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Itamar Massacre

Fogel family home in Itamar after massacre Photo: Ben Kelmer
Fogel family home in Itamar after massacre Photo: Ben Kelmer
 
 

When words lead to murder

Op-ed: Government’s first priority should be to fight local, global demonization of settlers

Yochanan Visser
Published: 03.18.11, 00:47 / Israel Opinion

When I saw my daughter crying while watching the news about the horrible murders in Itamar last Saturday night, I finally decided I had enough.

 

Enough of the barbaric “humans” who slaughter a four-month-old baby, but also enough of the relentless campaign that caused the death of three Jewish children and their parents.

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I am not only talking here about the incitement in Palestinian society, but also about the national and international demonization campaign against Jews like me who are living in Judea, Samaria or in east Jerusalem.

 

"Settlers" are generally being treated only in one way; we are less than human beings. Our villages our branded" illegal" and in the end we ourselves have become "illegal beings."

 

Last year during the launch of our public diplomacy project Missing Peace in Amsterdam, an Israeli journalist asked how an information desk run by a director living in the West Bank could be reliable. Get it? By living in Judea and Samaria one is automatically an unreliable outcast.

 

Do not think this is only the opinion of a leftist Israeli journalist, I know of plenty of European officials who think the same.

 

During a fact finding tour in the Gush Etzion area for Israelis a while ago, we visited several places where Palestinians and Jews are meeting or work together. After visiting a garage where 10 local Jews are working together with 10 Palestinians from Hebron, the participants started to complain about propaganda.

 

Thereafter we interviewed a Palestinian contractor in Efrat who talked about his 20-year relationship with the local Jews. When the guy said he liked to work in Efrat and bluntly stated that life had been much better before Oslo, someone even suggested he had been bribed. It simply could not be true that a Palestinian had a positive story to tell about “settlers.”

 

Several young people told me that a date came to an abrupt end when they revealed they were living on the West Bank. A friend who used to work for the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv saw his contract terminated when embassy staff found out he was living in Efrat. He received a letter in which he was told that he lived in the wrong place. These are only few examples of how incitement against Jews in the West Bank worked out.

 

Foreign media demonization

After the news broke about the Itamar murders we saw government officials issuing the usual calls for international condemnation of this barbaric act. On Sunday, the Israeli government declared that it would establish a special team that will monitor Palestinian incitement. Yet nothing has been said about the other source of incitement that caused the dehumanization of roughly half a million Jews.

 

Even on the day the five members of the Fogel family were buried, a large part of the foreign media continued its demonization campaign against the Jews living across the Green Line. The New York Times and the Washington Post reported that “five settlers” had been killed. The BBC buried the news in an article about new “settler homes” and Sky did not even report the news for 48 hours.

 

There are countless examples of the foreign media using only Palestinian sources for stories about “settlers.” Just last week it was widely reported that “6 Palestinians were shot in clashes with settlers.” Thanks to a well known Israeli blogger, in this case the truth came to light. The Palestinians initiated an attack on a Jew and were wounded in the ensuing clash with the IDF.

 

This kind of reporting has created the picture that all Jews in the West Bank are extremist criminals. The fact that the overwhelming majority of those people are working, studying and law-abiding citizens who managed to establish some of the finest communities in Israel is hardly known even in Israel.

 

The demonization campaign against Jews living across the green line should have been addressed a long time ago. Now the disease has spread to the state as a whole and threatens our very existence in this country. The Talmud in tractate Peah 1:1 states that Lashon HaRa (evil speech) is equivalent to murder. In this case, disinformation by large parts of the media led to de-legitimization and caused the demonization of a large part of Israeli society.

 

The events in Itamar on Shabbat proved that in such a climate eventually actual physical murder becomes the next step. That is why the government should give higher priority to countering the global dehumanization campaign against West Bank Jews than to the fight against Palestinian incitement.

 

The writer is director of Missing Peace Information, an Israeli public diplomacy organization operating in The Netherlands and Belgium. He is a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant and for several other media outlets in The Netherlands

 

 

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