referencing the “cause” of the terrorism — Israeli occupation policies — thus mitigating the ghastly nature of terrorism itself. Others from the left in Israel condemn the violence but, put off by the reactions of right-wingers, prefer to focus on the evils of the occupation and Jewish violence to make sure a minimum of moral equivalency is maintained.
No less important is how supporters of Israel and of the Palestinians have reacted. The blogosphere, Facebook, and the wider Internet is suffused with blame, accusations and justifications. Just look at the comments that follow any media or Internet posting about the murder and its aftermath (including this one?).
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