The horrible murder that took place in the Israeli settlement of Itamar in the West Bank and the killing of a family, including three Israeli children, by an unknown assailant was condemned in the strongest possible language by many Palestinian officials, opposition and opinion leaders and journalists.
The exploitation of the deaths of those children for a political agenda, however, is terrible.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the rest of his right-wing government launched a further expansion of settlements as a response to that murder. They used this human tragedy to justify further building illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, which is simply another wrong.
The other Israeli response to this murder was to accuse the Palestinian Authority of incitement, which Israel said was responsible for such an act. In fact, this is not a responsible attitude as much as it is itself a form of incitement against Palestinians by the Israeli government–incitement that has been leading to the increased settler violence that has marked the last two or three months.
The Palestinian Authority has shown a firm and long-standing commitment to non-violence. It has achieved a sustained period of stability, one acknowledged by the international community and, in many cases, by Israeli officials themselves. In addition, the Palestinian Authority has acted against incitement in ways mentioned by commentators in the international community.
Israelis need to be reminded that the most obvious and effective form of incitement for the Palestinian people is the Israeli occupation and its daily practices. The capricious Israeli control regime, the humiliation of the Israeli army, the continuous killing of innocent Palestinian civilians, the ongoing burning and uprooting of trees and other forms of restrictions and violence is the real contributor to increasing hostility and hatred.
There are two choices in front of the Israeli people and its leadership. One is to continue consolidating the occupation and encouraging and facilitating growing racism in Israel and among Israeli settlers in the occupied territories. This path means legitimizing the illegal and violent activities of the settlers, which will definitely contribute to further deepening the hostilities between the two sides and encourage both Israelis and Palestinians to pursue illegal and violent activities, attitudes and expressions.
The other choice is to adopt a strategy of rolling back the occupation and reeducating Israelis on the basis of the two-state solution and the need for mutual respect and recognition between Israelis and Palestinians. This means telling the Israeli public that Israel can have peace only within its own borders, not while infringing on the basic rights of the Palestinians.
Bilateral relations and negotiations have so far failed in this direction. And the tolerance of the international community for Israel’s attitudes has contributed.
Incitement, a charge periodically raised by Israelis, is one example. The Israelis have their own definition of incitement that is applied to Palestinians without any acknowledgment of obvious Israeli policies and practices that incite Israelis (particularly settlers) and encourage aggressive and violent tendencies.
The Palestinian leadership has responded by challenging Israel to agree to the establishment of a committee that would include a third-party representative of the international community, with the task of developing incitement definitions and applying it equally to both sides.