Wednesday, April 20, 2011

19-Apr-11: What happened that awful Sabbath night in Itamar?

Itamar, population 1,000
On Monday, two Palestinian Arabs from the Samarian village of Awarta, Hakim Maazan Niad Awad and Amjad Mahmud Fauzi Awad, were arrested by the Israeli police and charged with the massacre of five members of the Fogel family in the small Jewish community of Itamar.

The Jerusalem Post's account says the Awads confessed and reconstructed the steps before and after the killings. Their fellow villagers and clansmen, in the time-honored way, say the confessions are false, the murders were done by disgruntled foreign laborers, the Awads are "children", as pure as the driven snow and innocent of any wrong-doing. And what proof is there that a murder happened anyway?

Here is what is now known:
  • The 11th March 2011 stabbing murders took days of advance planning.
  • The Awads tried to obtain firearms from their local resident representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They did not succeed, so equipped themselves instead with wire-cutters and knives.
  • They left Awarta on foot. Seeing that Itamar's periphery fence had an electric sensor, they abandoned the wire-cutter and climbed the fence instead. The alarm was not triggered.
  • They walked across a forested hilltop, and arrived at a row of quiet Itamar homes. It was late Friday night - the Jewish Sabbath.
  • No one was at home in the first house they entered. They found, and stole, an M-16 rifle, ammunition and body armor. Then they moved on to the house next door: the Fogel residence.
  • Peering in through the window, they saw two children sleeping. These were four-year-old Elad, and 11-year-old Yoav.
  • They entered and stabbed them both to death.
  • They entered the parents’ bedroom, attacking with their knives. The parents fought back. Using the stolen rifle, they shot the young mother, Ruth Fogel, dead, and stabbed her husband Ehud dead.
  • The murderers left the house. Then they heard a baby crying. This was three-month-old Hadas, in her crib in the parents’ bedroom.
  • They did the logical, nationalistic, jihadist, religiously-inspired thing: returned to the bedroom and slashed the three-month-old baby to death.
  • They now know they had overlooked two additional Fogel children. Amjad Awad says, lest there be any doubt about the matter, that they would have killed the remaining children had they realized they were in the house.
  • The two murderers hiked back to their village in clothing soaked in the blood of their victims. 
  • Their clansman, Salah Awad, affiliated with the PFLP, helped them dispose of the incriminating evidence. The stolen weapons were spirited away to a co-conspirator in Ramallah for hiding. He is now under arrest too.
After the fact, we know these additional things about the barbarism of that night.
  • Amjad Mahmud Fauzi Awad is 19 and worked in Israel as a laborer. Hakim Maazan Niad Awad is 18 and a high school student.
  • The Awads received considerable after-the-fact support from clan members in the village and other friends in the area. Six accomplices are under arrest.
  • Ynet quotes sources close to the investigation saying the Awad clansmen provided the investigators with a dispassionate account of the attack, "a chilling reenactment", a "shocking, cold, remorseless and detailed description". 
  • Amjad is quoted saying he went to Itamar to "die a martyr's death".
  • There is massive support among Palestinian Arabs not only for the general idea of killing Israelis but specifically for the massacre of the Fogel family members. This arises from an authoritative survey conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and by Prof. Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR).
  • American Educational Trust, self-described as "a non-profit, non-partisan organization incorporated in 1982 in Washington, DC, by retired U.S. Foreign Service Officers", publishes a website called Remember these Children. This purports to objectively report on the terrible price paid in terms of children's lives in the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. Our impression it takes a highly partisan Palestine-centric view of the conflict and of the victims. It is striking that the cold-blooded, deliberate murders of the three Fogel children are not recorded at all on the site, though the deaths of Palestinian Arab children in the same month, allegedly at the hands of the IDF, are.
One final point. 

In an blog entry last month ("21-Mar-11: Why Palestinian Arab condemnations of babies being murdered in their beds are a fraud"), we referred to the mealy-mouthed condemnations by Palestinian Arab political figures of the Itamar massacre, and in particular Mahmoud Abbas who is quoted saying it was
"a despicable, immoral, and inhuman act. A human being is not capable of something like that. Scenes like these - the murder of infants and children and a woman slaughtered - cause any person endowed with humanity to hurt and to cry." 
Did he mean it? Let's see.

The day before the Fogel family were slaughtered, the official Palestinian Authority television - the mouthpiece of the Mahmoud Abbas regime - broadcast a program in honour of one of its former employees, a woman called Ahlam Tamimi. She is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for one of the most heinous crimes known in these troubled parts. Yet the program praises her, praises the actions that put her in prison, and unequivocally identifies with the longing of Tamimi’s family members for her and for her release. The camera focuses on a certificate awarded by Fatah, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, calling Tamimi "the heroic prisoner." Watching this, which countless Palestinian Arab families did, no one would be left in doubt as to what official Palestinian Arab society thinks of Tamimi and of the chain of events that brought this evidently heroic figure to an Israeli cell. This Tamimi is the murderer of our daughter and of fifteen other innocent Israelis. She is articulate, capable and very proud of what she did, and everyone watching the program is encouraged to share that pride. The head of the Palestinian Arab political pyramid, Abbas, is closely identified with that pride. Killing Israeli children is something to be proud of, the program teaches and Abbas confirms. Palestinian Arab society holds this Tamimi up as an example to be emulated.

Understanding how Palestinian Arab society says one thing to the outside world and an entirely other, hateful thing to its own members is key to understanding why this ongoing war is so resistant to resolution. Discerning the things that we can learn from horrifying events like the Fogel family murders is critical to getting this right, a challenge that most people - under the influence of double-talking politicians and a compliant media - fail.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As long as Israel continues with provocative acts such as sending children to school on buses, or living in houses, the Palestinians will have no option but to respond with whatever simple weapons they can find, such as knives. (Or Iranian-supplied laser-guided anti-tank missiles)....

On the comments thread under one of the few perfunctory, grudging reports of this atrocity to have found its way into the British media, one commenter observed that had he lived, Ehud Fogel would no doubt have been capable of acts just as terrible as those committed against him, his wife, and children. I was left so numb with disbelief that I couldn't even respond.

May they rest in peace; and may those who stabbed to death a three month baby (and all who helped them, covered for them, or celebrated the murders) rot in a hell far more terrible than anything I can imagine.