Two colonists, Eiran and Naama Henkin, were murdered yesterday whilst travelling between the colonies of Itamar and Elon Moreh. Their children, thankfully, survived the attack. Hamas spokesman Husam Badran has reportedly praised the murders.
The “Israeli right” has condemned the attacks as terrorism, and a massive manhunt is now underway for those responsible. The “right” has also looked to the “left” for swift condemnation. I have to say, I’ve seen many within the pro-Palestinian camp mangling their response.
Yes, these people were colonists: They were participating in the Zionist colonisation of occupied Palestine. But they were also not taking active part in hostilities, and are protected as civilians under international humanitarian law. This is important, because it is the same protection that Palestinian civilians should also enjoy.
Having said that, it is instructive to view the differences in how people in general view different kinds of violence, and how we respond to it.
Supporters of the Zionist regime in Israel were quick to condemn the attack as terrorism, but typically fell silent when the marauding colonists and Zionist militants began attacking Nablus.
Supporters of Palestine were quick to condemn the burning to death of the Dawabsha family, but fall silent or choose to equivocate when colonists are murdered.
And an error made by the vast majority of people from all parts of the political compass – we are more accepting of killings perpetrated by those wearing uniforms or flying an F16 than by those not wearing such uniforms. The doctrinal systems tell us that for violence to be legitimate, it must be carried out by agents of state. In other words, state terror ceases to be terror simply by virtue of it having been perpetrated under the auspices of a government and its so-called armed forces. It’s important to note this – from a moral perspective, whether you kill a child’s parents at point blank range, or from a few thousand feet in the air, the acts are equivalent.
The slaughter of Eiran and Naama Henkin is terrorism in the same way that the slaughter of hundreds of innocent men, women and children in Gaza is terrorism. Either oppose both equally, or accept that you are led by primitive tribalism rather than principles. Palestinians are suffering under a brutal military occupation, and the right to resist is essential to human dignity – but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that targeting civilians is a mode of resistance deserving of support. Understanding the conditions and frustrations which lead to the attacks is one thing, but the attacks must be condemned nonetheless.
I’m also witnessing manipulation of the attack by the elite media, who claim that Prime Minister Netanyahu had just said (at the UN) that he was prepared to re-start negotiations “immediately” and “without pre-conditions”. Let’s make the obvious point – that’s what he said, it’s not what he means. He means he wants negotiations with extreme pre-conditions, such as the suspension of international law as a reference point. Not strictly relevant to the issue of what to condemn, but shouldn’t be allowed to pass.