Murder in Itamar

I am so angry.  Murder is not an acceptable political tactic.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman posted on Facebook around midnight Israel time:

I may need volunteers to go with me in the middle of the night tonight to deal with settler violence. Currently it is a cat and mouse game in around Khavat Gilad, Yitzhar and Har Brakha. Security forces are running from place to place to take care of settlers. The murders in Itamar were of course reprehensible. Call me at 050-56o7034 if you are willing to help out.

Murders in Itamar?

Yes.  Zichronam livrachah — two parents and three children, including one infant, murdered in their beds.  This is not right!  This is not what you do!

While the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade has claimed responsibility (according to a Chinese news report I read), the most recent on-line article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz says “Five family members killed in suspected terrorist attack at their home in Itamar settlement.”  Itamar has been attacked before (2002), and unfortunately it’s entirely logical that it was Palestinians who attacked.  But apparently it’s not certain yet.  On the other hand, in the Chinese news report mentioned above, Palestinian National Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Malki is quoted as rejecting the idea that Palestinians perpetrated this attack.  I think that’s a bit disingenuous.

But with or without confirmation, it is inevitable that settlers will rise up in response/revenge.  It’s called “Operation Price Tag” and is used whenever settler aims are thwarted, including by the Israeli Army.  Hence Rabbi Ascherman’s worry about the need to be on-site to try to prevent retaliatory violence. I’m worried about him.  He’s been attacked by settlers before, and in the middle of the night, with murder and grief so fresh … stay safe, Arik.

A report from YNet says that a security alarm went off when the attackers infiltrated the settlement, but the civilian security officers on guard checked the site and, seeing no evidence of trespass, concluded it was a false alarm.  So, although IDF soldiers were stationed less than a kilometer away, they weren’t called for 3 hours, until the family’s 12-year-old daughter returned home…

I am feeling it particularly because I did a presentation on Wednesday night and mentioned all 3 places that Rabbi Ascherman listed.  We were picking olives with a family in Burin, between Har Brachah and Yitshar;we saw burned Palestinian olive trees outside of Khavat Gil’ad, which is a particularly violent settlement — to the point that Arik was worried about letting us get off the bus to see the burned trees. (The likelihood is that they were burned by folks who live in Khavat Gil’ad.)

And he showed us Itamar, too, from the valley below.  If I remember correctly, it’s a hilltop settlement with a string of illegal outposts stretching east along adjacent hilltops for 17 miles.  Here’s an aerial photograph from, which presents information by and about settlers in these places.  Note that Itamar encompasses two adjacent hilltops; by staking out that distance, they can claim more land and fill in between later.  (Here’s info about Itamar from  Note that the article at the top of the page, describing the murders, says pointedly that “An electronic warning system at the fence did not function.” Was it the electronic part or the human part that failed?)  And don’t forget that that fence apparently fences in land that belongs to Palestinians, who can no longer reach their land to work on it.

Look.  There are a lot of things that you can do to make your political point, to protest, to make real change.  Murdering people in their beds and blowing up busses — that you don’t do.  Burning olive trees and attacking schoolchildren with baseball bats — that you don’t do.  Teaching your young people that it’s glorious to die while killing others — that you don’t do.  Teaching your young people that it’s ok to open fire in a mosque on Purim — that you don’t do.  Publishing maps that show Palestine from the Jordan to the sea — don’t do that.  Publishing maps that leave off the Green Line — don’t do that either.

On nights like this, the only good guys are the ones who try to save lives and prevent destruction.