Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mystery Surrounds Murder of Jewish Family at Itamar

An Israeli girl returned home Friday night to find her parents, and three of the family's six children stabbed to death in their beds, including a three-month old infant.   The  Fogel family lived in the Jewish settlement of Itamar, located on the Palestinian West Bank.  Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders expressed shock and horror at the murders.  But even before the full investigation into the murders had been launched, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a massive expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank, punishing the Palestinians for what he termed "incitement."  A Senior aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu declared: "The Palestinian leadership must be held accountable for continued incitement and failure to stop the glorification of murderers."  That same day, Israeli officials released to the public, bloody photographs of the murdered family, presumably for "informational purposes."

Shortly thereafter, an article appeared in the Jewishjournal.com entitled "A Responsibility to Look [Graphic Images].  Its author, Rob Eshman, declared:

"Motti Fogel, brother of Udi Fogel, said at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery on Sunday that the funeral should have been a private affair. "A person is born for himself, to his parents and siblings, and dies for himself, he is not a symbol or a national event, and death must not be allowed to become an instrument of something.
But it was not Motti who decided. Right-wing politicos, cabinet ministers, Knesset members and West Bank rabbis expropriated the murder of his brother and his family from Motti and made it a political event. To them the five murdered members of the Fogel family are a catalyst for realizing the great dream: the dream of messianic redemption, of the Greater Land of Israel."
The Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, has also disagreed with the Israeli government's approach.  In an opinion piece entitled "Netanyahu's Exploitation of the Murders at Itamar," reporter Nehemia Shtrasler warned that the Israeli government’s precipitous behavior surrounding these murders could trigger violence by Jewish extremists.

So, who would have a motive to perpetrate such a senseless act of violence?  A deranged Palestinian might have, or for that matter, it could have been a mentally-ill Israeli Jew.    Trained Middle East terrorists trying to derail the latest Palestinian-Israeli peace initiative might have calculated that the ensuing uproar would sour both sides to peace talks.   Several publicity-seeking individuals, who insist that they represent an Iranian-backed,  breakaway faction of the network of West Bank militas called the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade have even claimed responsibility.  However, Israeli police, to their credit, have not taken them seriously, since the available evidence points elsewhere.  Israeli extremists could also use the attack to justify a new terrorist initiatve on their part.  See here.   And yet,  this  gruesome attack might turn out to be personal,a  family feud turned deadly. 

In fact, news reports that first surfaced in the Jerusalem Post, quoting Palestinian media sources, claimed that Thai migrant workers, living in the heavily guarded Itamar settlement, had been rounded up for questioning.   The Palestinian news agency, Ma'an reported that one Asian man, in particular, had  become a person of interest in the investigation.  According to sources, he had become enraged when the Fogel family for whom he worked,  failed to pay him the agreed upon wages.     

As an American, my reaction to the Israeli government's handling of this tragedy is . . . “my country has been there, done that.”  Palestinians might indeed be guilty of perpetrating this heinous crime.  However,  the history of the United States is replete with cases of blacks being lynched and castrated by vigilante mobs for crimes they did not commit.  Given the fact that the U.S. is Israel’s closest ally, I would suggest that we offer a bit of fatherly advice.  Let the police do their job.   

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