Violence And Political Questions Re-Emerge At The Heart of Jewish Settlements
JERUSALEM - Their bodies wrapped in traditional Jewish prayer shawls, five members of the Fogel family - Ehud, 36, his wife Ruth, 35, and their children Yoav, Elad and Hadas - were carried from the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon while thousands of Israelis gathered to mourn their murders.
The wailing Hebrew prayers filtered through loudspeakers in the cemetery as mourners with heavy, teary eyes looked on. The Fogels’ 12-year-old daughter discovered the bodies early Saturday; two other children were left alive and sleeping in one room in the house.
“The terrorists murdered a young family, a mother, a father, a boy of 11, a boy of 4, a baby girl of four months. They all had their throats slit," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday.
The issue of land annexation and home seizure is one that strikes at the heart of Palestinians and Israelis alike, especially as fears of a possible third intifada were awakened by the murders - the first violent attack in a Jewish settlement outside the green line in the past two years.
Yossi Klein Halevi, a New York born author who moved to Israel 1982, said his country is a minority in the face of the Arab world.
Without a doubt, Halevi said, the attack in the Itamar settlement near Nablus was that of a Palestinian terrorist.
“The goal today is to free Israel from its status as an ‘occupier’ but we are waiting for a safe moment to do so,” he said. “This terrorism will undoubtedly have a political impact.”
According to CNN, Netanyahu convened a special meeting Saturday night of the ministerial committee for settlements, which approved the construction of several hundred housing units in the West Bank.
For Palestinians, like Fakhiri Abu-Diab, the feelings of inequality between Arabs and Jews is pushing young Arabs “over the edge.” Abu-Diab lives in the Al Bustan neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, where 88 families await the demolition of their homes, which the Israeli government said were erected without building permits. The government has announced plans to create an Israeli national park on the land.
Abu-Diab bought a one-bedroom home in Al Bustan in 1962, five years before the 1967 Six Day War resulted in Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. In the 44 years since, Israel has periodically annexed Palestinian land and bulldozed homes to construct new communities for Jewish settlers. In 1989, with a wife and five children, Abu-Diab said he requested a building permit from the Israeli government to add a room to his house, but it was declined. He built onto his house anyway, and continued to pay the municipality taxes.
Fearing the loss of their homes to a national park, Abu-Diab said the residents of Al Bustan presented a plan to the Israeli government that would allow them to keep their residences intact and also enjoy a neighborhood park.
“When they rejected it, we understood that they don’t have our interests in mind; they just want us out,” he said.
The residents of Al Bustan erected a community tent as a nonviolent protest against the demolitions.
“We see what’s going on in the Arab world and the uprisings against tyranny,” he said. “We already see signs of that among youth here. If the Arab world will fight for freedom and civil rights, we’ll be fighting for ours here as well.” Over the popping explosions of fireworks in the street, Abu-Diab said a protest march is planned for March 15, starting at the Damascus Gate. With the help of the Internet, youth in East Jerusalem are coordinating with Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and supporters worldwide to march in solidarity.
Signs in Arabic and English line the walls of the Al Bustan community tent, one of which reads: “We will never leave our homes.”
“When the bulldozer comes, we will be inside the houses,” Abu-Diab said. “Our families cannot live homeless.”
Halevi said it is important to remember the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just territorial, but religious and cultural as well.
“Each state needs to accept the justification of the other—we are two peoples in one land,” he said. “Each will have to give up something to find a solution.”
He said the issue of land is not about absolute historical justice.
“Do Palestinians have the right to return to Palestine? Yes. Do they have the right to all of Israel? No,” Halevi said. “We are dealing with two traumatized peoples.”
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